After a pleasant drive through the Lower Galilee we arrived in Nazareth with what we thought was plenty of time and proceeded to get extremely lost. We have an amazing GPS but the problem was that it was trying to take us to a place that one cannot drive to. So we went around in circles, up and down streets that make most of the streets in San Francisco look flat and along some pretty narrow alleys. We definitely got a good look at most of the old city of Nazareth before we gave in and called the hotel. We were told that we needed to park in a garage (we did pass one that had the name of our hotel on it) and they would send someone to fetch us. We eventually found our way to the garage and the attendant said he saw us drive by a couple of hours before and knew we were destined to the Fauzi Azar Inn. He exaggerated about how long ago he’d seen us but we didn’t waste time trying to correct him. A lovely young Taiwanese woman was waiting for us and ferried us and some of our stuff up the hill to the hotel. We stayed in the Fauzi Azar Inn, a story unto itself. It is both a hostel and a hotel and we were of course among the oldest people there. It was pretty basic but the building has an interesting history. The Azar family fled in the 1948 war that gave Israel its independence though a few family members stayed in part of the house. If a house was abandoned anyone could move in and claim squatters rights, so part of the building went to other people and after a fire the rest of the house was abandoned for many years. Along came Maoz, a Jewish Israeli who was looking for a building to rent to start a guest house in Nazareth because of its central location and the fact that most visitors to Nazareth only come for a few hours. Maoz was a backpacker and also saw the interest that could be generated by the “Jesus Trail”, a 65 mile trail that one could walk through the Galilee to visit all the spots where the historical Jesus lived or did something important. He negotiated with the family and the rest is history as they say (12 years ago). People from all over the world come to stay there and that included us.
Today we took a walking tour of the old city of Nazareth with a tour guide associated with the Inn. She was a combination chamber of commerce, kvetch, and a bit strident but we did get to see some things that aren’t on the usual tourist agenda such as churches and mosques in this town. A word about Nazareth- population 85,000 with 80% Muslim and 20% Christian. It’s economy is based on tourism and with people only spending a few hours at the most it’s been a depressed town for a long time. Those of you who are in the Art 1-A class will see at the end of the semester how towns that had major cathedrals that attracted pilgrims, were prosperous because those pilgrims needed a place to sleep, to eat, and of course to shop. Things in Nazareth seem to be changing with the advent of guest houses such as the one we stayed in. We visited a spice factory, a ruined house that looks like what the Fauzi Azar probably looked like when Maoz started with it, and other things you’ll see in the slides. This evening we visited with Laura (Silvia’s sister- those of you who know the exchange student who lived with us in 1993-94) and her family who live on a kibbutz about 6 kilometers from the bed and breakfast inn we will be staying in for two nights. I’ve stayed here before and it’s most comfortable. They have vineyards and we chatted a bit about wine. More adventures tomorrow and we reconnect with Elana and Yakov.