THE JESUS TRAIL
The Jesus Trail is a loop that links places, villages and towns relevant for Jesus life. It is well highlighted on a map inside a brochure I found at the reception of the hostel where I was volunteering. It is the path that Jesus most likely walked when he left his town Nazareth for his mission. This course has been conceived for being done on foot. It would take eight or nine days to walk, but I had only two days off, so I could not do the Jesus Trail on foot. Anyway I wanted to do the loop in my own way, either by bus, hitchhiking or walking whenever it was not possible to reach the places by car.
The Jesus Trail has been designed starting from Nazareth and ending at the Mount of The Precipice, near Nazareth. I started my course from the last place of the Jesus Trail which is The Mount of The Precipice, also called the Mount of the Leap. It is not so far from downtown Nazareth. That afternoon fortunately it was not very hot. Actually it was hot but the sun was not so scorching. I crossed over a very traffic-congested road and entered a gate half open which seemed to belong to a builders’ yard. Although I had the sensation that someone would stop me nobody did, so I kept going uphill and from time to time I took a few minutes to rest under some of the trees scattered here and there. The distance from the foothill to the top was not so great, and I reached the top soon. Actually the place where I was standing was not the Mount of the Precipice but a hill near it. All the area was bare. I could see a small altar that seemed to be a tomb, with a slab of marble containing an Arabic inscription. Not far from this altar or grave there is a chapel which had been erected by Greek Orthodoxies. The Chapel was closed, and only at the back was it possible to find some shade. I sat on the slope of the supporting wall, and from there in the welcoming shade I could see the valley and Nazareth which looked similar to my hometown. Sitting there I thought “Maybe the man who gave me the instruction about how to approach the Wailing Wall of the Temple of Salomon was right! ‘ When you go under the Wall talk with God! You have nothing much to do but talking with God! Confine yourself to talk with God!’”
I agreed with him and I preferred to talk with Jesus instead of reciting arid prayers. I considered Jesus a teacher, a friend; similar to the good teachers I had when I was a student. Not all were good. In my career as a student I had only four or five good teachers that I held in great esteem, and now here in the hill near Mount of the Precipice I was thinking of Jesus as a teacher I held in great esteem. Nobody at that time was on the hill. The place was very isolated and I had the sensation that suddenly Jesus or Virgin Mary would appear to me, but I prayed them do not do that as I would be very scared and my way of life would be altered. In fact people, who have had visions of God, afterwards have lived a consecrated life giving up the ordinary life.
I kept looking at the valley and I revisited the passage of the Gospel of Luke where it tells about the people of Nazareth who wanted to push Jesus from the cliff. But Jesus walked through the crowd and went on his way.
“So” I thought “When Jesus wanted he was able to avoid death. More than once he avoided death and arrest using his power. So why he decided to die and spontaneously he give himself to his executioner? What sense can ever have such a behavior? Accepting voluntarily the torment; for what? Cui prodest (to who is useful?) would say Romans. Jesus could hand down his teachings to the world being alive, so why he decided to die?”
I tried to figure out the solution of the issue.
“Maybe” I thought “Jesus and all the Apostles were wanted by the Herod’s guards. Then there was a pact between Jesus and Judeans: Jesus gave himself to his executioners in exchange for the salvation of the Apostles. Judas indeed was not a real traitor but the one who had the task of leading the negotiations with Judeans”
Indeed this would be one of the possible answers and such an action of Jesus of giving himself for the salvation of his twelve apostles would be a noble action all the same.
I had the vague perception that would not have been the right solution to the problem. There should have been some deeper meaning to Jesus’ death.
I decided to go for help to the monk whom I had found by chance more than one time in the space in front of the Basilica of the Annunciation who had pointed out to me the Church of Saint Joseph and the four places which with absolute certainty were the holy historical places linked with Jesus, Virgin Mary, and Saint Peter.
