If you were to travel anywhere around the Mediterranean world in the first century, there’s a pretty good chance you’d have done it on one of the roads constructed by Rome for the purpose of moving both the Roman Army and the trade goods that were the life blood of the empire. These meticulously constructed roads were the marvels of the age, so much so that they still exist in good order in some places.
One of the main roads in the eastern part of the empire was the Via Maris or “The Way of the Sea.” Stretching from Mesopotamia to Egypt, this ancient route was like an interstate superhighway in the days of Jesus, and of all the places we’ve walked over the last couple of days, the Via Maris is one of the most likely to have felt his footfalls on the way to and from Galilee back home to Nazareth.
We came upon a piece of the Via Maris today, perhaps the only piece of the route that still exists, and it sits in the middle of a thistle infested farm field near Kibbutz Lavi, our destination for today. We had to pass a dead cow to get there and my legs are pretty scratched up from cutting across country, but it was worth it to see pieces of the road. It’s clear that some of the farmers over the years had taken some of the stones and scattered them, but the road bed was still there even after 2,000 years.
Seeing this ancient road was a highlight for today, which began last night, actually, with dinner at the home of Marwa’s parents. We experienced the wonders of Arab hospitality as we sat at a table groaning with so many delights (including the best stuffed peppers I have ever eaten). After dinner we sipped Arabian coffee and told some stories. Marwa’s dad speaks very little English, but he is a warm and funny man who is clearly loved by the family. He looked at Chris and said, “You look [like] Bill Clinton.” Chris did his Clinton impression and we were off to the races. President Clinton is very popular here among the Arab population because of his peace efforts and soon more of the cousins who live near by stopped by to take a look at “Bill.”
We heard their family stories which are like most family stories. One picture of a 16 year-old boy, focused the family’s attention. He was Marwa’s mother’s brother, killed during a demonstration in Cana in 1976. It was a reminder that while many people like this special family are seeking to live their lives in peace, peace is still an elusive concept here.
After Marwa fixed us a great breakfast this morning, we climbed out of Cana and into hillsides of olive groves and hay fields. This was more of what I envisioned for hiking the Jesus Trail and the views were beautiful. We missed a blaze again and had to take a short detour (but we used the combination route finding skills of a former boy scout and ex-infantry scout to reason our way back to the trail on the way to the Roman road.
We arrived at Kibbutz Lavi, our stop for the evening. Lavi is one of the only religious kibbutz in Israel (most are agriculturally oriented) and they have a lovely hotel where we are crashing tonight. We had a marvelous kosher buffet and a relaxing evening after a long day’s hike. Tomorrow we head up to Arbel via the Horns of Hattin and I’ll report more from there.