An interesting footprint

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The Centre International Marie de Nazareth offers visitors a snapshot of the archaeological findings beneath the footprint of their building. Iron Age remains are visible as well as a domestic installations from the NT period.

Today we made a new friend in Jean-Pierre. He helped our group understand these ruins as well as the ministry of the Chemin Neuf community.

The Centre International is located just across the street (and uphill slightly) from the main entrance to the Basilica of the Annuncation. The archaeological presentation as well as a splendid rooftop view to the Basilica may be enjoyed for a donation. Learn more from their website here.

I recommend both if you are in town.


If you or someone you know is interested in experiencing the Land of the Bible in a new way, consider joining one of our trips scheduled for 2020 or 2021! These educational experiences operate as part of the ministry of the Jerusalem Center for Biblical Studies. Find a trip that works with your schedule by clicking the link here or contact me directly at We are currently working on group reservations for 2022.

Sense of scents


A visit to Nazareth is incomplete without a stop at the Elbabour Mill. This stop is a delight to the eye, nose, and heart. The eye is excited by the colors. The nose is captured by the aroma of the earth’s natural flavors. The heart is warmed by the hospitality of our dear friends Tony and Jarjura.

The mill is located in the center of Nazareth’s old market, not far from the community well. It has serviced the agricultural needs of the village since the Late Ottoman period. Its name, el babour, is a Arabic corruption of the phrase “the vapor” and refers to the steam engine that originally powered the mill.

Photo by Bible Land Explorer Jessica Poettker.

Tony Kanaza (far right) never fails to delight with stories of the mill, his latest culinary adventure, and his father. Read about this unique place in Nazareth’s history linked here.

Interested in crafting an adventure of your own in the Land of the Bible? We work with church pastors, administrators, and college professors to customize trips to meet specific educational/ministerial needs. Shoot me a note at to discuss possibilities or join one of the excursions listed here.

Get out of town

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Getting out of Nazareth is one of the first obstacles for the Jesus Trail walker. Several colluding conditions make this challenging: the urban maze, steep stairs, and, at some times of the year, the heat.

The first time I hoofed it out of Nazareth (2013) was in the depth of the summer. I couldn’t do anything about the stairs, but I beat the heat by starting before sunrise. Somewhere along the way I turned around and clicked this picture.

Modern Nazareth is a community built in a geographical “bowl.” At the center of the bowl (like the omphalos of a ceramic vessel) is the Latin Church of the Annunciation. Here, according to tradition, was the boyhood home of Jesus. The hills of Galilee rise on all sides.


Seats are available on three different trips scheduled for Israel/Palestine in the coming summer. Dates of travel are May 25-June 4, June 4-15, and June 26-July 7. The window for sign-ups is closing, so move with speed.

For more information on pricing, itinerary, or other details of these educational tours, drop me a line at For a full list of future travel opportunities, see here.

A little vista, a little vino


Standing on the hillside village of Mashhad, you feel the sprawl of Kfar Kanna in the distance.

Kfar Cana had less than 1,000 residents at the end of the 19th century. Today that population has swelled to more than 20,000. A Christian core still exists. They are quick to point to a biblical memory.

Kfar Kanna is famously associated with the first of the recorded miracles of Jesus, the Wedding Miracle of Cana, or the exchange of water to wine (John 2:1-12). To this day, many tourists (and some Jesus Trail walkers) visit the Franciscan Wedding Church in the center of the village and purchase a bottle of wedding wine in one of the nearby stores.

Despite this lingering memory, most archaeologists prefer to locate the Cana of Jesus’s day at the more remote site of Khirbet Kanna. It is several miles from here (on the other side of the valley) and difficult to reach.

Bot Kfar Kanna and Khirbet Kanna rest to the north of Nazareth in the hills of Lower Galilee.


Our next experience in the land of the Bible is slated for March 12-23, 2019. We’ll be doing a study-tour with Master’s-level students in Johnson University’s residency program. Student trips are always fast-paced, high-energy, and full of great conversation.

For a complete list of travel opportunities in 2019, see our schedule here.

Gazing across Lower Galilee


I stand on the edge of the ancient site associated with the prophet Jonah. Today the hill holds an Arab village by the name of Mashhad.

In the distance, beyond the immediate lines of trees, a dark hill rises with a square structure near the summit (look toward the upper left side of the image, about one-third of the way in from the margin). That dark hill and the slope that runs toward us is the site of Sepphoris. During the time when Jesus was growing up in nearby Nazareth, Sepphoris was being rebuilt as the urban center of all Galilee.

Sepphoris and Mashhad are both sites along the Jesus Trail.

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Our most recent group of Bible Land Explorers just completed a walk along the Jesus Trail, a 65 km trek across Galilee. In addition to exploring Sepphoris, we visited Nazareth, Capernaum, Magdala, and Tiberias.

For a list of travel opportunities in 2019, see our schedule here. You may also contact me at for more details.

Drone pilot

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Cody prepares to launch a drone from the top of the Nabi Sa'in ridge in Nazareth, Israel. Can you believe he controls the flight and camera of that little booger from his cell phone? Incredible!

