In today’s reality of fast food restaurants and supermarkets, we often forget about where our food comes from and how it makes it onto our tables. This is especially true of seemingly simple staples, such as bread. Wheat and barley, sometimes as parched grain or in the form of loaves or cakes, were the cornerstones of the average person’s diet in Biblical times. Large amounts of time and energy were expended to get bread on the table: plowing, seeding, waiting and praying (for the right amount of rain, at the right time!), harvesting, threshing, winnowing, storing, milling, and baking.

All parts of this process are re-employed, symbolically, by the prophets of the Bible to illustrate and unpack Spiritual truths and deliver prophetic messages.

Let us focus in on threshing and winnowing.

Threshing is the process by which grain is broken apart into its constituent parts: wheat—the kernels, chaff—the husks that held the kernels, and the straw—the stocks on which the heads of grain grow. Winnowing is the process by which the grain is separated from the other elements in preparation for storage and use.

In a pinch, we can simply rub the heads of grain between both hands, and blow away the chaff with our breath. This is the method that was being used by Jesus’ disciples when they were hungry and on a journey with Jesus through a field on the Sabbath (Luke 6:1 // Matt. 12:1) “…his disciples plucked the heads of grain and ate them, rubbing them in their hands.”

Another small-scale method was to beat out the heads of grain with a stick or rod. We have two examples of this in scripture: when Ruth “beats out” her gleanings at the end of the day (Ruth 2:17), and in Judges 6:11—when the angel of the LORD first appears to Gideon – as he is “beating out wheat in the wine press” in order to save it from being stolen by the Midianite raiders.

The most efficient and large-scale operation requires a threshing floor (a large, flat, hard, circular area), a threshing sledge, and animals—oxen or mules are preferred, although donkeys can also be used. There are different designs for the sledge – but the most probable (and common) design in Biblical Israel was a wood rectangle, approximately 1×1.5 meters (3×5 feet), with stones or flint chips or iron spikes inserted into the bottom side. These teeth speed up the threshing process helping to cut and crush up the wheat. (2 Sam. 4:22; Isa. 41:15)

Finally, we take a winnowing fork and throw the threshed wheat mixture into the air: the wind blows away the lighter parts – the chaff and straw, and the wheat—which is heavier—falls down and is collected for storage and use.

As you can see, threshing, by its very nature, is a violent process—where the grain is beaten, cut, and crushed—and so it is often used in scripture to represent destruction and judgement. We, as God’s people, also experience difficult times, but we have the good hope of knowing that this is a necessary preparatory step—leading to our being gathered into “God’s barn”, our eternal home in heaven (Matt. 3:12 // Luke 3:17). The place where all tears will be wiped away from our eyes (Rev. 21:4). Halleluya!

(Written by Nathaniel Wiseman – guide at Nazareth Village)

 

 

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While originally Nazareth Village started as a place for people to learn about the first century life, one could not ignore the beauty it has to offer to movies and documentaries. Over the years, Nazareth Village has attracted many film crews, directors and producers as an accurate set for many films. In the past we had large productions for feature films such as “Amazing Love,” and “Women of the Bible.” Many major TV networks such as, BBC, NBC, National Geographic, Discovery Channel, History Channel and more used Nazareth Village’s authentic setting as the perfect location for many of their productions.

Since the beginning of the year we have had over 30 productions. They vary from small ones that will serve as an in-church teaching videos to full on TV and feature productions. These productions help present the Village to wide rage of audiences around the world providing exposure as well.

One of the productions that is worth mentioning was a live broadcast in Spanish called Despierta America Show on the Univision Network. This broadcast covered all of South America as well as parts of North America and Europe. The Spanish speaking hosts put on first century costumes provided by Nazareth Village and presented different scenes of the Village. Since this was an Easter and Passover themed broadcast, they also filmed our special passover meal while Amer, one of our best guides, explained about the elements of the Passover meal.

Another interesting production we had was from the Philippines. The show Biyahe Ni Drew on the GMA Network, which has over a million followers on YouTube, is very famous in the Philippines and the episode featuring Nazareth Village has over 30k views. The host of the show does adventurous activities at times and tries different kinds of food, so it made sense for us to have him ride a donkey and try our first century meal. It happened that we had a group from the Philippines having our Biblical meal at the same time and they recognised the host and took pictures with him.

