Journeys of Jesus – Travelling between Nazareth to Jerusalem

Revisiting part of my trip to Nazareth from a few months ago.

In my job I often have to go up to a warehouse in Karmiel, a large food bank which supplies food for the poor in the greater Galilee area, to service computer equipment which requires me to visit every so often.

One of the unique things I like about my job is going to visit this site to do a few days work and doing some sightseeing around the Galilee, meaning I can see Nazareth, Cana, Akko and Tiberias not too far away.   As there is no dedicated IT person based up there, so maintenance requires a fair bit of planning if I need to take a laptop, tools and software CDs, this means I am doing a 2.5-3 hour trip up there from Jerusalem, which makes me think is a trip Jesus would be very familiar with, although Karmiel is much further up than Nazareth.

In Matthew 20: 17-19 the scriptures talk about Jesus “going up” to Jerusalem even though its south of course, part of this is to do with the high elevation that the city is on as well as its great significance for Jewish and Christian people alike.

Getting to Nazareth is quite easy on an Egged bus or even with this above Nazareth based coach operator.

Being in the middle of the Galilee region of Israel, there aren’t railway connections here like all of the (Ashdod / Ashkelon / Herzilya / Yaffo / Tel Aviv  / Netanya / Haifa / Akko / Nahariya) coastal cities have in Israel.

I often think about how often Jesus himself traveled between the two locations, if I were some other kind of mobile tradesman and lived here before cars and buses, there is a number of challenges, stopping for food and where to stay overnight, risks of attacks by bandits/robbers, extreme heat, mosquitos, having enough (3 litres a day per person minimum) water for the journey, steep hills, presents all manner of challenges.

I am wondering if people at the time of Jesus owned camels and donkeys or if they were rented.


Arab people in rural parts of the country may have camels (which are still expensive today)   or ancient Peugeot 504 pick up trucks are the other favourite, this one is full of sheep.

Some historians have said it takes 3 1/2 days by foot to go from one of these famous cities to the other.   I thought I would do some research.

Here is a map I have made with Google Maps,

You can get a closer look of this Google maps anotation:

This distance of 103kms (64 miles) one is ‘as the crow flies’ and goes across the separation barrier that fences off Judea and Samaria, what we know today as the West Bank.  (contrary to what you see in the media only 5% of the boundaries of the West Bank is concrete wall, the rest is a chain link fence)

I have only just noticed when doing this, the line passes straight through the West Bank city of Nabulus.  Given the highly mountainous terrain of this country, its unlikely it would be as simple as going via a compass back in Jesus’s time, there were plenty of political issues back then don’t forget, some places would not been safe then, especially given Jesus’s parable of the Good Samaritan, a Jewish man robbed and beaten up was cared for and put into a hotel for the night by a kindly stranger who as a Samaritan an ethnic group then enemies of Jews.

Closer look of this one also:

This one was suggested by Google’s planning system using today’s actual roads albeit a lot longer way around, without going through checkpoints, is quite a bit further at 151km (93 miles)

Look at the link and see carefully the main roads in Jordan, and the shape of the borders between Jordan and Syria create a pattern which looks strangely symmetrical to the route I have sketched out.   Quite bizarre.

To be honest though, its hard getting an idea of time and distance of going to and from the two great cities by foot or donkey in any more accurate terms given the challenges or land boundaries, steep hills and uncertain historical road systems, but I think it gives you a little bit of an idea.

Nazareth – 7. The precipice

This was maybe 3 or 4 miles walk from the centre of town, the precipice was something I have read about, its the hill in Nazareth where people tried to throw Jesus off the hill after hearing him speak, thinking it was blasphemy.

The hostel was a bit boring, I got chatty to various people, including the staff there and mostly families staying and few other people who were on their way out, but there were no chances to go and explore places of the bible with any other Christians, as hostels are usually great places to make friends, especially when I have been to some in France, Iceland and US.

No matter, I left my iPod at home, so it was a good way to enjoy a week long break from work and see some sights.

I went off a road to a car park where there was some construction going on, hoping to get some good shots of the hill.

I walked towards this shed on the left, then I saw a couple of fierce guard dogs were there…

Taking pictures can be awkward on your own and without a tripod, I tried using this abandoned car to stand my camera on and do a timed shot…

I kind of got hidden by the wildlife though!

