Today the group got up rested, had a nice traditional Palestinian breakfast and were on the road to Mt. Tabor – where the Monastery of the Transfiguration resides. There was also a Greek Orthodox monastery there, but open only by appointment to Orthodox community. The Franciscan Monastery dates to the 12th century, and you see the Crusader foundations. Beautiful gardens, and views overlooking the Jezreel Valley.
From there we went to Tel Meggido, the ancient city which has been inhabited on and off since 7,000 BCE (before the common era). There are 28 levels of destruction and rebuilding this ancient city which sits strategically between the ancient Egyptian and Syrian Empires. We saw the Canaanite and Solomonic era gates to the city, and an ancient round altar. We then walked down 163 steps into the tunnel to the spring that made the city so hard to lay siege.
We then went to the village of Shafer’ Am, where we were graciously invited into the home of Elias Jabbour. We were offered hospitality, and then discussed the need for peace between Israelis and Palestinians. Of note was the decreasing number of younger Palestinian Christians who have moved to other countries in order to find gainful employment or educational opportunities. The systematic discrimination against Arab citizens of Israel has reduced their number, but this has effected the Christian community within Israel proper in greater numbers than their Muslim and Druze counterparts. Elias Jabbour and his wife Heyam, operate the International House of Hope, a peacemaking center in Shafer’ Am. Elias has written two books on peacemaking and the Palestinian form of Sulha, and has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. He continues to make speaking engagements around the world, and would love to have an interview with President Obama.
We returned to Nazareth in time to see the Church of the Annunciation, and the adjoining Church of St. Joseph. Both were built over caves dating over 2,000 years old. One is attributed to the space Mary received the angelic invitation to become Jesus’ mother. The other is attributed to being the work space of Joseph of Nazareth. We went shopping in the neighborhood, and found a nice shop with both Christian and Jewish memorabilia.
We then took a short ride at sunset to “Mt. Precipice” which is delightful overlook of Nazareth and the adjoining villages and towns.