Thirteen explorers from five U.S. states met at the opening of 2017 to walk the Jesus Trail. The Trail is a blazed course that passes through urban and rural regions of northern Israel-Palestine. Many sites of significance were encountered by the group; these give testimony to the deep and diverse history of the area known as Galilee.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death …”
This line from the twenty-third Psalm offers comfort in times of trouble, assurance in moments of fear. It has been a whispered prayer of believers through the centuries.
In the savage heat of July 3-4, AD 1187, the Crusader army thumped east from Sepphoris. They stopped to draw water from a spring, presently located behind the McDonalds with the McDrive Thru (Birket Maskana). The goal of the march was ostensibly to relieve the citadel at Tiberias. In a short time, however, that Crusader plan would be reduced to something more primal.
Salah-ed-Din’s eyes narrowed when he received the news. His siege of Tiberias had achieved the desired result. Guy was lured into open country.
I put my nose on the sun.
The pavers of the Roman road scatter and disappear but the ridge continues. Cultivated fields drape like panniers from either side of it. I cut through these, occasionally hopping a fence row. I am certain that at some point I will rejoin the “Jesus Trail.”
I bend forward into the sink. Icy water runs across my hair, face, and neck. The cold shocks the leftover night from my head. It is 4:00 am. The call to prayer sounds in the distance.
I back away from the flow, close the faucet, and shake like a dog. Satisfied, I pull a shirt over dripping hair and skin, and don the elastic band holding a headlamp. I flip the switch.
After losing the Jesus Trail a second time, I trudge back up the hill to the center of Mashhad. I peer across the valley, stymied. The irregular outline of Kafr Canna rises in the distance. It is almost one of those “you can’t get there from here” situations. But I know I can.
The dried seafloor is peeled back to reveal the road. It runs away from me like the pith of a split banana. The creamy ruts of farm vehicles are baked hard and pie-crust frilly on the edges. They issue commentary on a day prior to my own. I’m guessing it was a sweltering one, a humid afternoon of work in the hayfields.
I drop over the al-Nabi Sa’in Ridge and hit dirt. Up until this moment, my experience of the Jesus Trail has been urban. The apartment buildings step downslope toward the Suffuriyyah drainage basin and exhaust themselves. The ground goes rural.
I rise so as not to disturb other sleepers. Three Columbians, two young men and one woman, came into the hostel last night to join the two Canadians and myself already in residence. One of the Columbians took the bunk beside me, another swung into the bunk directly above. I listen to their breathing. It is slow and regular. The single oscillating fan cools the room and helps cover the noise of my exit. I dress and drag my pack out from under the bed. I carry it into the courtyard and set it on a bench.