Sneak preview of Christian television in Bethlehem

Well, last year I was ready to fly home and see family for Christmas.   I am trying to pack in getting lots of things done before going, in particular, getting someone to check my mailbox and pay any bills, buy presents, host a party at my house with some of my other single friends for shabbat.

In addition to that, I wanted to meet up with my friend Peter Friedlander who is a photographer and video producer, he was at my church which runs a training school for students looking to enhance the work of the Christian ministry they work for by producing video content.    Once qualified, Peter has used his skills to do video work for a Arab ministry to witness to people in Bethlehem, Jesus’s birth town which today is a bustling Arabic city which is controlled by the Palestinian Authority.

As tourism is probably the life blood of the economy of Bethlehem, of course you will see more Christmas decorations out in the street than anywhere else in this part of the world, however just like commercialised western Christmas there maybe little in common with celebrating the birth of the Jewish Messiah, regardless of what time of the year he may of arrived, and more like a giant Woolworths in the middle east. 🙂

Galilee Arab children to learn Jesus’s language of Aramaic

Saw this today which seemed interesting in Israel Today magazine:-

Jish, an Arab town in the Galilee only 2 miles away from the Lebanese border has got the go ahead from the Israeli government to teach children the ancient obscure Aramaic language that was used during the time of Jesus.

The only Aramaic words I know is Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachtani?  (My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?) as spoken by Jesus in Matthew 27:46

The first three words are almost the same as their Hebrew counterpart, but the last word sounds quite a lot different and not like Hebrew at all.

Only a few communities in Syria speak Aramaic as far as I know, I did see sometime ago amongst Lebanese Christians there was a Facebook group campaign to teach children there Aramaic.

Fascinating stuff, but I take joy that our loving saviour speaks the language of anyone from any country that calls on him.


Return to Nazareth – 6. Today’s Nazarenes

Seems that I have neglected to write a conclusion to one of my previous trips, as this has been in the unfinished pile for about 8 months.  I passed this church on the bus out of Nazareth last time I came here, and was curious to know when a service was here again.

I have always wanted to find out where there are Arab Christians who are real spirit filled believers and love the Jewish people and Israel.  One is among my friends here, but how about in an mostly Israeli Arab city such as Akko, Jaffa or Nazareth, or even an a Palestinian city in the West Bank?   I was curious to know if a revival could happen in and amongst these ancient white-stoned buildings today.

I work for a Christian organisation that provides food to needy Jewish population as poverty is 23% in Israel, where as I take an interest in the Hebrew roots of my Christian faith, I do often think about what happens with Arab believers here.   I go to an active church in Jerusalem that is mostly Western in style although it has English and Hebrew worship music, there are Arab people there, and I live on the outskirts of Jerusalem’s Talpiyot district which is just 50 yards away from Arab areas, and I pass through parks where I see Jewish and Arab people, so I feel an obligation to pray for both type of people.  I don’t think its fair to people to criticise Christians working with the Jews to not be interested in helping Arab people, any more than someone ministering to the Irish should feel obliged to reach out to the Scottish, after all we all only have so much resources!

My first time joining in some lively Arabic Christian worship music!

This church is fairly small but I think there was about 130 people there, completely packed full!   Quite a a decent sized number of youth too, there are a few British and American Christians also here volunteering at nearby ministries too, I got chatting to.   After the service I got a small tiny cup of Arabic style coffee which is just a reminder of the traditional part of culture here.

Why the ‘Today’s Nazerenes’ for the title of of this article?  –  well as well as the expected name for people who from Nazareth, either today or from the past, it is the Hebrew word for Christian, but these people seem to really fired up for the Lord even I was only able to hum along to the praise and worship!!


As a newbie Hebrew student, that’s Nun,Vav (a vowel), Zayen, Resh, Yod – ie pronounced: Natzari!   The names of the equivalent symbols in Arabic I think are very similar.

I now need to visit church with another type of ancient Semitic language, the Amharic speaking Ethiopians next I reckon!

I feel really blessed that the Lord made perfect timing for me to get here 5 minutes before it started.   I missed my last bus home, after asking some local people, they told me its best to get a taxi to Afula and get a bus back to Jerusalem from there.

