I woke up around 08:00 today, but could hear the rain still falling outside; so, I decided to sleep in longer. I finally got up at 10:00; it was still raining outside, but I was determined to see something today, rain or no rain. I then showered, dressed, grabbed my camera and umbrella, and walked outside. The rain had now stopped and I ended up carrying my umbrella around the rest of the day, never having to use it. I first walked through the Old City to the Mary of Nazareth International Center (located right next to the Basilica of the Annunciation. I went inside, looked at the ruins of homes that have been dated to the time of Jesus, and then walked to their reception desk; once there I met a man originally from the United States but now volunteering at the center with his French wife; he told me about the place and then walked me to the multimedia presentation about Mary and Jesus Christ; the presentation is split in to four rooms and each one is fifteen minutes long. The doors to the first room opened and I went inside and sat down. The first room covered the Torah and the rest of the Old Testament – scriptures that Mary had read and studied as a child; the second room covered the Annunciation and her betrothal to Joseph, the son of David; the third room covered Jesus as a child; the fourth and last room covered Jesus’ ministry, crucifixion, and resurrection. The whole multimedia presentation was really more about the Gospels than Mary, but did emphasize her role throughout. Also, as a fil fanatic, I did enjoy seeing clips from ‘The Bible: In the Beginning . . .’, ‘The Ten Commandments’, ‘Jesus of Nazareth’, and other religious films that were used in the presentation. After the presentation, I was informed that the center was closing for lunch (it was now 12:30) and would be opened again at 14:30. I then walked out of the center and walked to Mary’s Well, which is the site of the historic well and city center of Nazareth; it is also the traditional site of the Annunciation for some faiths – the site where the Angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and announced that she would bear the Son of God. Mary’s well has been renovated twice (in 1967 and again in 2000) and looks very new; although it has been modeled to look how it would’ve looked two thousand years ago. I then walked to St. Gabriel’s Orthodox Church, which is the traditional Orthodox place of the Annunciation. Inside the Orthodox Church were many rich frescoes, paintings, and other religious iconography. There was also a short corridor that led to the spring where the Orthodox faith believes the Annunciation occurred. I walked up to the spring, then around the church, before exiting it. I then walked to a nearby restaurant and had chicken shawarma rolls, French fries, and some excellent German wheat beer – I also spent too much money for such a simple meal, I will have to start eating street food or fast food from now on to save my bank. During lunch, I finished reading ‘The Imitation of Christ’, a book from the early fifteenth-century and at one time the second most read and owned book, behind the Bible.
After lunch, I walked around the Old City and back to the Mary of Nazareth International Center. Once back at the center, I took the elevator to the top floors and walked around the chapel they have, which has some beautiful painting detailing the Gospel. I then walked around the rooftop garden and had great views of the city of Nazareth, as well as the Basilica of the Annunciation. I then took the elevator back down to the first floor and watched a forty minute video on the different churches in Israel, how the divisions occurred, and the steps they are taking for reunification. I learned that several churches split due to the Council of Chalcedon in 451 AD (they did not accept the decision that Jesus Christ is God) – Syriac Orthodox Church, Ethiopian Orthodox Church, Armenian Apostolic Church, and the Coptic Orthodox Church – and that the Great Schism of 1054 AD resulted in the division between east and west – Greek Orthodox Church and Roman Catholic Church. After watching the video, I thanked the staff at the center, made a donation, and then walked outside. Then, I crossed the street and entered in to sanctuary that houses the Basilica of the Annunciation (the largest church in the Middle East). I first viewed all the different multi-cultural artwork (mosaics, painted tiles, sculpted reliefs) donated from around the world; most of them depicted the Madonna and Child, but others just showed the Virgin Mary or parts of the Gospel. Next, I entered inside the lower level of the Basilica of the Annunciation and walked up to the grotto, which is the traditional site of the Annunciation for the Roman Catholic Church. [RECAP: the Annunciation may have taken place at Mary’s Well, the spring in St. Gabriel Orthodox Church, or the grotto in the Basilica of the Annunciation – you decide.] After walking around the lower level, I walked up the stairs to the first level and viewed more multi-cultural artwork donated from around the world, as well as the beautiful design of the basilica itself. Then I walked outside, past some archaeological excavations of ancient Nazareth, and to the Church of St. Joseph, which was built in 1914 AD on the site of an earlier, twelfth-century AD church; travelers who had visited the site in the seventh-century AD pointed out that this had been the site of the “Carpentry Shop of Joseph;” later traditions identified the place as the “House of Joseph.” I walked around the church and the crypt underneath before exiting it and then I exited the sanctuary. Next, I walked around the Old City some more before walking to a nearby supermarket to buy a jug of lemonade to quench my thirst and some beer and wine to quench my appetite. Then I walked to the local McDonalds and ordered two “Big America” burgers, which were actually quite large (if I had known the size beforehand, I would’ve just bought one). Then I walked back to the hostel, ate one burger, put the other in the refrigerator, and drank my jug of lemonade. I also pitted the two beer bottles I had bought against each other in a taste test; one was an Israeli beer (Maccabee Lager) and the other was a Palestinian beer (Taybeh Golden – which is what I drank the previous night) – it was Israel versus Palestine; they both had their good qualities and both were refreshing, but the Palestinian beer had more character, a pleasant citrus taste, was more crisp, and just all around superior; so, Palestine wins . . . in beer . . . not real life. I then talked with some other hostel guests before heading out to an ATM to grab much needed cash and then to extend my stay at the hostel for one more night. After that, I returned to the hostel living area and opened up the Palestinian Cabernet Sauvignon I had purchased; it was produced at the Taybeh Winery (the same Taybeh that made the beer I had just drunk) and tasted of pepper and blackcurrant; it was also chalk full of tannins; overall, it tasted fine, but lacked complexity and elegance. After finishing the bottle of wine, I then went to sleep, hoping for a bright sun-shining day.