None of our pilgrims can accuse us of a boring or empty day…
Our travelers arrived in Tel Aviv Tuesday afternoon, local time. After clearing customs, collecting their bags, and waiting patiently for two members on a later flight, we began our journey together, with 17 pilgrims headed to Nazareth.
Traffic in Israel can be challenging and today was no exception. The 70 mile journey took over 2.5 hours, and while the bus provided some respite, we were all hungry and ready to take a break from traveling.
Villa Nazareth is situated in the Old City of Nazareth, just above the Orthodox Church of the Annunciation and close to restaurants and all the sights in the Old City. In addition to a great location, amazing staff, and clean and comfortable rooms, Villa Nazareth has some of the best food. They frequently accommodate our changing schedule and are happy to meet every dietary requirement we can throw at them.
Today started at The Mar Elias Educational Institute, founded by Abuna Chacour, the author of one of the greatest introductions to the Holy Land, “Blood Brothers“. Our tour started with a visit the the church, followed by a conversation with a professor at the school. He shared stories of the challenges faced by the school and its students, who are drawn to the academic rigor and interfaith mandate of the school. Unlike many schools in Israel, Mar Elias has Muslim, Christian, and Druze students.
Following our conversations with staff, and hundreds of selfies with the students, we enjoyed an amazing lunch at Mar Elias before returning to Nazareth.
We began our tour of Nazareth at the Basilica of the Annunciation, one of two traditional sites where Gabriel appeared to Mary to tell her of the impending birth of the Christ Child. The Basilica features a gallery of interpretations of Mary with Christ. Each mosaic shows Mary and Christ through the eyes of Christians in that land. For example, here you can see the mosaics from Scotland and China.
After exploring the Basilica, we visited the Synagogue Church with our guide and friend, Ghada Boulos. Here is a great video of her singing the Ave Maria in the church:
Shalom and Salaam.