With baby girl’s birth just around the corner, I am taking a moment to reflect back on some of my favourite moments of 2016…our family trip to Israel and the start of her little life.
I know it was way back in April-May that we set out for our first international trip together as a family but these precious photos and memories never made it onto the blog, and they’re just too good not to share!
We made our home at the Fauzi Azar Inn in Nazareth, a 200 year old hotel that was once an arab mansion in the heart of the old city. It had absolutely stunning old -world charm, friendly staff and an intimate setting. We were very comfortable in our private room and own bathroom; they even provided us with a clean and cozy crib for Chayton to sleep in!
It seems that everything in Israel has cultural, historical and spiritual significance, with Nazareth being no exception. The winding stone streets are just wide enough for the old donkey trails that used to carry people and goods through this old little town.
While there is historical gold around every corner, and even beneath the very ground we walk upon, some of the highlights for us were visiting all the beautiful cathedrals and churches that mark the various milestones of Jesus’ life in this quaint little town.
Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation
The photos cannot even begin to do this place justice; it is a stunning visual feast for the eyes. So absolutely gorgeous…and the rich smell of incense! Something you cannot easily forget.
No one knows for sure where the annunciation took place, but Greek Orthodox tradition believes that the Angel Gabriel came to visit Mary while she was drawing water from the local well in Nazareth, so this beautiful church is erected next to the well, which still stands today and is seen in the photo above of me holding Chayton in front of a well.
The Basilica of the Annunciation
Erected on the ruins of an old Nazareth home, many Roman Catholics believe this to be the location of the Annunciation, as it is thought by many that this home actually once belonged to Mary’s family, and as such, is a possible location for where Gabriel visited Mary to tell her that she would become pregnant with Jesus.
The walls all around the Basilica are beautifully adorned with mosaics of Mary and Jesus from countries all around the globe. For me, it was a glorious reminder of how many people have been impacted by the life of Jesus but also, as I studied each mosaic I noticed how different each one was. The artists behind each piece had recreated the image of mother and child in a way which made sense culturally to them. It took my breath away to see Jesus truly represented for all people, and in a stunning mosaic that makes room for us all, each little piece playing its part in the final image.
But it was inside, at the very heart of the Basilica, at the ruins of the home, where I had my most emotional moment.
There was no way I could know for sure, but at this point I was pretty sure that I had a tiny little child along for the ride. We knew we wanted to grow our family with another baby and were waiting for this trip to start trying, and even a few days in to this pregnancy, I was starting to feel the changes within my own body, as a little someone was making herself at home.
The rest of the Basilica is equally beautifully and when we made our way up to the top floor, a group of pilgrims were singing the doxology at the top! It was a magical moment, especially with such incredible acoustics!
One of our other favourite locations is the open air museum of Nazareth Village set on a first century working farm on the very ground where Jesus, his family and neighbours would have walked. This site is remarkably untouched and unchanged since the time of Jesus, preserving the last fields in the village he would have known. Visitors can walk through the farm with a guide, and hear how daily life 2,000 would have been a source of inspiration for many of Jesus’ parables and what his revolutionary life would have meant to people at the time.
There were also local artisans on the site, showcasing authentic first century carpentry and weaving techniques, using all historical elements and practices. I was especially impressed by the great lengths done to maintain historical authenticity, especially with the natural dying process of the wool in weaving.
The final stop on the Nazareth Village tour is a visit to a recreation of the Jewish Synagogue that Jesus would have grown up studying in. It was a special moment to sit and reflect on the moment when he read from the scroll of Isaiah, fulfilling a prophesy about himself.
It really was an amazing feeling to walk through Jesus’ hometown, get to know some of the locals and visit many of Chris’ dear friends. Nazareth will always hold a special place in our hearts and I’m already looking forward to the day when we can return for another visit!