After my disappointment in not finding many active Christians in the youth hostel, it was wonderful to find people worshiping Jesus in the town of his youth.

1. The Fauzi Azar – 2. The uglier sides of Nazareth – 3. Welcoming the king with palm leaves? – 4. Looking for the Jesus village – 5. The replica village of Jesus – 6. Today’s Nazarenes


Return to Nazareth – 1. The Fauzi Azar

This youth hostel is literally a palace!!

It looks stunning with its high painted ceilings and huge windows, the owner of the place who is the grand-daughter of Mr Fauzi Azar himself seems proud of this place and the fact its been voted the best youth hotel in the country.   Its little wonder that earlier this year on my first trip to Nazareth that it was fully booked up and I wasn’t able to stay before.  Interesting enough I was in the lobby reading a book when one of the staff of Lonely Planet was there to speak to the manager.

I got chatting to other travelers, which as well as of course finding out the countries we were from, where else we had visited and exchanging stories and inevitably our own personal religious feelings and our perceptions of Nazareth and Israel.

The two girls from Canada and Switzerland who I first spoke to were atheists, there was another girl who was a Christian from the US and was studying Arabic and seemed really fascinated with Arab and Islamic culture and wanted to one day visit Saudi Arabia.   I know of British people get well paid tax-free jobs in Saudi, I really do wonder though, if they realise the roles of men and women in the Gulf states are not the same as they are in the west, and some appalling human rights violations, particularly if anyone wishes to exit out of Islam for whatever reason.   There was another older British couple, which one of them had a large Pagan looking symbol on a necklace, also a young American guy who was working doing web design for the Fauzi.

There was a couple from Ohio in the US who said they were ministers from something called a Universal Unitarian church, and as I wasn’t familiar with this denomination, as a group of us were in the kitchen just chatting I asked them a few things, and found that they were originally atheists, and I was more and more concerned when they said they didn’t really read the bible very often, and didn’t believe in heaven or hell or even the trinity!   Seems that the Universal Unitarianism “church” or something like that, was actually a strange of cult, trying to be a ‘one-size-fits-all’ faith combining elements of Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism and other religions by ‘people-pleasing’, leaving God (the one of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob) completely out of the picture.

I think this only causes confusion (no not Confucianism – haha!)  amongst the other guests who didn’t believe in God giving a very mixed up picture.

I didn’t want any theological debate, but I did let it slip amongst conversation of 5 or 6 of us in the kitchen there that I thought it was worth a mention that the previous week I got back ache from lifting boxes whilst helping out at the food bank which , and was completely healed two days later which I in no doubt give credit to Jesus.  Was kind of sad that there wasn’t more Christians visiting with a curiosity for famous home city of Christ though.

view out of a bathroom window, seeing the maze of streets of Old Nazareth

The family that own that house were Arab Christians, but I didn’t spot any kind of pictures on the wall or bibles or anything.   I did spot a strange “special offer” poster in the reception which gave travelers a free extra night if they had stamps in their passport from Iran, Iraq, Syria or Lebanon!!! I really can’t get my head around why they would want to do that?!?   Normal circumstances means you can’t enter Israel after visiting one of those nations, so I am a bit baffled.   Seems more of a case of thinking it is ‘clever’ to be rebellious over Israel’s strict but sensible policies on visas and entries I think??

I noticed actually only 3/4s of the Fauzi’s beautiful house is restored, there is one corner of a wing of the house that has no roof at all and you can see the sky through the missing window.   I think maintaining old buildings like this must be quite a challenge and monumentally

Later on in the afternoon, I met three chaps from New Zealand, an older gent in his 70s and his two sons, they were doing some travelling around Israel, so I got a chance to hook up with them and head out on the town in the evening.   This was great I could finally meet real believers who had a curiosity for the streets of Jesus’s upbringing also.   I got to learn the father was a cancer survivor and had always wanted to visit Israel and his two sons had helped him achieve visiting here, so I was really pleased for them to come to the holyland for the first time, it was nice to sit in a nearby Falafel place and have a natter.