Here is some better pictures of the precipice:-

As below this passage talks about Jesus was threatened up here:-

Luke 4 : 28 -30  All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this.  They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him off the cliff.  But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way.

I am next going to head up and see how much of the Galilee is visible from up 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 – 4. Where Jesus first preached

In the old city of Nazareth, after going around a maze of streets, I came across this exciting building, here is the synagogue church, the site of where Jesus first started preaching.  Its owned by the Greek Catholic church built by crusaders in 12th century.

Luke 4: 14-19 Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside.  He was teaching in their synagogues, and everyone praised him.  He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

I can make out the latter part of this sign in Arabic, Hebrew and French that says no photographs.   Oops. 🙂

Matthew 13 : 53 When Jesus had finished these parables, he moved on from there.  Coming to his hometown, he began teaching the people in their synagogue, and they were amazed. “Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers?” they asked.  “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas?  Aren’t all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?”  And they took offence at him.    But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town and in his own home.”

Its only when reading this now I can see why Jesus chose to leave Nazareth.

Outside of the iron gates of the Synagogue Church is a labyrinth of narrow alleys mostly without thoroughfare for cars, here there is plenty of tourist souvenirs here of of course!

After some people in the synagogue got upset with Jesus’s teaching they tried to push him off a hill.   I will show this place shortly.

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 – 1. Arrival at the city

I have always hoped Michael Palin could do journals around the holy land one day, until this happens I try and blog on the places of the life of Jesus myself.  I am tired by the attitudes of the media and fellow Brits who try to slander Israel and accuse it of being a ‘Apartheid’ state amongst other things.  I set out to the central Galilee city of Nazareth, to see what it was like for Jesus to have grown up there, glimpses of places from the bible, how the Arab people there live in the centre of the Galilee and how different it is from Jerusalem.

Just before getting off the bus which took me from Jerusalem, I asked some people next to me if this was the right place to get off, and there didn’t seem to be a proper bus station, just a stop by the main road.   This Arab couple were really friendly and were happy oblige to walk with me from the street through some narrow streets uphill through the old city towards my hostel.

Jesus frequently went to and fro from here or the greater part of Galilee to Jerusalem and Bethlehem.  When you live some distance from your family this must be a lot of effort to travel often.

This provocative message to Christians stands out a junction heading north towards the Synagogue where Jesus first preached.  Behind is the tall turret of the famous huge and grand looking Bisilica Church.   It says “and whoever seeks a religion other than Islam, it will never be accepted of him, and in the hereafter he will be one of the losers. – Holy Quran”

I have a better message though: Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14 : 6

I have seen this on some guides before, and all the research I did suggested Nazareth is a safe city to visit, and it is too.  I had a number of worries though to do with the busy time of year.  I booked this trip at rather the last minute as its in between Pesach and Easter, and with two different holidays, the buses are not running for some of those days, Easter making it more busy for Christian visitors, and I had hoped to visit Tiberias but both youth hostels were fully booked, so was one of the main hostels in Nazareth, and I got myself one night booked but not for the other days, this needed a lot of prayer of exactly how to figure out where to stay….

Soon!  Different Youth Hostels, the Spice Mill, Thousands of Arab Israelis Christians in the streets at Easter, the church at Cana for weddings, today’s modern Nazarene carpenters and residents finding hidden wells in the back yards by accident!

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

Visit to Rachel’s tomb

Its a while since I have done some exploring of places from the bible.  As I am at the end of the my second season I thought I would make up for lost time and see some places.

The weekend before last I try to get to Rachel’s tomb which is on the Israel/Palestinian security gate that goes between southern Jerusalem and Bethlehem.   This was something of a ‘ballagan’ (Hebrew for chaos, I am not sure if I wrote the Romanised spelling right 🙂 ) as I spent ages finding it, and seem to get different answers from everyone I asked.   I gave up and went home, and came back the following weekend.

This time I was given a different method to get into Rachel’s tomb.   At one specific gate into the border, intended for cars.  I had my passport checked along with this Asian-Canadian girl who was also going this way I was chatting  to.

I was asked by the guards, “are you a Jew?”  in which I replied no I was a Christian. “But you don’t wear a cross?” I was asked.   Maybe I should get one I guess.