Capturing a bird’s-eye view of our hike along the Jesus Trail is a new experience. You can tell when the drone is around; it zooms overhead on four propellers and sounds like a swarm of bees.

I can’t wait to see what the aerial camera captures!

Cody is not only an ace drone pilot, he is currently a student at the Cincinnati Christian University and staff member of the Crossroads Community Church in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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Cody and 9 other explorers are walking the Jesus Trail, a 65 km hike across Galilee. In addition to droning around, we are walking, talking, and experiencing sites associated with the Gospel story.

For a list of travel opportunities in 2019, see our schedule here. You may also contact me at for more details.


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Checked out a portion of the Jesus Trail today. It’s been a couple of years. Hiked from Sepphoris to Nazareth and back again. I’d rather get lost solo. I don’t want to do it with a group behind me.

Saw four bushy-tailed foxes in the woods near Sepphoris.

Saw lots of rain too, but a rainbow in the end.

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Our next group is gearing up and will be arriving in Israel/Palestine in just a couple of days. We plan to investigate the region of Galilee and walk segments of the Jesus Trail. Follow this journey on our website, or better yet, consider joining us on a future trip! A list of planned group excursions may be found here.

A Nazarene James

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Inside the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth, Israel, one finds a parade of nations. Contributions of mosaic art cast the image of the Madonna and child in personalized and nationalized ways. The Japanese Mary wears a kimono. The Chilean Jesus is portrayed with dark skin with snowy mountains in the background. It is quite interesting.

Yesterday I studied the contribution of Spain. I saw Mary holding a child. Above Mary was a banner with the words, TU ERES EL HONOR DE NUESTRO PUEBLO, "You are the honor of our people." No surprises there.

But below the Madonna were details I previously overlooked. On the column beneath the Madonna was the cross of St James, or the "Santiago Cross." The connection between this Madonna on a pillar and the Spanish church at Zaragoza is huge (read more about it here).

Beside the pillar is a kneeling figure sporting a brown robe. He has a cockle shell pinned to his chest and in his hands is a hooked walking staff. On the hook dangles the familiar water gourd. It is St James the Greater, the patron saint of Spain, depicted as the pilgrim.

With our 500-mile trek across Spain just around the corner, I am excited to learn more about these symbols of identity. Some have been around me regularly; I just wasn't looking for them.

The more you look the more you see.

Intrepid travelers who desire a more intimate view to the landscape featured in the gospels should consider walking across Galilee on the Jesus Trail, January 8-16, 2019. Vehicle support is provided and will return the group each night to a hotel. Contact me directly at The trip is priced from New York at $2,588. See itinerary here.

On Nazareth's streets

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Members of Cumberland Community Church (Smyrna, Georgia) have left the building! Our 2018 Israel/Palestine Study-Tour explores the hometown of Jesus. Highlights include the Church of the Annunciation, Mary's Well, and the mill that has served the agricultural needs of the local population for more than a century. 

Nazareth's old market continues to experience revitalization. It is a maze of Ottoman-era buildings saturated by the smell of coffee and the sound of calls to prayer.


Interested in visiting Israel/Palestine at a deeply discounted price? Pastors, professors, and their spouses are invited to participate in a unique experience for less than $1,500. Join us on January 8-15, 2019 for a rich engagement that introduces leaders to the potential and pitfalls of group travel in this exciting part of the world.

An important announcement

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The Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth, Israel, celebrates a biblical memory. Here, according to tradition, the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary with the news that she would have a baby. A cave (grotto) at a lower level of the complex marks the spot. The text of Luke 1:26-38 recounts the meeting. In this view, we peer into the seating area of the building where the local parish continues to meet on a weekly basis.

Walls, both inside and outside the structure, present a rich variety of Marian devotions.

Just up the street is Nazareth's ancient spring. There one finds an Orthodox structure dedicated to this same memory of the announcement.

Image by Bible Land Explorer Jay Hess.

A fellow with exceptional taste

My dear friend Tony Kanaza is quick to share a smile, a laugh, a recipe, or a cup of Turkish coffee. You may find him at the El Babour Mill in Old Nazareth. The antique site still houses a 19th century steam mill once described as "babour" or "vapor" powered. If you sit and chat, Tony will tell you happy stories of growing up in this family business. Today, he and his brother Jarjure continue this agricultural focus, growing their own flowers, fruits, spices, and vegetables. For them, life is best spent close the ground, tending traditional technologies, stories, and hospitality.

The El Babour Mill needs to be on the "must visit" list for foodies everywhere or just regular tourists who need a break from the dreariness of life-as-usual.

He passed through their midst

Jon Weatherly contemplates the bilingual labels of a display in the museum annex of St. Gabriel's Greek Orthodox Church, Nazareth. A threatening crowd is pictured, preparing to hurl Jesus from a cliff near the village. Mt Tabor looms above. The scene is described in Luke 4 and comes as a response to Jesus' self-directed interpretation of Isaiah 61. 

In case you are wondering: the story has a positive end.