It’s not often that I see a combination of two of my favorite beats: Religion and travel, but a recent story in the Wall Street Journal travel section told of the quickly becoming-famous “Jesus trail” through Galilee that could theoretically be walked in three days.
Tara Burton, the newish religion corresponded for Vox.com, wrote the Journal piece about how she found the 40-mile trail through rural parts of Israel to be welcoming and full of multi-cultural and multi-religious experience. But the comments to the article brought out some other angles: How only in Israel might a Western woman expect to hike unmolested. If Burton tried this in certain others Middle Eastern countries, her experience might have been very different.
First, the article, which, being behind a paywall, will be reproduced here as much as I’m able to cut and paste.
It took five minutes into my pilgrimage for somebody to offer me free food. Leaving my inn, a converted 19th-century mansion in the Israeli town of Nazareth, I’d turned the corner to make the initial ascent toward the Franciscan Mensa Church. The church stands on the site where Christ was said to have dined with his apostles just after his resurrection. A smiling man with a lazy eye, standing by the trail head, decided I should dine, too.
He handed me a chocolate bar, gesturing toward the orange trail markers that demarcated the route. He mimed something approximating “difficult climb,” then also gave me a piece of burma—a sticky, pistachio-studded pastry—the honey staining my fingers. But of course, I had to try this, too. With a combination of hand signals and makeshift Arabic, I tried to convey “delicious,” “thank you” and “please stop: I cannot fit anything else into my bag.”
I spent nearly as much time eating with strangers as walking during my trip earlier this year along the Jesus Trail, a 40-mile trek connecting several major sites of Jesus’ life, from Nazareth to the Sea of Galilee (also called Lake Tiberias). But that was, according to the Jesus Trail’s founders, the point.