Day 5: Church, Armageddon, & Nazareth

Jeremy headed back to Amman first thing Saturday morning. We had heard so many conflicting reports about what awaited him at the Allenby border crossing (whether Jordan would even issue him a visa, what the exit tax would be, what time it closed, etc.) that he wanted to get started on his journey of uncertainty as soon as possible.

In case you're wondering, he had to get back to Jordan to continue running the other study abroad program he's in charge of.

So Miriam and I went to church at the Jerusalem Center by ourselves. Five days into our trip, Miriam was juuuuust about done with sitting quietly. So we spent half the meeting roaming the beautiful hallways. We generally try to avoid bailing out like that, but she was so travel-weary and when she started singing Old MacDonald at the top of her tiny lungs in the middle of the quietest part of the meeting, I figured I could make an exception just this once.

I challenge anyone to come up with a more breathtaking view from a seat in a church meeting than the one you can get in the chapel at the JC. I think the Mormons take second place, too, for our chapel in Tiberias (pictures to come on Day 6) (and this picture doesn't even begin to do the chapel justice. I had to take it with a fussy Miriam in my other arm).

Right after the church meeting, we left Jerusalem behind for the north. On our way to Nazareth, where we were to spend the night, we stopped at Megiddo, otherwise known as Armageddon. It was basically your run-of-the-mill tell, if there even is such a thing. What made this one special was the lizard one of the students captured and kept in his front shirt pocket the whole time we were there.

We also visited a church commemorating the spot where Jesus raised a widow's son from the dead. One outside wall of the church also served as the wall of a house built right next door. They had a small front yard with chickens running around. Miriam really enjoyed that part. Singing hymns in a church, not so much.

Finally, we made it to Nazareth. We stayed at a convent, run by a group of mostly French nuns. They were all very nice and not as strict as you might think, except for one of them. I'll tell you about her on Day 6. The rooms were very nice. We had about an hour to "rest" before dinner, and Miriam spent all that time exploring everything in the room. It's best to let her do that during the daytime, otherwise, she wants to wake up and explore in the middle of the night.

For dinner, we were taken in groups of two or three to several Nazarene homes. It felt like we were being adopted, actually. We were all sitting in the courtyard and one by one, a family representative would arrive. They'd look around at the group and say, "We'll take you, you, and you." and the lucky chosen ones would go off with their new family.

Miriam and I ended up with a woman named Ibitsaam ("smile") and her beautiful family. They had a 10-year-old daughter who played with Miriam. The food was delicious, of course. In the picture, from foreground to background, we had shawerma (just the meat, and not chicken), green salad, yolangi, kufta, burak-type pastries, and potatoes. Miriam, inexplicably, LOVED the yolangi and ate both her portion and mine. For dessert, there was knaffe and what I like to call Arab-style Neopolitan: pistachio, lemon, and vanilla ice cream.

The dinner conversation, as is typical, revolved around grievances. Specifically, the grievances of Israeli Arab Christians (got that?). And just because I'm calling them grievances in a semi-flippant manner doesn't mean they're not legitimate.

As explained by the family, Israeli Arab Christians are ignored by everyone. The Jews don't care about them because although they're Israeli, they're not Jewish. But they're also not Muslim, so they're not worth worrying about. The other Arabs don't care about them because they're not Muslim. And the Christians (outside of the Middle East) don't care about them because they're Arab, and who, outside of certain areas of interest, knew that Arab Christians actually existed? Despite all this, it is the Israeli Arab Christians who are the caretakers for many of the area's historical religious sites.

The conversation was very stimulating, to say the least. It eventually cooled down, though, and then the 10-year-old played a stirring rendition of "Love Story" on the piano. With that, we called it a night and made it back to the convent at the relatively early hour of 9.30.

Day 6: The Sea of Galilee, Dan, Banias, and the Golan

Day 4: Mt. of Olives