NAZARETH: HOME OF JESUS AND MARY
Muddy in winter, dusty in summer - Nazareth was never attractive. The streets wound haphazardly , with blank walls facing the outside world. Here and there a small door or high window broke the monotony.
Drab, yes, but there were compensations. The houses were so close together that people on the flat roofs could talk from house to house. Here and there were little bridges between the houses to cross from one to the other.
Small shops relieved the austere scene. Food, clothes, rugs, pots, spices and perfumes were sold in disorderly, colourful, aromatic heaps.
There was little traffic on the streets. They were too narrow for carts, and even a donkey carrying a bulky load might block them. People avoided the sun and hugged the shadows of the walls.
Two or three times a day a flock of noisy boys invaded the streets on their way to the synagogue, where they went for their lessons in Torah.
If you were a young Jewish woman like Mary of Nazareth, you lived with your extended family, or with the family of your husband.
Your home was made of stone and mud-brick, and though it might not have been very beautiful on the outside, inside it was cool, comfortable and pleasant.
HOUSES IN NAZARETH
Your home was much larger inside than it appeared from outside. There was a central paved courtyard with an open drain at the centre, so the stones could be rinsed clean and would not flood with rain.
Inside and out the walls were covered with plaster, made flat with a smooth stone.
Your house may have been one-roomed, but it had everything you needed. There was a raised platform at one end, where you sat and slept on cushions and mats.
Usually you ate your meals outside under an awning, but if it was too hot or was raining, you ate inside. The room was stuffy by modern standards because the windows were small, covered with lattice or shutters.
Cupboards were unnecessary, because small niches were cut into the walls - storage space for bed rolls, clothes, small items of food, etc.
Grain or oil for cooking was kept in a separate storage area.
There was also space for animals and their food-troughs, called mangers.
See for images and information about village houses, decoration and building materials).
Twice a day, in the cool of the morning and in the evening, women took large earthenware pitchers to the village well, where they pulled the water up with a leather bucket on the end of a rope.
This was the time of day when they talked with their friends, waiting to draw water.
The home was important in Jewish religion. In our society, people associate prayer with a church. In the Jewish religion, both the home and the synagogue were places of prayer. A rabbi or scholar was in charge of prayer in the synagogue, but in the home, each individual woman in charge of a household was responsible for the prayer-services held in that home.
This was how Mary and Joseph of Nazareth lived.
See their story at NAZARETH: MARY AND JOSEPH
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