29 (Nazareth | ナザレ Part 1)
All photos from the Basilica of Annunciation in Nazareth
******Note: Japanese translation coming soon! 日本語は近くアップします！******
I have always been interested in the city of Nazareth. It is the city where Jesus grew up and the one city in the Jewish state of Israel where about one-third to half of the population is Christian. (And the rest mostly Arab Muslim.) Whereas the Jewish week starts on Sundays, most businesses are closed on Sundays here. Christian holidays are observed. Christmas is celebrated. Nazareth also happens to be the home to the car garage Yuval and his brother go to and the Arab restaurant with the hummus and shawarma they rave about whenever they have a chance. So all in all, I’ve always wanted to visit.
I had imagined a place a bit different from the rest of Israel I have seen. Jesus paraphernalia everywhere? Numerous crosses dotting the streets and the city scape? Even Christian influence on some of the architecture, perhaps a bit of a European feel to it?
But while talking to Yuval on the way there I realized that Christians in this city (and most of Israel) are Arab Christians. Pardon my ignorance but when I hear “Christian” I can’t help thinking of the Christians I am most familiar with from my time in the U.S., which were mostly Caucasian. And before I came to Israel, I didn’t even know the existence of Arab Christians; I just assumed all Arabs were Muslims. I didn’t even realize until I was talking with Yuval about it that I assumed Nazareth was going to be filled with Caucasian Christians. (And this is even after I witnessed the presence of Christianity in India.)
In my impression, Nazareth did not look much different on the outside compared to other places I’ve been in Israel, both in architecture and people. (Maybe less Jewish people.) I loved strolling around in the market where we started off from its very outskirts bordering residential areas. I will save that for another post.
As seen in the photos above we did wander in to the Basilica of Annunciation, the largest church in the Middle East. It was built over an ancient cave where it is believed Mary was told she would conceive the child that will become Jesus. As much as we appreciated the significance of this place to many around the world, Yuval and I were mere observers and I admired the architecture and artwork contributed from artists around the world (there was even one from Japan). The Arabic scripture in the church didn’t fail to throw me off a bit.
Not long after we exited the church gates we heard a Muslim prayer blaring through the speakers from the mosque located practically next door. We passed by a few souvenir shops and Yuval pointed to one of the displays and said, “Only in Israel.”
Yes, perhaps only in Israel you will see crosses, wood carvings of scenes from the New Testament, and Jewish hamsas and menorahs side by side.
On the way to Nazareth I experienced another “only in Israel” moment. We passed through a Jewish Orthodox village where we saw men walking in white clothing, quite different from the typical black Orthodox attire. Yuval told me they are a sect that dresses in white on Shabbat (Saturdays, or the “day of rest” in Judaism). He told me they are just one of many sects within the Jewish Orthodox.
Just another moment making me realize the complexity of Israel.