Junior Journey: Finding Religious Pluralism in Nazareth and Mount Carmel

Shayna D., Class of 2018
From Nazareth's Basilica of the Annunciation to a Druze village on Mt. Carmel, juniors are having experiences that can't be duplicated in a classroom.
After packing up our bags and leaving the North, we arrived in Nazareth, an Arab city where Mary, the mother of Jesus, was told that she would have a baby.

At the church where members of the Orthodox Church believe this event took place, we learned some Christian history from our amazing tour guide, Shaia. He read to us in Hebrew from the New Testament and reflected on the fact that, while it seems normal for us to hear the Bible in Hebrew, for many Christians it's incredible to hear the New Testament read in the language that Jesus spoke.

We all felt the strong connection between Judaism and Christianity. The Orthodox Church was beautiful and we got the opportunity to hear a very moving prayer service. Some students could even understand it because they were singing in Russian.

We then got the opportunity to hear from an Orthodox-Christian Arab. Since this day was focused on minorities in Israel, we learned what it's like to be a minority within a minority: both an Arab and a Christian. We were all blown away by the things he told us. Personally, I did not know anything about Christian Arabs and to be able to hear from one and see their most holy site was the incredible kind of learning that is just not possible in a classroom.

We asked many, many questions and every answer surprised us. I was most surprised to hear how connected he felt to Israel and to the Jewish people. After our conversation, we went to the Church built around the ruins of Mary's home, which is the place that Roman Catholics believe the Annunciation took place. The Church was absolutely beautiful and the walls were adorned with images of Mary and Jesus from around the world. It was really interesting to see the way that different countries and cultures depict these two figures.

After visiting the churches we had some free time in Nazareth. Most of us went into bakeries and tried delicious Arab desserts. We then got back on the bus and rode up Mount Carmel to a Druze village where we shared a lunch complete with hummus, pita, eggplant, meat, and couscous. The Druze told us that the more we ate, the more it showed our love, so we ate A LOT.

After lunch, our host taught us all about the Druze religion. A lot of us had never learned about it before and it was really interesting. We were all surprised to learn that Druze men join the army and feel a strong connection to the land of Israel.

After saying goodbye, we boarded the bus bound for Tel Aviv, singing Israeli songs as we stared out the window at the sun setting over the Mediterranean Sea. We had dinner at the hotel, after which we all received maps of Israel that traced our journey so far. It was really nice to reflect back on everything we've done and how far we've gone in such a short time. We are all so excited to be in Tel Aviv and to see what adventures we will embark on 
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The Jewish Community High School of the Bay (JCHS) is a unique college preparatory high school committed to integrating deep learning, universal wisdom, and Jewish values. We empower each student to embrace her or his Jewish identity, generate empathy and compassion, delight in lifelong education, and improve the world.