Day 7 began with a trip to the mayor's office in Nazareth. Ali Salam became the mayor of Israel's largest Arab city two years ago, after serving as deputy mayor for just about two decades. With Raji — another one of our guides — translating, Mayor Salam welcomed us to Nazareth and gave a brief overview of the kinds of work he does, and what he hopes to accomplish.
After discussing the importance of education, peace, and upkeep of the city's cleanliness, he presented our professor with a small tapestry-type ditty and a ceramic plate. Professor Rosentraub, in turn, presented the mayor with a University of Michigan-themed gift. By the end of all the proceedings, Mayor Salam said he considered all of us family.
A walking tour of Nazareth commenced after the diplomatic episode at the mayor's office. Stops along the way included the White Mosque, the Basilica of the Annunciation, the Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation, and the Art and Culture House. Mary's Well, which is alleged to be the site where the Angel Gabriel revealed to Mary that she would be the mother of God, is located just below the Greek Orthodox Church.
All throughout the morning when these goings-on were occurring, my energy reserves felt basically drained. The Israeli sunshine has a way of wearing you out, and though tomorrow marks one week since I arrived in Israel, it feels like we have been here longer.
The energy came out of nowhere, as I suspected it would, when we hit the tennis courts later in the afternoon at the YMCA. One of my classmates opted to take on a reputed future tennis pro — this girl that people were saying is Israel's 13-year-old champion — but I stuck to playing against the kids that were more on my level. Still managed to embarrass myself by completely missing the ball at one point.
Tennis was followed by basketball, which you had to know I'd be getting around to sooner or later. We split up into various teams of five and played against kids ranging in age from about 7 to their early 20s. It was truly quite a production, with loads of kids participating and some community members dropping by to look on. Just like the Mini Mondial from the day before, it was another great example of sport bringing kids together. (And another chance for me to make a fool of myself on a field/court of competition.)
Tomorrow is Israel's Memorial Day, a somber day to commemorate the country's servicemen and women. Independence Day then follows on Thursday, and I've been hearing that people go all out with their celebrations. Things may or may not get lit.