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Very soon Nazareth will have its first major university, Texas A & M has agreed to open a branch of their university in Nazareth, making it the first American University to have a branch in Nazareth. The university plans to take over the operations of the Nazareth Academic Institute. The official signing ceremony will be held later this week and President Shimon Peres will be presiding along with Texas Governor Rick Perry and Texas A&M chancellor John Sharp who will be in attendance.
Many Arab Israelis currently attend college abroad and by having a campus in Nazareth, the university hopes to drive more students to study abroad at this campus. Texas A&M will take over the city's existing college, the Nazareth Academic Institute, which was established in 2010 as an independent institution in order to serve the Arab population but has not had state funding since its inception. As a result, it was impossible to remain independent without funding and the according to the NAI's dean of students, Soher Bsharat, they realized that by cooperation with Texas they would be able to have a future.
According to the agreement, a $70 million campus will be built in Nazareth, to be known as Texas A & M Peace University, and the curriculum will incude many English courses as well.
Having a prestigious university will no doubt have extremely positive impact on Nazareth, which has undergone significant redevelopment over the last few years. The city has welcomed many new restaurants, hotels, and new attractions, including the Mary of NAzareth Center, situated in the center of town. The Gospel Trail and the Jesus Trail, two important hiking routes, also 'begin' out of Nazareth.
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Elisa L. Moed is the founder and CEO of Travelujah-Holy Land tours, the leading Christian social network focused on travel to the Holy land. People can learn, plan and share their Holy Land tour and travel experiences on Travelujah.
Sitting quietly off the main shuk road in the heart of Nazareth, less than one block away from the famous Church of the Annunciation (also known as the Church of All Nations), lies the quaint guesthouse owned and managed by the Religious Sisters of Nazareth, a Roman Catholic order of nuns who have had a presence in the Holy land since the late 1800's. The Sisters have owned the magnificent building for over 100 plus years and recently converted parts of their facility into a lovely little guest house. However, the comfortable yet simple accommodations are not all that meets the eye. Hidden several metres below the tiled terraces are significant ruins dating back to the 1st century or possibly earlier, an archaeological find discovered in the early 1900's .
Sister Stephana of Italy was our tour guide and accompanied us throughout our underground exploration. The site consists of a series of caves including at least one large home as well as water cisterns hidden beneath the residence, a familial burial area as well as several other rooms. The large water cistern is known as the Cistern of the Great Church, and is a sizeable well that was apparently used to store water for the family and possibly others that lived above and nearby. The architecture is somewhat suggestive of 1st century, with Herodian stones displayed in several areas. The burial style suggests Jewish roots, which would be likely considering the early dating of this house and its location in Nazareth, originally a Jewish village and believed to be home home of Jesus during his youth. Beyond that, there is evidence of additional development during the Byzantine and possibly the Crusader period as well.
The Sisters of Nazareth provide complimentary group tours of the site with advance notice.
The remains of a Jesus-era residence in what may have been a small hamlet housing approximately 50 homes. Remains included a wall, hideout and a cistern as well as an old convent courtyard, explained Yardenna Alexandre, an archaeogolgist with the Israel Antiquities Authority. Other discoveries included clay and chalk vessels used by Galilean Jews of the time - considered evidence that the home was inhabited by a simple Jewish family.
Photo by: API
"It was likely Jesus and his childhood friends would have
known the house," said Alexandre.
"From the little written evidence available we know that first century Nazareth AD was a small Jewish village located in a valley," Alexandre said, adding that "until now a few Jesus-era graves were revealed, but never have we unearthed the remains of contemporary residences .
A pit made in the rock was also found, along with contemporary clay work. The archaeologists believe the pit was created as part of the Jewish peoples preparations prior to the Great Rebellion against the Romans, in 67C.E.
