Happy Easter from Nazareth, Israel

Nazareth isn’t the first spot you’d head for Easter in Israel, as it’s not the place where Jesus was crucified and rose from the dead (that is Jerusalem). But Nazareth is where Jesus lived as a child and, therefore, a very popular spot for Christian tourists. It’s also a short drive from where I’m living in Tiberias, so I headed over there yesterday for a pre-Easter look.

Nazareth is a small Arab city pretty much in the middle of northern Israel. And here you can do something that you can’t do in most of the rest of Israel this week. You can buy bread. Today it is not only the Christian Easter but also the Jewish Passover (Pesach in Hebrew) week in Israel, an eight-day period during which sale of leaven is forbidden. Because Nazareth is an Arab area, however, leaven is permitted and is everywhere in the city during Pesach, like at this bakery which was cranking out a multitude and variety of breads.

Baking bread in Nazareth, Israel

Like any good Arab city, Nazareth is home to a souq. Some Middle Eastern souqs are loud, with the non-stop chant of shopkeepers wanting you to come into their shop and buy from them, while others are quite mellow. The Nazareth souq falls into the latter category, and it is very possible to navigate its entirety without one aggressive shopkeeper approaching you.

Man reading a book in the Nazareth souq

It’s quiet but it’s colorful, with tons of clothes, scarves, household items and really almost anything you would want to buy, whether you’re a tourist in search of souvenirs or a local looking for an item for daily life.

Colorful scarves hanging from above in the souk

Household goods for sale in the souk in Nazreth

Several spices for sale in the souq in Nazareth, Israel

The pièce de résistance of Nazareth, though, and its most important landmark is the sanctuary which marks the spot where the angel Gabriel came to the Virgin Mary to tell her that she was going to be the mother of Jesus. This huge complex consists of the two-story Basilica of the Annuciation and St. Joseph’s Church, both of which rest on top of small archeaological excavations, some of which date back to the 8th Century, B.C.

The Church of the Annunciation has some fabulous artwork on its walls, donated by various countries around the world.

Bascilla of the Anunciation

Bascila of the Annunciation artwork

Bascilia of the Annunciation

The excavations, although small, are impressive, with what appears to me to be crumbled remains of columns.

Part of the archaeological excavations at the sanctuary in Nazareth, Israel

Inside the Church of St. Joseph are many beautiful memorials to the man who raised Jesus through his growing up years.

Statue of Joseph and Jesus

Perhaps the most interesting area of this little church, or even the entire complex, is its bottom floor, which contains minor excavations. In one of these areas, you can see papers that people have dropped into one of the small excavation areas, on which they have undoubtedly written prayers – a good way to ensure your prayers stay within a church even after you leave.

Prayers people have left in the lower level of the Church of St. Joseph

You would think this complex would be open every day. However, when I visited two Easter Sundays ago in the afternoon, the buildings were closed! If you ever want to go to the sanctuaries of Nazareth on Easter Sunday, be sure to go in the morning. If you want to go any other time of year, St. Joseph’s Church opens at 7:00 each day at the Basilica at 8:00 and both close at 6:00 p.m. If you come all the way to Israel, this is one of the many sites you should not miss.

6 Comments Post a Comment
  1. Erik says:

    I was a bit underwhelmed with Nazareth when I was there back in May of 2010. My bias probably came from it being the most difficult place I had to drive in (I didn’t in Jerusalem, but Tel Aviv was a close second). I did fine a wonderful B&B in Tzippori to saty in, though.
    Erik recently posted..Authentic Chicago Deep Dish Pizza at Geno’s EastMy Profile

  2. Sabina says:

    Yes, driving in Nazareth is not fun. Thankfully I’ve only had to do it once myself. I like it a lot, as it’s a nice slice of Arab life in Israel. I’ve never been to Tzippori!

  3. Glad you were able to go inside this time – great colors and floor. Now I regret not making it to this area around Christmas as I planned. Hopefully next Christmas.
    Ayelet – All Colores recently posted..The Argentine Wet Treatment: Going Under the Iguazu FallsMy Profile

  4. Sabina says:

    Ayelet, have you ever been to these churches in Nazareth? You should go. I go quite a lot, actually, and it was stunning to find that on one of the most important days of the year they were closed!

  5. Not sure, maybe as a child. I want to go there around Christmas, because I only saw Christmas decorations once in real life – it was in the central bus station of Tel-Aviv, believe it or not.
    Ayelet – All Colores recently posted..Water, Water Everywhere – A Walk Through the Argentine Iguazu Falls National ParkMy Profile

  6. Bzaleel says:

    nice post.. this is place that i really want to visit but till now never have a chance to be there.. love this place..

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