I spent a bit of time in the mornings out in the pleasant court yard taking advantage of the unlimited coffee and tea (especially with jars of mint and anise you can add to you drinks) and doing some reading of this book called ‘Jesus in the Hebrew Scriptures which is written by a leader of a Messianic Jewish congregation and had some eye opening account into how Christ was not only predicted in Isaiah but also glimpses of him are seen in the Old testament too.  This book isn’t available from Amazon or from common distribution channels so I can’t really tell you where you can get it apart from doing a Google search.   I only got part way through it but have enjoyed what I have seen so far.

Anyway I can’t recommend the Fauzi high enough as a place to stay when visiting Nazareth, for its grand appearance with breakfast included and a free tour around Nazareth’s old city in the morning.

Did I find some spirit filled Arab believers in Jesus in Nazareth?   yes!! – I will explain soon!!

1. The Fauzi Azar – 2. The uglier sides of Nazareth – 3. Welcoming the king with palm leaves? – 4. Looking for the Jesus village – 5. The replica village of Jesus – 6. Today’s Nazarenes

Tunnel bike ride on Yom Kippur

The 8th of October is Yom Kippur or day of atonement, one of the most significant events in the Jewish calender, its a holiday where everything shuts down completely, people fast, stay at home and huge numbers of people visit the Kotel (Western Wall)

Me and some friends decided to do some spontaneous craziness, there is a big tunnel that passes under the front of the Jaffa gate, its part of a big dual carriage highway that acts as a important traffic artery that winds its way hidden under the famous gate so not to spoil the historical look of the old city.   This road is very busy, and there is only one day where its empty…

I am riding up with my friend Yossi who lives quite near me, bizarrely all the traffic lights around Jerusalem are permanently flashing amber.

Heading towards the tunnel, oh wait, drat – its shut!!  Bah.

Waiting for the other guys to show up, one of them was still in bed!   Slackers. 🙂


Ok, we are all set….

The tunnel is shut – as in there is a barrier over one side of the ride to stop cars going in, easy to dodge this on a bike though 🙂

One of my other friends got some videos of this, maybe try and put this on Youtube later…

Ok, this is one way back, the road is a steep, not that obvious, but you give up riding 1/3 of the way back!

Stopping for ice cream at German Monastery in Old City.

Some general randomness and goofing off all around the city, including going up some steps reveals some bike-friendly and a skateboarder’s paradise of slopes and interesting corners to ride around….


Certain bits of the old city gives you hidden rooftop views of the markets below..

After this epic ride around a few of us went to the Kotel (Western Wall) and got some pizza.   Good day I think with my Christian, Jewish and Arab buddies. 🙂

Nazareth – 13. Easter service at the Basilica

I didn’t find  anyone from the youth hostel who wanted to head into town that evening, so after an afternoon of looking around shops and reading a book in the lobby, I headed out and saw lots of people flocking towards the Basilica church.

This was the service for Easter Friday.

The outside of church seems very busy…

Inside, the place was packed!  all of the seats were taken, and people were in all of the aisles and blocking the door.
The surprising thing is the vast majority of people appeared to be young Arab Christians under 30 for the service, no foreigners as far as I could see.  I have no idea what was spoken in the service as it was all in Arabic.

A statue of Jesus was brought out of the service at the end.

Outside there were lots of people who couldn’t get in the service, they seem very friendly and most spoke English, a lot of the Arab Christians had non-Arabic sounding names, ie: Simon.Musicians where getting together for a parade outside..  Hang on surely, these aren’t bagpipes??

Whats this?  Its the flag of Christian Arab scouts of Nazareth.

The scouts are getting ready to do their bagpipe playing at the end of the Easter service!   Actually an Arab friend of mine told me that bagpipes are not that uncommon in the Middle East, there are bagpipe players in Jordan who play for the King there.   Maybe the Arabs are wannabe Scots or perhaps during the British Mandate of Palestine period, Scotland influenced people then? 🙂

The statue is taken on a tour around the city.

So was the Easter service a nice yearly social knees-up or the were the mostly young Arab Christians there praising the Lord on the weekend of his resurrection in the very town where Jesus spent his youth?   I am not sure but this was an enjoyable end to my trip to Nazareth, and despite only 15% of the town being Christian it was good that Easter was celebrated (actually there were no chocolate eggs for sale anywhere)  and this didn’t seem like a big show for tourists as there simply weren’t any around the town.