Article republished from: Haaretz News Service, Dec. 21, 2009
The Israel Ministry of Tourism officially announced the upcoming itinerary for Pope Benedict's trip to the Holy Land. The Papal delegation with is to include 40 representatives from the Vatican and approximately 70 representatives of th foreign media, will arrive on May 11th. The Pope will meet with the Mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barakat, local leaders, President Shimon Peres as well as the Council of Religious Community Leaders in Israel (the Chief Rabbis, the President of the Moslem Religious Court of Appeals, Christian religious leaders and the heads of the Druze Community). The Pope will also meet with leaders of the Palestinian Authority Mohammed Abbas during his visit to Bethlehem on May 13, 2009. The official itinerary is posted below: •
May 11, 2009 - Pope to arrive in Israel; official ceremony with President Shimon Peres and visit to Yad Vashem Martyrs' and Heroes' Memorial of the Holocaust. Pope Bernedct XVI will also meet with the Council of Religious Commuity Leaders in Israel. In the evening there will be an Interfaith Dialogue meeting at Notre Dame Center.•
May 12th, 2009 - Visit to the Temple Mount and meeting with the Grand Mufti. He will also visit the Western Wall, Mt. Zion and the Cenacle (the Site of the Last Supper), Heichal Shlomo Synagogue (the Great Synagague) as well as a visit to Gethsemane Church. A mass will be held at the Kidron Valley. •
ay 14th - Visit to Nazareth and meeting with local leaders. A Holy Mass in Nazareth at the Mount of Precipace overlooking the Jezreel Valley will be held. A prayer at the Church of the Annunciation is also planned as well as a meeting with local religious leaders in the Galilee. •
May 15th - Meetings with local religious leaders at local Churches in Jerusalem. A farewell ceremony at Ben Gurion International Airport will be held. Pope Benedict XVI will return to Rome on a special EL AL flight at the conclusion of the ceremony. If you wish to plan a tour following in the footsteps of this memorable Papal visit, please let us know. We have arranged special priced tours for groups of 15 people or more.
The city of Nazareth just might be the selected venue for and additional Leonard Cohen's concert this September. Ministry Director-General Noaz Bar Nir has approached Leonard Cohen (via the concert producer Marcel Abraham), asking that him to consider adding Nazareth to his schedule under the slogan "reconciliation, tolerance and peace", the same slogan he is used in marketing his September 24th 2009 concert in Ramat Gan, the final concert of his world tour.
According to Bar Nir, it was brought to his attention that the singer wanted to play an additional concert in Ramallah, but this did not happen for a variety of reasons. After discussing the idea with Nazareth Mayor Ramiz Jaraisy, Bar Nir proposed holding a second concert in the city of Nazareth - Israel's largest Arab city and home to a 40,000 capacity outdoor amphitheater specially built for the recent visit of the Pope.
Nazareth will always be the Galilean city famously known as the residence of the world's most celebrated figure, Jesus Christ, but over the last five years the city has developed an eviable reputation as a culinary hotspot.
Local residents have been instrumental in redeveloping this Galilean capital, home to Christians and Moslems and Israel's Ministry of Tourism has also allocated some funding in this hilltop city.
The result - a wonderful culinary scene for all appetites. The city boasts wonderful spice shops, sweet stores, cafes and a medley of restaurants offering interesting Arabic fusion foods along with other delicacies.
A recent Travelujah article entitled "Nazareth is Worth a Day or Two for All Tourists" - focused on many of the interesting on and off the beaten path sites in Nazareth and the surrounding area. Now, the New York Times, has offered up a culinary expedition for those interested in the city's burgeoning food scene.
Tishreen Restaurant; Photo Courtesy - Travelujah
With everything from wonderful restaurants, bars, cafes and bakeries and on the spot culinary courses (in Arabic and English too!) being offered to residents and non-residents - the city is poised to add Holy Land's culinary capital to its status as Jesus's hometown.
Read the New York Times piece on Nazareth:
Go, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I am giving it to you."
Eduward has been in Israel for three months, living in Jerusalem and volunteering for the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem, before he made his first trip to the Galilee.
Like many tourists, the Galilee was not at the top of Eduward's list of things to do. However, after an invitation to walk the newly redeveloped Gospel Trail prompted him to visit, Eduward quickly realized that the Galilee offers much more than he had ever anticipated.
Walking where Jesus walked was an emotional trip and the high point of Eduward's visit to Israel.
"I'm recommending the Gospel Trail to everyone - Christian and even Jewish people as well, so they can experience where Jesus walked, see the scenery and hike the trail," Eduward told Travelujah.
