Day 1 began at 8am with a drive up the coast to Caesarea Maritima, an old Roman city, the location of King Herod's palace, a pagan temple turned church turned mosque (this is a pretty common history of buildings here), a theater, aquedact, and hippodrome. Our tour guide, Kavork (George), was full of knowledge, even showing us how the Romans went to the bathroom before they entered the hippodrome!
Following Caesarea Maritima, we continued up the coast to Haifa (sitting on the mountain of Carmel) to see the Baha'i gardens and learn a bit about the Baha'i faith. Haifa is a beautiful city and an example of a location where Jews and Palestinians live together in peace.
After Caesarea Maritima, we visited Acre (Akko in Arabic), a city that has been inhabited for 4,000 years and the location of a Crusader fortress. We had a typical Arabic lunch with shawarma, falafel, salad and pita and then split up between those who wanted to see the Crusader city and those who wanted to see modern-day Acre, placed on stone walls overlooking the Mediterranean Sea.
Our final stop was inland at Nazareth, for a tour of the church of the Annunciation and then Mass together inside. It was an emotional experience for many and we were thankful to celebrate Mass together in a chapel on the grounds.
Finally, after a long day, we checked into Rosary Sisters Guesthouse up the hill in Nazareth. The sister were welcoming and kind to us. We enjoyed soup, pasta, veggies, chicken and wine. Many of us spent the evening sitting out back in the garden or in the front overlooking the city. We had the chance to talk with the sisters about their founder, a Palestinian saint from the 1800s who received apparitions from Mary for two years encouraging her to educate and support Palestinian girls. Many of the sisters were teachers and principals before coming to Rosary Sisters Guesthouse.
Another night's sleep and tomorrow we're off to the Sea of Galilee!