We are headed towards Jerusalem, but not without stopping off at a few famous places. Well, it’s not exactly the exact spot where John the Baptist baptized Jesus. Soil erosion and climate change have left a muddy place of silt with very little water in the original place. This locale is just a little further up the very same river. It has become a place of pilgrimage for many of the faithful believers.
For a few dollars, you can rent a baptismal robe and fully immerse yourself in the turquoise waters just as was done 2,000 years ago. There are also showers and changing rooms at the facility for all who choose to participate.
For many, it’s a truly emotional experience. For others, they wade in the waters and get sprinkled on their foreheads, a slightly drier alternative, but just as meaningful. I have to say, it’s a pretty amazing feeling to be standing on the edge of this river knowing it’s history.
Our next stop finds us at the ruins of Beit She’an, an important city due to its geographic location near the Jordan River and Jezreel Valley. It was the junction of these two valleys and the access from the Jordan River to roads that led to Jerusalem and Galilee that would give power to anyone who controlled this area.
I’m not sure I’d want to see a concert here…although it is still used today, the weather in the summer can approach 125°.
Our last stop is to the city of Nazareth to visit this amazing church called the Basilica of the Annunciation. It is built on the remains of the house of the Virgin Mary. When she was drawing water from the well outside her house, the angel Gabriel appeared and announced to her that she had been chosen to conceive and bear the Son of God – Jesus, an event known as the Annunciation.
The altar of this church is built over the remains of Mary’s home, which makes this site, and the city of Nazareth, one of the most sacred places in the Christian world.
Small side fact, in this entire Jewish nation of Israel, Nazareth is almost 100% Arab Christians, who celebrate Christmas and Easter. Even the Jews come to Nazareth to see the Christmas trees and decorations that brighten the city during these holidays.
What puts this special church towards the top of my list of favorite churches in the world is these mosaic art pieces that come from countries, who have contributed their versions of Madonna and child. Each is different, reflecting the character of each country. They were mesmerizing, creative, breathtaking, and oh so beautiful. I could have spent all afternoon looking at these. I’m guessing they are about 20’ high. What you can’t see is the shimmer reflecting from these magnificent masterpieces. I wish you were here to see them too.