The month of June has been especially busy with productions from many places and several languages. Early on, Al-Hayat, one of the leading Arabic Christian TV networks, used our site as the location for teaching that will reach Arabic, English, Farsi, and Polish speaking groups around the world.

Later, we hosted a production from Canada for three days. This was a TV5 production in French called Parconaute which visits several parks and attractions around the world and shares the experience with the viewers. This is the first production of its kind, and we expect it to share the Village with the French speaking parts of the world. We believe this will attract more French speaking visitors to Nazareth Village.

One of the productions that is very important to us is for the Museum of the Bible in Washington D.C. which will open in the fall of 2017. The museum is cooperating with Nazareth Village to recreate portions of the Village that will allow the museum visitors the opportunity to have a small taste of what Nazareth Village is like. Cary Summer, the president of the Museum of the Bible, is one of the people who envisioned Nazareth Village and supported it since the beginning. He says that the museum wants to encourage people to visit Nazareth Village in the Holy Land, and what will be recreated at the museum will, in no way, compete with the original; Nazareth Village. The scenes filmed for the museum at Nazareth Village will be seen in different areas of the museum itself, a constant reminder to the visitors that they need to come and see!

We are ever so thankful for our talented staff who not only work hard to keep the Village accurate in every possible way, but also are welcoming and helpful in making even the simplest of productions outstanding!

(Written by Majd Shufani – Guide at Nazareth Village)

 

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For many years now, Dr. Linford Stutzman has been religiously bringing groups of his Eastern Mennonite Seminary (EMS) students to Nazareth Village. Over the years he developed a unique educational plan designed specifically to be carried out at Nazareth Village. The idea is to have the students in the class room, but also experience being a first century Villager first hand.

Dr. Stutzman brought a group of his students this past April. The students split in half: half stayed in class in the hall at Nazareth Village, and the other half dressed up in first century costumes and experienced the life of the first century. They would alternate roles depending on the assignments for each day. This year we had a project for them to help us out with, which is fixing the roof of our landlord’s house. Normally, and especially during the busy season, it takes a long time to fix such a roof. But with the help of the student volunteers we were able to get that roof fixed within a few days only.

Below, Dr. Linford Stutzman talks about Nazareth Village as a unique learning experience.

(Written by Majd Shufani – Guide at Nazareth Village)

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Since its opening, Nazareth Village understood its important role as a ministry to the locals. While most of the visitors are pilgrims from around the world, Nazareth Village’s aim is to be a beacon of light to those who live in the Holy Land as well. The stories of miracles told here reach beyond those mentioned in the Bible, proof that the Lord is indeed the same yesterday, today and forevermore. This Easter and Passover season, we prayed for God’s guiding hand to lead us through a season of love-driven redemption; a gospel for all.

The best story that can be told in the home town of Jesus is the story of Jesus. And there are many ways to tell a story, but no matter how we tell it, truth is at the centre of it. We invited people to come to Nazareth Village on the social media, and the response of excitement we received was overwhelming. People were sharing our invitation with their friends, many others were asking each other if they know about the place and arranging to arrive. Those who arrived received a special price as well as a wonderful experience.

In addition to locals, schools in the area of Nazareth became familiar with the excellence of special programs Nazareth Village provides. Several local schools came for a special Easter tour, which was designed in an interactive way giving every pupil the chance to participate in the story. They were gathered on the sides of one of the paths holding palm branches, as one of the chosen pupils to play Jesus passed through riding on the donkey. Then they gather in the synagogue for the scene of the trial of Jesus. Then, carrying the cross, the pupil portraying Jesus walks through the paths of the Village. At one point, the Roman soldier leading Jesus ordered a passerby, Simon of Cyrene, to carry the cross to the crucifixion scene. Then, everyone gathers at the tomb where an angel appears telling of the good news of the resurrection of Jesus.

All throughout the special program, the Villagers sang Easter songs with the school children. Scripture was also read in various places to teach about God’s saving love from the Bible. Many teachers expressed their gratitude for sharing the true meaning of Easter with the children, and they were very happy with the experience they enjoyed.

