The PJ Tatler

MidEast Dispatch: Interfaith Outreach in the Hometown of Jesus

I’m traveling in the Middle East this month and will be reporting on my trip here at PJ Media. Among my first stops during this trip was a visit on Saturday to Nazareth, the traditional home of Mary, the mother of Jesus, and after their return from Egypt, the home of the Holy Family. Today Nazareth is known at “the Arab capital of Israel” due to the large number of Arab Muslims and Christians living there.

Undoubtedly the top tourist spot in Nazareth is the Basilica of the Annunciation, where traditionally Mary was visited by the Angel Gabriel recorded in Luke 1: 26-38. The Basilica is built over the ruins of two previous churches, built in 427 and 1187, both of which were destroyed by Islamic occupiers, and the buried remains of the ancient Nazareth. Recently, the first house from the Jewish settlement from the first century was was announced by archeologists.

As I discovered yesterday, on the street traversed by hundreds of thousands of Christian pilgrims each year who must climb the street from the bus parking lot up to the basilica are greeted by several banners prominently displayed just yards from the entrance of the church.

As you can see in the photo below, the banners bear Quranic insults directed at the Christian pilgrims traveling to the basilica taken from Sura 3:

3:85 – And whoever desires other than Islam as religion – never will it be accepted from him, and he, in the Hereafter, will be among the losers.

3:64 – Say, “O People of the Scripture, come to a word that is equitable between us and you – that we will not worship except Allah and not associate anything with Him and not take one another as lords instead of Allah .” But if they turn away, then say, “Bear witness that we are Muslims [submitting to Him].”

3:51 – [Jesus said] Indeed, Allah is my Lord and your Lord, so worship Him alone. That is the straight path.

When I asked about it, my tour guide said that not long ago the building bore the black Al-Qaeda flag – not more than 50 yards from one of the holiest Christian sites in the Holy Land. He added that he speakers seen in the picture blare Islamic prayers throughout the day. You can see the dome of the basilica immediately above.

Nazareth-church-sign

At the top of the hill above the basilica the Saudis recently built a gold-domed mosque that is just slightly taller than the top of the Christian school next door. Interfaith outreach in the hometown of Jesus.