Summary: Jesus grew up in Nazareth and he was forever known as "Jesus of Nazareth". But what was it about this city that would have formed His teachings and what can we learn from this region? This was the 2nd in my series of lessons telling of my trip to Israel.
(Slide of our tour bus)
This is a picture of our tour bus. It’s a Mercedes Benz and it seemed that every tour company in Israel had one just like it. The bus was very comfortable and roomy.
After spending a couple of nights at Bethlehem we traveled by this bus down to Masada.
Masada was a citadel constructed by Herod the Great in conjunction with the Romans. It sits on a mesa about 980 feet above the surrounding desert, and by the time of 70 A.D. it was a major Roman outpost in the south. When Israel rebelled against Rome, Rome pulled all of its legions together to attack and destroy Jerusalem. Every soldier – even most of those from Masada were gathered to make quick work of the Jewish capital.
Unfortunately for Rome, a number of Jews saw an opportunity in the abandoned fortress and took it over for themselves. When Jerusalem fell, Rome now had to retake their southern fortress. It took them a few weeks until they had constructed a huge ramp up to the walls of the citadel. The day after they breached the walls, the defenders committed mass suicide.
This site has become a rallying cry for many in Israel. The nation’s armed forces often meet on its heights and are retold the story of its struggle. “Masada shall not fall again” is a popular motto of the nation.
Access to the fortress is made possible by either a trolley that runs up and down the mountain or by a snaking path up its side. Our group leader said he intended to take the trolley up to Masada and then walk down that path. I said I’d join him (as did a few others in the group). About 2/3s of the way down I began to realize that this was not a wise choice. My legs hurt for the next 3 days.
From Masada we went to a beach on the Dead Sea. The Dead Sea is literally a dead end for the Jordan river. It lies 1,400 feet below sea level and is known as a place filled with salt and minerals (this is a result of the water evaporation leaving these elements in substantial concentrations. There is a company there that siphons off many of those minerals to be used in skin treatments that are popular items for sale throughout Israel.
The Dead Sea is literally dead. No fish live there because it is filled with a high concentrations of salt (about 9 times more salty than the ocean). This salt content makes it so that you can literally float in its waters. So I did. The only caution they make is that you be careful not to let any of the water near your mouth or eyes. It can really mess with you if that happens.
Leaving the Dead Sea we went up the road that runs between the Mountains of Israel and the Jordan River. (At this point I took out a 3D map I had purchased that showed the contrasts of the mountains and valleys of Israel) One of the great surprises I had was discovering how big the mountains really were in Israel. Almost my entire trip to Nazareth our left side of the road was dominated by mountains that would make the Blue Ridge mountains proud.
Also, along our journey we saw farms of Date Trees and Banana farms and other fields of fruit and vegetables in abundance. Israel only imports three things in abundance – rice, pineapple and coffee. They grow just about everything else that they eat.
(Slides of the lobby, dining room at our hotel in Nazareth–The Golden Crown)
Once again, as you can see, we stayed in an elegant hotel. Great beds massage, sauna, workout room. And, once again, the food was abundant and pleasurable.
(Slides of our Taxi Trip into downtown Nazareth)
Years ago when I was young I had the opportunity to go to Europe and I found one of the greatest experiences on that trip was getting lost in every city we went to. I shared that thought with our group leader and he said “If that ever happens, we’ll leave you behind”… which pretty well indicated that getting lost would not be an acceptable adventure on this trip.
But four of us did go on an adventure on our last night in Nazareth. We rented a taxi and took it to downtown Nazareth. Cost: $10 for all of us. The trip was … interesting. The driver seemed to know everyone and drove fairly confidently through intense and insane traffic. But he got us to our destination.
We visited some shops, bought some trinkets and then went back to meet our driver… who never showed. After waiting a while we found another taxi that would take us back to our hotel for the same price. This man however drove like a madman, racing up and down alleys and boldly crossing traffic at high speeds. We got back in record time.