After breakfast, continental of course, (when… in…Rome) we boarded the bus where Greg first introduced us to Jack and Halil. Jack would be joining us for the rest of the trip and Halil was our guide for the historical side of Nazareth for the next couple days. We made our way to Galilee while learning a lot of history along the way. Forgive me for this part, but as much as I know all of you are dyyying to read more details, as I look at my notes, they’re a little bit illegible because I was riding on the bus. We learned about the Battle of Hattin: The battle between the Kurdish sultan Saladin and the Crusaders that took place near present-day Tiberias, a city we would later see on the hill (and eat food later on). Looking at a map, it’s crazy to think that all these 15th-century events took place where I was able to stand for a day.
More famously, the Sea of Galilee would be today’s big theme. It is the lowest freshwater source on earth, its main source from the Jordan. It’s completely crazy that you can see the Golan Heights of Syria in the distance.
Before meeting with our next storyteller, we would make four different stops in this region. The first stop was the Mount of Beatitudes where Jesus did the sermon from Matthew 5-7. This mountain looked over the Sea of Galilee, the sea where the miracles of Jesus walking on water, calming the storm, recruiting four of his disciples, and also the feeding of 5000 hungry men took place.
We also stopped at Peter’s Primacy, the supposed place on the shore where Jesus chose Peter, and Capernaum, the ancient village where Peter supposedly lived. The coolest part was when we actually got on a boat to sail on the sea. What I loved about taking these side trips was that it didn’t really matter if these specific sites were really THE specific sites mentioned in the Bible, what mattered was the history and meaning behind it all.
I loved the boat ride. It was freezing, but just looking at what seemed like hundreds of birds flying through the air (not sure what kind), the other boat-goers from all over the world dancing on board, and the stories we read while on the boat, facts and characters came to life. Being on this particular sea, there was really no doubt that this was the Sea of Galilee. It’s vastness could not be argued. The villages on the shores could not be mistaken. Just look at a map. Insane. I have a bit of footage from this part of the day, so I hope to compile them soon.
After a good hour or so, to recover from the cold, we ate at a restaurant in Tiberias, called Tanureen. They serve authentic Lebanese food including a huge fish with all the sides, chicken, and kebab, and is on the coast of the sea. We departed shortly after and on the drive to go meet the next friend, we played a game called spotlight where everyone gets to answer any question about themselves that someone else asks.
We met with Archbishop, Abuna Elias Chacour. He describes himself as a Palestinian-Arab Christian-Isrseli. Yup, you read that correctly. See that identity thing again? It’s amazing. He is actually a nobel prize winner and wrote one of the books we were encouraged to read before departing, Blood Brothers. He is known for promoting reconciliation between Arabs and Jews. While being served tea and cookies, he talked a lot about his opinions regarding the conflict. He raised so many great questions and I really value his hopeful perspective on the war.
He first asked us, “Why come to a land where war is the master?”
I read this man’s book. An eyewitness story of 1948 and growing up since he was just a boy at the time. 1948 is the crucial year when both Jews and native Palestinians were presented with two conflicting promises.
Anyway, his point were these three statements:
1) “Don’t tell us to learn to live together (Jews and Muslims), we already have. We need to remember how we used to live together.” Pre-1948, there were native Jews and Muslims in the Palestinian land.
2) If you agree with the Palestinians (or Jews), and that makes you anti-Jew (or anti-Palestine), we don’t want your friendship. We don’t need anymore enemies. We need a common friend.
3) Everyone deserves rights, not at the loss of others. We have stopped being brothers and made each other into others.
Think about how that affects your daily life. It’s not just about this region. Conflict is everywhere, right? To quote him, “as Christians, we do not all have the monopoly of doing good”.
Also we loved to joke about us Americas. Hehe. “You Americans, so emotional.”
There’s way more than that, but that’s just a tidbit (maybe a big tidbit) that I hope you enjoyed.
A few things he asks of us,
- for friendship.
- solidarity and the call to agree to question your convictions.
- to not impoverish ourselves by accepting to become one-sided.