We were also approached by a local church asking to use our facilities for an Easter themed evangelistic event. The synagogue was made available for them, as it could seat the most people, at the same time providing an ever-so-fitting setting. People were invited to the event, and we saw many from different backgrounds come to hear the Gospel for the first time in their life. We are so humbled to have had the small role that we played in making this event successful giving all glory to God.

(Written by Majd Shufani – Guide at Nazareth Village)

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One of the unique things about Nazareth Village is that it teaches out of the box. Most of what one learns is from observation with a little push from the trained tour guides. Yes, there are many new things that one can learn from the guides. And not taking away from the guides’ professionalism and communication skills, most of what sticks with people and what amazes them most; what they will never forget, is what they learn through their first-hand, hands-on experiences and observations. I, as a Nazareth Village guide, am no stranger to such experiences, and not a day passes by without learning something new.

My name is Majd, I’m one of the guides at Nazareth Village. I got my bachelor’s degree in Christian Ministries with a minor in youth ministry. I’ve got 40 hours of Bible classes under my belt. I’ve read many books in the process, I sat through many classes, and I’ve had much valued one-on-one time with some of my professors. When I started working at Nazareth Village, things I’ve learned in college expanded my ability to explain to people who visited the Village about the first century life. Little did I know then that I was in for a real life-lesson, pun intended.

The different areas at Nazareth Village provide a uniquely dynamic experience: seasons change and with that activities change. So, depending on what time of the year a group arrives they see certain things in action. That means that other things might be static, such as the tomb, which by not being used is a very positive thing! Other stations you can count on and predict what experience you can provide there, such as the carpentry shop as well as the weaver’s house.

Then, you have stations with animals. This is where it gets interesting, because if there is one things you learn in the show business, in our case it is show-and-tell business, avoid working with babies and animals. But even when there is a donkey on the loose, one can learn something about trying to catch it wearing first century garments and sandals. Although working with animals can be difficult, some things you can still rely on, like the sheep’s behaviour.

Of all the things one can explain about sheep, my favourite thing is explaining about separating the goats from the sheep. I remember reading that passage in Matthew 25 and understanding that it talks about the end of days and punishment. But why did Jesus talk about goats and sheep? Is it at all of a certain significance? Why would one separate the goats from the sheep? I took these questions and turned to my grandpa, as far as I know he lived a similar life to that which Jesus lived; he lived in a house made of stone, had to go to the well to draw water, and when needed he had to do some shepherding too.

My grandpa explained to me the difference between goats and sheep. Of course, there is the obvious outwardly difference, but he said, “it is what you don’t see at first glance that matters.” He said, “both goats and sheep wander around and graze, they move together, they lay down to rest in the same place, but if you spend enough time with them you will notice that sheep do not initiate the movement to a new location; goats do!”

So I decided to spend some time with the goats and sheep and I felt as if scales fell out of my eyes. I could not believe how obvious it was, just there, under my nose this whole time. I noticed, on one hand, that the goats wandered around, each on their own, reflecting their leading and independent nature. Sheep, on the other hand, seemed a more simple creature, following whatever or whoever leads, moving in groups unquestioning the direction they are going in. In simple words, they are not bright creatures, no-where near as bright as goats. Maybe there is a reason we are called “sheep” in the Bible!

The illustration Jesus was using in Matthew 25 started to make so much sense. He was talking about how there are people who are leaders, and unfortunately, like goats, they mislead the others. When sheep are following a goat that means they are not following the Good Shepherd. Goats are those false teachers, anybody who misleads people, taking them away from following Jesus, the Good Shepherd. Every time I stand before a group and explain about this connection I could see on their faces, their smiles, or even shaking their heads in agreement that something made sense to them. But it is when the goats start wandering around followed by the sheep that people start laughing making remarks such as “that is so true!” The most pleasing part for me is knowing that the sight of the illustration spoken by Jesus 2,000 years ago will never escape their mind.

(Written by Majd Shufani – Guide at Nazareth Village)

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A few days ago, we bid farewell to a dear family member. Mary! She went to be with the Lord, and we believe she is resting in His arms free from illness and pain.