Photo Courtesy: Travelujah - The Gospel Trail
Jesus spent the majority of his life growing up in Nazareth, working in the community, walking the countryside, bringing his ministry of teaching and healing throughout the region and performing numerous miracles along the way from Cana to Tabgha. Even still, Nazareth and the Galilee as a whole have not yet evolved as an international destination and tourism to the region pales in comparison to Jerusalem. While more than 87 percent of Christian tourists visit Jerusalem, only 60 percent of Israel's Christian tourists visit the Galilee, up from less than 50 percent in 2009.
Why does the Galilee attract fewer Christians despite the fact that Jesus spent most of his life there?
Part of the answer lies in the fact that the Galilee region, despite offering an abundance of important sites, is relatively "off the beaten path' and not as easy to navigate on foot as Jerusalem, which hosts a concentration of sites proximate to each other.
In an effort to address this, the Israel Ministry of Tourism, along with its partners at the Jewish National Fund, began planning the Gospel Trail, a 60-kilometer hiking trail, 10 years ago. However, once the second intifada took root prompting a sharp drop in tourism plans for the Gospel Trail were put on hold.
Fast forward several years to 2010. Israel had experienced a dramatic rise in Christian tourism culminating in a record-breaking 2.3 million Christian tourists, representing two thirds of the 3.45 million tourists who visited the country in 2010. The Christian sector was demonstrating the strongest growth of all sectors too. While Jewish tourism had grown from 800,000 to 1 million in the last five years, Christian tourism was up over fourfold, from just under 500,000 tourists in 2005 to 2.3 million tourists in 2010. Tourism officials made the Gospel Trail a priority and, at a cost of $600,000, the well marked trail was unveiled a couple months ago.
Photo credit: Travelujah.com Bishop Marcuzzo, Noaz Bar Nir and Rafi Ben Hur unveiling the new Gospel Trail marker
The Gospel Trail begins at the Mount of Precipice in Nazareth where, according to Luke 4:14-28, Jesus was rejected by his townsmen who threatened to throw him over the mountainside. The trail travels down the ancient "Pilgrims Path" 500 meters to the Jezreel Valley below, and continues along the Nazareth Range providing views of the Mount Tabor, Kafr Kanna and travels, via the golani Junction to the Horns of Hattin site of the clash between the Crusader forces and the Muslim armies under Saladin. It continues past the antiquities of Magdala to Tabgha, the Mount of Beatitudes, eventually ending at Capernaum and the Sea of Galilee.
The Gospel Trail experience offers the Christian faithful a unique opportunity to take a similar path to the one that Jesus would have trodden.
Additional branches of the trail will allow visitors to access other important sites. A new dock alongside Capernaum allows visitors to include a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee, where according to Mark 4:35, Jesus calmed the sea. With a ride to Ein Gev or Tiberias, groups can have the possibility of including prayer time or singing on the boat. Scripture readings, safety barriers, shaded rest areas and safety features are to be included and are expected to be in place along the trail shortly.
Photo Credit Travelujah.com Bishop Marcuzzo leading mass on the Sea of Galilee
The Gospel Trail is part of the Israel Ministry of Tourism's effort to broaden Israel's tourism product and reach new market segments like hikers and Christian youth groups. Pilgrimage is viewed as a natural means to self discovery and attracts young people seeking to connect to their spiritual roots.
Father Atuire, director of Opera Romana Pellegrinaggi, the Vatican pilgrimage organizer responsible for organizing programs for 750,000 pilgrims annually, has been actively seeking to reach out to more Christians including youths, by offering alternative journeys of faith such as walking pilgrimages to Santiago de Compostela as well as social justice tours of Nepal and packages to World Youth Day.
The Gospel Trail is envisioned to serve a similar purpose: to connect youths to pilgrimage by walking in Jesus' footsteps. Pilgrimage is viewed as a natural means to self discovery and attracts young people seeking to connect to their spiritual roots.
Latin Patriarchal Vicar Bishop Boutros Marcuzzo accompanied us along a leg of the Gospel Trail and echoed his desire for young people to have a direct and spontaneous interaction with nature along the way.
Travelujah CEO Elisa Moed and Bishop Marcuzzo on the Gospel Trail
"We want young people to come," he told Travelujah. "And this trail is very encouraging for young people."