I had met him in front of the Basilica of Annunciation twice. Every time I needed an explanation I met him and punctually he had given me the proper answer to my question. So I did this time. After I left the Mount of the Precipice I headed for the Basilica of the Annunciation. I did not see him in the square in front of the church, so I went inside and placed myself in the central elevated nave in front of the Mary’s house. At that time I was alone and I was admiring the stairs of the Mary’s House wondering where they might lead. After a while a monk came out from a side door, but he was not the one I was looking for. A short while later the monk I sought appeared.
All the monks in the Basilica were Franciscan. The monk with whom I had established an acquaintance was short in stature, with silvery framed glasses and an Italian Apulian accent. I knew he was in a hurry, but I wanted to speak with him anyway.
“Good afternoon, father”
“Good afternoon” he answered with a smile from ear to ear.
“I see you are in a hurry, but I wish you to answer a question of mine. I’d like to know why Jesus’ death was necessary for the salvation of human kind. Indeed Jesus could hand down his message without dying. Furthermore, is it possible that God is so cruel and requires that Jesus must die and suffer a horrible death like that of crucifixion?”
The Franciscan monk seemed to have been caught off his guard.
“This is a mystery also for us. Anyway Jesus died because of his great love for us”.
“I cannot accept this answer, father. It is too indefinite. Would you like to think and when the rosary is over you will give me the answer?”
“Yes, we’ll meet in the courtyard of the Basilica after the Rosary”.
Once the rosary was over he came out and met me at the courtyard. This time he was more relaxed and not in a hurry.
“Your question can be answered at the light of four thousand years of Biblical History. Indeed man had parted from God and in order to establish a new alliance between God and human being it was necessary a sacrifice. I know it is difficult to explain and to understand, furthermore I have not studied theology yet”.
“Are you not a priest?”
“Not yet. In three years I’ll be a priest. I took the vows late, at the age of thirty-eight”
“Are you studying in Rome?”
“No, in Bari”
Thank, you for your answer.
I said good bye to the monk and yet I was not convinced by his answer. So I tried to elaborate an answer.
Indeed, for whoever accepts to be born in the planet earth, death is implicit. It is not possible to be a human being and not die. So when Jesus came to the earth he knew he would die, for he accepted the condition of man. When one is a man the only problem is when to die, in the early youth or once the candle of the life has burned out all its wax. When a human being has to die it does not matter if it happens early or later. Death is only a question about before or after. In the infinite, time itself does not exist. It is always now. Even the space does not exist in the infinite. Time and space are human conceptual creations. So it should not rouse surprise why Jesus died when he was still young.
“But why” I was asking myself “Jesus accepted such a horrible death?”
I revived all my life and realized that suffering was necessary for my spiritual growth and for my life. Indeed in our life we often meet at a junction; two ways open in front of us. One is easy and wide but it does not lead us anywhere, the difficult way leads us far. When I was student I had the possibility to enjoy my life without making any effort, but doing that I would not improve my learning. Tragedies that have happened in my life have refined my sensibility and now I am a writer and can communicate my experiences to others. So suffering is necessary.
As for Jesus, what would happen without his death and resurrection? Nothing! His message is still alive because he was resurrected. “Without resurrection our faith would be vain!” Moreover Jesus pointed out to us the way of love which requires whatsoever sacrifice, even torture and the death.
On the map of the Jesus Trail was a loop with all nineteen places of interest concerning Jesus. I have done the last place of the Jesus Trail. Now I had to start from the beginning and little by little I would complete the whole trail. I decided to follow the Jesus Trail from Nazareth to Capernaum, and then moving from there along the western shore of the Sea of Galilee, which is also called the Lake of Tiberias or the Lake of Gennesaret; three different names for indicating the same place.
I decided to continue the trail in stages, starting the second day with the first four places marked in the map: Nazareth, Zippori where supposedly Mary’s family was from, Marsh’had, the birthplace of the prophet Jonah, Cana, the town where Jesus, according to John’ Gospel, Jesus performed his first miracle.
