I’m a 26 year old guy from Lithuania, currently living and studying in Aberdeen, Scotland. This Summer I experienced the most wonderful travel adventure, I can safely say it was the best time of my life. Fed up with Scottish weather and the workload from my university, I decided to take a gap year…
After a few weeks of wondering what I should do next, I applied for one of GoEco’s volunteering projects, Eco-tourism Development in Nazareth. It is an award winning program that works to ‘bridge the gap’ between Arab and Jewish communities while promoting eco-tourism in Nazareth. Besides, for a person who was brought up in the Western civilization, I knew it would be a great way of discovering and interacting with local communities. As a student of International Relations and Management I found this of great interest.
Though Nazareth’s skyline is dominated by the Christian Church of Annunciation, it is predominantly an Arab city. This came as quiet a surprise for me, as before arriving to Israel, I thought that it would be just an ordinary Jewish town, however it has a reputation as ‘the Arab capital of Israel’.
My volunteer placement was in an old Turkish mansion, that had been converted into a cozy Inn. My duties included basically everything that was involved in helping guests at the Inn feel at home – from taking the reservations to baking cakes. I was also involved in guiding people on the Jesus Trail – a walk established so that one may experience the route that Jesus walked, as it connects many sites from his ministry. I even got the opportunity to guide a French journalist, who was writing an article about the trail, which was a very interesting experience for me.
The Inn often organized various tourist and local events, these included concerts, presentations, etc.; as well as a unique guided City Tours and a City Flavors Tour – that involved food tastings in the various restaurants of Nazareth. Volunteers are highly involved in these activities – from guiding the tourists to taking care of the logistics.
I discovered that the residents of Nazareth are a very warm and friendly people. I loved talking and hanging out with them. The manager of the Inn even invited me and another American volunteer for Easter Lunch with her family. It was one of the most memorable experiences during my volunteering period.We tasted loads of the local meals, exchanged interesting conversations, and played with the kids – all in all it made us feel really privileged.
Another great thing is Nazareth’s location. If you have a day off – it takes just an hour or two to get to the Sea of Galilee, Haifa, Acre, or one of the numerous National Parks. Of course – first you have to explore Nazareth itself – the Church of Annunciation, Mary’s Well, the White Mosque, Nazareth Village – there is loads to see. Moreover – anyone who has been there will agree that Nazareth is the best place to experience the flavors of Arab kitchen.
Amazing experience, great food, friendly people, interesting history – it is definitely worth going to Nazareth!