9:30pm :: Fauzi Azar Inn Balcony :: June 30, 2008
Look down the street from Afife’s pizza and pita bread bakery and you’ll see the fruit and vegetable market. Buckets of olives marinate in their oil. They also have with the best peppers here, bright orange and tasting of sugar. Today’s treat was five fresh tomatoes for 1 shekel, sliced with sugar and balsamic vinegar on top.
A short walk from the market brings you to a basement filled with bags of spices and dry goods. Every color and smell imaginable overwhelms you as you descend the cement steps. I’ve only purchased za’atar and pistachios so far. Place the former in a bowl next to some olive oil. Dip first your pita in the oil, followed by the spice for a tasty bite. Double dipping is allowed.
Nazareth is infamous for its traffic.
The era of the automobile moved essentially all business and commerce downhill to main road, Paulus VI, which traverses the city southwest of old city and market quarter. Many non-Nazarenes will complain about the sluggish process of getting through this stretch of road. It is continually consumed by stunning U-turns, parking attempts, and lawless taxis taking up the lanes from bus route stops.
I love it. Add it to the list of things that makes Nazareth “life, not a postcard.” The only improvement would be getting our very own dancing traffic cop like the one Morgan saw in Ramallah ( ) last weekend. His fame is spreading beyond the West Bank thanks to his YouTube video.
I think Jon and I should add this to our current dance repertoire of “the mashed potato” and “the pole vault dance.”
In a matter of days, much of the work that I’ve been doing in Israel on the Jesus Trail came to completion. Matt and I have been hiking off and on over the past few weeks, finishing just before the summer heat took over the daytime.
We put a free databook online so hikers can print ‘n’ go, without needing a GPS navigator. The turn-by-turn directions and distances along with maps from Google Earth should leave little question as to the path and details of the trail.
You may also remember that a television crew from the Associated Press came a few weeks ago to film a short feature. I saw it for the first time yesterday on canoe.ca, a Québécois news outfit.
This TV coverage plus the multiple articles from the AP reporter, Laurie Copans, has lead to an exciting increase of awareness and interest in the trail. Website traffic is at a whole other level and each day we’re receiving questioning emails from people wanting to come and hike.
I know that promoting the trail is exchanged for a bed to sleep in each night, but the concept of such a trail is something I wholeheartedly support regardless. Trekking through a land to see it’s sites is sustainable and simple, an admirable direction to be taking in tourism.
Meet one of the Fauzi’s star players, Haana. Covering many of the day-shifts during the week, she meets and greets everyone with a smile and sparkle in her eye. We’re also grateful of the cake she bakes each day for the guests and leftovers that go to the staff/volunteers.
Shortly after my arrival in Nazareth, she showed me pictures of her family and nephew, now one month old. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to meet the rest of her family at her wedding which is a week after my flight out of Tel Aviv.
I’ve heard that it will be a 3-day event, starting with a day focusing on her being decorated with henna and elaborate dress. The next day is more formal with both families together for food, music, and photos. At night the party begins, continuing through the 3rd day.
I met up with Henry and Ross in Jerusalem earlier this week to take a trip to the Dead Sea. After walking 2 hours from East Jerusalem to the central bus station (actually located on the west side of the city), we boarded Egged bus 486 for Ein Gedi, a public beach on the Dead Sea area near some springs, caves, and canyons.
I swam in the Great Salt Lake last summer and lets just all agree that it pales in comparison to the Dead Sea. Here, there were no brine flies or shrimp, the water was clear, and unrealistically buoyant. I could point my toes to the bottom of the sea, lift my arms out of the water and still have head and shoulders dry. Swimming is truly effortless.
After our float and rinse, we discussed hitchhiking 12-miles town the road to the base of Masada to be on location at 3am for a sunrise hike. Sitting for a hitch by the bus stop, our plans changed as we were picked up by an Israeli from Argentina, Ariel.
Henry and Ariel instantly connected as Henry has spent 2 years in South America, conversing fluently in Spanish. Ariel took us in at his house on the Ein Gedi Kibbutz botanical gardens, cooked a late night meal of pork and eggs, and showed us to a hike in Wadi Argot the next day. There we hiked one hour up a desert canyon that had water flowing out of the rock from an underground aquifer at the top. Swimming in the cold pools of spring water was a worth contrast to hiking in the desert.
Traveling beyond planned itineraries can be the most rewarding. I’ll never forget how Ariel picked us up that night and invited us to his home. We never once questioned or regretted abandoning our plans to hike and see Masada. Maybe some other time…
Yesterday was the Jewish holiday, Shavuot, meaning large family groups and reunions staying at the Inn. It was a comfort to have so much activity bustling in and around the stone rooms of the old city. Most families were at their peak of raising children, kept organized of their meals, sleeping arrangements, games, and picture slideshows by the grandmother matriarch.
After re-hiking the last section of the Jesus Trail for an upcoming databook, Matt and I took a bus north to the mountain city of Zefat/Safed/Tsfat/Tzefat/Zfat to see the historic city and spend the night.
We followed up on a Couch Surfing connection with a young woodcarver there, Baba. He welcomed us into his bohemian studio apartment in the artisans quarter of the old city. Like many other Israelis in Zefat, his parents were from the States and spoke English fluently. The common ground between the three of us was striking. We walked around the city to see sites and his friends, retiring at night to relax in the apartment with his dog adopted from the street, Neo.
As with many old cities in the Middle East, the layers of history up to the current day are very apparent. We explored ruins of a crusader fortress, saw bullet pockets on cement wall from the war of ’48 (at the time 10,000 of the 12,000 inhabitants were Arab), and even a house destroyed by Lebanese rockets 2 years ago. It’s a city that has been governed by multiple religious and political groups in the Golan Heights.
History, politics, and art galleries aside… I remember Zefat mostly by the hospitality of Baba, and plan to return to visit and hike with our friend the “Jewish carpenter” later this summer.
Yesterday we were visited by Ben, an Oregonian, who wanted to run the JesusTrail within a day. After going over topo maps and a brief orientation on how to follow the path with a GPS unit, we said farewell to him as he snapped a photo at the Basilica and started climbing the hill out of Nazareth.
We met Ben later at Golani Junction, a convenient mid-way point on the trail and home to a McDonalds. “Fries and Coke never tasted so good,” he said.
50 kilometers and 7.5 hours in the Israeli sun sounds exhausting and almost impossible to me. However, consider that he’s training for a non-stop Leadville 100-mile run; a race that starts one day and ends the next in the Colorado rockies.