Israel Day Three

I was so tired last night I could not keep my eyes open. I fell asleep with the computer in my lap a little after 10. Unfortunately, I woke up at 3 a.m., wide awake and could not get back to sleep. At least this afforded us the opportunity to go down and watch a breathtaking sunrise over the Sea of Galilee. How great a start to another day in the Holy Land!

Sunrise over the Sea of Galilee

Sunrise over the Sea of Galilee

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After breakfast, we loaded onto the bus for a short trip to an important ancient city called Sepphoris, or Zippori. This was a largely populated Roman town just three miles from Nazareth. It is highly likely that Jesus walked the streets of this city with his father, Joseph, as they practiced their trade. Zippori is also reported to be the birthplace of Mary, the mother of Jesus. A church sits on the site believed to be the home Saints Anne and Joachim, the parents of Mary.

We walked the ancient Roman roads of the town of Sepphoris, some of which contained the impressions of the chariot wheels which ran along the stones. We were walking on the same road on which Mary and her parents walked. We made our way down the Decumanus Maximus (the main east-west road in an ancient Roman town) and turned left on the Cardo (the main north-south road in an ancient Roman town), arriving at the Nile House which contained mosaics depicting scenes from the Nile River in Egypt.

On the Decumanus Maximus in Sepphoris

On the Decumanus Maximus in Sepphoris

The sidewalks were lined with columns and covered, protecting the mosaics with which the sidewalks were overplayed

The sidewalks were lined with columns and covered, protecting the mosaics with which the sidewalks were overplayed

Chariot wheel ruts in the ancient stone

Chariot wheel ruts in the ancient stone

Part of the Nile House Mosaics

Part of the Nile House Mosaics

Mosaic of the Amazons.  The Amazons were great warrior women who supposedly cut off their right breast so that they could draw back on the bow better.  Hence, the name, Amazon (A = "no"; Mazos = "breast")

Mosaic of the Amazons. The Amazons were great warrior women who supposedly cut off their right breast so that they could draw back on the bow better. Hence, the name, Amazon (A = “no”; Mazos = “breast”)

Centaur Mosaic in the House of the Nile

Centaur Mosaic in the House of the Nile

From there we ambulated to the top of the hill where we entered the Crusader fortress from which they launched an ill-fated attack against the Muslim leader, Saladin. From the high point of the city, we could see the church on the site of the home of Joachim and Anne, as well as the ancient Roman theater.

The 12th Century Crusader Fortress built on an earlier Byzantine Structure (note the sarcophagi that were used as part of the stone work)

The 12th Century Crusader Fortress built on an earlier Byzantine Structure (note the sarcophagi that were used as part of the stone work)

Looking down on the Jewish Quarter of Sephoris.  The red-roofed building is the church which sits on the site of the home of Anne and Joachim.

Looking down on the Jewish Quarter of Sephoris. The red-roofed building is the church which sits on the site of the home of Anne and Joachim.

One of the ritual baths in the Jewish Quarter (this finding helps confirm that these were Jewish homes)

One of the ritual baths in the Jewish Quarter (this finding helps confirm that these were Jewish homes)

After stopping to view a magnificent fresco in a wealthy Roman villa, we finally proceeded down the hill toward the ancient Jewish synagogue which has only recently been discovered. The floor of the synagogue is covered with beautiful mosaics. In the center the sun god rides his chariot through the skies, surrounded by a circle containing the 12 signs of the zodiac.

The Venus of Sepphoris (or, The Mona Lisa of Galilee), part of the elaborate mosaic in honor of Dionysius in the famous 3rd century Roman villa.

The Venus of Sepphoris (or, The Mona Lisa of Galilee), part of the elaborate mosaic in honor of Dionysius in the famous 3rd century Roman villa.

Another portion of the Dionysius fresco in the villa.

Another portion of the Dionysius fresco in the villa.

The Zodiac Mosaic in the floor of the Zippori Synagogue

The Zodiac Mosaic in the floor of the Zippori Synagogue

From Sepphoris, we made our way to Nazareth, the childhood home, of course, of Jesus. The traffic in Nazareth is horrible, with the drivers of vehicles taking whatever driving rules that do exist as simply suggestions. After being dropped off on the roadside we made our way to a restaurant in town, where I had a delicious Shawarma and Cindy had the Falafel. When we finally arrived at the Catholic Basilica of the Annunciation, which was built over the site believed to be the childhood home of Mary. The modern church was built in 1969 over the site of a previously existing Crusader Church. This church is the largest church in the Middle East.

Eating Falafel and Shawarma for lunch.

Eating Falafel and Shawarma for lunch.

