Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Holy Land, Day 1

We started our first full day in Israel with a visit to Cana, the little town where Jesus performed his very first miracle. You will see from this picture that even important sites like this are not immune from tourist traps!

This is the Catholic church built over the site where the miracle is believed to have taken place....of course, there is another church, Greek Orthodox, DIRECTLY across the street, that claims the same thing!! As I've mentioned before, its not the exact spot that matters to me-I just know that it happened! We do know for sure though that a majority of scholars believe this is the small village where it happened.

From John 2: "On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, "They have no wine." And Jesus said to her, "Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come." His mother said to the servants, "Do whatever he tells you."

With Ron and Kathy's leadership, the married couples in our group decided to take this opportunity to renew their wedding vows (we were at the place where the wedding miracle took place, after all). Taylor and I have been married for 3 years, and Taylor, being his usual jovial self, said at first that he wasn't sure if we needed to renew because ours were still pretty fresh. Ha! But then he figured-how many times does a couple have the chance to do that, in Cana, no less! So we jumped right in.

Our sweet friend Todd snapped a pic of us renewing our vows:

So of course I have to give a shout-out: Taylor, I love you and am so happy I am married to you!

Here is a picture of the inside of the church at Cana:

And this is VERY cool: below is a picture of a stone jar, like the ones described in the New Testament, that dates back to the time of Jesus. This would have been the exact type of jar that would have held the water at the wedding, before Jesus turned it to wine.
"Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, "Fill the jars with water." And they filled them up to the brim. And he said to them, "Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast." So they took it. When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom and said to him, "Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now." This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him." :

Next we headed to the local Baptist church in Nazareth for worship.

The church members there, despite our language barrier, were kind and welcoming. They had invited us to sing for their service, and we were happy to oblige! One of the coolest things about it to me was singing some of the praise choruses, with all the voices rising up in a beautiful collision of English and Arabic. Some of the choruses were only in Arabic, and let me tell y'all, it was pretty funny to hear all those Mississippi accents singing those Arabic words!

Next it was on to the Church of the Anunciation, which is built over the house that is believed to have been Mary's at the time the angel appeared to her and told her she would have a child:

These are the beautiful doors of the church, depicting Bible stories, and our guide Rami standing in front giving one of his excellent explanations:

Here is Taylor and me with the cave that was Mary's home in the background:

Next Rami led us through the winding streets of Nazareth to a local falafel and schwarma restaurant-yum! I had to snap a pic of my Arabic Coke Zero!

Then it was back on the bus for a drive to the Mediterranean coast, to the ruins of Caesarea Maritima, a port city built by Herod the Great around 20 B.C.

The city was a center of trade, culture, and the arts. Below are the restructured ruins of the amphitheater that existed at that time. The bottom row of seats is original to Herod's theater. It has been restored today and is currently used as a venue for concerts and shows.

Lizzie and me resting atop one of the ancient columns:

Our whole group in front of the Mediterranean Sea:

Taylor and me:

And our last stop of the day was Mount Carmel, mentioned in the Bible in 1 Kings 18:
"So Ahab sent a message among all the sons of Israel and brought the prophets together at Mount Carmel. Elijah came near to all the people and said, "How long will you hesitate between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him." But the people did not answer him a word. Then Elijah said to the people, "I alone am left a prophet of the Lord, but Baal’s prophets are 450 men....Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the Lord, and the God who answers by fire, He is God." And all the people said, "That is a good idea."
At the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, Elijah the prophet came near and said, "O Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, today let it be known that You are God in Israel and that I am Your servant and I have done all these things at Your word. "Answer me, O Lord, answer me, that this people may know that You, O Lord, are God, and that You have turned their heart back again." Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. When all the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and they said, "The Lord, He is God; the Lord, He is God." (1 Kings 18:20-24, 36-39 NASB)

Here is the view from atop Mount Carmel, looking over the Jezreel Valley

In case you are not familiar with the Jezreel Valley, here is a little info from Wikipedia: "According to the Bible, the valley was the scene of a victory by the Israelites, led by Gideon, against the Midianites, the Amalekiltes, and the Children of the East, but was later the location at which the Israelites, led by King Saul, were defeated by the Philistines. In Christian eschatology, the part of the valley on which the Battle of Megiddo was fought is believed to be destined to be the site of the penultimate battle between good and evil (the final battle taking place 1,000 years later in Jerusalem), known as Armageddon (a word derived from Megiddo)."

A pretty happenin' place if you ask me!

After packing all that in, we were worn slap out. It was back to our hotel on the Sea of Galilee for a filling dinner and STRAIGHT to bed for this girl-we had another big day ahead!

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