The Gospel Trail was developed in consultation with Evangelical, Protestant and Orthodox church leaders and provides pilgrims and others an opportunity to experience the Holy Land on foot while connecting in a spiritual and physical way to the Biblical landscapes that feature in Jesus' life.
The Gospel Trail comes on the heels of another popular northern Israel hike also catering to Christian tourists, the Jesus Trail. The Jesus Trail follows a similar route as the new Gospel Trail and to a large extent serves the same function. However, the Jesus Trail encourages a bit more diversity as it passes through some outlying Arab villages in the Galilee while the Gospel Trail, focuses more on exploring the indigenous nature of the region.
By highlighting their connection to important holy sites, both bring a much-needed awareness to the Galilee, a region that is still often overlooked by visitors to Israel, though, perhaps, not for much longer.
"Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed; and he healed them. Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed him."
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Elisa L. Moed is the Founder and CEO of Travelujah -Holy Land Tours (http://www.travelujah.com). A 24 year tourism consulting veteran, Elisa has worked for many international chains, banks, developers and hotel management companies in her role as a specized hospitality ndustry consutlant..
Travelujah is the leading Christian social network focused on travel to the Holy |Land.
As an Israeli living in Israel, I don't often have the opportunity to visit the Palestinian Territories. So, when I received an invitation recently to accompany Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, now Middle East Quartet Representative, on a visit to Christian holy sites in Israel and the Palestinian Territories, I immediately said "Yes!"
I believe it's critical for Israelis and Palestinians to further cooperation, especially when it comes to joint tourism. After all, we share the holiest sites on earth!
And for me, as a tourism professional, it's essential to experience, first hand, the beauty and history of the ancient cites in Israel and the Palestinian Territories. How can I recommend to Christians worldwide what the Holy Land has to offer if I haven't experienced the sites myself?
So, travel pass in hand, I joined Mr. Blair on a day tour of the Nativity route from Nazareth to Bethlehem, an ancient trail which literally winds through the pages of the Bible. We planned to learn about joint Israeli-Palestinian tourism efforts. Logistics, after all, is one of the most critical issues facing tour operators.
Our first stop was Nazareth, the childhood home of Jesus. Known today as "the Arab capital of Israel," the population is made up predominantly of Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel of mixed Christian and Muslim heritage and is a center of Christian pilgrimage. We took in the many shrines commemorating biblical events and Mr. Blair met with the mayor and other local leaders to discuss tourism and the city's request for designation as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Nazareth's private sector, along with the Israeli Government, is investing in the city's tourism infrastructure. Nazareth now boasts several excellent restaurants, new hotels, and improved signage and roads. In May 2011, Israel's Minister of Tourism, Staz Meseznikov, announced plans to invest an additional $3.5M to enhance the tourist infrastructure in Nazareth and boost the cultural and leisure offerings in the Galilee city. It is an important beginning.
Quartet Representative Tony Blair greeting residents on the streets in Nazareth Photo courtesy: Office of Quartet Rep Tony Blair
The ancient walkways of Nazareth's Old City are clean and friendly. We walked the old market streets and were treated to the beauty of the Church of the Annunciation, the Church of St. Gabriel and the White Mosque. The Old City has a variety of tourist accommodations, including an Arab Christian home known as the Fauzi Azar Inn, now a guesthouse catering primarily to younger travelers.
Next we were off to the new Jalameh checkpoint, which opened in October 2009 and serves the Gilboa-Jenin area. It is essential to facilitating much of the area's trade. Jalameh has spurred economic development in the area. Traffic is up over 500 percent [since when?] and over 2,000 vehicles cross daily. Tourism officials are very eager to facilitate access and tourism; tour buses can pass through very quickly, provided they coordinate their route a day ahead. Currently, however, only some 70 buses use the crossing each month, most of them transporting Arab Israeli visitors.
Jalamaye Border Crossing near Nazareth Credit: Travelujah
From Jalameh we drove south into the Palestinian Territories to the Haddad Resort Village outside of Jenin. The 80-room property lies about 3 km. from Jenin in a picturesque area surrounded by olive trees. The expansive resort boasts a large pool, an amusement park, conference facilities, a museum, and first class hotel rooms. The governor of Jenin welcomed us and joined us for lunch. Speaking with the owner I learned that the resort was frequented by many Israeli Arabs. His hope is that his clientele will come to include visitors from all over the world as well as international NGOs and other organizations looking for a unique venue for their seminars and annual meetings.