The clerk of the Tourism Office advised me to take a bus to Cana, and then possibly to come back to Nazareth, passing through Marh’had, and Zippory National Park. So did I. I headed for the bus stop and took the bus 28 which dropped me off at Cana.
There I could see two churches dedicated to the commemoration of the Jesus’ miracle of turning water into wine.
After a little while I left Cana and headed for Marsh’had on foot. The road was uphill and without shaded areas. It was noon but all the way from Cana to Marsh’had there was a cool breeze blowing.
I reached Marsh’had after half an hour. At that time not many people were on the streets. I asked two or three passersby where the church dedicated to Jonah was. I expected to find at least a chapel, for in all the holy places I had seen before had been built a church or a shrine. Unfortunately not many people in that town showed a good understanding of English, so I decided to have recourse to the gesticulation.
After many attempts to find people who could understand me I entered a fruit shop, inside which were four or five women, all dressed with traditional Arabic clothes. They all stared at me. They did not understand either my words or my gesticulation. Suddenly a fat sweated young man appears behind me.
“What do you want?”
“I am looking for a church, for praying”
“The church is here above”.
I went uphill for a few meters when I took sight of a mosque. At that moment it was a quarter to one and the voice of the muezzin resounded in all the area.
I entered the mosque; I took off my shoes and went to the upper floor. I saw a few people standing. One of them came close to me and asked me what I was looking for.
“I am here for praying” was my answer
“Okay, you can stay, but sit down on the sofa”
I sat close to two elder people who had a book with Arabic script.
There were also many young men and boys who peeped at me curiously.
While I was sitting I was thinking that if there is an upper, spiritual level where the souls live after the death, all the great men, saints, prophets and gods live together and in harmony without fighting or arguing with each other. I was imaging Mohamed, Krishna, Buddha and Jesus walking and talking together, wondering why humans were so divided because of them.
In the meantime all the people inside the mosque moved ahead and took position in front of the imam. The person, who previously had invited me to sit down, now asked me to go forward. He aligned me in the center of the carpet, and then at the voice of the imam we genuflected in the Muslim’s style several times. When the ceremony was over I collected my shoes and headed for Zippori, the next stage.
I asked some people the way for Zippori and they directed to me towards a road downhill. It was very hot and when, on my right I took sight of a stall where two people were selling prickly pears I stopped there with a sigh of relief. They sold their fruit in plastic baskets. One basket was too much for me, so I asked to buy only half of it and I also asked them to peel the fruit. I sat down and a lady offered me a glass of cool orange juice. They peeled the prickly fruits; I ate them with gusto and asked for the bill.
“You can go, it’s free” Answered one of them
I thanked them, and went on my way to Zippori. I took the road they had pointed to me but I was going further and further into the countryside. At a certain moment I arrived at a bifurcation. I did know which road to take. The sun was hotter and hotter but a cool breeze blew over me. I had the sensation that hundreds of powerful fans had been set over my head. Rare cars were passing by and whenever I raised my arm for asking information they did not stop. I had seen a big truck loaded with hay, on the right side of the bifurcation when a small car came and stopped at my request. The driver lowered the window and looked at me.
“Do you know the way to Zippori?”
“This is Zippori”
“But Zippori is not a town, a village? This is countryside!”
I showed him my map of the Jesus’ trail and I sneaked my head through the window, searching a relief to the scorching sun. He was scanning my map and I hoped ardently he would give me a ride.
“Come with me!” He suddenly said
I got into that car with the same relief feels a thirsty man who is offered a glass of water.
Before arriving to the village of Zippori, he drove for at least twenty minutes. In fact I had walked the wrong way going to the direction opposite to that of Zippori.
In the meanwhile we exchanged a few words.
