Friday, July 3, 2015

ISRAEL: THE NAZARETH PRECIPICE AND TIBERIAS

One of Bob's great disappointments is that our tour did not take us into the heart of Nazareth. There were several churches and monuments there that he wanted to see, and the thought of wandering the streets where Jesus grew up and prepared for his ministry was very appealing to both of us.
When Bob pressed Michael, the tour lecturer, about why the tour didn't go into Nazareth, Michael said that its nearly impossible to navigate by bus; the streets are narrow, the traffic is unbelievably bad, there is no parking, etc. When Bob asked about the feasibility of taking a cab from Tiberias, where our next hotel was, Michael looked at him in surprise and asked, "Are you Catholic?" We laughed a little about that, but if we have one criticism of this tour, it's that it didn't range out to include other religions quite enough for us. (E.g., The focus was on the Garden Tomb and there was no escorted trip or guidance for Church of the Holy Sepulchre.)

We did drive up to the Mount of Precipice lookout point, passing this quarry on the way. . .
. . . from which we got an excellent view of the city of Nazareth . . .
. . . and we had to admit it looked pretty intimidating.

We stopped for a lecture just before we reached the summit. It was windy, and we had a little more protection on the side of the mountain than we would have had on the top:


Michael recounted the familiar story told in Luke 4 in which Jesus went to the synagogue shortly after having been tempted of the devil and, "as his custom was," read a prophesy from Isaiah, and declared himself to be the fulfillment of the prophecy. The response of the others in the synagogue was a disbelieving "Is not this Joseph's son?" Jesus replied, "No prophet is accepted in his own country."
Jesus continued to expound on the scriptures, and those in the synagogue "were filled with wrath, and rose up, and thrust him out of the city, and led him unto the brow of the hill whereon their city was built, that they might cast him down headlong. But he passing through the midst of them went his way."

This is an "A" site. It is located right next to Nazareth and fits Luke's description perfectly:
Casting a body over the edge here could have lethal consequences:



The far side of the precipice provides a great view of the Jezreel Valley . . . 
. . . along with Mount Tabor, which many Christians believe to be the Mount of Transfiguration:
Sea of Galilee, Israel / Souvenir Chronicles
In another direction, we could see a beautiful, modern highway far below us:


From the Precipice we headed for Tiberias, a city on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee built in 20 AD by Herod Antipas, the son of Herod the Great. Our hotel was of more recent vintage:
Throughout Israel, on each hotel room doorframe there is a mezuzah, a parchment inscribed with a verse from the Torah that is contained in a decorative case:
The Jerusalem Talmud, one of the two the written forms of the oral traditions of the Elders, was completed in Tiberias--not Jerusalem--in the 4th century AD. After the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD, leaders were dispersed throughout the country, and Tiberias was the last place the Sanhedrin sat.

In Innocents Abroad, Mark Twain notes:
[Tiberias] was built by Herod Antipas, the murderer of John the Baptist, and named after the Emperor Tiberius. . . . [F]or three hundred years Tiberias was the metropolis of the Jews in Palestine. It is one of the four holy cities of the Israelites, and is to them what Mecca is to the Mohammedan and Jerusalem to the Christian. It has been the abiding place of many learned and famous Jewish rabbis. 

Of the residents of Tiberias in 1867, however, Twain remarked:
We . . . looked at its people [who are] best examined at a distance. They are particularly uncomely Jews, Arabs, and negroes. Squalor and poverty are the pride of Tiberias.

This was not our experience at all. Things have certainly changed over the last 150 years! And obviously, Twain stayed in a different hotel than we did. Our hotel was right on the edge of the Sea of Galilee and gave us an inspiring view:
We also had a bird's-eye view of the city from our room:
We could see what looked like an old, deserted mosque just below us:
It all looked intriguing, and since we had a free evening, we went out to explore:
I was very impressed by this impossible-to-climb tree:

I think it's a kapok tree, and its trunk belies its usefulness. The flowers are a source for soft fibers used to stuff pillows and mattresses, the seed oil is used in soap, and the gum is used to calm stomach upset. As far as its use for stuffing, perhaps there should be an Israeli version of "The Princess and the Pea" in which the princess's mattress is stuffed with kapok fiber and just one of these little thorns falls in. Ouch.

The Ottomans ruled this area from the 16th through the 19th centuries.The abandoned mosque we had seen from our balcony could date back to that time:
It must have been beautiful in its day. Even now it has a peculiar loveliness, and I wish we could have gone inside:

However, it was being guarded by ferocious felines, feasting on the flesh of foreigners who had tried to enter uninvited:

Many other strolling couples were, like us, enjoying the breeze that rippled the sea and cooled our faces:
Note the man's tzitzit dangling below his coat and his typical black hat, trappings of an Orthodox Jew.
There were all kinds of temptations along the walk:
. . . some more appealing than others:

Evening was approaching, and after a long day of driving, we needed our beauty sleep for the next day.
Back up to our rooms we went: 

. . . where we savored Mother Nature's luminous watercolors before turning in:

3 comments:

  1. It is weird, but the Mount of Precipice was one of my favorite stops. A glimpse into what things could have looked like thousands of years ago. A big hill overlooking a flat valley interrupted by smaller hills. A place mostly free of monuments and houses.

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  2. I have always liked that story about Jesus giving them the slip. There are other times he did that and I've often wondered if that ability was part of his celestial DNA. Beautiful seaside vistas at the end of your post--I guess I never thought about how huge the Sea of Galilea is.

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  3. I have to agree--I would have enjoyed seeing more Catholic cathedrals, as well as some tours of mosques. I was quite surprised we didn't do that. Perhaps you SHOULD have claimed to be Catholic, if just for a day.

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