She was a sweet kind-hearted mother, sister, coworker and cook to all of us. Her smile and warmth went before her and she always sparkled with the love of Jesus to all who visited her kitchen here at the Village. We were honored to serve the Lord with such a marvellous friend.

You are already missed, dearest Mary!

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Last year was filled with blessings and surprises against all odds. While we were dealing with the effects of several unfortunate events in the country we decided to do something that gives people hope, especially in the Christmas time. For the first time in years we held a Christmas program, but we wanted to do it differently. This year we wanted people to stay at the Village, talk, sing carols together, and eat together! We wanted a nostalgic Christmas experience for the whole family, one that is truly holds the Christmas spirit, and most importantly, one that has Jesus at the centre.

The experience was designed in a way that allows families to walk around from one station to another at their convenience. Children could ride donkeys, create Christmas crafts and watch our special children’s film, “Growing Up With Jesus.” The King’s Kids also performed interpretive dances to Christmas songs, and a storyteller engaged the listeners as he told the Nativity story and how Jesus the King was born in a manger. A Roman soldier walked around announcing the beginning of the carol singing time, as well as the arrival of Joseph and Mary into the sheep’s pin where people could get their picture made with them. And people enjoyed a unique variety of foods in a a warm and cosy setting. To take the experience one step closer to the first century, people exchanged their money with the “Widow’s Mite,” which was used in order to participate in certain activities.

Over the course of two nights we had over 700 visitors, mostly locals as well as tourist. The feedback was very positive so much so we were asked if we could do it for one more night. “You made us feel the real meaning of Christmas” was the most frequent comment we heard throughout the program.

(Written by Majd Shufani – Guide at Nazareth Village)

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“I thank the Lord for the opportunity to serve in this unique ministry alongside unique staff to share with the world about Jesus in His very own hometown.” – Maha – Director

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“I thank the Lord for the people that come through Nazareth Village despite the situation in the country. God has blessed us a lot through out visitors.” – Ibrahim – Gift shop

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“I thank the Lord for giving me the health to be able to provide for and support my family in such hard times.” – Joseph – Carpenter

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“I thank the Lord for being able to receive large numbers of visitors. We heard about groups cancelling, but God blessed us with more visitors than we expected.” – Samuel – Landlord

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“I thank the Lord for giving us the strength to host large numbers for our Biblical meals, and for being able to give them a unique unforgettable experience.” – Saul – Farmer

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“I thank the Lord that although I’ve reached retirement I’m still able to be a part of the Nazareth Village Family. God has strengthened me to continue working.” – Hanna – Weaver

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“I thank the Lord for the olive season this year, which yielded more fruit than any year before.” – Jacob – Watchman

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“I thank the Lord for being able to work among my friends at Nazareth Village; we have truly become one family.” – Rachel – Landlord’s wife

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“I thank the Lord for the mysterious ways He works in. He commanded His disciples to preach the Gospel to the world, and here we stay in one place and the world comes to us to hear about Jesus.” – Majd – Guide

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“I thank the Lord for the schools that come for our special schools program. Nazareth Village has become known among schools, and when they come we share the message of Jesus with children from all kinds of backgrounds.” – Amer – Guide

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“I thank the Lord for the opportunity to build relationships with the staff and visitors, to bless and to be blessed.” – Eman – Guide

 

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For a short period of time, at the beginning of the rainy season, the smell of freshly crushed olives fills the air: it is the olive season. Sitting on top of the hill of Nazareth Village is our functioning replica of a first century olive press. Below, olive trees fill the scene; their branches are burdened with the weight of the olives ready to be picked. Our villagers take a break from their daily routine to help picking the olives and carry them to the olive press.

The process of pressing olives, especially in the time of Jesus, was lengthy. First of all, the olives had to be crushed using a big round stone. As this is a hard task a donkey would be used to keep the stone moving. Once the olives are ready for pressing, they are placed inside special baskets and then pressed. In the first century, they were able to extract different qualities of olive oil which enabled them to use these qualities for different applications.

(Written by Majd Shufani – Guide at Nazareth Village)

To learn more about the first century life check out The Nazareth Jesus Knew DVD