Women in Bastan Village, Kurdistan

Saturday, October 2, 2010

An Unexpected Meeting--Nazareth, Israel

Pilgrims looking at the grotto, where Mary was believed to have received the news from the angel

It is amazing how small the world is. When I was in one of the workshops, in a village next to Nazareth, I went to meet the family of a friend that I met last year at UConn. Who would have thought that I will be here, in a workshop 5 minutes away from her home. I had contacted my friend, and told her that I would be around and she put me in touch with her sister. I was received as another daughter and invited to sleep there, and next day I had breakfast with her grandmother, and great grandmother. They felt as if they knew me because they saw pictures of me and my friend together. Her grandma told me the story about how they escaped to Jordan after the war and they lived there for some years and they returned back to their original village in Yaffa, near Nazareth (there is another Jaffa near Tel Aviv), got married and stayed there until now. I came back after work and stayed another night and then next day went to visit Nazareth. There I visited the Church of the Annunciation, with its lantern dome. It is believed to be Mary’s home where the archangel Gabriel announced the birth of Jesus. It is a huge Basilica with beautiful mosaics of the Virgin Mary inside and outside the church. Inside the mosaics depict the Annunciation, outside they portray the Madonna and the child. The mosaics come from all over the world, from Latin America to Asia. There was one particularly beautiful, it was the Virgin Mary, portrayed in the Asian style of paintings, it was from Thailand. It just shows that there are no boundaries for faith.

Mosaic of the Maddona and the Child from Thailand

Another mosaic from Dominicam Republic
After that I walked through the suq (local market) into the Greek Orthodox Church of St. Gabriel, which stands over the town’s ancient source of water. The layout is completely different to a catholic church. The original church was built there on the logic that the Annunciation story in the Bible mentions Mary filling a pitcher with water, and this was the only source of water in Nazareth at the time. Hence, the orthodox believe that this was the spot where Gabriel appeared. There were beautiful icons inside the church and at the end is the spring or Mary’s Well.

Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation

View from the Well into the Church

Mary's Well, the Orthodox believe this to be the place of the annunciation

I came back to Jaffa and later, I went with Rosaline to Mount Tabor (Jebel Tur in Arabic). This is the Mount of the Transfiguration. We wanted to visit the church but we got there half an hour late. I saw the Franciscan Friars far inside the garden and I called one of them. I told him that I came from Puerto Rico and that if it was possible to get in even though the church was closed. He said that it was close already and that he didn’t have the keys. I started talking to him, and to my surprise, he was from Argentina. He said that they were an international community that served there and that there were brothers from Mexico and other places in Latin America. We talked for more than 15 minutes, I was telling him about my experience here in the Holy Land and my frustration with the conflict here. After a while, he said that he will go and check if he can find the person with the keys. And he came back and opened for me and my and Rosaline. She was also very happy, since she was kind of sad that the church was closed, but it actually wasn’t. The Franciscan father, showed us around and gave us all the details of the construction of the church, which was rebuilt after several destructions by the Persians and the Muslims. He read to me the passage from the transfiguration from the Bible and I was really touched and felt really blessed for that special moment. After some being inside the church, we went out and the beautiful moon was smiling at us from the side of the church. I felt a sense of incredible peace and happiness for that gift. The priests walked us out through the beautiful gardens and we left the sacred mountain.
Basilica of the Transfiguration

Mount Tabor (Mount of the Transfiguration)

This is another mount, the mount of precipice, where Jesuss was believed to have jumped, not sure of the reference....

After, we went to Nazareth Illit, the Jewish Nazareth, we sat and looked over the whole panorama of Jerusalem. You could see all the neighborhoods. At was a nice, open space, just to relax and sit. Nazareth Illit is a new town, on a hill, like all Israeli towns, owning the stunning views and being away from the Palestinian towns and villages….After we went to a café called Greg, is like a franchise serving coffee and amazing deserts, We had a cheesecake and some other chocolate desert with white chocolate….It was a long time that I didn’t have this kind of treat for myself. Thanks Rosaline, we had a great evening!!!

Enjoying a treat with Rozaline

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