Nazareth, Holy Land
Bells ring out from church Lowers. Cassocked monks and playing children rub shoulders with pilgrims from the world over. Aromas of fresh coffee, exotic spices and hot-from-oven breads perfume, the air in the colorful open-air market. And keeping watch above red-tiled roofs and minarets, the distinctive roof of the Basilica of the Annunciation dominates from every angle.
"The angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin... and the virgins name was Mary.. And he came to her and said: Hail, O favored one, the Lord is with you... And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus" (Luke I).
Gospel... the Annunciation... the "Good News" continues to emanate from the rolling, pastoral hills of the Galilee. No ancient sites in the Holy Land are so certain as the Christian sources of Christianity, and Nazareth, the site of the first Christian event, is where it all began.
Nestled in the embrace of protective hills, the once insignificant village is today home to some 60,000 inhabitants mostly Arabs, and 30 churches, convents and monasteries preserving and testifying to the ancient sites. When wildflowers cloak the hills in springtime, one can still "behold the lilies of the field" and readily imagine the ancient landscape.
Today, the home of Mary and Joseph according to the gospels and the place where Jesus (pbuh) spent most of His life; from childhood to adulthood; and commenced His ministry is the natural starting point for a Holy Land pilgrimage. As befits the ancient message of peace for all humankind, the city is a study in religious coexistence, since some 60% of Nazareth's populace is Muslim. Thus, both the minarets of mosques and church spires play along the Nazareth skyline, against the pastoral, rolling hills.
A stroll through Nazareth reveals a study in contrasting sights and flavors. Some 100 impressive stately homes from the period of Ottomans rule, known as the Old City Mansions, impart an air of grandeur to the city which complements the importance of the churches. Courtyards and lovingly-tended gardens provide islands of tranquility amidst the everyday bustle.
Modern-era structures enclose and protect holy grottoes, ancient Crusader and Byzantine churches and the very stream from which Mary drew water. A visit to each is a homage to the sources of faith.
Basilica of the Annunciation