Our journey began in Nazareth which was fitting since it was the place where Jesus grew up. We loaded up that first morning in our tour bus where we were introduced to Michael Sharir our tour guide. Michael is a native of Israel who resides in Jerusalem with his wife Ady. He was an educator for most of his career which made him the ideal guide for our group. We began our tour by driving through the Kibbutz that was located behind our hotel. A kibbutz is a collective environment that was originally based on agriculture. They began as utopian communities that combined socialism and Zionism. Today they are more privatized and modern.
Kibbutz communities were first established in 1909 by Jewish pioneers. In 1909, Palestine was still controlled by the Ottoman Empire and conditions were extremely harsh. The Galilee was swampy, the Judean Hills rocky, to the south was a desert, and worst of all most of the settlers had no prior farming experience. The sanitary conditions were also poor and Nomadic Bedouins would raid the farms and settled areas. Collective living was simply the most logical way to be secure in such harsh conditions.
I was not able to acquire many photographs in the kibbutz. On our second day we had breakfast there since it was Shabbat and the hotel could not serve us on that day. I am still not sure why it was okay in the kibbutz, but fortunately for us it was.
Getting back to Nazareth, after we toured the Kibbutz and other local sites we headed toward Mount Precipice. I have described Mt. Precipice elsewhere so I will not repeat it here. After Mt. Precipice we headed toward Nazareth proper. Everyone was straining in their seats to take it all in. We climbed many mountains, took in many stunning views and snapped a whole lot of photos that were virtually useless but we needed to capture them anyway because what we were experiencing was just so totally new and different. For many of us it was our first time in a foreign country. Speaking for myself, it was something that I had pretty much given up on and so to be there now it was something that I was still struggling to believe. I expected to wake up at any moment, and if I did I wanted to have a lot of photos to take back with me.
When we finally pulled into Nazareth we encountered so much that was different, but also a lot that was familiar. We passed by McDonald’s and right in the middle of town there was the largest KFC bucket floating in the air that I have ever seen. There were familiar billboards, but all of them advertised in three languages: Hebrew, Arabic and English. We made our way to the Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation and for the first time we debarked from our tour bus. I felt stunned. There was so much to take in. The sights, the smells, the sounds… I did not know where to look first. We were approached by vendors selling olive wood crosses and rosaries and I did not know whether to make a purchase or take a photograph. I made a purchase which I later regretted…just as I had been warned. I was your typical gringo or American tourist wearing Bermuda shorts. In other words, I was an easy mark. But it was all part of the experience. How could I have been any different? There is no hindsight with an experience such as this. There is only the experience. It is like questioning how I might have managed to be born a little more gracefully…it is a dumb question!
After the church we headed for the bazaar. Thankfully we had already been indoctrinated (or born) at the church. Yes, we still wanted to buy everything in sight. And of course our cameras were starting to smoke. But we were a little wiser at this point…we could at least listen with a partial ear to our leaders. We were not there to make purchases – yet. So most of us didn’t, including me. It was a good thing…trying to take it all in is very overwhelming. The bazaar is nothing like the American shopping experience. The closest comparison is the flea market, but imagine one that has been in existence for hundreds of years, is open every day, and is surrounded on all sides by stone walls. Even that picture doesn’t come close. I did take a lot of pictures here. But that too was a whole new experience. Imagine taking pictures while running. You are photographing things you have never seen before in your life and you don’t know where to start. You barely have time to register what you have seen much less decide if it is photo worthy so just in case you photograph it anyway figuring you can always delete it if not. You have a split second to capture it. You do not take the time to determine lighting, angle or anything you would normally consider. It is a whole new way to photograph let me assure you and one that like anything else must be learned.
After we visited the Basilica of the Annunciation we were given an hour to roam the marketplace and take photos or make purchases. I made a couple of purchases, but I was primarily interested in taking photos at my leisure. I walked with Dr. Oates who also was more interested in photography and I was glad I did because he had been there before. He was able to describe some of what I was seeing and is famous for his stories which are delightful. It was a good day and I hope that my photos will reflect it.
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