“Are you Jewish?” I asked
“No, I am Christian. My mother is Christian and my father is Jewish. I followed my mother’s religion”
“I’d like to deepen Jewish religion, but I do not have the possibility. By the way, when I was in Jerusalem at the Wailing Wall, a man wanted to give me a kind of black stirrup leather which contained a box also in black leather. Once he understood I was not Jewish he sent me back. Do you know what that object is?”
“Yes, I know. These are Tefillin or phylacteries. Jewish people in their prayer roll one tefillah around the arm and another tefillah around the head. Inside the box they put passages of the Torah.”
“When I was in Jerusalem I noticed, parked on the street, a van with inside a man sitting, and on the table many Tefillin. When I got near the van I asked some information to him, but he did not want to give me any information, for I was not Jewish. Do you know why that van with the Tefillin was parked there?”
“Yes, I know. They are people who give you Tefillin so you can talk with God.”
Now I was beginning to learn something about Jewish religion. Jewish people aim to talk directly with God, without any intermediation, differently from most religions. Jewish religion is a very deep religion and I need to understand it better.
In the meanwhile we arrived in Zippori. I gave my new friend my Israeli telephone number and he gave me his email and telephone number. Then he left me with some advice:
“Don’t be shy, if you have some problem hitchhike!”
Then he left. I walked uphill in Zippori but it seemed a quiet place of countryside. Not many cars and not many people. Having seen the area was enough for me. So I headed for the main road that skirted the national park. I stopped a car which was going towards the direction opposite to mine.
“Could you tell me please, what is the direction to Nazareth?”
“Yes, this is the right road. I am coming back in seven minutes. If I see you I’ll drive you to Nazareth”
That place was shaded and, instead of going on, I decided to wait there for him. I looked at my watch and actually after seven minutes exactly the guy with the van pulled up to me. I got into his car, happy for having found a good ride to Nazareth. But after one or two minutes, less than one kilometer driven, we came to a crossroad. The driver stopped, letting pass the other cars that ran the main road and asked me:
“Have you seen Mary’s well?”
“Yes I have seen Mary’s well in Nazareth. There is another well here?”
“Mary was from this area! This well is the real Mary’s well!”
For an instant I was hesitant between going to Nazareth by that van which relieved me from the sultriness pervading the area and the will to not lose the opportunity to see this Mary’s well, new for me. The latter alternative prevailed.
“Yes I want to see the Mary’s well. Please let me get out. Tell me where is Mary’s well.”
“It’s just fifty meters away from here. Cross over that field and you’ll see it. Good luck!”
I could not find the well; so I asked two people I met on the way. They both knew about Mary’s well.
“Yes, it is down there. Some people drink water from it” answered me one of the passersby.
After having crossed over a garbage heap, finally I took sight of the well. I got close and was welcomed by the warm greetings of several kids.
“Shalom! Shalom! Shalom!” they all shouted in choir
“Shalom!” I answer
They were bathing in the pool, jumping up and down the basin. In fact the well was a basin. The water had a bluish hue that degraded in light blue for ending in whitish colorlessness in one of the edge, exactly near where I was standing. I took off my shoes and trying to keep my balance while I was walking through very uneven pointed stones, helping myself with my hand, I sat on the edge and immersed my feet in the cool water, then I washed my face and my head. I could see the basin was surrounded by ancient walls, one of them quite high. I never found any indication about this Mary’s well on the maps, but the color and the atmosphere I had found here was really astonishing. I went out and saw the kids who were performing a Jewish dance in my honor. I told them goodbye and headed for the bus stop that was not far from there.
The next places of the Jesus Trail, marked on the map with the numbers from five to eight were Horns of Hattin, Nebi Shu’eb, Arbel and Migdal. I took the bus from Nazareth to Migdal which is the hometown of Saint Mary Magdalene. The bus dropped me off in the road, so I walked for a while before seeing the village, but nowadays everything has changed, furthermore the town extended in length, so it was not easy to visit all of the town.
