Today was our final day in the city of Nazareth, and we began by walking to the Municipal Center to have a word with Tareq. Sitting in a classroom typically reserved for the training of city tour guides like Yair, Tareq spoke about the importance of religious tourism.
Professor Rosentraub and Tareq, in fact, hit home on the point that Nazareth — and Israel generally — cannot try to out-Greek the Greeks, or try to provide cheaper vacations than those available in Turkey, or compete with the beaches available along European coastlines; rather, it is imperative that the city promotes its religious sites, like some of those I mentioned in the last post.
As they pointed out, Nazareth is a city with much biblical history. It is where Mary learned she would be the mother of God and also where Jesus grew up. Professor Rosentraub went on to say that the Vatican is one of the most heavily-visited sites in the world, and yet Christianity has no foundations there; Nazareth and other parts of Israel are where the real deal occurred.
Following our discussion of economics and tourism, we ventured to the Centre International Marie de Nazareth, where a sweet little woman welcomed our group and ushered us into a theater to view the story of the Old and New Testaments. They had the entire bible distilled down to four episodes, beginning with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and concluding with Jesus' Resurrection. With a multitude of biblical quotes, moving parts, and light and sound effects, the story of Christianity was laid out in a rather dynamic way. Kids in Sunday school would have been thoroughly enthralled, let me just say.
A hockey clinic materialized late in the afternoon, and the five University of Michigan women's hockey team players on the trip were quick to pick up the sticks and get to work. I remained on the sidelines for this one and let the college hockey players do their thing. It was a competitive game, but more important was the fact that everyone had fun. The coach of the Nazareth Tigers presented Professor Rosentraub with a plaque before all was said and done.
The evening saw us to Afula, a city fifteen minutes south of Nazareth that was bumpin' for Israel's Independence Day (which officially started at 7 PM local time, as the country adheres to a lunisolar calendar). People of all ages were out enjoying carnival-type activities, eating cotton candy, blowing bubbles, and taking in a large concert. Fireworks even lit up the sky at one point. It was about as lit as it could have been; you can't ask for much more than that.
Tomorrow we cross the border into Jordan. Professor Rosentraub says the security at the Israeli/Jordanian border is much like that we would encounter at an airport, only we aren't flying anywhere. Hopefully all goes on without a hitch.