We’ve been based in the city of Tiberias on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee, also known as the Sea of Tiberias.
Yesterday we were treated to a walk around Tzipori National Park and then an adventure in Nazareth. I have to admit to being a bit ‘churched out’ having visited quite a few! Don’t think me ungrateful, but I’ve got tired legs and a full head.
However, I was taken outside of myself by the Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth, a Greek Orthodox Church which is more of a limestone cavern with incredible works of art from all over the world representing different nations’ views of Mary. Do not miss this church even if it is 15th you’ve been to in a week. We visited the souk, ate more falafel and looked round the local synagogue. Another highlight was Nazareth Village, a reconstruction of a 1st Century Galilean farmstead.
After dinner, we sat with the Encounter group to talk about the things we’ve seen, felt and done over the past week. As they look to their return home, a lot are asking the question – what can I do, at home and for the people here?
We chatted about how we feel about the injustice we have seen, the weight of the occupation and fear we have heard about amongst the great faith we have witnessed. We talked about the inspiring work and campaigns people who, we all agreed, are brave and inspired. We asked each other about how we could possibly talk to our friends and family, especially as some have friends who have very fixed ideas about the situation here. We shared ideas about how we can be kind and constructive in our conversations. People spoke through angry tears about the injustice and poverty we’ve seen and the guilt many feel. The lack of knowledge and understanding about the Middle East and Britain’s role in it generated much discussion.
There are no easy answers. We talked about the work Embrace does, supporting Christian organisations across the region who are serving those in need, we talked about BDS, about Kairos Britain, we talked about lobbying our government and how we can change our habits as consumers.
We talked about how we can pray more and we prayed.
Today we had a peaceful boat ride on the Sea of Galilee itself. ‘Peter’, our captain, demonstrated ancient fishing technique and we shared a moment of stillness, engines off, as we drifted on the current, looking at the shores where Jesus spent most of his time of ministry.
We visited a number of churches along the shore; I finally got to put my feet in the water! The Church of the Beatitudes was particularly moving as was the Church of the Primacy of St Peter.
We had *more* falafel.
An unexpected joy was a visit to the relatively new dig at Magdala where volunteers are excavating a first century town that was only discovered in 2009.
There is a stunningly simple church on the site celebrating the relationship of women with Jesus and their impact on the world since.
Sadly, we were very upset to find our female ministers were not allowed to lead us in our planned Eucharist at the church. However, due to some not very subtle coincidences, we ended up celebrating and sharing communion in CoS St Andrew’s Church in the centre of Tiberias. A quick phone call and Rev Kate was opening the doors of her church building to a bunch of weary pilgrims. A perfect end.
Sadly tomorrow is the last day of the tour. Neil and I will wave goodbye to 26 new friends at Ben Gurion airport before we head down to Ashkelon and, all things going to plan, crossing into Gaza on Monday.
As much as I’ve loved these last couple of days, I have felt my head and heart moving towards the second part of my trip. I’m really looking forward to visiting our partners in Gaza and seeing the work they’re doing, collecting news and speaking to beneficiaries of their projects so we can tell our supporters about the difference the tiny Christian community is making and what else there is to do. I’m also preparing myself for the fact I’m entering a place that is suffering greatly, beyond anything I’ve seen so far, indeed, beyond anything I’ve ever seen.
I called this blog ‘enough’ because I truly believe there is enough on this planet for us all to have enough water, food and the resources we need to live simple, healthy, happy lives. We visited the Church of the Seven Springs on the north of the Sea today. It’s also known as the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and the Fishes and commemorates Jesus’ miracles of multitude. There were ancient oil presses and millstones made from local basalt sat on the steps of the church.
I have always adored these miracles because they speak to me about the initial purpose of God’s creation. The Garden of Eden was meant to spread, we were meant to multiply the bounty of creation across the world. The world was going to be able to provide enough for us. Jesus’ miracle is a moment of the Kingdom of God being present on earth – what it would look like it we loved enough and the earth could do what it was intended to do.
But as I’ve seen this week and as I know I’ll see for the next resources like water and power are withheld or unnecessarily rationed. They are sold at extortionate rates to line the pockets of the corrupt, and not just by one ‘side’ or the other. It’s more than just an inconvenience. The elderly, the ill, the young are put at great risk and it causes despair and anger.
I’m reminded by my time and on the Sea of Galilee and visiting the green and fertile land where Jesus taught and ministered, lived and healed for three years that He is the living water. I’m looking forward to meeting people who believe the same but who turn their belief into action that tangibly changes people’s in some of the worst circumstances imaginable. I hope you’ll keep reading as I know I’ll need to keep writing!