Mary's Home

What I Saw In The Holy Land, part 5
When I learned that Nazareth is a majority Arab city, I expected it to look like Bethlehem: a dying city hidden behind a wall or fence. Au contraire; it's a bustling place, known among the locals for its traffic. The difference is that the inhabitants are not Palestinian Arabs, but Israeli Arabs. They are Israeli citizens, carry Israeli passports, vote in Israeli elections, even serve in the Israeli Defense Force if they want to (few do, and they aren't required to as Israeli Jews are). Nazareth is a town that supports the Palestinian Christian claim that tensions are not so much Jew-Arab as Muslim-everyone else. Here you have Arabs living in peace with with their neighbors for the most part, governing their own town and thriving without the Israeli "man" keeping them down. The tensions that exist are between Muslims and Christians (few Jews live there), but at present these are more political tensions than violent ones. Majority Muslim city council using public lands for mosques and minarets, that sort of thing.

Nazareth feels less tense, more jolly. The only aggression I experienced was from peddlers in front of their souvenir shops. They see you going by and rush to greet you in six languages to see which one seems to "take." And if you buy anything, they're not satisfied for you to take one or two. Their bargains are not on the order of 1 for $3 and 2 for $5. It's more like 10 for $5 and 16 for $8. Of course this is a culture of barter, so you never just accept the price, but my hardest-driven bargain came trying to purchase two little stuffed camels for my little guys. Just two. Not four or six, as the guy wanted. It almost seemed more important to him to unload four than to get his price, for reasons I can only speculate about. (This is an Israeli tourism stock photo; I have no idea who this person is, and from her dress it's summertime --we definitely needed our coats. But I wanted you to see what these shops look like. Religious goods of course, plus colorful ceramic plates, pashmina scarves and knick-knacks.)