I walked for a while before getting a ride to Nebi Shu’eib. I passed through a wide square and I caught sight of a temple. I went to the upper part of the temple and a monk who seemed neither Muslim nor Jewish, invited me to put on a robe and a hat on my head. At that moment I was in the holy place of the Druses. Never have I heard of that religion so far. Inside the temple there was a room with many carpets on the floor, but they did not have a special orientation, differently from the mosques. On the right side I saw a tomb covered by a cloth of many different colors. Every color had a meaning. People prayed and kissed the cloth. So did I. Opposite the entrance of the room there were two footprints that were left from a Saint of the Druse tradition. A woman kissed the footprints, rubbed her hands in the footprints and then she passed them over her face. So did I. When I went out of the room I was asked to go out looking ahead, without showing my back to the tomb. A monk at the exit explained to me something about Druse Religion.
”Druse religion in Israel comes from Lebanon. Originally our religion was born in Egypt. Then he explained to me the meaning of the different colors of their flag”.
I went downstairs and sat dawn on a bench with some Druse people and monks.
“How do you pray?” I asked to a Druze man.
“We are not allowed to pray in our religion. Only monks can pray, for only they know the secret prayer”.
“If you don’t pray here, what are you doing in this holy place?”
“We lay Druse whenever are here just ask graces”.
“I didn’t know about your religion”.
“Yes, actually it is not widespread. Almost one thousand years ago the acceptance to our religion was closed. From then on, only who is child of a Druze person can practice our religion”.
It was the first time in my life I had come across a closed religion which does not accept new followers. I think that through religions the ties of belonging to the same people are much more strengthened.
I left the temple and I tried to reach Horns of Hattin, a place where a big battle happened between Crusaders and Muslims. Here Crusaders were beaten by the army leaden by the Caliph Saladin. I met two Druses who were serving in the Israeli army.
“Do you know” I asked them “where is Horns of Hattim, where the battle between Crusaders and Muslims occurred?”
“Yes, it is not far from here, but we advise you against going there, as you should walk and the sun is scorching. You should go there in the early morning or at the sunset; it is cooler and you can have a complete outlook of the battlefield and also an amazing view of the Sea of Galilee. Anyway all the area was a battlefield, also where we are in this moment. This sanctuary was built here just as thanksgiving to God for the battle won.”
Actually from that position I could catch a sight of the complex battlefield, and I revived the history of the Crusaders.
It is a commonplace that the Crusaders were moved by power and economic and political interests, but it is not like that. What a person should do when he is not allowed to attend his church or place of cult? There is no choice but to combat. That happened when the first Crusade was proclaimed. The caliph al-Hakim had ordered the destruction of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. Without this action of intolerance the crusades would never be proclaimed.
Now it stretched before my eyes that battlefield of arid highs, elevations, cliffs, and some stretch of level ground. That battlefield seemed still impregnated by the blood of the warriors.
It was still possible to see the armies that faced each other and at the end the victory smiled on Saladin.
The continuation of The Jesus Trail passed through the village of Ginosar marked on the map with the number 9. In this village archeologists had found a boat dating at the Jesus time. I went into the room where the boat was kept, I observed carefully the boat and in my mind I revived one of the most beautiful passages of the Gospel. Jesus was standing on the shoreline of the Lake of Genesareth and is surrounded by the crowds who want to be taught by him. Jesus steps aboard Peter’s boat and he moves away from the shore. From that position he taught people. This passage of the Gospel is too vivid for believing it was invented by the author of the Gospel. It is actually likely that the events happened like that. Looking at that boat I could imagine Jesus with his white, coarse robe and long chestnut hair sitting on the deck of Peter’s boat and teaching people.
The following day I took a bus from Nazareth to Tiberias and then one more bus to Capernaum, the town of Peter. I intended to visit Peter’s house that, according to the Franciscan monk I had met at the Basilica of the Annunciation, was one of the places certain and corresponding with the narration of the Gospels.
