1620 The Jesus Trail
The Jesus Trail is one of Israel’s many hiking trails. It covers 40 miles, from Nazareth, the town where Jesus grew up, to Capernaum, on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, where Jesus based his ministry. The Jesus Trail was established in 2007, and in May of 2018 I walked it. This week’s TB&TS program has a few observations and some audio clips about the archaeological sites that are along The Jesus Trail.
The Jesus Trail conjures up visions of walking grassy paths through olive groves, where you can almost see the dusty footprints of the apostles. Our experience was a little different. We did the trail in four days, in unseasonable heat. We visited two archaeological sites along the way. Following are photos from our 4 days on The Jesus Trail.
Mary’s Well is probably the strongest link in Nazareth to the lives of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. As the city’s water source, Mary would have visited daily. And as the inset shows, it is the symbol of Nazareth found on manhole covers.
The Fauzi Azar Inn, a 19th century Ottoman mansion restored to become a modern guest house, is where The Jesus Trail begins.
Inside the Fauzi Azar Inn.
Looking across the courtyard of the Fauzi Azar Inn.
The courtyard of the Fauzi Azar Inn.
Beautiful lights hung over the street outside of the Fauzi Azar Inn, perhaps in celebration of Ramadan. Morning: Day 1, Agenda item number 1, climb the steep hill of Nazareth.
Looking south across Nazareth towards the Jezreel Valley.
In the opposite direction, looking north, the acropolis of the ancient city of Sepphoris (our goal for mid-day), and beyond that the Beit Netofa Valley.
On our way out of Nazareth the young ladies at this school shouted greetings and encouragement to us, which made me wonder if each morning about this time, they offer the same to others who walk the Jesus Trail.
Soon Nazareth was fading into the distance.
One of the criticisms of the Jesus Trail, sadly, is the garbage strewn along many portions. Here I am enjoying the shade for a few minutes.
Finally, after losing and re-finding the trail a few times, we reached Sepphoris, approaching along it’s phenomenal water system.
Sepphoris is known for its mosaics. This visit I particularly wanted to see the mosaic floor of the fifth century synagogue.
We continued on to Cana, and stayed at the Cana Wedding Guesthouse, next to the Cana Wedding Church. Day two we started even earlier, in hopes of beating the triple digit heat.
The streets were very quiet as we left Cana.
Soon we found ourselves walking one of the most scenic parts of the Jesus Trail.
As the day began to heat up, we noticed the creative way one local resident was walking his dog.
Day two was our shortest day. We arrived at our destination, Yarok Az Goat Farm, before noon. Our accommodations, on the other side of this garden, were simple but blessedly cool.
Day 3 we set out even earlier. Our first objective, the Golani intersection.
McDonalds wasn’t open yet, but we enjoyed the tables to eat the breakfast our hosts had packed for us.
Then we faced a seemingly impenetrable cactus barrier.
Finally we found the trail through the cactus patch. Right beyond it was a barb wire fence, not quite as impenetrable as the one pictured here with the Jaybird sitting on the post. Nonetheless, I gashed a finger negotiating the fence but we continued on. I should note that we crossed many barb wire fences and all of the rest had cattle crossings or a gate, but that was lacking in this case (at least at that time, a gate has since been added).
Beyond the fence were the remains of a Roman Road, which wasn’t in very good shape anymore, but then again it’s 2,000 years old.
A field of onions glistened in the early morning sun. In the foreground, wild mustard.
As small as a mustard seed.
Occasional wildlife sightings.
The Horns of Hattin loomed in front of us, the site of a crushing Crusader defeat in the year 1187.
Apparently the Crusaders still aren’t very popular in these parts.
From the crest of the Horns of Hattin, looking through the Valley of the Doves and past Mt. Arbel to the shore of the Sea of Galilee and the Plain of Genneserat. I’ve looked toward this spot from the opposite end many times, but wasn’t sure I would ever get this view.
On the Horns of Hattin, the thermometer on my backpack read 115 degrees. Not in the shade. I was thankful for the 2 liter bottles of ice we grabbed out of the freezer each morning but by this time they were melted and warm.
In the shadow of the Horns of Hattin is a beautiful Druze shrine, Nebi Shueb.
I was thankful we could refill our water bottles with the cool spring water at Nebi Shueb.
We took a short cut and arrived at Moshav Arbel. While asking directions to our accommodations, a friendly family invited us into their air conditioned house, fed us pizza and kept refilling our water glasses. They bandaged my gashed finger. An hour later, as we were walking out the door, they gave us ice cream. And, I would say, they were typical of the people we met on this hike. They people we met were the best part of this experience.
Arbel Holiday Homes provided wonderful accommodations for our fourth night.
Another very early start for day 4, and we walked through another archaeological site, the 4th century Arbel synagogue. The front door was carved out of a massive limestone outcropping.
Our next objective was the descend through the Valley of the Doves, to the Plain of Genneserat.
The coneys (called rock badgers in some Bible translations) like to sun on the warm rocks.
We walked past the caves of Mt. Arbel, where Jews hid from Romans during the first Jewish revolt.
And then we walked through many fields of fruit trees.
We lost the trail again, for the last time, at the Ottoman Bridge.
We reached the Galilee Shore when we reached Tabgha.
The Tabgha Church commemorates the feeding of the 5,000 and has many beautiful mosaics, including this iconic image.
More Tabgha mosaics.
Finally our destination was in view, Capernaum.
We arrived, tired but happy.
I’m grateful for the experience and maybe I’ll do it again some day.
Links to photos from the rest of our 2018 Israel Tour are on this page.
Later in 2018 CBS News did a report on the Jesus Trail.