After a busy weekend traveling over northern Israel, it feels like home to come back to our hostel in Nazareth. We were all pretty tired and parched from the heat and travel, but as Karah said, it doesn’t get much better than watching the sun rise over the Galilee and set over the Mediterranean.
It has been two years since I have been in this part of the world, and before coming back to lead this trip with Youth Venture, I was looking through some of the journals I had written from when I had traveled here in 2005. I found this journal (http://www.vivaelviaje.com/blogs/vivaelviaje/archives/000146.html), where I talked a bit about my Israeli friend Maoz, and how he had a vision to start a youth hostel in the Arab city of Nazareth to build peace in his country.
And coming back now, it’s amazing to see what has happened. Maoz’s dream, The Fauzi Azar Inn, has helped to revitalize the old city of Nazareth and bring life back to the semi-desolate marketplace and stones of the medina. He has helped to foster interaction and hospitality between international visitors with both Arabs from Nazareth and Israelis looking for a weekend getaway. Many volunteers for Nazareth Village stay at the Inn and visitors to the Inn visit the village. Those from Nazareth speak about Maoz with great respect, as they know that he has helped to build peace in the town of Jesus.
When we oriented ourselves to the village last week, we sat in the first century synagogue and discussed Luke 4:14-20, where Jesus returns to his home town after his time in the desert, and says:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
As a group, we have been meeting many different people in this complex land, each with their own story and perspective. This weekend, we will be traveling to Jerusalem and Bethlehem and experiencing the heart of this country where more religions and people mix into a city that is unlike any other in the world.
Through becoming a part of the Biblical story and living amidst the stories of many others, we are continually learning what the Luke 4 passage meant both for those in the first century and us today. We are anticipating what it will be like to return to our home towns in two weeks and share this will our churches, families and friends.
On Sunday, we were at the beach near the ancient Caesarea aqueduct, hanging out with Maoz, his wife Shlomit, and their 18th month-old son Liad who is the happiest boy you could ever imagine. I feel priviledged to be here again and to be a part of the ever-developing story of the people in this region. It’s exciting to imagine what the next chapter, and how it may be connected to us all.