May 21

Our morning began with a worship service at the Melkite Greek Catholic Church in Nazareth. We were guided through the service with the aid of English liturgy translations and a helpful elderly man. Following the service, we engaged in delightful conversations with the congregation members over coffee and pastries.

After church, we headed to a lookout panorama view at Mount Arbel. From this vantage point, we were enthralled by the view of the Sea of Galilee, Capernum, the Valley of Doves, and Golan Heights. I found that the mountain provided a unique perspective. The people seemed so small and distant. It is no wonder that Jesus retreated to the mountains to pray. The mountain vantage point is a unique one of being both in and outside of the world.

Next, we headed to another mountain, Mount Tabor. At this mountain, we remembered the transfiguration. Tony, our guide, shared with us interesting exegeses before we ascended in taxis that took the curvy roads surprisingly fast. At the top of Mount Tabor, is a church built in the shape of three tabernacles in honor of the transfiguration characters- Jesus, Moses, and Elijah. We were given free time to explore the church grounds pondering transfiguration and its role within the Gospels. I chose to spend my time walking along a path through a forest. While walking, I imagined Jesus, Peter, James, and John trekking up the mountain. Peter, James, and John did not know what to expect, where the path was leading to. Yet, they trusted Jesus and kept putting one foot in front of the other.

On the way down the mountain, Dorothy Jean and I shared a taxi with another tour group from India. I enjoyed this unique opportunity to converse with fellow pilgrims. They shared that their trip is only eight days. I cannot imagine spinning only eight days here. We have been here much longer and still have so much we have not seen. When reaching our designation, the Indian leader said, “See you again… See you in Heaven.” Under his breath, his co-leader muttered, “Or maybe before.”

After our long day of mountain exploration, we returned to our guesthouse to meet with a local Anglican pastor, Fr. Nael Abu Rahmoun. Fr. Nael discussed with us the conflicting identities of Christians who live in Nazareth. Fr. Nael discussed his own identity of being an Arab Palestinian Christian Israeli. His multi-faceted identity has allowed him to be at the center of interfaith and interethnic discussions. For example, he has played a key role in organizing summer camps, Bible trivia competitions, and a Pentecost interfaith vigil. Thus, we were challenged to think about how our identities can help us facilitate conversation and activities in seeking sustainable change.

Submitted by Rachel S.