A little before Christmas of 2013 we decided to visit Nazareth in order to see both the celebrations and the main attractions.
Map of the area:
Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth
We’ve parked in in a mall at city center. And our first stop was the Nazareth’s most famous attraction, Basilica of the Annunciation.
The church was established on site where, according to Roman Catholic tradition, the Annunciation took place.
The current church is a two-story building constructed in 1969 over the site of an earlier Byzantine-era and then Crusader-era church. Inside, the lower level contains the Grotto of the Annunciation, believed by many Christians to be the remains of the original childhood home of Mary. Under Roman Catholic canon law, the church enjoys the status of a minor basilica. A historically significant site, considered sacred within some circles of Christianity, particularly Catholicism, the basilica attracts many Catholic, Anglican, and Eastern Orthodox Christian visitors every year.
From this point it’s only 50 meters to St. Joseph’s Church.
St. Joseph’s Church
The church of St. Joseph was built in 1914 on the site of an earlier 12th century church.
The caves, granaries and wells in the lower level were used by the early dweller of Nazareth. Later, Christians turned the site into a worship place. During the 7th century, travelers pointed out that this has been the location of carpentry workshop of Joseph, father of Jesus. And according to more recent tradition this place is identified as “The house of Joseph”.
From St. Joseph’s Church we started walking towards the Christmas market. The market was along 6089 St. and the tree was next to Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation.
Unfortunately many Israeli holiday markets became Chinese markets. What I mean is that most (if not all) of the products are cheap Chinese toys, gadgets and clothes. Nothing authentic, unique, local. This was one of such markets. Quite disappointing.
Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation
As I mentioned Christmas tree was right next to Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation, so we visited it as well.
The Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation, also known as the Church of St. Gabriel or St. Gabriel’s Greek Orthodox Church, is an Eastern Orthodox church in Nazareth, Israel. Likely first established in Byzantine-era Palaestina Prima, it was rebuilt during the time of the Crusades, and again in the 18th century under the rule of Zahir al-Umar, the Arab governor of the Galilee.
Known colloquially among the Greek Orthodox worshippers of Galilee whom it serves as Kniset el-Rûm, or Church of the Eastern Romans in Levantine Arabic, the church is located over an underground spring, which according to Eastern Orthodox belief is where the Virgin Mary was drawing water at the time of the Annunciation. Water from the spring still runs inside the apse of the church and also fed the adjacent site of Mary’s Well, located 140 m away.
But, my strongest experience was yet to come. Since we came early in the morning there was almost no traffic. But in the afternoon, the roads were packed. We started standing in traffic jam inside the parking lot and crawled slowly out of the city. It took us more than an hour and a half to get out of the city (several km). Moreover, besides the traffic, the roads themselves awful. They are very narrow and for some reason in many places the asphalt was scraped. Such infrastructure level is more similar to what you see in the movies about Africa.
It was the first time I saw human semaphores. In very narrow streets where two cars can’t pass, children are shouting out who should drive and how much. They are very helpful. Though I didn’t understand what they were saying (they shouted in Arabic), their hand movements were self explanatory. I’d gladly skip such experience, so keep to the main streets. I thing I have to mention is that we used Waze, and it took us through side road. But, since construction is very packed in some places we lost GPS signal and in the end returned to the main street. This detour added probably half an hour to our trip. So as I said, keep to the main roads.
But, the top was when a local driver got out of the car. Cursed policemen that were trying to improve the situation and blamed them for the traffic. Then he got into the car and drove on a red light. Driving on red light in front of traffic police officers seemed natural to him and unthinkable to me. The police did nothing.
Since I mentioned driving and rules, according to statistics in Israel: Arabs are involved in more accidents than their percent in the population. An Arab driver is 2 to 3 times more likely to get involved in car accident then Jewish driver. Psychologists say that since many of them don’t accept Israeli government and its rules they also don’t accept traffic rules. The purpose of this paragraph isn’t to scare you, but you need to be more careful and expect the unexpected. Overall, driving in Israel is probably more aggressive then in Western Europe. Be careful.
That’s all for today and I’ll see you in future travels!