The bus dropped me off in the road, so I had to walk for a while. Then I saw a signpost indicating the Church of the Primacy of Saint Peter. It was by the lake. Outdoors had been created an amphitheater and an altar beyond which it was possible to see the lake.
I entered the Church and I saw a rock. I sat for a while. At that moment there was an Italian group inside. A lady with a strong Sicilian accent told me that in this rock Jesus cooked the fish and asked Peter three times if he loved him. Then he recommended Peter to feed his sheep.
Unfortunately the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and the Fish was closed and I could not visit it. So I headed towards Capernaum by foot.
I walked for a while under the scorching sun when someone gave me a ride. He left me at the Orthodox Church of the Twelve Apostles, also by the shore of the lake. According to the Orthodox tradition, Jesus performed many miracles in that place. I walked along the paths of the park around the Church, and after having drank cool water from a fountain, I went on in the direction of Capernaum.
Above the house that is believed to have been Peter’s was a church. Not far from the Church it was possible to see the external walls of the ancient synagogue where Jesus used to go. I could notice the external walls were probably built by Jewish people, while inside the walls had been created a colonnade whose beams and Corinthian capitals had the evident Roman stamp. Indeed the conquerors did not use to destroy the temples consecrated to the divinity of the conquered country. They preferred to overlap their new temples dedicated to their gods upon the formers temples. In Catholic world we have many cases of churches overlapped upon pagan temples. The synagogue of Capernaum was divided in two sections, one wider than the other. I sat down on a bench at the side of the Synagogue and I tried to figure out the possible spot from where Jesus used to teach.
I left Capernaum and I head towards to Mount of Beatitudes that it is believed the place where Jesus preached the Sermon of the Mount. Nowadays in that place lies a Franciscan Convent with a church flanked by porches. Walking through the porch it is possible to enjoy the sight of the valley and of the lake of Genesareth.
One of the stopping places of the Jesus Trail is Yardenit, on the bank of River Jordan where it is believed Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist. I went by bus from Nazareth to Tiberias, and then I took a shared taxi from Tiberias to Kinneret. The minibus dropped me off on the road, so for reaching the river Jordan I walked for a few minutes. I entered a wide lobby with many shops and after a quick look at the items displayed on the shelves I passed through a glass door and got onto a wide terrace on the river. The color of the water was green, due to the reflection of the eucalyptus trees which bordered the banks of the river. I noticed the difference of the color of this water with the one in Mary’s well in Zippori. There the color of the water was blue. Here I had the sensation to be in a place full of peace and tranquility. There were many beavers and big fish. People enjoyed feeding beavers and fish among which there was no competition. Both fish and beavers ate the food without fighting with each other. From time to time some turtle doves joined the beavers and ate with them.
I was waiting to see people dressed with white robes that usually go there to be baptized or by themselves, through the renovation of the original votes, or by a priest. In that time the banks of the river were deserted. So I walked to the water and sat down on a step, dipping my feet in the water. Suddenly my feet were surrounded by myriads of small fishes that started to sting them. At the beginning I had a sensation of repulsion as I thought they would bite me, but afterwards they brought me relief. I was food for fish and meanwhile they were cleansing my feet scrubbing my skin and massaging it. I enjoyed seeing all those minnows and if it had not been for the scorching sun, I would have stayed there for hours. It was a very quiet place, but the water of the river was different from that of Jesus’ time, as it flows and it is new at every instant. Nevertheless, the soil was still pervaded with the energy of Jesus.
I left that place to go back to Tiberias and, as at the side of the road where the bus stop was there was no shade, I started to hitchhike. After many attempts a car stopped.
Inside was a Jewish couple. The man wore a kippa. I sat in the back seat, there was a mess of stuff and I spotted on the floor of the car a ten shekel coin. For a while I had the temptation to pick up that coin and keep it for myself, but immediately the temptation faded away. I picked the coin up and gave it to the owner of the car.