Seems like the modern day people of Nazareth are proud of their city.

1. Arrival at the city2. Staying in the old city3. The modern day Nazarene carpenter4. Where Jesus first preached5. Religious vehicles in Nazareth6. Mary’s Well and the Bath house7. The precipice8. On top of the Precipice hill9. More old city streets and market10. The spice shop11. Churches from A to Z or Alpha to Omega12. The Basilica church13. Easter service at the Basilica

Nazareth – 12. The Basilica church of Annunciation

This is the famous Basilica church, it stands a centre point in the city, as one of the biggest buildings in Nazareth.

I didn’t see many Nazarenes on horses, only this one!  You can see the church more or less anywhere in the city, this tall turret is quite distinctive.
Built in 1969, the give away signs of the modern construction of this place is these odd dimples in the concrete structural support beams.   Other than that there are usual pews and decorations you would find in any church here.  I didn’t get to the dome up the top, I think this may be possible with this paid tours that happen on week days here.

Although Catholic, this place also attracts Christian visitors from Orthodox and Anglican backgrounds

On two floors, this place is huge!!   This floor contains the Grotto of annunciation, ie: what’s thought to be the home of Mary.
Underneath one of the walkways in the yard are more signs of ancient history under these support beams.

There’s no doubt the the Basilica is a fertile place for photographers!Here there are muriels dedicated to other countries, there are dozens of them all around the insides of the perimeter outside wall of the church,  like I mentioned a few articles ago, this is a kind of peace initiave I think, although seems to be mostly Catholic (ie: Ireland, France, Poland, Brazil etc) countries.

Lastly, as it was Easter whilst I was in Nazareth I thought I would check out to see all the crowds heading towards the Baslica, and I got several surprises there…

1. Arrival at the city2. Staying in the old city3. The modern day Nazarene carpenter4. Where Jesus first preached5. Religious vehicles in Nazareth6. Mary’s Well and the Bath house7. The precipice8. On top of the Precipice hill9. More old city streets and market10. The spice shop11. Churches from A to Z or Alpha to Omega12. The Basilica church13. Easter service at the Basilica

Nazareth – 11. Churches from A to Z or Alpha to Omega

I am very out of touch with UK at the moment, but I have read the Professor Richard Dawkins is on the telly again, proof that atheists can be just as opinionated and annoying than any religious people.

I am reluctant to believe any figures in the mainstream media the church attendance is declining, when you have some churches like in my home city which have repurposed old buildings that were used (or share with another organisation) for something different, ie: a snooker hall.  I know in Israel there are some secret churches where ex-Muslim people go to in Arab areas which could put them in danger if they got discovered.

There is a lot of different religious buildings in Nazareth.   Churches can be current places of worship or dusty buildings of history.

Monastry ontop of the hill of the city.  This one is called ‘Ecole Jesus the Adolescent – Don Bosco’  I couldn’t go in because of this big electric gate which has no details if it was possible to visit from the public.

Greek church, this one is the Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation, its close to the Mary’s well I mentioned previously.

Yes those black clouds turned into rain a few minutes later :o)

I am not sure if this stage outside of the Greek church is for a wedding or Easter service.

One of the tours I was on showed us some churches more hidden away from the main roads:


These places have a lot of highly decorative pictures and fittings here.  These are not everyone’s taste, but I wonder how synagogues where in the time of King Solomon as he built the biggest most grandest places for worshipping God as he was very wealthy.

For me, church is the body of people that there, the fabric part of the building isn’t too important.  After a while the churches do get a bit samey in their styles and decoration.  The old ones in Jerusalem are pretty similar, with the main differences being writing which can be in Russian, Armenian or Greek.

Although obscured by a bus, and I can only really see this poster which made me smile, I would really liked to visit this one, but I didn’t spot it until I was on a bus on my way home back to Jerusalem.

