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Opinion: More adventures along Jesus Trail

Looking from the top of Nazareth at 1,200 feet up to the Sea of ​​Galilee at minus 700 feet up, I could at least take comfort in the fact that the next 40 miles would be somewhat downhill.

Coming to the top of Nazareth with a pack on my back for the first time in 37 years left my heart beating at maximum rate for a 63 year old (which isn’t that fast.) I felt no pain to the chest, I thought, so at least my arteries can be presumed clear.

It’s amazing that your body has a natural governor. Each year you age, your maximum heart rate decreases, preventing you from overloading your aging heart. Surprising!

That morning I had my own miracle when I woke up in Nazareth, the birthplace of Jesus, on Good Friday. I put on one of my two shirts, each carefully selected for ruggedness for the hike, only to find both sleeves ripped cleanly at the elbows. The rips were exactly the same and were in an exact straight line, encircling half the sleeve on both sides.

“What happened to your shirt,” my hiking buddy Jeff asked. Without a second’s pause, my mind thought of the tearing of the curtain of the temple, right in the middle, when Jesus passed away.

“It’s the miracle I expected,” I replied. “And I got it almost straight away.”

Jeff scoffed, as did my friends later when I described the event. You may be kidding yourself reading this. Do not worry. For me, that was yet another miracle, just like the moon and the sun appearing in the sky at exactly the same size and a thousand other miracles that we see but mostly choose to ignore. We have eyes but we do not see.

Now that I had completed the miracle of the pilgrimage, I was free to focus on the grueling task of hiking over hill and dale and up some fairly steep hills.

Leaving the outskirts of Nazareth, we saw lots of illegal waste dumps. It was depressing, but having lived in rural Mississippi, I wasn’t shocked. But as the miles passed, the urban waste gave way to beautiful nature. So many April flowers were in bloom, many species were fresh to my eyes, making their beauty even greater.

After a few miles we were already lost, having passed under a rope blocking our path which we thought had been put there by an irate landowner.

We were in a field, along a path, yet our smartphone with GPS link showed us off the path. It was a pattern that repeated itself every mile or so. Apparently the Jesus Trail peaked five or six years ago, got bashed by Covid and kind of fell into disrepair. That’s when we saw the only other backpackers on the trail the entire hike, a German couple, also lost. We went one way. They went the other way and we never saw them again.

My “All Trails” app with its clear demarcation of the Jesus Trail had given me a false sense of confidence. In fact, these trails can easily be created by simply walking and asking the app to draw your path and create a trail. Which means that if the guy recording the path of the trail wanders lost, the people who later follow his trail will wander lost. And that’s exactly what seemed to be happening.

The trick was not to take GPS too seriously and to keep an eye out for periodic orange and white lines painted on trees, rocks and the like. Being a fairly densely populated country, there were nature trails connecting one town/village to another. We used these trails as best we could while generally following the path of the Jesus Trail.

It was all a little different than I had imagined – a wide, clearly marked trail with plenty of other hikers to meet and greet along the way. Indeed, we were almost alone in the midst of Israel, making our way from Nazareth to the Sea of ​​Galilee.

I was amazed at how often we walked along or through the forests. I was also amazed at how quickly the panorama constantly changed during our hike. Come to think of it, I’ve never really hiked like this in my life and it was quite enjoyable.

I made fun of Jeff for wearing his water filter, but thank goodness he did. We were out of water when, miraculously, we came across a crystal clear natural stream gushing out of the ground. There was a father and son wading in the stream and they told us the water was great to drink. We filled up our water bottles and dived.

We found ourselves that night in Karf Kanna, like the Canaanites, with a population of 22,000, another predominantly Muslim town with a large Christian population and few Jews. Our hotel was right across from the Catholic Marriage Church where Jesus performed his first miracle by turning water into wine. Carved in marble along the entire wall in front of the church was the entire Bible passage describing the event.

The wedding was for a friend or cousin of Jesus. The host has committed the ultimate social faux pas, running out of wine. Jesus’ mother, Mary, asked Jesus to help her, but Jesus deferred saying, “My hour has not yet come. Mary responded by telling the servants to “do whatever he tells you”.

Apparently Mary had some understanding of her son and that this was the time and place for his ministry and mission to begin. It must have been very good wine because we are still talking about it 2000 years later. (And I flew 7,000 miles to be where it happened.)

We stayed in the home/hotel of a Christian family who served us a delicious meal at their own table. I was mesmerized by the three large screens forming a security system displaying a dozen camera angles surrounding the hotel. There must be a reason for this.

We slept in a large common area with five adjoining bedrooms and a bathroom, but there was no one there except us. During Ramadan, we were woken several times during the night by loudspeakers from the minarets of the mosque urging the citizens of the city to get up and pray. Despite the interruptions, I slept like a rock, exhausted from the hike.

The next day was more illegal dumplings followed by stunning rural beauty. An old Muslim tending to his olive garden beckoned us to practice his English and tell us about his Canaanite ancestors. He told us the whole story of Moses from the Muslim point of view. The fundamentals were the same but the details were quite different.

A few miles later, we stopped on a large rock under a shade tree to pass a shepherd, his dog and his flock right by us. It was something I had never experienced. There were many other cool incidents to mention.

Later we came to a huge highway with no way to cross. Road construction was in progress and the foreman chased us away saying “dangerous, dangerous”. We didn’t know how to cross when we discovered a small concrete tunnel, barely big enough to squeeze through.

Beggars can’t choose and we crawled, glad there was no mud or rats. We were hungry and thirsty so I simply used google maps to find a nearby restaurant and lo and behold there was a perfect one half a mile away and we had a fantastic meal and met a lady who invited us to stay at her house.