Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Holy Land: Jericho, Dead Sea and Nazareth

May 25:  We visited Jericho, the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world.  Then we proceeded to Qumran, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found in caves.  I and some of my companions dipped in the Dead Sea, the lowest lake (below sea level) in the world.  We floated like corks because of the saltiness.  By the latter half of the afternoon, we proceeded to Nazareth and checked in at the Mount St Grabriel’s Hotel, which used to be a Greek Orthodox monastery.
May 26:  We went to the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth.  The Cave of Mary in the Basilica was brightly lit but gated.  You could see inside but could not enter.  We celebrated the Eucharist just in front of the Cave.  Near the end of the Mass, a Cardinal Koch from the Vatican came and the gate was unlocked for him.  There was even a camera man.
A small altar has been placed in the Cave and so many "improvements" have been made.  Scholars are 90% sure it was the cave of Mary, Jesus and Joseph because "grafitti" from pilgrims from as early as the 2nd century showed that it was revered as the cave of the holy family.

The Basilica is modern and beautiful.  It is the biggest Christian sanctuary in the Middle East, and the Roman Catholic Church, which alone has control over the site, has allocated resources to make the Basilica special.

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