The Church of Annunciation.
Walking up Mount Temptation.
Catriona continues her walk on the Nativity Trail to celebrate the 2000th anniversary of Jesus' birth and Joseph and Mary's journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem.
You need to be reasonably fit and healthy to tackle the entire 160km trail, walking about 15-20km a day for 10 days. If walking the whole trail is not for you, you can hike along the bits you find interesting and travel the other bits in a van.
You will need to wear walking gear, which should be both practical and modest, and take water and a sleeping bag. Accommodation is basic but an excellent way of experiencing local hospitality. You might be sleeping in an orange orchard, camping next to Bedouins, staying at a Muslim shrine, in a village or a guesthouse.
Nazareth was the traditional home of Mary and Joseph and where Jesus spent 30 of his 33 years. It has been rebuilt as part of the project and is visited every year by hundreds of thousands of devotees. It is the largest Arab town in Galilee, where most people are Christian or Muslim, with a small Jewish population.
Part of the trail includes climbing holy Mt Tabor, an isolated dome-shaped mountain and site of the transfiguration. After Jesus appeared to his disciples, many churches were built there to declare Christianity. These days there are two monasteries, one Latin, the other Orthodox. Each is built in the place believed to be the place of the miracle. There are 4300 steps cut into the rock leading to the top of Mt Tabor it takes about an hour to climb.
Lewis Hazboun is a Catholic priest who lives in Zebabdeh, famous for its olives. Father Lewis lectures in archaeology and teaches tour guides at the university, explaining the nativity history and mosaics in the town.
Aqrabanieh is an orange-growing area; its simple clay and straw houses are perfect for summer's hot weather.
As you near Jericho through the desert hills of Wadi Kelt Valley, you reach St George, a magnificent desert monastery. Jericho is believed to be the oldest and lowest (250m below sea level) inhabited city in the world. Settlement began about 10,000 BC. The land is extremely fertile due to its climate and many springs. In biblical times the prophet Elisha purified the large central spring's water by throwing salt into it. It was believed the movement of the water foretold floods and earthquakes.
The Mountain of Temptation Monastery hangs from the rocks of Temptation Mountain. It was here that the devil tried to tempt Jesus by asking him to change stone into bread.
Hikers walk through more tracks and wilderness into the Greek Orthodox Monastery of Mar Saba, where women are not allowed.
Shepherd Field in Beit Sahour is where the angel appeared and announced the birth of Christ to shepherds who were tending their sheep. The famous site is now home to many churches surrounded by dry, grassy areas.
The tour ends in Bethlehem, which has been a Palestinian territory since 1995. King David was born there 1000 years before Jesus. In the Roman period Bethlehem was on the main business route connecting Syria with the Dead Sea. It is situated on a rocky hill which falls away towards a valley surrounded by beautiful verdant hills planted with olives, grapes, figs and almonds. The town centre is more of a bustling tourist resort than the holy place you might expect, its market is a meeting place for bedouins from the Judean Desert.
The Church of the Nativity on Manger Square is believed to be standing on the site of the natural cave (once used as a stable) where Mary gave birth to Jesus. It is entered through a wide, paved courtyard and the central entrance has been lowered to a small opening to prevent horses entering the church. Inside, in almost total darkness, the visitor stands in the low, side narthex. A flight of steps leads to the Grotto of the Nativity and on the marble floor to the side are the words "Here Jesus Christ was born to Virgin Mary". The manger is in the north side of the cave and the grotto is lit by many oil lamps.
The Palestinian territories of Israel.
Guiding Star operates Nativity Trail treks from Nazareth to Bethlehem in Israel. A 12-day trek costs around $1000 per person twin-share, including transfers, accommodation, most meals and tour guide. Tours run until November, 2000 and in March, April and May, 2001.
Qantas flies daily to Bangkok with El-Al connections to Tel Aviv. Return economy airfares start at $2009 from the east coast and Adelaide and $1909 from Perth.
Please note prices are valid at time of transmission and to the best of our knowledge are inclusive of GST.
Guiding Star Ltd
Box 19421 PO, 4 Al Hariri Street,
Ph: 0011 972 02 627 3150
Fax: 0011 972 02 627 3147
Qantas Ph: 13 13 13To book your airfare online, click here