This was one of the first signs greeting visitors to Nazareth. It’s on Al Bishara Road which runs along the Basilica of the Annunciation (so named because Mary supposedly lived in a cave on this site).
I had to take the picture quickly because I was dropped off at a deary bus stop — “This is End of the Line Baby!” the cheery Lebanese driver said. Really? It’s pitch black out there, in the middle of a hail storm. I looked back at my fellow passengers – 4 sleepy Chinese women – motioning to them to stand up. We trudged down the steps, smiled vaguely and went our ways.
I hoped they got to their guesthouse faster than I did. It was a good 45 minutes later before I arrived at the Fauzi Azar Inn – an ancient Ottoman era hotel. Bending in from the alleyway into the courtyard you are greeted with….laundry facilities. (See them in the back?) Considering I was wet to the bone that dryer looked pretty wonderful.
Even better than the laundry was the warm people I encountered. A couple from New Zealand on sabbatical, an Italian translator fulfilling her religious dream to come to Nazareth, a Chinese, Americans; many were hiking a portion of the Israel National Trail, one other was here to begin the Jesus Walk. When I invited myself to join some for dinner (or perhaps they invited me – I’m so tired) I realized that all of those three were Christians. All from very different places in the world, different faith traditions, and yet remarkably similar stories and hopes. We raised a glass to the church, to Pope Francis, and to all the ways God finds us and we find God. It was a pretty great beginning.