April 19, 2021

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Photo: Nazareth by night

Last week we were up in Galilee. My wife was there over the weekend for a mindfulness retreat, so we decided to go up a couple of days early, to take advantage of the holiday; I returned home when her retreat started.

We arrived on Wednesday and started with a visit to the archeological park at Tsipori, which has had many historical names: Σέπφωρις, Sépphōris; صفورية‎, Διοκαισάρεια) , le Saforie, from the Canaanite period till today. During the Roman period it was the most important town in the province. There are rich remains of houses, streets, a Roman theatre, a water system that brought water from afar, and many ornate mosaic floors. Some of those tell stories, such as of the Nile or from mythology; others have geometric designs. There is one mosaic in particular that stands out among all these for its astonishingly life-like portrait of a woman.

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D. today had a visit from two Palestinian friends from nearby Ramle. When she told them we had visited Tsipori, they told her they knew that the story of the ethnic cleansing of Saffouriya was particularly awful; that the residents had been forced to walk towards Nazareth on foot, and many were shot at on the way. I was not able to find this story, so far, but palestineremembered.com has quite a lot about the village with a pre-1948 population of 5,000. It seems that the majority of the descendants live today in the Ain al-Hilwa refugee camp in Lebanon, whereas some 10,000 live in Nazareth. There's a poignant story by a former resident.

In the evening, which was the eve of Independence Day, we went into Nazareth, where there were, assuredly, no firework displays, flags, or even any Jewish visitors. We walked around a bit, then stopped at Mahroum's cafe for some wonderful knafeh and baklowa. Nazareth is famous for its sweets. It was the second evening of Ramadan, and in the square opposite there was a public prayer. Many of the streets and houses were decked out for the holy month.

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Also in Tabash, the Bedouin village where we were staying, there was lots of evidence of Ramadan; from lights to fire crackers to the calls of the muezzin. We stayed at a camp lodge run by a Jewish couple. Our accommodations were an old (1937) British rail car from the Haifa - Beirut line. It was well furnished and air-conditioned, with a bathroom and balcony added on.

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On the following day, we had a walk in the nearby wadi, visiting its springs. Due to the holiday, we were not alone there, but we got started early enough to avoid the worst of the crowds.

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There are a few more photos in the gallery.

The Ganges, with Sue Perkins

Somewhere, somebody mentioned this series of three BBC documentaries on the Ganges River, so I found these in the torrents and we watched them. I wasn't previously familiar with this TV personality, who is surely well-known to all Brits. I enjoyed her flamboyant style and articulacy. It would be hard not to like her. In the series, she travels downriver from Gangotri and Mukhba, through Rishikesh and Hardwar, to Varanasi and Patna, and on through Kolkata and the Sunderbans, ending in Gangasagar during the Makar Sankranti festival. She manages to meet many amazing people along the way, and introduces them with a mixture of sensitivity and, sometimes, mocking, tongue in cheek camaraderie, though she always leaves a positive impression of those she meets; among these, Ramdev (the ayurvedic products tycoon), Puja Swami Chidananda of Parmarth Ashram, Prof. Veer Bhadra Mishra in Varanasi, and activists for women's rights, education and the environment.

Hot one today.

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Links blog

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