Friday, June 5, 2009

Jesus Trail - Day 1

UPDATE - for some unknown reason, days 2-4 are below. Scroll down to see the rest of the trip.

(Click on pictures to enlarge)

Jesus did it many times. It can't be that hard. Famous last words spoken by those who have no clue what they are talking about. So I said to myself as I eagerly decided to take on the challenge of the Jesus Trail - a 4-day hike from Nazareth to Capernaum on the Sea of Galilee. 41 miles or so through mountains, valleys, farmland, villages, and ancient ruins which clothe the beautiful Galilee.

We loaded up our packs with food, supplies, and plenty of water for the first leg of our journey - heading out from the Old City in Nazareth to Kfar Cana (where Jesus performed the miracle of the wine at the wedding). As we made our way up and out of Nazareth, we were confronted with this sign:This is a bad English. And besides, we were on our way to Capernaum, not "the Hell". So on to the outskirts of Nazareth we look out toward Zippori (in the far distance), a place not mentioned in the Bible but where many believe Jesus undoubtedly worked while growing up.The trail crossed through some beautiful countryside.Soon we got our first glimpse at the Netofa valley.We made a small detour to the ruins of Zippori......where we saw some famous well as some spectacular views from the old fortress.We continued on through a forest and into the Arab village of Mesh'had, the alleged birthplace of the prophet Jonah. We stopped in the shade for a rest and some children came out to see what these crazy Americans were doing walking around in the hot sun.Then an Arab man kindly brought us some cold water. Everyone who has experienced it agrees that there is nothing like Arab hospitality.We continued on and soon we were within reach of Kfar Cana.And we arrived not a moment too soon at the last shady spot before entering town when suddenly we had another Arab lady bringing us more cold water to drink. I was beginning to wonder if it was because we looked so pathetic that we were eliciting feelings of pity and compassion out of people. Either way, whatever it was worked and the cold water was greatly appreciated.

In Cana we stayed overnight at a guesthouse in a Christian neighborhood and, though there was a thumping-loud music of a wedding party (of the Muslim sort, what you'll most likely find in the Cana of today). It didn't matter much that the walls shook until 12:30am as tired as we were. It did make for some rather unusual dreams that night.

Jesus Trail - Day 2

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After a raprurous night of listening to Muslim wedding celebrations, this day our goal is to go from Kfar Cana to McDonalds, I mean, Golani Junction. Before we begin, we make a stop next door to one of the churches that claims to be the site where Jesus turned the water into wine, I mean, grape juice (for all you Southern Baptists out there) at the wedding he attended a long time ago. As you can see, no attempt was made to recreate authenticity of the time here.The supposed alleged stone jars which participated in the miracle. (I like the box on top for prayer intentions - we all know which road is paved with intentions...)This leg of the trip we are without a guide. No worries because the trail is clearly marked with white-orange-white paint on permanent, immovable objects.Yes, like rednecks back where I'm from, abandoned cars constitute permanent, immovable objects. So we finally begin our day by ascending through Cana......into a forest overlooking the beautiful countryside.From a clearing we can see the top of Mount Tabor peeking over the ridge. Notice the box-like Catholic monastery plopped down on the top.From the forest we wind across to the Netofa valley we saw from Zippori the previous day. Still just as pretty as before.However, as soon as we could spot McDonalds, I mean, Golani Junction in the far distance, controversy reared its ugly head. Some wisely made the observation that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. Others disagreed and were bent on slavishly following the arbitrarily-marked path which made no attempt to hasten the trip. WWJD - What Would Jesus Do in a situation like this? I have my opinion, but ultimately we deferred to the rigid, man-made rules and followed the marked trail. We did pass some lovely fields along the way.Finally, we reached the Golani Junction. No, let's be honest: we reached McDonalds!And we rewarded ourselves with some of nature's finest junk food. After a day like we had, it was hard to imagine it could get any better than that (ok, either our standards are pretty low or we're just easy to please).

Jesus Trail - Day 3

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We started where we left off the previous day at McDonalds, I mean, Golani Junction. Our goal this day was a moshav at the foot of Mount Arbel just by the cliffs above the Sea of Galilee. Today, it is apparent that my body is beginning to voice disapproval at the decision to undertake this hike. In fact, my body's voice of disapproval was more like a scream with each and every step. But, like most males, better judgment was completely ignored because turning back was out of the question.

Golani Junction is an ancient crossroad between two major routes. Proof of this is the remains of a Roman road laid by the great empire. And this happens to be the only place on the entire trail we can say that Jesus most likely walked at some point.As we near the Sea of Galilee we encounter some of the most beautiful and different terrain in all of the trip.Here are the Horns of Hittin where nearly 1,000 years ago the Christian Crusader army was routed and mercilessly slaughtered on that fateful hot summer day. This was the Crusader's "Waterloo" long before the famous French General made the term famous.On the top of the Horns, we lunched.Then on down to our destination of the moshav. Downhill is good.Especially since we are now in sight of the Sea and our ultimate destination.

Jesus Trail - Day 4

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The final day, the hardest day. From Arbel to Kfar Nahum (Capernaum) on the Sea of Galilee. It is all downhill, they say. It is, if you don't count having to walk up to Arbel from our B&B at the moshav. And if you don't count the widowmaker hill there at the end. And, as an extra treat when you do go down, the temperature goes up, and up, and up. Minor details you may think, but details some of us obsessed over for many a hot hour that day. Nevertheless, we'd come this far and nothing was going to stop us. The male ego would not allow such thoughts (at least out loud).

The battered body was near revolt. A wonderful Israeli breakfast sure helped to at least to get it out onto the trail.

In order to remain motivated, one sets goals. At Capernaum is an idol, I mean, STATUE of Saint Peter holding his over sized key to the Kingdom. (Actually, the Capernaum site is a Catholic-run park, so these things are to be expected.) Our goal was to touch the key of the idolstatue.
This was our goal, albeit a lame one. But a goal nonetheless which helped us press on.

So, as we mindlessly throw on our backpacks and leave behind the jacuzzis and gourmet food, we start walking to Mount Arbel.There is no other place on the trail that has a view like Arbel.

Then we start down with a little climbing.About half way down, we rest in some caves in the mountainside.These caves were written about by Josephus, where the Jewish zealots hid and fought the Roman army, who unsuccessfully tried to take the caves from below and ended up lowering baskets from above and slaughtering the rebels mercilessly.

Anyway, it was a nice place to rest.If you don't believe me, just ask the cow(!) in the back of the cave.(look closely, it's there)

After our descent we began the long walk among the various orchards. While orchards are sure beautiful, there is no wind in among the trees. Much sweat was secreted here. But, thankfully, we found a nice shady spot next to a pool of water. Lunchtime entertainment was provided by some local Arab visitors.
Then, with the Sea ever closer, we pressed on.
Just before the final stretch to Capernaum, we stopped at Taghbah, a church where Jesus did something, I don't know, and we really didn't care at that point about the signifigance of the site. All we could see or think about was cooling our weary, burned bodies in the water. And we did.

Though we could have floated there for hours, days, we still had our goal to accomplish. So briefly refreshed, we dressed our wet and blistered bodies and pressed on for the final stretch to Peter's key. But apparently this day it was not meant to be.Yes, by a mere 10 minutes too late Capernaum was closed. Closed! It was the stuff of nightmares: a bunch of Protestants arriving at a gate after a long journey, locked out and Saint Peter inside holding his key and ignoring our pleas to be let in.

Well, they do say that it is not the destination that matters, but the journey. I think they are right.