Thursday, February 26, 2015
VALLEY OF DOVES
Valley of Doves, Nazareth, Israel
As we drove through the Galilee region of Palestine we pulled off the road into the Valley of Doves bounded by steep hills. Another mountain trail lay at our feet winding into the green underbrush at the valley floor. And a small gurgling stream ran beside the trail which led to Nazareth. The trail had occupied this place for centuries and Jesus and his disciples quite probably used it as they walked from town to town, healing and preaching in the local synagogues. Since the principle mode of travel in those days was on foot, it helps to explain why most of Jesus’ life was spent within a fifty mile radius, even though his influence ultimately reached around the world. Walking the trail was a good diversion to leave the bus seats and stretch our legs. And besides, how often do you get to go for a walk and trace the footsteps of Jesus? That short walk alone was worth the trip to Israel.
The partly cloudy day was giving way to twilight and the valley was beginning to darken as we walked about a half mile through the valley between the towering hills. Some of our party had split off and was attempting to traverse a rather steep trail directly up one of the hills to a series of natural caves in the outcroppings. They were reluctant to turn back in spite of the diminishing light and the severity of the climb. As I panned my telephoto lens over the surrounding hills, I spotted movement up ahead just off the trail. It was just far enough away that all I could make out was a dark animal foraging in the brush. It had the appearance of a black bear and we shouted to our adventurous group on the other trail that it might be prudent to head for the bus. They didn’t need to be told twice.
When we returned to the safety of the bus, our guide informed us that there were no bears in this country, but we were late in departing anyway. Later, as I reviewed my camera images on a computer screen, the animal turned out to be a wild pig. We actually weren’t all that far from the south end of the Sea of Galilee where Jesus exorcised a legion of demons from an outcast man living among the tombs. They recognized Jesus as the Son of the Most High God and begged to go into a herd of nearby pigs that were feeding on the hillside. The pigs then rushed down a steep bank into the lake. Who knows? Perhaps this wild pig was a descendent and we tuned around just in time.