My first favorite place we went was a 4th century synagogue in Nazareth. (Here is a picture of the sign outside the synagogue giving a short explanation and the inside of the synagogue)
This has been built on top of the 1st century synagogue where Christ would have gone in His day. I am sure most of you are familiar with the Luke chapter 4 account where Jesus enters the synagogue to read. He stands and reads Isaiah 61:1-2 and then says, "This day, this scripture is fulfilled in your ears." He is reading this statement and professing to be the long-awaited Messiah in front of all the people He grew up with. They can't handle this. They still see Him as being too human. He is too human and too natural to be the Messiah in their eyes. In fact, they say something like "Isn't this Joseph's son? The son of the carpenter?"
This makes me think of how sometimes people don't have as much respect as they should for Church leaders because they think they know more than them or they choose to pick out the weaknesses of the leader. I loved the opening of Elder Andersen's talk in conference when he said, "To those who know me, if ever I have been less than I should have been in your presence, I ask for your patience and forgiveness..." I also think about Joseph Smith and his apology to the Lord for being too light-minded at times. Anyway, sorry for the digression... back to Nazareth. So, Jesus must have had a very Jewish background to be able to read in a synagogue. In coming back and proclaiming Himself as the Messiah, He had to close of the chapter of His youth because they did not accept Him. This must have been very, very hard for Him. It was courageous on His part to do such a thing. To think that He wasn't even accepted by some of the people who knew Him best is a very sobering thought.
I especially loved my time spent on the Mount of Beatitudes.
This is where Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount. We read all of the Beatitudes and certain students were selected to share their personal experiences they had had with each blessing. It was quite powerful. I spent a lot of time reflecting there on "Be ye therefore perfect." Actually, since being in this land I have wondered what it means to really be perfect. Being perfect doesn't mean being devoid of emotions that can been seen as negative by some. I think I used to kind of think because it seems that emotion and reactions to things can sometimes be quite human. Yet, you see Christ overturning the table of the moneychangers and weeping upon the news of John the Baptist's death and He was still perfect.
Another of my favorite things to do was just pondering and reflecting as I sat on the shores of the Sea of Galilee.
I imagined Christ walking on the water and pulling Peter up when he lost his focus. One night was very stormy and I was able to envision what it would have been like as Christ calmed the raging storm. It made me think of a wall hanging in my friend Melissa’s apartment that reads something like, "Sometimes the Lord calms the storm. Sometimes He lets the storm rage and the Lord calms His child." I think it is often the latter. We cannot be in control of everything around us, everyone has their agency, but if we put our focus on the Lord, He will focus on us and succor us during our times of need.
Another one of my favorite spots in the Galilee was Nain.
I am not sure if you know the story of the widow of Nain. If you do, just skim this part… if not, I will recount it quickly. The story is told in Luke 7. Basically this widow's last son dies. Christ is impressed to go far out of His way to this little place called Nain. He catches them right in the middle of the funeral procession. This widow has lost her husband (obviously) and now has lost her last surviving son, which in these times meant she had no social security left. Our Savior raises her only remaining son from the dead.
This story goes to show that our Lord loves us. He cares for our every need. He knows when we are struggling and who needs help the most. There was no other reason for the Savior to be in Nain on that day and he was not pre-acquainted with the woman or her son. This is a powerful lesson that says something about the little people of this world and how much they mean to the Lord. He knows my name and your name... He really does. I don't know how it all works—but that isn't the important part—the important part is that He is watching over us and mindful of our lives. He even cares about the smallest things that we care about. It is truly amazing.
Okay, sorry for composing this in such haste... hope it's still partially enjoyable to read :) Love you all!