On the first day of my tours (Jerusalem and Bethlehem were the second day), I went with a small group of Rent-a-Guide tourists with Avram as our guide. We started by driving toward Nazareth to the Church of the Annunciation. This is a modern structure build over the 4th century Byzantine church. The lower levels include an altar over the grotto where many Christians believe Mary lived before her marriage to Joseph.
Because of a misunderstanding, two of the women on the tour were Russian and had about 10 words of English between them. But one indicated to the guide that she wanted to see “Mary’s Well” associated with the Orthodox Church of St. Gabriel. This turned out to be a bonus for all us, as it contains the spring from which Mary was believed to draw water that she would then take back to her home.
From Nazareth we drove to Tabgha, the “place of seven springs” where it is believed the miracle of the fishes and loaves took place. We then headed to Capernaum, where Jesus is believed to have spent the last three years of his life. Capernaum was for me the highlight of the tour. Here you can walk in the ancient synagogue that was built on a site of an older synagogue at which Jesus is believed to have preached. It is in a beautiful state of conservation.
After an amazing lunch in Magdala, home of Mary Magdalene, we wandered down to the sea of Galilee (more like a large lake according to Avram). An evangelical Indian preacher was being filmed there standing in the sea giving a sermon. Finally we went to the Jordan River, where John the Baptist baptized Jesus, even though he was unwilling at first, saying he was not fit to tie Jesus’ shoelaces. Several baptisms were taking place in the Jordan when we arrived. Amusingly, the river is filled with muskrats who know that lots of tourists come. I have a photo of a tourist feeding one, but at times as many as six climbed up on the steps! On the way back we passed through the village of Bethany, home to Martha, Mary and Lazarus.
I’ll have more on my final tour later, but am enclosing photos in the order I’ve just mentioned.