We only stayed for a couple of hours, long enough to visit a souk and two Catholic Churches, but that was plenty of time for Nazareth to charm me and win me over. I'd love to return and spend an entire day roaming the streets, following the signs (which are all in Hebrew, Arabic, English and, curiously, Italian) on the roads leading up and down its maze of hills. Jesus must have had amazing calf muscles!
The next stops along the tour -- the Sea of Galilee and the Jordan River -- are best known as the sites of key moments in the life and times of Jesus Christ, making them, on that level, more or less equally irrelevant to Judaism. That said, one needn't be aligned with any particular faith, or have any at all, to appreciate the breathtaking view of the world's lowest saltwater lake (which is what this "sea" is, technically) as one drives down to it from the hills of Tiberias, 200 meters below sea level, to the very spot where Jesus allegedly walked on water, or, for non-believers, the perfect place to spend an hour gazing out at the water, contemplating the world and our minuscule place in it.
For another thing, after months of entering one antique house of the holy after another, including the adjacent Church of St. Joseph, I thought it was by far the most modern-looking Catholic church I'd ever been to. As places of worship go, it's like the equivalent of 20th-century art, or electronica.
"What a great space for a nightclub!" I said to myself as I looked it up and down, from the polished beams overhead to the smooth marble floor under foot. It's been years since I've stepped either foot into Limelight in New York City. I'm not even sure if it still exists. But suddenly, I had the urge to spend a Friday night and Saturday morning dancing by an altar underneath a giant disco ball with Alison Limerick wailing in my ear. "Where love lives. Where love lives..."
"Did you know that the travel and leisure magazine named it the No. 1 place in the world to visit?" he asked, obviously proud of his heritage and his hometown's crowning achievement. I'm not sure if that is 100 percent accurate, but I did know that Charleston is recognized as a tourism hot spot, and a friend of mine from college who lives there speaks very highly of it. By the time I walked away from Rusty to find my tour group, I was sold on both the man and the city. If he were running for something, he'd have my vote, and I'm putting Charleston right under the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas on my list of places I must visit upon my return to the United States.
The most rewarding part of my time spent along the Jordan River (or as I prefer to call it, the River Jordan, not because I have British aspirations but because, well, I prefer the flow of that name) was watching so many people of various nationalities, ethnicities and faiths come together in one spot for a single, singular purpose. Watching them get dunked, for one brief shining moment, I could have sworn that I actually believed, too.