Friday, June 3, 2011

North to Haifa and Nazareth

I can only hope you have been at the edge of your seat to find out where I have gone next. I know I have been on the edge of my seat every day as I go around Israel and see what I see! Every place is beautiful and different. Going north out of Tel Aviv was no exception.

My father is Catholic, or rather he was raised Catholic. For this reason, the gesture was to take us to the Church of Annunciation in Nazareth. May I say, this was quite an outstanding place to visit because of how unique the church is.

The bottom level of the Church is the most holy place, called Mary’s Cave. It is here that according to tradition Mary was visited by the Archangel Gabriel and told she was destined to carry the Messiah in her womb.

The first church at this location was built in 427 A.D. by Jerusalem’s Deacon Conon. It included a small monastery to the south and the church was separated from the holy cave itself. This church stood for about 700 years until the church was almost completely destroyed (the payments Muslims required did not allow for necessary repairs to be made to the building).

When the Crusaders arrived they found the church destroyed, and rebuilt it. At this time the holy cave was located inside the church. This church seems never to have been completed, and was later destroyed completely. In 1620 the Franciscans were allowed to return to Nazareth where they have remained since.

The current building was established on 1969 and incorporated remains of the previous churches through the archaeological evidence behind the church. There was also evidence of how people lived at the time; a bread oven remains, along with a silo to collect water.

In addition to seeing the Church, we also stopped at the Baha’i Gardens. A man named Baha’u’llah founded the Baha’i religion in Iran in the 19th Century. The faith holds as its central belief the unity of mankind. Baha’u’llah’s son and successor built the gardens and shrine. Baha’i followers who volunteer there for one year meticulously keep the gardens. They are breathtakingly beautiful, and it was a treat to see them.

May I say as a side note one of the most interesting, and startling things about the trip into Nazareth was what a local taking us around said about it. Arabs mostly inhabit the town, which is fine. Originally Christian Arabs were the majority and it is the Christians who are willing to work with Israelis. But due to pressure from Muslim Arabs, they are slowly leaving and are being replaced by Muslim Arabs. I believe my picture may explain my concern.

Once again, enjoy pictures I took at both these sites!

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