“What’s that?” he asked
“I found this coin on the floor of your car. Today you are lucky!”.
He and his wife looked at each other and smiled.
“Where do you come from?” he asked
“I come from Italy”
“Do you know what a special day is today?”
“Yes, I heard about it. A person told me that today August ninth is the anniversary of the destruction of the temple of Solomon. The second destruction, for the first temple was destroyed by Babylonians and the second one by Romans. I heard also that the date every year is different in our Gregorian calendar, while in your Jewish calendar the commemoration happens in the same day”.
“In this day, we don’t eat and drink all day. It is a day of mourning, like when you go to a funeral. After sunset we can eat and drink. Anyway it is an honor for us you to come here in this day. You are welcome, even though you are Italian like ancient romans”.
“Indeed I am from Sicily. Romans never considered Sicily as Italy. In fact Sicily was the first Roman province. Yes it was a province, like Judea. We had a Roman governor as well. You had Pontius Pilate and we had Verres who was so terrible that he stripped all the temples of Sicily of all the golden statues. In my town he could not steal the statue of Demeter because it was too big, so he stole the smaller statue of the Victory which Demeter held in her right hand”.
“The destruction of the temple of Solomon was due not to Romans but to the divisions inside Jewish people. We hate each other and we fought each other. For that our temple was destroyed”.
“Anyway” I said “for me all people are same. If the soul exists it is same in all human beings. I would like very much to come to a Synagogue and attend the ceremony on the Sabbath, but I think that is impossible, for never I will be allowed”.
“No, it is not impossible. Now we’ll go together to see a Jewish temple, but only for a few minutes as afterwards I have to take my car to the engineer”
He parked his car in a square where on the left side that was the light of several candles that looked like a big fire. Going on there were a few stands where they sold books and items connected to the place. Then we entered a lobby of a room. The lobby led to another room divided in two, one for men and one for women, kept hidden by black curtains. It was not possible to get in without kippa. So the man got me a kippa. I put on the kippa and went into the room. It was a square room with a tomb at the end. Half of the grave was at the side of men and the other half at the side of women. Many people prayed stuck to the grave. I too wanted to pray like them. I could notice many small pieces of paper driven into the gaps of the grave. I kissed the tomb and then I browsed through some books on display, all written in Hebrew but two written in French. I picked up the book written in French and the man came close to me. I diverted my eyes from the book and looked at the man’s face. He was a little bit taller than me. With a beard well maintained, a light over his face and an extraordinary resemblance with Jesus as he has been portrayed by traditional iconographers. The he started to talk.
“The book you have in your hands talks about the speech. It tells the importance of not backbiting others. You cannot go up to the heaven if you bad-mouth others. So you have to talk well about others and never be a backbiter”
We went out and I gave back the kippa I was wearing at that moment. I was feeling so comfortable with the Kippa that I did not want to give it back. Then I asked him to write down the name of the holy person whose grave we had visited. He did and wrote the name RABBI MEIR VAL BAAL HANES. He said that he was a Roman who had converted to Judaism.
Before we parted he and his wife invited me to visit their kibbutz, not far from the place of the Jordan River where Jesus had been baptized. I asked him to write the name of the kibbutz and his telephone number.
The next day I decided to continue my Jesus Trail going to visit Mount Tabor, the place where it is believed the Jesus Transfiguration happened. With the visit of this last place I would complete the entire loop of the Jesus Trail with the exception of Arbel, a place not easy to reach by bus .
For going to Mount Tabor I first took a bus from Nazareth to Afula, and then another bus to Tiberias that dropped me off on the road. I had to walk much before reaching the feet of Mount Tabor.
Fortunately I got a ride up to the ridge of the mount, but the Orthodox Church was closed. Finally I got another ride back to Nazareth.
I completed the Jesus Trail in my own way, a trail rich of blessing and special meetings, beyond our daily life.
Ettore Grillo Author of Travels of the Mind
THE JESUS TRAIL