Saturday morning as sunlight peeked around the edges of our heavy hotel room curtains, I couldn't wait to get my first day time view of Israel. I gasped as I looked out--the Sea of Galilee. I dressed quickly and as the rest of our crew slept, I dashed down to take in the early morning calm.
Peaceful and spotted by fishing boats, this large lake offered the first of many moments during the week when stories from the Bible came alive. Seagulls provided background music as I looked around and considered how much of Jesus' recorded life and ministry took place on these shores.
After breakfast our crew traveled by bus the short distance (18 miles) from Tiberius to Nazareth.
We enjoyed an introduction to some of the Young Life staff and an informative overview of the religious climate in Israel. Did you know that only 2% of the population in Israel & Palestine is Christian?
As we started to learn about the divisive and territorial history of the region, we were challenged by Ephesians 2:14
The Messiah has made things up between us so that we’re now together on this, both non-Jewish outsiders and Jewish insiders. He tore down the wall we used to keep each other at a distance. (MSG translation)
Our next stop required us to don our trusty headsets and embrace our inner tourist.
Nazareth Village is an interactive opportunity to experience life in Jesus' times. We walked through a working replica village, asking questions of the shepherds, the seamstress and the carpenter. There were live sheep, donkeys, and a working ancient olive press. Ceramic oil lamps were used and over a delicious, authentic 1st century Middle Eastern lunch we got a taste of life as Jesus would have lived.
After such a charming view of 1st century life, our next stop was Mount Precipice. This is the traditional site where an angry mob from Nazareth attempted to throw Jesus off a cliff. (See Luke 4: 16-30) It was a remarkably clear day, which allowed us to look out over the Jezreel Valley and appreciate the terrain. The rich, green plains truly reflected the term "Promised Land."
The Jezreel Valley has been the site of many epic battles throughout history and is believed to be the place where the last world war (Revelation 16) will occur.
From this spot we prayed for the surrounding nations--that they would find peace--and then we journeyed back to Nazareth for a Young Life Club with Israeli students. Much like the states, club was held in a family home's downstairs basement. Laughter, music and kindness cross all cultures!
It seemed fitting that our day started and ended with young people from the region--with context for Jesus' early life in between. A good, slow paced day that set the stage for a very busy week.