Day 3, Part 1: Cana, Nazareth, Mary’s Well, Mt. Precipice

Continuing our tour with Ecclesia Houston led by Breaking Bread Journeys, I am dividing Day 3 into 2 parts as I ended up taking quite a few photos today.

We started our day in Cana, where, according to John’s Gospel 2:1-11, Jesus performed his first miracle by turning water into wine for a wedding celebration. The married couples of our group took the opportunity to renew their wedding vows in a very moving group ceremony led by Pastor Chris Seay in one of the gardens of the Franciscan Wedding Church at Cana. I find it beautiful that Jesus’ first miracle was at performed at the celebration of a marriage.

After Cana, we made our way to Nazareth, the childhood home of Jesus. We enjoyed one of my favorite churches in the world, the The Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation. I enjoy this church because of its simplicity contrasted with a subtle intricacy in the woodwork and muted tones of the murals and lamps. This humble church sits atop a natural spring which would have most likely been the spot from which the ancient community well of Nazareth was sourced.

The waters of the spring issue from a mountain known as Jabal as-Sikh and flow through an underground channel in the rock for 17 meters (56 ft) before emerging in the church. As recently as the 20th century, they continued on underground from there for another 130 meters to emerge in the public fountain known as Mary’s Well. It is probable that Mary drew water from this well for the holy family. The murals and iconography in the church are beautifully done, depicting various stories from the Bible along with icons of various Biblical figures.

We then took a short hike to Mt. Precipice for some beautiful panoramic views over the Jezreel Valley. It is believed by many to be the site of the Rejection of Jesus described in Luke 4:14-30. In this passage, Jesus proclaims himself as the one described in Isaiah, saying,

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

The people of Nazareth, not accepting Jesus as Messiah tried to push him from the mountain, but “he passed through the midst of them and went away.” The mount is situated on the southern edge of the city and provides beautiful views of the valley below and Mt. Tabor (Mount of Transfiguration) seen as an isolated peak to the east.

Jacob’s Well, Nablus Old City, Samaritan Village, Mount Gerizim, Har Bracha Winery

Again I have the unexpected honor of traveling with Ecclesia Houston on a tour of the holy land with Breaking Bread Journeys, led by Pastor Chris Seay. This is my fourth Ecclesia group to shoot for; it’s an absolute privilege to be with them.

We started our tour by making our way from Tel Aviv to Nablus in the West Bank of the Palestinian Territories. Our first stop was to Jacob’s Well. Although the warden of the Greek Orthodox Church that sits on top of Jacob’s Well was not allowing photos of the well today, I was able to document some scenes of the beautiful church and its gardens. I’m sneaking in a photo of the well itself from my last group, because the warden changes his mind from day to day whether or not photos are allowed. I personally don’t think it should be anyone’s right to decide that a millenia-old well which has importance for two of the world’s major faiths should not be photographed. But that’s for another blog post. On to the photos…

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Next we made our way into Nablus city to tour a an olive oil soap factory that’s been making hand-cut soap for 180 years. It has made Nablus famous throughout the middle east for its soap.

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We then began walking throuhgh the old city of Nablus to sample various snacks, spices and sweets of the merchants.

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This is a space on which the local women’s center (“The House of Dignity”) would like to build a playground for the children of the community, a luxury that does not yet exist in the old city.

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We then wound our way through the narrow streets of the old city to visit Slow Food Nablus, a culninary school operated by The House of Dignity women’s center. Of course there were several doors that caught my eye; I love to shoot doors as as consisntent theme to follow all over the world.

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Next we arrived at Slow Food Nablus, the culinary school for The House of Dignity. Chris was interviewed by a student reporter about his visit. The food they served us was prepared using only local ingredients and was absolutely delicious. The women of this community are incredibly joyful and were so happy to serve us.

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After hearing from Fatima, the director of House of Dignity, we made our way back through the old city to our bus…

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Next up, we visited the Samaritan museum on Mt. Gerizim. A Samaritan priest explained to us much about the Samaritan faith and its deep history in this area.

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A group shot from the top of Mt. Gerizim overlooking the city of Nablus below…

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Next we dropped by the nearby Har Bracha winery for a wine tasting…

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Ecclesia with Breaking Bread Journeys: Mt. Precipice, Mary’s Well, Tulip Winery

Today we started our tour in Nazareth, the childhood home of Jesus. We took a short hike to Mt. Precipice. It is believed by many to be the site of the Rejection of Jesus described in Luke 4:29-30 – The people of Nazareth, not accepting Jesus as Messiah tried to push him from the mountain, but “he passed through the midst of them and went away.” The mount is situated on the southern edge of the city and provides beautiful views of the valley below and Mt. Tabor (Mount of Transfiguration) seen as an isolated peak to the east.

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Next we visited Mary’s Well, which is believed to be located at the site where Christians hold that the Angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and announced that she would bear the Son of God, an event known as the Annunciation.

Found just below the Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation in modern-day Nazareth, the well was positioned over an underground spring that served for centuries as a local watering hole for the Arab villagers. The actual well-spring is difficult to see down a dark passage, but I did manage to get some shots of the beautiful interior of the Greek Orthodox church; Greek iconography is one of my favorite art forms.

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For lunch we spent the afternoon hearing the beautiful story of Tulip Winery. The Israeli winery employs special needs adults who make their home in the village of Kfar Tikvah where the winery is located, in the Haifa District. We met some of these wonderful people whose lives have been transformed through the healing of having a job they love, where they are appreciated and valued. We were treated to a delicious lunch and an unforgettable wine tasting. We were blessed by our host Lital who you could tell was very passionate about the cause behind Tulip, which employs 35 special needs adults who live in the village where the winery is located, a former kibbutz. The village’s name appropriately means “Village of Hope.”

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Lastly, we came back to our hotel where we enjoyed a dinner with wine pairings, hosted by the Scots Hotel’s resident winemaker, Denis. They have a beautiful wine cellar…

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