Where has the time gone? We have only two more days left in the Middle East! Next is Athens, which I am excited about. However, I will be very sad to leave Israel. Middle Eastern culture is what I’ve known for almost three months now. I’ll miss the calls to prayer from the mosques, the small streets of old cities and I’ll miss attempting to use my small Arabic and Hebrew vocabulary.
I won’t dwell on leaving because there are still more adventures to be had before we are back in the states. Let me tell you what we’ve been doing since arriving in Nazareth. A week ago, April 1st, we arrived in Nazareth and stayed at the Fauzi Azar Inn. The next morning, we headed out for four days and three nights on the Jesus Trail, hiking from Nazareth to Capernaum. Each night, we stayed in a guest house of various kinds designed for these hiking trails. We hiked through fields of grain, fields of thistles, over rocky hills and it was all beautiful. When we returned from the trail, we settled back in at the Fauzi. The weekend has been fairly relaxed. We’ve had to write our papers as part of our course work. Saturday we worked in the morning at Nazareth Village, a recreation of 1st century Nazareth. We got to dress up in 1st century garb, which was fun. I am writing this on Easter Sunday. Christ is risen! We got up at the crack of dawn- literally- and hiked up to the Mount Precipice that looks out over the Jezreel Valley and had a Sunday service. And we had an Easter egg hunt afterwards as well! Then we attended an Arabic service at the Church of the Annunciation – the church was filled!
I’m glad we have two more days here. I’ll take in all I can get!
We just completed the epic four day hike of walking in Jesus’ literal footsteps from Nazareth to Capernaum on the Jesus Trail while learning what it means to walk in His metaphorical footsteps. Day 1 consisted of walking from Jesus’ boyhood home, Nazareth, to where He performed His first miracle in Cana. Linford challenged us each day with something to think about or a phrase to finish. Day 1 was “The Kingdom of God is like…” Hannah Tissue came up with a wonderful analogy. It was along the lines of, “The Kingdom of God is like a well fit Chaco. If the straps are too tight — too legalistic, they will rub the wrong way and be really uncomfortable. If they are too loose, they are no longer good for protection and it is easy to lose your footing and fall.” Many could relate to this as blisters were beginning to form on our feet. She could easily relate to this as by the end of our time on the Jesus Trail, she had 26 blisters. After around 8 miles, we ended up in Cana and were welcomed into a lovely Arab home for the night.
We started off day 2 in Cana, and ended up around 6 miles later at a goat farm. Our meditation for the day was, “Behold!” We were to come up with our own “behold” phrase. This really encouraged us to pay attention to our surroundings — to the natural and unnatural sounds of the world. As the day went on, we talked less and less to each other. I couldn’t tell you if it was because we were starting to get tired, or if we were all thinking hard about our little assignment. We also had beautiful scenery to take in everywhere we walked that day. We walked through a forest, fields of beautiful wildflowers, and everything else in between.
Day 3. Around 13 miles. We walked a long time through fields of wheat. Whenever I think about the size of Israel, I think about it being roughly the size of New Jersey and how small it is for a country. Now I realize just how much land that means. We had a whole new perspective on the land today as we walked through seemingly endless fields of wheat. Somehow, the wheat turned into thistle, and many of us walked for a mile or two with our hands above our heads attempting to avoid the thistle and nettles. We also walked through fields of cows and climbed up the Horns of Hattim to get a wonderful panoramic of where we have been and where we have yet to go.
Today was nearly silent between everyone. Linford talked to us about Jesus’ ministry starting when He was around 30, giving him around 3 years to complete everything He came to earth to do. What would we do with 3 years to do whatever we wanted? I think this question really put life into perspective for a lot of us. We really don’t know how much time we have left on earth. We shouldn’t delay doing what we most want to do in life because we don’t know if we’ll have the time 10 years from now. I know it really encouraged me to live my life completely for Jesus. As I am realizing how hard it is to walk in His physical footsteps in the Holy Land, I’m realizing even more how difficult it is to follow in His Spiritual footsteps. It is definitely something to strive for! We arrived at the end of the day to a lovely little oasis which had a pool that many utilized. They refueled us with delicious food both for dinner and breakfast, setting us out on our final leg of the journey!
Day 4. Cliffs of Arbel to Capernaum. Today was supposed to be the easiest of all our days, but it was far from it for most. While the terrain was more or less flat, it was hot and there was very little shade for us. We were supposed to think about the Beatitudes as we were hiking, and to come up with our own. “Blessed are the trailblazers.” “Blessed is the moleskin.” “Blessed are the trees that provide shade.” “Blessed are those who patiently wait for those who lag behind, for they shall have many friends.” “Blessed are the EMU students who hike the Jesus trail to Capernaum and leave Capernaum…walking on the Jesus Trail for the rest of their lives.” “Blessed are those who stay on the marked trail.” “Blessed are those who walk in Jesus’ physical footsteps while walking in Him.” We took a little detour from the Jesus Trail to hike up to the Mount of the Beatitudes and listened to Linford read the Beatitudes and the Lord’s Prayer. We looked over the Sea of Galilee and saw towns that are now remnants of Rome’s Empire, Tiberias specifically, compared to the everlasting Kingdom of God. We ended up on the rocky shore of Capernaum learning more about Jesus calling His disciples. At the end of the talk, we had a little symbolic foot washing in the Sea of Galilee on Maundy Thursday. I would struggle to think of a more appropriate time or place for this to happen!
Overall, this experience was probably pretty high on our list of favorite things we’ve done as a group. We learned a lot about Christ and how He grew up, and we learned a lot about us, our faith, and our determination. We all finished this incredible journey together! This time brought us all closer to each other and taught us to be compassionate and understanding of each other’s struggles. It taught us what a team looks like. It turned us into a little family… Okay. A rather large family.
32 people. 40 miles. 4 days. Nearly 75 blisters. Smiles all around.