I was told I could not travel by foot the 100 yards or so through the border, but he pointed to this blue Subaru driven by a religious Jew and told me to get in, I said I don’t know this guy, do you know him?   “its ok, he is a Jew, just get in!”   I was kind of shocked that the guards asked me to get in a stranger’s car, but I did it anyway and so do this girl.  The road winds in a sort of S shape in between the tall concrete walls of the Israeli/Palestinian border.   Unlike other parts of this wall as its so well guarded there is no graffiti here.  After only a minute of a very short ride, the car stops right outside Rachel’s Tomb.

In the historical building itself, the building is heavily disguised in concrete being sandwiched in between the high security walls.

Once in, I don’t see much historical information in English outside the tomb itself.   Inside there is a longish corridor and then a partition which guides men and women into separate parts of the room.

When I go in its full of Orthodox Jews praying reading the scriptures, one of the reminds me I should have a kippor on, so he lends me one, and I decided to sit on a chair and pray for a bit.   It doesn’t seem right to take photos or explore a bit, so I leave.   The room feels the same as the archway next to the Kotel.

I was a little disappointed, as there was not much to read on history.  There really isn’t anything of interest to casual tourists.   Nevertheless its was exciting to see another place of the bible and see religious Jews visiting who value its sacredness.

Back outside, behind this unusual looking wall is some quite pleasant public toilets and a car park.

I take a wander down a short road which goes to a dead end to another vehicle sized gate.   There is construction work here, but in an empty square of land here nestled between the two security walls, so neither housing for Jews or Palestinians, more like extra offices or facilities for the border security.

On the way out of the border, I realised there was a bus service.  This bus does’nt go right through the border, instead it goes just to Rachel’s Tomb, thus not requiring a lengthy security check to get back.   There isn’t any kind of queueing, instead everyone just piles on, I let the women holding babies go on first.   I am not allowed to use my normal (Egged) bus pass for some reason, so it just requires me to pay 4.20 Shekels for this ride.   Religious women make up the majority of folks on this bus ride.   I can only get off about 1km away from the border, necessitating a short walk back to collect my bicycle.

I was reading this passage in the bible which talks about this place.  Genesis 35:16-21  16 – “Then they moved on from Bethel. While they were still some distance from Ephrath, Rachel began to give birth and had great difficulty.  And as she was having great difficulty in childbirth, the midwife said to her, “Don’t despair, for you have another son.”  As she breathed her last—for she was dying—she named her son Ben-Oni.   But his father named him Benjamin.   So Rachel died and was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem).  Over her tomb Jacob set up a pillar, and to this day that pillar marks Rachel’s tomb.  Israel moved on again and pitched his tent beyond Migdal Eder.”

This particular place is the centre point of news this month as the UN, Palestinian Authority and the Turkish Prime Minister have been saying the Rachel’s Tomb is a Mosque, see

I saw this quote from Christians Standing for Israel blog on Rachel’s tomb:- “You don’t have to be a Biblical scholar or a learned archaeologist to recognize the long-standing and incontestably Jewish nature of Rachel’s Tomb and the Cave of the Patriarchs. Arguing otherwise is akin to asserting that the earth is flat, Elvis is still alive and the moon is made of cheese, and that is how the Palestinian claims should be viewed.”

Because of the not so conventional method of passing through security, I can’t offer any advice on how to get through the border, you will need your passport and its a simple case of heading south from Hevron Road from Jerusalem southwards.   There is not a huge amount to see so I think its best left for bible history adventurers to do as something on the way to or from Bethlehem.  Right: coaches arriving from the Jerusalem side.

Tip:  if you want to converse with anyone, Jew or Arab to find directions to Rachel’s tomb, try pronouncing it like the French, ‘Raquel’  there is a better chance they will understand you.

Widow’s mite coins for sale

This shop sells coins based in Luke 21:2-4 about the story of the Widow’s copper coins she gave to the temple treasury.

I was on the way to church coming back from the Kotel, so I didn’t get to properly see this shop, but I imagine these coins offered could be genuine as there is an abundance of history under the ground that has been discovered all over Israel.

These sorts of antiquities stores are pretty unusual as they sell jewelery made from pieces of Roman glass found in archelogical sites.  Some of these stores actually fashion pieces of glass that are cut and filed to shape and set in broaches, necklaces etc.