Haddad Village Resort near Jenin Photo courtesy: Travelujah.com
By far the most exciting part of the day occurred as we continued to the village of Burq'in. The small historic Palestinian town is situated west of Jenin and has about 7,400 residents, most of them Muslim. The hilly agricultural village is home to the Greek Orthodox Church of St. George, considered the fourth or fifth oldest church and one of the holiest in the country and the world.
Ancient cave where lepers were quarantined inside Burq'in church
Photo credit: Travelujah.com
According to Christian tradition, Jesus came through Burq'in on his way to Jerusalem from Nazareth when he heard cries coming from within the village. The pleas for help were coming from 10 lepers who were quarantined in an underground cave, a common practice for people afflicted with this disease. According to Luke 17:11-19 Jesus encountered them, passed his hand on their faces and they were immediately healed.
"Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, 'Jesus, Master, have pity on us!' When he saw them, he said, "Go, show yourselves to the priests.' And as they went, they were cleansed."
Church of St. George in Burq'in Photo: Travelujah.com
Because of this miracle, the church, which was built by Saint Helena in the 4th Century A.D., became a station for Christian pilgrims en route to Jerusalem and Nazareth. According to the local guardian of the church, who led us around the newly renovated holy site, the church is also a place of worship for the village's Christian Greek Orthodox community and holds a weekly mass. Groups are welcome to visit the newly renovated church and to hold mass there. Access can be arranged by advanced notice.
Tourism development is crucial for both the Israeli and Palestinian economies, as it provides livelihood to tens of thousands of people and stimulates economic development opportunities. As the Quartet representative, Mr. Blair is focused on furthering tourism development to provide an immediate and direct economic benefit for both Palestinians and Israelis.
Despite the record numbers of tourists to Israel last year - some 3.45 million - Israel and the Palestinian Territories lagged well behind Jordan (6 million tourists), Syria (6.5 million) and Egypt (some 15 million). And this, despite the fact that the Holy Land is the cradle of faith and offers numerous unique travel experiences.
The Office of Quartet Representative Tony Blair has created a Holy Land tourism committee (of which I am a member). The committee is engaged in furthering the overall tourism experience, from improving access to creating programs and joint marketing activities that will benefit both Israel and the Palestinian Territories.
In a meeting in Jerusalem late last week, our Holy Land tourism committee agreed that regardless of what happens in the UN we will continuing moving forward with our cooperative efforts on the ground here promoting tourism to both Israel and the Palestinian Territories. The reality which people around the world do not realize is that the private sector is successfully working together and we are determined to continue our efforts to do just that. Traveling here is quite safe and there is no doubt that a pilgrimage to the Holy Land is a life-changing spiritual experience.
I spoke with Mr. Blair outside the church in Burq'in about the importance of travel and specifically the faith-based travel segment, which represents an $18 billion industry and the fastest growing segment in travel. I shared my concern that many prospective visitors don't realize that, with proper coordination, a visit to the Holy Land is perfectly safe. He agreed - and promised to do his best to encourage more people of faith to travel here.
Ourside the Church of St. George in Burq'in. Photo Credit: Office of Quartet Rep Tony Blair
"We have to do a better job at promoting this," he agreed. "We have to get the word out."
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Elisa Moed is the Founder and CEO of Travelujah (http://www.travelujah.com) an Israel-based Christian social network focused on travel to the Holy Land. With over 1000 pages of Christian interest articles, expert blogs, visitor experiences, religious travel resources and more, Travelujah helps people to learn about and travel to the Holy Land.
Israel - the homeland of Jesus of Nazareth. Most of His life - birth, ministry, crucifixion - happened right here. Wherever you turn, you find remnants of eras past, bearing silent witness to the beginnings of Christianity. Though of the three Abrahamic religions, the Christian population in Israel is the smallest, Israel is indeed home to thriving pockets of Christians. Scattered throughout Israel, especially in the northern section, the Galilee, are small enclaves of Christians, some even living in their own Christian villages. To lead a Christian life in the land of its birth is truly a unique experience. And, in fact, Israel is the only Middle Eastern country in which the Christian population is actually growing.
