To catch you up to speed, check out these earlier posts about my trip:
Israel I: Modern Tel Aviv
Israel II: Jaffa (the Old City)
Israel III: Modern Art and Bauhaus Architecture
Israel IV: Caesarea and Haifa
Israel V: Acre (Akko)
Israel VI: The Sea of Galilee
Israel VII: Golan Heights
We spent a little too much time in Golan Heights, so when we got to Nazareth we had to marathon it through the city. The map above shows you just how many sites there are to see here, but we drove through the city looking specifically for the Basilica of the Annunciation, which was on our “Top 10” list of Israel. We had time for only one site, so we knew it had to be the one from the “Top 10”.
At least to get to the Basilica it meant we had to drive through Nazareth, so we did get to see the city from the car. Up until now, everywhere we visited felt predominately either Jewish or Christian and as we entered Nazareth we could tell this city was predominately Muslim by the dress code. It’s funny how in every city, the clothing “gives away” the religion of that area.
NY Pizza in Nazareth. We had to get a photo.
The streets in Nazareth are winding, hilly, and narrow. We got a little lost searching for the Bascilica. We could see it from afar (it has a huge domed steeple) but it was hard to find the streets that would take us closer to it. Once we saw tour groups on foot, we figured we were close, parked the car and started walking.
I love the narrow passages throughout the older cities in Israel. It feels European with a Middle Eastern flare. It’s just not something you would find in the US. Above you can see we are getting closer to the Basilica.
Alas we’ve made it to the Basilica of the Annunciation. This building is a Roman Catholic place where in the Catholic faith, Mary was contacted by the angel Gabriel and told she would conceive and become Jesus’ mother. This place also sits on top of where Mary lived. I should note that different religions have their different places in Nazareth where they believed this happened. For example, there is a Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation nearby in Nazareth where they believe this took place. This was our first taste of how the religions each have their own “this happened here” landmark for the same historical story.
In the upper level, we could hear music being played as part of a mass. On the lower level you can see this shrine set up outside of the ruin believed to be where Mary lived.
The reason this building was on the “Top 10” guide was for architectural reasons (the top 10 includes sites of all religions). It really is a beautifully made building.
From behind an iron gate tourists like myself could see into Mary’s dwelling (depending on your faith).
It’s so hard to envision this space as a house, but everything was so different back then.
You can see they built around the ruins.
The photo above and below are taken on the upper level, where mass is held. When we arrived the mass was ending, so we were able to enter the upper level.
This building is quite large and it is one not to be missed if you’re traveling through Nazareth.
I love that in the design of the building, they preserved the ruins that they were building over. Later in the trip we saw Jerusalem, and how in most cases things where built right on top of the buildings below. In this case they designed the building to showcase these ruins instead of covering them up.
In Israel political power and agenda has changed hands so many times, and when a new regime takes over, their religion becomes the most important politically and it is in their best interest to cover up historically significant buildings of the other faiths that threaten their faith. This is true of all the faiths. It’s why a historically important mosque, is also a historically important church, and also a historically important temple.
We had to get back on the road after our short Nazareth stop in order to get the rental car back to Jerusalem by the end of their working day. On we went! The next several posts will be of Old and New Jerusalem, Masada, and the Dead Sea.