Friday, May 8, 2009

The Jesus Trail

Last weekend, some of the other volunteers and I were fortunate enough to have the opportunity to hike part of the Jesus Trail, a 65 KM trail that starts in Nazareth and traces the footsteps of Jesus, finally ending in Tiberias at the Mount of Beattitudes. Since we only had 3 days to hike, we had to skip a few portions of the trail but were able to hike about 35 km of it. We started in Nazareth and walked to Cana on the first day. Cana was the site where Jesus performed the miracle of turning water into wine at a wedding feast. The walk to Cana from Nazareth was picturesque, to say the least. We walked through giant fields and small villages, and were greeted warmly by children. The children all greeted us by saying "Shalom," which is Hebrew for "Peace." I was surprised by the friendly sound of these greetings, as usually whenever someone says "Shalom" to us in Palestine, it has a snide and ingenuine sound to it. Even when we spoke Arabic to the children and people in the village, some still spoke Hebrew to us, which I thought was interesting. I guess they are not very accustomed to foreigners who speak Arabic.
The next day, we drove a little past Cana and started our walk from there. This day we hiked about 22 km, and we saw a lot on our way. We visited a Druse Temple and learned a little about the religion. The Druse are Arabs, and this religion is very secretive so it is difficult to know much about it. Only the high-up people know certain things, and they are not at liberity to tell anyone else. They don't believe in evangelism since they believe in reincarnation and if you aren't a Dru in this lifetime, apparently you were not worthy in your last life. The temple was absolutely gorgeous. It was white and surrounded by flags, both Israeli and Druse flags, which are rainbow-colored and each color represents a facet of the religion. Apparently the Druse have been able to coexist peacefully with Israel, because they remain loyal to whatever country they are in, thus avoiding any conflict. One thing that I really liked about visiting this temple was that both men and women had to cover their aspect of gender equality that I don't see much here.
The portion of the hike after the Temple led us to a destroyed mosque, abandoned after 1948. It was hard to see this and to know that so many Palestinians were displaced from this beautiful land. Our guide told us that, although some people claim that this land was not previously lived on by Palestinians, it is impossble to believe this as you can see clear signs of land distribution and usage. The walk after this, while physically strenuous (and painful sometimes, due to the insane amount of prickly bushes), was absolutely gorgeous. We walked through little streams and forests, through wheat fields, and up a mountain to an ancient synagogue and finally to Arbel Cliffs, which overlooks Tiberias and the Sea of Galilee. At this point I was phsyically exhausted but still in awe of the beauty and serenity of this place. After resting briefly at the top, we started descending the mountain, and this was my favorite part of the day. The afternoon sun was warm, but not hot, and the light spread evenly and beautifully over the valley. We took a detour to explore a castle in the rocks and then continued our way down the trail. It was amazing to overlook the Sea of Galilee and to know that Jesus had once walked this very same trail (or something close to it). We kept joking throughout the day that Jesus must have been incredibly in shape, because we were all huffing and puffing throughout some portions of the trail.
The next day we set out to visit Capernaum, the site of the first church on the remains of Simon Peter's house. It was extremely humbling to visit this place and to know the amount of history and religious importance that it has. We next set off to Taghba, the site of the feeding of the 5,000, where Jesus turned two loaves of bread and fish into enough food to feed the crowd. Our final site of the day was the Mount of Beattitudes. While we were all exhausted and physically worn out from the previous days' hikes, I couldn't help but feel a certain amount of energy as we hiked up the mountain. The actual church on the top was closed because it was Sunday, but that didn't even matter. It was enough to just be therer. We read the Sermon on the Mount aloud and it was interesting because, although I have read this many times before, certain things stuck out this time. What especially stuck out to me was when Jesus said to not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. This was significant to me, as I have now come to a point where I have started to worry about the future and what my life holds for me after this year is finished. Hearing the sermon reassured me and was a good reminder that I don't have to know everything.
The whole weekend for me was full of amazement and awe of the beauty and history of the places we were seeing. In some places it was difficult to imagine Jesus walking, as we walked past a McDonald's and past highways, but in other places it was easy for me to imagine Jesus there. Especially walking down the mountain form the Arbell Cliffs and also through the small Arab villages, it was not difficult to imagine Jesus there ahead of us.

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