The kibbutz of Nes Ammim is one such Christian village. Located in the Western Galilee, near the city of Nahariya, Nes Ammim was created in the wake of the Holocaust. Christians in Europe, horrified by the atrocities of the war, decided to do more than offer sympathy. They wanted to lend a hand in building a homeland for the Jewish people. In the early 1960s, the movement settled in Israel. Like inhabitants of all of the early kibbutzim, the first few years were filled with hard physical labor, as they built the land, literally. They planted avocado orchards, and started a thriving flower industry. Nes Ammim became a popular spot for Christian pilgrims to volunteer, whether for a few weeks, a few months, or even longer. A youth hostel and guesthouse sprung up. But the Intifadas hit the Christian tourism industry hard, and the numbers of guests to Nes Ammim dwindled. The flower industry, too, was hit by rising production costs and withered.
However, the Christian community of Nes Ammim did not simply close up shop. Today, Nes Ammim is synonymous with reflection and peace, offering a neutral arena for dialogue between Jews and Arabs. The volunteers at Nes Ammim facilitate constructive talks between the two sides, and many of them then return to their own homelands as ambassadors for peace. Nes Ammim also runs a guesthouse, which offers modern amenities, as well as guided tours, access to local sites, and a Museum of Jewish-Christian Relations. Come as a guest or stay to volunteer - it's a once-in-a-lifetime experience for the Christian traveler.
Shfar'am, also known by its Arabic name, Shefa-Amr, is another, predominately Arab, village in the Galilee which is home to a large Christian community. Located northeast of Haifa, Shfar'am is mentioned in the Talmud and was once the seat of Sanhedrin (the Jewish high court). Today, the population consists of Druze, Christian, and Muslim residents. There are many fascinating Christian sites in Shfar'am, including an ancient Crusader fort. Byzantine tombs indicate a strong Christian presence here in the 5th and 6th centuries, and on the entrance to the graves are inscriptions which mention Jesus. Another highlight of Shfar'am is an ancient synagogue, recently renovated. St. Jacob's Church was an active church in the 4th century; now, it is it the site of the Sisters of Nazareth Convent. And the Greek-Catholic community of Shfar'am still prays at St. Peter and St. Paul's Church.
In addition to the Christian holy sites, Shfar'am is famous for its mastic-flavored ice cream. (Mastic is a member of the pistachio family). It is also home to the Bet al-Musica Conservatory. The conservatory offers courses in various instruments, and holds concerts and performances throughout the year. There is also the yearly "Fort Festival," an event which draws people from all over as Arab children compete in a singing contest. The Nakhleh Coffee Company, the leading coffee producer in the Arab world, is based in Shfar'am. More cafes are opening up, drawing tourists and locals alike.
Of course, no mention of Christian communities in the Galilee would be complete without talking about Nazareth. After spending some time in the city proper and visiting the churches, spend a day in "Nazareth Village," - as its website says, "The Nazareth that Jesus Knew." The village is a full-scale, authentic reproduction of life in a 1st century Holy Land village. Visit 1st century homes, synagogues, olive presses, and more, all based on archaeological evidence.
Many of the north's large cities, like Nazareth, Haifa, and Tiberias, have sizable Christian presences. Visit the Scot's Hotel in Tiberias, run by the Church of Scotland. Haifa is home to a Maronite church, a Carmelite church, and St. Mary's Greek Orthodox Parish Church, in addition to the Stella Maris Carmelite Monastery.
While touring the Holy Land, make sure to visit the villages and enclaves of fellow Christians, to see first-hand that Christianity, a strong presence in the land hundreds of years ago, is still a vibrant - and growing - presence today.
For further information or to arrange a special tour or visit to any of these villages or to meet with residents, please contact Travelujah.
“This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit.” (Matt. 1:18)
The news about Mary’s pregnancy made Joseph very upset. However, as a man of honor and faithful to the law, he decided to divorce her quietly to avoid a scandal. Then suddenly, during his sleep, angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph and encouraged him to take Mary as his wife. The child she was bearing was conceived through the Holy Spirit.
Since that day, Joseph always accompanied Mary as a husband and after Jesus’ birth he became his guardian and terrestrial father. Joseph spent a lot of time with the young Jesus and taught him the profession of handicraft and carpentry. The boy probably followed Joseph to many places of his work.
