Note: our Director of Christian Education, Michael Farmer, is on a trip to Israel through his studies at the Methodist Theological School in Ohio. While there, he is sending periodic updates about what he's been doing.
Well this was our first full day in the Holy Land and boy was it packed. I have so much new information and layers of complexity that I just barely understand when it comes to both modern culture and the culture of Jesus' time. For my own mind, and so you don't have to read a novel, I will summarize (and still will omit some of what we did) what I have learned today with the pictures below.
The picture with the sun is how I started my day. I couldn't sleep so I watched the sunrise over Nazareth. It was awesome! I also listened to the Cavs win so that was pretty cool too. After having breakfast, we went to Sepphoris which was once the ancient capital. It is thought, that Joseph, being a carpenter, was working on the buildings in Sepphoris while living in Nazareth which is about a 20 minute walk apart. I have some amazing pictures of the old synagogue and ruins there, but they take a lot of explaining. We then went to an active archaeological dig site down the hill. Dr. Strange is the lead archaeologist at this site (and is the son of the main archaeologist from Sepphoris) and he was explaining their findings of pottery. We actually got to take a piece of pottery home!
The next picture is of a gentleman who is the director of a Baptist Evangelical School in Nazareth sharing with us his story of being an Arab Christian. He identifies as a Arab, Palestinian, Christian who is also an Israeli citizen. There were lots of layers of culture and history to unpack in his story but it was very neat hearing his personal identity and his work with education in the city of Nazareth.
As we were driving, our tour guide pointed out the hill in the next picture. This is where the transfiguration of Jesus occurred and while it is small in the picture, there is actually a tiny church up there.
After dinner we went to see the archaeological site that is literally underneath the convent where we are staying. When the sisters purchased the land in 1855 they were told that someone important had lived here and that is why it was expensive land. However, one of the workers stumbled upon a hole in the ground and that is where the excavation began. I included a picture of the sister who took us around. What was especially neat was that we got to see one of only 2 first century homes still preserved in Nazareth (that's the last picture). They have lots of evidence that would suggest that this place could have been where Joseph lived with Jesus or a very important person in the early church. It was fascinating! The nun told us the stories and leading archaeological evidence but kept falling back on saying that what we do know for sure was that this site is from the first century, it was definitely Christian and that the person who lived here was very important. The ruins were mixed with crusader and Byzantine architecture so to have been preserved through all those years shows that there is some significance to the site.
Tomorrow we will visit the annunciation basilica and then travel North to see that part of the country. I am tired, but excited to continue this journey of not only seeing biblical and historical sites, but also trying to grasp the complexity of culture both ancient and modern.