Gigantic Pomegranates with assorted other fruit

Gigantic Pomegranates with assorted other fruit

Our lunch stop, the Caza Nova

Our lunch stop, the Caza Nova

The Church of the Anunciation in Nazareth

The Church of the Anunciation in Nazareth

The apse of the Church of the Annunciation (viewed from the right side) looking down into the childhood house of Mary in Nazareth

The apse of the Church of the Annunciation (viewed from the right side) looking down into the childhood house of Mary in Nazareth

Looking into Mary's home

Looking into Mary’s home

We then walked next door to visit the Church of Joseph, a much smaller edifice which is said to be built on the site of the house of Joseph. It was amazing to walk on these holy places, making the Christian story palpable!

Looking at St. Joseph's Church from the courtyard of the Church of the Annunciation

Looking at St. Joseph’s Church from the courtyard of the Church of the Annunciation

St. Joseph's Church

St. Joseph’s Church

The excavations beneath the church of Joseph's Nazareth home

The excavations beneath the church of Joseph’s Nazareth home

When finished with our visit to Nazareth, we drove a few miles down the road to the village of Cana, birthplace of Nathaniel Bartholomew (one of Christ’s disciples). Cana, of course, is primarily known as the place in which Jesus performed his first miracle, at a wedding at which he turned the water into wine. Upon first entering the Wedding Church in Cana, we all entered a side chapel in which the married couples present (including, of course, me and my lovely bride) renewed their vows. What an awesome place to renew one’s wedding vows!

Mt. Tabor (the Mt. of Transfiguration) as seen from the opposite side of our pictures from yesterday.

Mt. Tabor (the Mt. of Transfiguration) as seen from the opposite side of our pictures from yesterday.

The Orthodox Wedding Church in Cana (Often there is a discrepancy between the exact location of a site between Orthodoxy and Catholicism).

The Orthodox Wedding Church in Cana (Often there is a discrepancy between the exact location of a site between Orthodoxy and Catholicism).

The Catholic Church of the Wedding in Cana.

The Catholic Church of the Wedding in Cana.

Renewing our wedding vows in Cana.

Renewing our wedding vows in Cana.

Standing in front of the chapel in which we renewed our vows.

Standing in front of the chapel in which we renewed our vows.

The Church of the Wedding in Cana

The Church of the Wedding in Cana

In the church courtyard, showing our certificate documenting the renewal of our vows.

In the church courtyard, showing our certificate documenting the renewal of our vows.

The Church of Nathaniel (Bartholomew) in Cana

The Church of Nathaniel (Bartholomew) in Cana

From Cana, we descended into the Jordan Valley for an unforgettable experience. Cindy and I, along with several others, were “baptized” in the Jordan river. We were overcome with emotion to think that we were being baptized in the same river in which John the Baptist baptized our Lord, Jesus Christ. The water was on the cold side, but, for once, I really didn’t mind. We emerged from the river with a renewed spirit in Christ. On the way back to Tiberias, to our hotel, we stopped at a farm with lots of local products, especially dates. Lots of shopping was done before we left.

The hills of Galilee are covered with wildflowers.

The hills of Galilee are covered with wildflowers.

Overlooking the Sea of Galilee and the Jordan Valley

Overlooking the Sea of Galilee and the Jordan Valley

Preparing to enter the water of the Jordan.

Preparing to enter the water of the Jordan.

Cindy being baptized in the Jordan

Cindy being baptized in the Jordan

Barry's baptism in the Jordan

Barry’s baptism in the Jordan

The Jordan river at the Yardenit Baptismal Site.

The Jordan river at the Yardenit Baptismal Site.

The wet and happy folks who were baptized in the Jordan

The wet and happy folks who were baptized in the Jordan

Dates for sale (and tasting) at the farm stop near Tiberias

Dates for sale (and tasting) at the farm stop near Tiberias

About 5:30 or so, we arrived back at the Caesar Hotel, on the waterfront of the Sea of Galilee. We met for dinner at 7:30, after which Cindy I decided to go for a walk around the neighborhood surrounding our hotel. We were glad we did! We really felt immersed in the Israeli/Palestinian culture as we walked along a street market with vendors selling their wares and young people playing games and singing middle-eastern songs over their loud speakers. What another full day! Zippori! Nazareth! Cana! The Jordan River! Tomorrow… even more excitement!

The Caesar Hotel at Tiberias (our hotel)

The Caesar Hotel at Tiberias (our hotel)

A very busy street market beside our hotel.

A very busy street market beside our hotel.

11 thoughts on “Israel Day Three

  1. It is wonderful to share on the blessed events and places you are sharing. May God continue to bless your marriage and I pray he send Angels to protect you from all harm. Loved seeing your pictures!

  2. What an awesome day! I can’t believe you still have 12 more ! You sure are storing up a ton of great memories ! Looking forward to hearing about the days to come! Love you guys!

  3. That’s so great that you got to renew your vows in Cana and get baptized in the Jordan! I am loving the mosaic and fresco pictures!!

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