Sevcik's Blog

A year in Cairo Egypt

Monday, January 09, 2006

Sea of Galilee--December 26th

On the 26th of December I woke up at 5:00 am because I just couldn’t sleep. After lying in bed for a while I finally decided to get up and go outside. The Church of the Nativity opens at 6:00am so I decided to spend some time in prayer inside. Walking into the church, I found that I was the only person there who wasn’t a monk, priest, or nun. Down in the manger area a few monks were holding a service (in Hebrew?) as well. At first this made me feel a bit uncomfortable, but I decided I had a right to pray in there as well. It was quite dark inside, candles as the only light source, and this gave it a surreal but beautiful atmosphere. Without the crowd of tourists, I felt the presence of God so much more. In the stillness, I was able to visualize Jesus born into this manger and the wise men following the star to this very place. It’s hard to place the emotion of such an experience.

When I left the church the sun had still not risen, but there was a soft glow over the city of Bethlehem. The combination of quiet cobblestone streets, low light, and mist made the city very romantic and peaceful. I took off up the hill to wander for the next hour and watch the city come to life.

A few blocks up the hill from Manger Square I started using my nose to lead me in the direction of a small room where men were baking bread in a large fire oven. I watched them for a while, and then tried to be discreet about taking a picture (it didn’t work). One man called me over to him and gave me a piece of fresh warm flatbread to eat. Once again I was impressed with Palestinian generosity and spent the next half an hour wandering the streets alone in prayer and gratitude for the blessing of a beautiful, peaceful morning.

I returned around 7:00am in time for a quick breakfast and check-out of the hotel. Then we were off again—this time for a 3 hour drive to the Sea of Galilee to see the Mount of Beatitudes, Tabgha (Church of the Multiplication of Loaves and Fishes), the Church of the Primacy of St. Peter (see John 21), and the town of Jesus, Capernaum.

On our way out of Bethlehem however, we had to get through the checkpoint. First we went to the Wall to get a closer look at it so we could take some photos. Our tour guide and driver, by the way, are both Palestinian Isrealis (because they were both born and live in Jerusalem) but they have Jordanian passports and no citizenship in any country with no right to vote in Israel’s upcoming elections, at least for now. Being that we approached the wall from the Bethlehem side, it was full of graffiti—paintings, questions, slogans, etc. Some slogans we saw said, “Give them justice and they will reward you with peace!”, “Where is the green line?”, “Jesus wept for Jerusalem, we weep for Palestine,” and “Build bridges, not walls.” One of the most powerful murals depicted a living room window with a beautiful view of mountains, lakes, and forests. The window is surrounded by two colorless armchairs. It shows the “window to the outside world”—something many Palestinians will never see. Instead, they see a 20-foot-high gray concrete wall stretching for miles. As we finished taking pictures and loaded back into the minivan, we approached the checkpoint going into Jerusalem. Here, on the right hand-side of the entrance, on the wall, right next to a sign that said “Welcome to Jerusalem” was a painting of an angry lion eating “the bird of terror.” Another powerful moment, just as we were leaving Bethlehem for good. (I have incredible pictures of all of this. Let me know if you want to see them, I can send you a link to my photos.)

We made our way through the security checkpoint without much trouble (probably because we are American), and we were on our way to Galilee and all the “Jesus sites” in the West Bank. During our three hour trip north, we went past a number of checkpoints. I didn’t realize it at first, because we were able to fly right through. Why? We had a yellow (Israeli) license plate. All vehicles with white and green plates (Palestinian) were stopped and searched.
When we first arrived at Galilee the first thing I noticed about all these places was that my preconceived notions about the land were false. I always pictured Jesus living and serving in the dry, brown desert. In truth, the land surrounding the Sea of Galilee is very lush and green, full of olive trees, flowers, and grass (at least in December). I can see why God would want to put His Son in a place like this, and why Jesus would speak at a place like the Mt. of Beatitudes. The only disappointment was going to Tabgha and the Church of the Multiplications of Loaves and Fishes, because we were not able to approach the altar to see the famous mosaic due to a small noon service.

At the Church of the Primacy of St. Peter, we were able to actually touch the Sea of Galilee. Tradition holds that the events of John 21 (where the disciples were fishing and Jesus appeared to them with advice on where to fish…and where Jesus asks Peter if he loves him...) took place here. While we were there the sun was shining in beams through the clouds onto the Sea. As we were the only people there, it was a great chance for me too be alone with God and praise His creation.

Our next stop was Capernaum, known as “The Town of Jesus.” The place is full of excavations showing what a 1st century home would look like, and the area where Jesus would have attended a synagogue. Also, St. Peter’s home is there. In fact, there is a church built on top of the excavations of his home, and when walking into the church you can look through the glass floor and see Peter’s home. I thought this church was gorgeous in so many ways. From the outside it was pretty hideous, as it looked like a saucer spaceship floating above 2000 year old homes—very out of place. But, inside it was gorgeous. It was full of windows looking over the town and out toward the Sea, and there were wooden carvings of Jesus’ life in-between each window.

After stopping for some falafels and ice cream, we went back to Jerusalem to find our Citadel Hostel and crash. The hostel was in a prime location—in Old Jerusalem near the Jaffa Gate. Now, the hostel proved to be an interesting experience. It was built in the 1600s in a cave, then added on levels so that it’s now a few stories high. Within the first hours my throat, nose, and eyes were itching. I saw a lot of mold, and there was condensation on the walls and ceilings. Also, we found out that there’s basically no heat in our girls’ room (on the top floor) because using the heater overloads the circuit breakers and the entire hostel’s electricity goes out. At night we can see our breath as we slept, and we woke up to freezing cold showers. Once I finally got smart enough to heat up some water on the stove and bring the pot in the shower with me to wash down. Brrrr…


Post a Comment

<< Home

eXTReMe Tracker