Joseph was from Bethlehem and he belonged to the house of David. “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife”. (Matt. 1:20) Since Joseph, was not the genetic father of Jesus, we can come to the thought that Mary was from the Davidic origin as well. We can spot that when reading angel’s message which he revealed on the Day of Annunciation: “The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David.” (Luke 1:32) Thus we can deduct that Mary and Joseph’s families might have been related to each other.
The gospels indicate that after Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem, the Holy Family spent some months in the town before escaping from King Herod’s soldiers to Egypt. “Take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt” (Matt. 2:13) The Chapel of St. Joseph, located inside of the Nativity Church, commemorates the place where the angel appeared to Joseph and commanded him to flee to Egypt. According to another local tradition, the family stayed in the place currently called Milk Grotto, which might have been on the land that belonged to Joseph’s ancestors from Bethlehem.
After the death of Herod the Great, who ruled Judea from Jerusalem, the angel again appeared to Joseph and let him know that the time of their return has come. Joseph, however, after hearing that Herod Archelaus took over the rule in Judea, decided to take his family to Nazareth in the Galilee.
At the time of the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry, the gospels do not mention Joseph anymore. This leads us to the assumption that Christ’s earthy guardian probably already passed away by that time.
Feasts of St. Joseph
In the tradition of the Catholic Church, the 19th of March is the day dedicated to St. Joseph, the spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The feast has been observed since the 10th century, however Pope St. Pius V established the holiday as a church custom in 1479. The holiday honors Joseph as the man who was privileged to become the spouse of the Mother of God and the foster-father of Jesus Christ. Additionally, Joseph is the patron of the Universal Church.
Church of St. Joseph in Nazareth
According to tradition, the Church of St. Joseph in Nazareth is located over Joseph’s carpentry workshop. The monastery stands next to the famous Church of the Annunciation and is often included within a pilgrim’s itinerary.
The Church of St. Joseph in Nazareth was built in 1914 on the ruins of the Crusader church and over multiple caves. Three paintings on the monastery’s apse depict the Holy Family, The Dream of Joseph and The Death of Joseph in the Arms of Jesus and Mary. Joseph is believed to die in Nazareth.
In the crypt under the church is a pit, which is believed to be a baptistery dating to the 1st century A.D.
If you go: The church of St. Joseph in Nazareth is open daily from 7 am till 6 pm. From Monday till Saturday there is a mass at 7:15 am in Arabic and on every Wednesday at 6:30 am in Italian. The Sunday mass (in Arabic) is celebrated in the Church of St. Joseph at 8:30 am. When this article was written, the monastery was under renovation. Please check Catholic Parish of Nazareth’s website for updates: www.basilicanazareth.org. In its proximity is the Basilica of the Annunciation open from 8 am till 6 pm and the Archaeological Museum open from 8 am – 12 am and 2 pm – 6 pm (5 pm winter).
Church of St. Joseph in Bethlehem
The small Syriac Catholic Church of St. Joseph is located on Manger Street in Bethlehem. Its construction began in 1925 and the building was consecrated in 1930. The church serves the local Syriac Catholic community of Bethlehem. They are the descendants of the ethnic group of Assyrians that came from the Syrian desert in the 14th century B.C.
In both Orthodox and Catholic Syriac churches, the liturgy is in Aramaic, the language of Jesus Christ. Aramaic is the spoken language only, the written form is called Syriac.
Feast of the St. Joseph: The community celebrates the feast of their church’s patron St. Joseph on Sunday the 17th of March at 4 pm.
If you go: The Sunday mass is celebrated in the Church of St. Joseph at 8:30 am. Since some period of time, the chapel is rarely open on the week days. If lucky, the person who keeps the keys would be around and when asked he would open it for the visitors. It is better to arrange a visit by contacting Fr. Frais at firstname.lastname@example.org or calling at 00972 (0) 50 295 94 18. To learn more about the Syriac Catholic Church in the Holy Land visit their website: www.syriaccatholic.org
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Beata Andonia works for the Bethlehem tourist bureau and blogs regularly about Bethlehem for Travelujah-Holy Land Tours. She is originally from Poland and moved to Bethlehem in 2010.