The past month, my mild case of wanderlust has also pulled me out of Haifa. First there was the Dead Sea. Next there was Carmel Forest, where I observed picnicking Persianly: kebabs, backgammon, and tea. (My take on picnicking requires Bananagrams.) And next came Galilee.
Galilee is a region with many sites associated with the life of Christ, many of them in the form of ruins encapsulated in grand churches like the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth, which holds the house of Mary. Across the way from the Basilica is St. Joseph’s church, which holds the remains of his carpentry workshop. There we observed an ancient wonder of Israel, the money pit flooded with eery green light.
We drove through Cana where Jesus turned water into wine. We saw the Sea of Galilee (actually a lake). We saw the boat of Galilee (it’s a super old boat). We saw Capharnaum where Jesus lived for a few years and where the ruins of an ancient synagogue still stand. We saw the church built where Jesus preached His Sermon on the Mount. And we saw so, so many pilgrims, massive groups on tour buses.
Our final stop was the Jordan River, which to me proved the most interesting item of our busy itinerary. Christians come here for baptism. I watched a number of these baptisms, the pilgrims in white tunics having a private spiritual experience in a very public place. I felt guilty for ogling them like zoo animals, but I have never before witnessed a baptism and I was intrigued, especially when a Nigerian ruler and his entourage showed up, giving all us onlookers something else to watch.
Eventually someone in our group had the innovative idea that we should go down to the river (cue “Down to the River to Pray”). In the water were enormous slow-moving catfish and dense schools of minnows in the shallows. We took off our shoes and let the minnows tickle our feet with their hungry mouths.
It was a full day, and I felt we must have exhausted all the sacred Christian sites in Israel. However, Jerusalem beckoned…