Sunday, September 17, 2017

one hungry week in Galilee

Did you know parking is free on Sundays in Nazareth?

When you arrive Monday mid-afternoon, you have to pay 50 shekels for a parking spot, which you desperately skid into while dodging buses roaring down Paulus ha-Shishi Street. But if you tool down the hill to Nazareth one sunny Christian sabbath day, in time for early morning Arabic mass at the  the Basilica if the Annunciation (grotto level), then you can park in the cherished parking slots along the main drag. The street is still quiet at 6:30am, the corrugated gates which cover the entry-ways to the hummus joints and souvenir shops rattle in the breeze. When you arrive, the streets are sparsely populated in the soft light of morning.

When you leave mass, some of the shops have lifted up their gates. There are kebabs and sweets beginning to be cooked. Aromas wind their way through the morning air, accompanying the low roar of activity.

The journey from Mary's Well at the top of Pope Paul VI street down to the Church of the Incarnation in Nazareth is an easy journey, once you know the way. But I walked in the opposite direction, towards the nearest bank which took international cards in its ATM. I was low on cash. In Galilee, low on cash, and running out of gas on the Jewish sabbath day, I was hungry. I didn't have the conveniences of a city: shops open late, restaurants on every street corner, ATMs that took my well-worn credit card (only two years old now, really. His birthday was the day Videology charged me twice and fried my old credit card). So I was hungry--really hungry--by the time it was that Sunday morning in Nazareth, and I wolfed down that plate of warm hommus after mass. That was beautiful. I sat in the shop, and wrote while I watched a pistol-packing pater familias and his children enjoy their breakfast a few tables away.

I don't know if anything has ever tasted as good as that hommus, drizzled in olive oil and chickpeas. Dipping fresh pita into the tangy paste, and feeling an empty stomach fill with good, rich fresh tomatoes, tart olives, and spicy pickles.

I walked back towards Mary's Well, and ran into a man on a bike who needed to find the youth hostel.  He had been biking through the Swiss alps. I wondered if he had biked all the way down to Nazareth from Switzerland. I told him I was going to Caesarea Philippi that afternoon. He said he wanted to go. The fishing line of his unasked request hung in the air. I circled it like a wary sun bass examining my dad's fishing lure. I contemplated biting, extending the invitation to join me, as solo travelers are supposed to do. But I didn't.

Instead, after resting on the stoop outside the orthodox church that houses the mysterious flowing spring of the annunciation well, and write to the tune of Orthodox chant, I pack up a slice of knafeh as big as my head to eat on the steps of the hippodrome in Caesarea Philippi, overlooking the pounding blue waves of the mediterranean, as a summer camp of Israeli school girls race around the red sand of the track of the ancient race track. This is living, I think, as I sit alone on stadium seating hewn of giant stones, eating hommus, pita, and sweet, creamy knafeh among the ghosts of former spectators. After waiting the appropriate hour (or two?) after eating, I dip into the aquamarine waves, ignoring the trash, and dodge the sharp rocks of the ancient harbor, as the tide pulls the sun gently into the watery horizon.

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