Haifa is a major port and the third largest city in Israel. It’s built on the slopes of Mount Carmel and its history spans more than 3,000 years. Over the centuries it has been conquered and ruled by many including the Phoenicians, Persians, Romans, Byzantines, Ottomans and the British to name but a few. Our first stop was Mount Carmel for a breathtaking view over the bay from the top of the city’s famous Bahai Gardens that cost £300 million to create (now a UNESCO site).
Church of the Annunciation
We travelled on to Nazareth, the childhood home of Jesus. Called the City of Annunciation, Nazareth is revered as the spot where the Angel Gabriel appeared before Mary to tell her she was to bear the Son of God. We visited the Church of the Annunciation which is built where Mary is said to have lived. In the corridors outside the church were many pictures and mosaics that had been donated by different countries.
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Church of Joseph
We visited the Church of Joseph, built in 1914 on the site of an earlier 12th C church. The caves, granaries and wells in the lower level were used by the earlier dwellers of Nazareth. Travellers who had visited in the 7th C recorded that this had been the location of the ‘Carpentry Shop of Joseph’, later it was called ‘The House of Joseph’.
Sea of Galilee
Yardenit on the River Jordan
We drove 45 minutes through Cana, where Jesus performed his first miracle of turning water into wine, to the Sea of Galilee and arrived at Yardenit on the River Jordan, where it is thought that Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist. Today, there are many group baptisms and we were fortunate to witness one of them. Those being baptized are ‘dunked’ backwards into the River Jordan.
St Paul’s Primary Church
We stopped for a buffet lunch before going to a small bay on the Sea of Galilee to see St Paul’s Primary Church dedicated to the 1st Pope of the Catholic Church.
Our next stop was the archaeological site of Capernaum, a fishing village in the times of the Hasmoneans and sometimes known as ‘the town of Jesus’. The excavations revealed 2 ancient synagogues, built one over the other. In the distance we could view Tabgha, the site of the Church of the Multiplication of Loaves and Leaves, with its 5th century mosaic floor.