The International Marian Center in Nazareth (Beit Miriam to the locals) is an attractive oasis of beauty and quiet in the middle of a bustling city, and often equally bustling churches as the tourist buses unload their waves of camera-clicking pilgrims into the streets.
Some of the features I like most are: the remains of a first-century house near the entrance, the chapel, and the rooftop gardens with spectacular views over the city.
The center exists to promote a particular (RC) view of Mary, the mother of Jesus. A well-produced multimedia show in four successive theatres presents the biblical and non-biblical traditions relating to Mary.
The hour needed to view all four of these shows probably excludes all but the most ardent devotees of Our Lady as very few pilgrims spend more than two hours in the city. For most visitors, a visit to Nazareth includes little more than the Basilica of the Annunciation and a trip to Mt Precipice. Even the Greek Orthodox Church with its ancient well is often omitted. Those with a little extra time will often choose to spend an hour and a half walking through the model farming community at Nazareth Village Farm rather than watching the multimedia presentation at Beit Miriam.
At the same time, the series of small theatres has already proved to be a great resource for the local churches. I enjoyed seeing an Easter play presented by Sabeel Nazareth in one of these well designed theatres a couple of months ago.
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