Guardian Weekly – 19 December 2003 Weekends in Nazareth, the capital of Israel’s one million Palestinian citizens, are often a dismal prospect. For more than a decade a night out has entailed either leaving town or visiting a pub known locally as the Frank Sinatra, housed in a drab building paid for by the singer [...]
Through the dark nights of the intifada, the gigantic illuminated spire of the Basilica of the Annunciation has glowed brightly in the centre of Nazareth like a beacon of inextinguishable hope. The basilica, the biggest in the Middle East, is built over a grotto believed to have been the home of Joseph and Mary and the place where the Archangel Gabriel appeared to tell Mary she was bearing the son of God. This Christmas the two cities associated with Jesus – Nazareth, in Israel, and Bethlehem, in what might one day become Palestine – will be shunned again by pilgrims. The nativity festivities will have to wait for another day, and a far-off peace. But the story of Nazareth, the town of Jesus’s childhood, is not just of interest to pilgrims. The hills and the valley in which we know it has nestled for the past 2,000 years are revealing an older, but sadly neglected, record of human history, of our species’ struggle to survive and its search for meaning.