Chaos and Calm in Nazareth

Monday, April 25, 2016
Natsrat Ilit, North District, Israel
When we first arrived in Nazareth, we drove up an extremely narrow side road into the residential hills of the city. Try turning three cars around in a space designed for a fully loaded donkey to pass through while each side of his burden brushes the edges of the houses and buildings on either side of him as he walks down at what seems to be a 60 degree incline. These are the streets of Nazareth. Filled with churches and travelers, the mostly Arab population are used to the fast paced traffic in the narrow streets in this small town that seems much larger if you walk or drive the surrounding hills that are absolutely covered by homes and shops, steeples and minarets.

The city, which once was a village of only about 500 people in the time of Christ's childhood, boasts the site of the annunciation of the coming birth of Jesus Christ . “Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And having come in, the angel said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women”” (‭‭Luke‬ ‭1:26-28‬)!

In the evenings and early mornings we spent there, we had the pleasure of staying in a very charming old house turned hostel. There were plenty of open air sitting rooms and views over rooftops of the buildings of the city. Coffee shops and restaurants, as well as pharmacies, fruit markets, and furniture stores line the winding main streets of the city. We enjoyed some late night shawarma and kabab with hummus and fries on multiple occasions, relaxing in the evening heat, listening to the Arabic conversations between the friendly shopkeepers and fellow patrons around us. Nazareth was a contrast to the wide streets, Jewish history, and Hebrew spoken openly in Tel Aviv.

On the side of a hill just outside the busy city center is the First-Century Nazareth Village, a reconstruction of what the village may have looked like when Joseph and Mary walked the hills there. A time when few knew this place existed even though Isaiah alluded to its existence in his prophesying. “There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse, And a Branch shall grow out of his roots” (‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭11:1‬) . The word translated as "Branch" here is the Hebrew word "netser" which can also mean "sprout" or "shoot." According to our tour guide, this is the name for the shoots that grow from the roots of the olive tree. This word is also thought to be related to the name Nazareth, making the connection between Isaiah's prophecy of Christ and the actual fulfillment written of in Matthew 2:23.

The village has a small museum showing pictures of modern and ancient society from the area called Galilee. There is evidence there of vineyards and a wine press. The current village is complete with a reconstructed grinding stone and press for making olive oil, new vineyards and old olive trees, a small flock of sheep and a couple of shepherds, a wood shop and loom, and replicas of both a carved tomb and a synagogue. The hillside is filled with plants that are referenced throughout the Bible such as olive trees, almond trees, vines, and hyssop. The tour guide was very knowledgeable about events in scripture surrounding the village and the life and death of Christ. We disagreed in only a few points, and gained some perspective on a few verses we may not have gotten without a history lesson surrounded by this gorgeous garden.
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You had to mention shawarma, didn't you! Now I'm suddenly hungry for it! Once again, nice pictures to go with your interesting commentary. Thanks for sharing!