I left out the main church in Nazareth, the Basilica church of the Annuciation, for a good reason, next I show this huge church and a few pleasant surprises I saw there…

1. Arrival at the city2. Staying in the old city3. The modern day Nazarene carpenter4. Where Jesus first preached5. Religious vehicles in Nazareth6. Mary’s Well and the Bath house7. The precipice8. On top of the Precipice hill9. More old city streets and market10. The spice shop11. Churches from A to Z or Alpha to Omega12. The Basilica church13. Easter service at the Basilica

Nazareth – 8. Ontop of the Precipice hill

After spending a while getting some pictures and pondering what it was like with Jesus had upset some people in the synagogue thinking he had said blasphemy, I thought I would climb up the side of the hill.

I always think of Jesus as being a strong and assertive young man, it didn’t occur to me before the crucifixion that he could get easily lynched and taken up to this hill by a mob.  I wonder if they were having a heated debate on theology whilst walking from the temple, and some of the folk got nasty.

At the foot of the hill there is a zigzag road which has been blocked off to stop people driving up there, on the other side is a road for coaches to take tourists up here.

The mast you can see in the distance is part of a peace monument.

I will mention this peace monument another time, as it has some similarities to the ones I have seen in Jerusalem and Sderot.

Up the top is a simple path that encircles to the top of the hill with plenty of trees and wild flowers here, there is a toilet block which was shut (oh well plenty of bushes!)  and a small kiosk that looks out to the view point that heads south.

This was definitely worth the long walk – the grey ‘field’ thing is actually a large water reservoir, there is another 3 small ones in view.   In the distance is mount Tabor, this hill is mentioned a few times in the scriptures and also is considered one of several locations of Jesus’s transfiguration.  To the right in the distance is Megiddo (Armageddon)   Wonder if this is a safe place to watch the final battle of the end of the world? 🙂

With this view it was nice to just stay up for an hour, I would of stayed longer but I only brought a small bottle of water and it was a hot day, the nearest petrol station is back in town about 3 or 4 kilometers away.

Looking eastwards.  I got chatting to some American Christians here, its easily to getting chatting with other Christians about the bible and Jesus’s escape from people who tried to throw him off the hill.

Down here is the building site next a large hotel and conference centre where I took pictures from the previous story.

More antics around Nazareth coming soon! Also Jesus’s first miracle in Cana, and Armegeddon the battle ground of the past and stage for the end of the world!

1. Arrival at the city2. Staying in the old city3. The modern day Nazarene carpenter4. Where Jesus first preached5. Religious vehicles in Nazareth6. Mary’s Well and the Bath house7. The precipice8. On top of the Precipice hill9. More old city streets and market10. The spice shop11. Churches from A to Z or Alpha to Omega12. The Basilica church13. Easter service at the Basilica

Nazareth – 5. Religious vehicles in Nazareth

Often in the UK, some Christians opt to put a fish symbol on their cars to show their faith.  This has been debated about for a long time.

In Nazareth, where there are Christian and Muslim Arabs living together, modern day Nazarenes have some different symbols to show their beliefs on their cars, such as this chain with a cross:  (click to get a bigger image)

This is just a personal choice and there has been big debates in the past if its right or not, especially if you get upset with the actions of another motorist who in turn may say or gesture something that may not be a good representation of a follower of Christ.

Muslims have a variation on this neckless design too.

The chap who has this Citroen van has the chain thing and a fish too 🙂   By the way its going through a highway northward through Ha Meggido, whats commonly known as the place of ‘Armageddon’.

I think it has some good parts, I know Christians I have worked with who were friends and one found out the other they were a believer from the fish on his car.

Its very rare I see Christian symbols on cars in Jerusalem.   Jews don’t really have religious symbols on their cars that often.   I sometimes do see ‘Moshiach Now’ on a sticker though (Hebrew for Messiah now)  and the occasional image of Rebbi Schneerson, a deceased Rabbi who is thought to be the Messiah amongst some of the Ultra Orthodox community.

Also its also interesting that Nazareth has a lot of young men in souped up cars (mostly Honda Civics and Seat Ibizas) with bass laden Arabic pop music driving around the city.

1. Arrival at the city2. Staying in the old city3. The modern day Nazarene carpenter4. Where Jesus first preached5. Religious vehicles in Nazareth6. Mary’s Well and the Bath house7. The precipice8. On top of the Precipice hill9. More old city streets and market10. The spice shop11. Churches from A to Z or Alpha to Omega12. The Basilica church13. Easter service at the Basilica