During the end of March, 2010, my wife and I and a few friends hiked “The Jesus Trail” from Nazareth (נצרת) to Capernaum (כפר נחום). The founders of the trail have also a published book (guide) available for purchase.
Anna Dintaman & David Landis, Hiking the Jesus Trail: And Other Biblical Walks in the Galilee. Village to Village Press, 2010. (256 pages)
The entire endeavor is quite amazing. They’ve received international acclaim, and their website includes GPS files, and a free Jesus Trail map. There are six main hikes, and several day hikes listed (in addition to the thousands of others Israel offers through their intricate hiking system).
#1: Classic Jesus Trail – Nazareth to Capernaum, 62km, 4 days (Difficulty=2)
#2: There and Back Again – Nazareth to Capernaum with Return Loop, 129km, 8-9 days (Difficulty=3)
#3: “Sean”-nery – Loop around the Sea of Galilee, 91km, 7 days (Difficulty=1)
#4: Off the Beaten Track – Nazareth to Gilboa via Belvoir and Beit She’an, 87km, 6 days (Difficulty=3)
#5 Ruins Walk – Kaukab to Wadi Hamam, 36km, 2 days (Difficulty=2)
#6 The Jesus Marathon – A 2-week sojourn between Biblical sites in the Galilee, 194km, 14 days (Difficulty=3)
The book is extremely well done, detailed, a little Hebrew and Arabic (with a travel glossary), full-color, and includes historical and Biblical information for most of the sites visited. They advocate “Responsible Tourism” drawing on the work done by www.LNT.org (Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics), and aside from getting to Israel, the hiking can be done fairly economically. (See below for excerpts)
We began at Fauzi Azar Inn, which itself has an amazing story, and our planned 4 day hike turned into 3 days (with 1.2km walked on day 4 after we camped at Tabgha). While I don’t recommend pushing that hard, especially if you’re not use to rigorous hiking, I highly recommend doing the hike, and here’s why:
1. You learn with your feet. There are, simply put, some lessons in life you can only learn through experiencing–through walking them. One of our travel companions said, after day one, “Jesus was ripped,” to which my wife quickly added, “and smelled.” Yeah. Can you get that from reading the gospels while in America? Perhaps. Perhaps never. Can you feel the “stickiness” of the wheat fields? Can you feel the difficulty of the travel over rocky terrain? Can you sense the vulnerability of being so close and integrated to others, most likely not of your “kind?” Can you imagine how that would have shaped your life?
In addition, those who wax eloquently about the Middle East who have never stepped foot on the ground speak from ignorance. Only those who traverse the paths have the insight and authority to converse. So, if you’re interested, get thee on a plane!
2. Respect for the land. An ancient Bedouin saying states, “The way to keep a trail alive is to walk on it.” Not only the trail, but your spirit to.
Also, many who go to Israel treat the land and the people as a “Disneyland” full of magical wonders to behold and a commodity to simply consume. Often times there is very little “relating” that goes on, as pilgrims “self-sort” and only see what they have preconceived in their minds to experience. And in the Middle East where life=relationships, this is anathema. We are guests in their homes, so sit down and drink some tea. Don’t just tell stories, but listen to them. Attend well to the land and the people. See and experience life through their lenses, in their sandals.
Which, by the way, if you do go, please stay at “Yarok Az” (ירק עז) in Ilaniya (אילניה) on the corner of 65 and 77 with Hadar (חדר) & Shachar (שחר) and their two daughters, Lotem (לותם) and Raz (רז). We were proud to be their very first visitors/guests as they seek to grow their organic goat farm into an environmentally sustainable business. (They’re great Hebrew teachers too!) Not only did they host us well, giving us a full tour, but two goats were born during our 12 hour stay, and one we got to witness! We gave them a couple extra shekels for the show🙂.
3. It’s just plain fun. Don’t just read about great experiences, experience them.
BOOK EXCERPTS WORTH NOTING
The introduction is worth including in its entirety:
Meeting the Faces of the Jesus Trail
Ever since the idea of the Jesus Trail started to circulate, it received an encouraging amount of support from many diverse communities, though a few folks have been dubious over the use of the name of Jesus, and suspected the name of being a cheap marketing move, or exploitation of religion for financial gain.
We were even once asked, “Who is the face of the Jesus Trail?” We were uneasy, unsure how to respond. The question seemed to imply a slick and charismatic salesman charming people into purchasing a package deal.
The obvious (if perhaps sanctimonious) answer would be, of course, Jesus. But we believe there are many faces to the Jesus Trail–the faces of the people we meet upon it. The faces of Arabs and Jews, of native-born Israelis and recent immigrants, of the young, the old, people from all walks of life. People who suffer and people who prosper. Palestinians, kibbutzniks, Thai migrant workers. Christians, Muslims, Druze, Bahai. Fellow travelers and pilgrims from all walks of life. The list could go on.
As Jesus walked this land in his ministry, we imagine that he met a similarly eclectic mix of people–peasants, soldiers, religious elite, Samaritans, merchants, travelers from the ends of the empire. Jesus received hospitality from people, perhaps surviving economically almost solely on the grace and generosity of others. We wonder what kind of people Jesus spoke with along the road, who offered him cold water or to share a portion of their food. What kind of philosophy and musing did he hear in idle talk along the road?
Jesus did not travel with fear of those different from himself, but accepted hospitality form a tax collector (Luke 19:1-8), a sinful Samaritan woman (John 4:1-22), a Roman official (John 4:43-54) and other Gentiles and outsiders to his people group.
We hope that you also experience hospitality and conversation with the many faces of the Jesus Trail. Articles and books about this region invariably begin with adjectives like “war-torn” and “conflict-ridden,” but we are constantly humbled and blessed by the goodness of the people we meet. Once, separated by no more than five minutes, we sat down for coffee and cookies with Arab Bedouin and then were greeted warmly with others of help by a group of Jewish young adults. A few days later we were invited to a meal by two Arabs from Nazareth–a Christian and a Muslim, childhood friends.
We are convinced that walking is a humble, non-threatening way to encounter new people, bring to life historical and spiritual texts and, through the physical challenge and removal from ordinary life, also grow to know ourselves better. We hope that stereotypes and preconceptions will melt away in the smelting of sweat, tired limbs, conversation and extraordinary encounters with others.
We invite you to fearlessly step into this challenges, following the example of Jesus. Trust in God and the image of God reflected in the people you meet. Be blessed and be a blessing.
In addition, they’ve include thoughts on “First-Century Travel” in and through the Pax Romana, the historicity question of Jesus walking this trail, the meaning and significance of “Pilgrimage”, (that it moves, remembers and inspires and transforms), “The Jesus Trail Story” of David Landis and Maoz Inon, the founders, and extremely helpful information for “Travel in Israel.”
I am extremely thankful to my wife for doing all the work and research to make this trip happen.
לדודי אני אהב אתך