I mentioned in my last report that our final sightseeing adventure would take us to Nazareth, Tiberias, and the Sea of Galilee. I also mentioned that I would have much to share about our journey and man was I on point!
To avoid ALL the traffic, we left Hope School at 5am on our chartered coach. The two-hour drive to Nazareth was such a visual masterpiece. There were stretches of bright green grass, vivid flowers, and trees reaching as far as the eye can see. There were also mango tree farms, olive tree farms, and what we think were watermelon farms along our route. The terrain was desert-like at times too and sometimes the highway was hugged by mountains on either side. I gasped many times at the beauty this land has to offer.
Once in Nazareth, we took a short walk through some of the town to the Basilica of the Annunciation. The church is a most impressive and spectacular site in the city and is built where it is believed that Joseph and Mary lived. On the lower level is Mary’s cave, where according to tradition, Mary was visited by the angel Gabriel, who told her she was going to carry the Messiah in her womb. Architecturally, it was the most amazing church we have visited so far. The walls of the courtyard and the upper church are decorated with a series of vivid mosaic panels, donated by communities around the world, depicting Mary and the infant Jesus in styles that boldly reflect the cultures of their countries of origin. The entire structure is made of concrete, which is adorned with indented dots. The Upper Basilica is a soaring dome shaped like an inverted lily. This dome floods the entire building with light. It was so special to walk through something so uniquely made.
From there, we traveled to Magdala Beach, where we slipped into our swimming gear for some leisure swimming in the Sea of Galilee. The Sea is the largest fresh water reservoir in Israel, the only natural freshwater lake in Israel, and is the lowest freshwater lake in the world. Fun fact: the only lower lake is the Dead Sea, which is also in Israel. We really enjoyed mucking about in the water since we were the only people at the beach while we were there! Now we have swam in both the Dead Sea and the Sea of Galilee, two VERY different experiences!!!
Our final stop for the day brought us to the shores of the Sea of Galilee, where we hired a boat to take us on a hour-long boat ride on the Sea. The crew hoisted the American flag up the ship’s mast and it flew proudly alongside Israel’s flag. We sang our national anthem as we headed out to sea. The captain also played Christian worship music for us throughout the duration of the boat ride. It was spectacular to float by the Mount of the Beatitudes, where Jesus gave the sermon from Matthew 5. We also saw the beach where Jesus cooked fish for the disciples and predicted the betrayal of Peter. So much of Jesus’ earthly ministry happened around the Sea of Galilee, a fact that made the occasion even more momentous.
You guys should recheck the report entitled, “Beginning Their Last Week”. Khader Saba, our host and the principal of Hope School, wrote some very nice things about our team in the comment section. We are TRULY blessed and thankful for the time we have spent in the Holy Land. We are headed home with bronzed skin (we have some killer watch tans and farmers tans, let me tell ya!) and big, bright smiles from all the memories we have made.
Tonight we will be the honored guests at a BBQ hosted by the school to show appreciation for all the hard work the team has accomplished. I know it will be a special time for each of us, especially Shawna and I since we don’t have to cook!!!;)