Cana of Galilee, cave of miracles, wounded town

cana of galilee
Memorial of 1996 Cana massacre

Modern Cana of Galilee looks just like an average Mediterranean town, quiet and clinging to tradition. Wandering its streets might reveal some stage of decay, its crumbling buildings do give an impression of neglect, and first-timers will think the local administration needs to look after their community in a better way. While this is out of doubt, the history behind these walls is more complicated than what it seems at first sight.

Lebanon, is so rich in places evoking paramount moments of history that it gets overwhelming, and Cana, unwillingly with its cargo of tragedy and emotions, is one of the towns that most bears this weight.

cana of galilee
Tombs of the people killed at the UN base of Cana by Israeli shelling in 1996

“That’s Cana”, said Leila pointing to the small town, after Mohammad drove us 12km further south from Tyre. Considered a holy place by the Christians, Cana of Galilee, or Qana in Arabic, is where Jesus is believed to have performed his first miracle, turning water into wine at the wedding of two of Mary’s friends (John 2:1-11 to read about the wedding at Cana). From the dark and slippery cave where the miracle supposedly took place, the panorama that unfolded before our eyes was of a hostile landscape, where the seldom vegetation gives way to a plateau of barren grey rocks typical of the region. Back on the day when Jesus was on his thirties, just starting revealing himself to the public opinion, this was a place of feast.

Little did they know that almost 2000 years later the legendary Cana of Galilee would have been theater of one of the bloodiest tragedies Lebanese can recall on their land.

Like the rest of South Lebanon, the city’s streets are clothed with memorial sites, as are its country lanes, framed with photos of martyrs who fought during the twenty two years of inhumane Israeli occupation that lasted from 1978 to 2000.

cana of galilee
Cave where Jesus performed his first miracle in Cana of Galilee, South Lebanon
On the 18th of April 1996 more than a hundred between UN workers and Lebanese men, women and children of the beleaguered town of Cana were slaughtered by the umpteenth Israeli shelling on the UN bomb shelter.

Unsurprisingly, the Israeli leaders tried to cover up the massacre, but the overwhelming hard evidence made their cold-blooded PR efforts vain. Journalists of local papers and tv stations still now remember the carnage as the most horrible thing mind can conceive. Many couldn’t manage to report from there due to the unbearable sight of rivers of blood, body parts scattered all over the former shelter and dead people. As a creepy premise, only two years earlier Shimon Peres, who ordered the bloodshed, was granted with the Nobel Peace Prize, but fortunately, due to the event he was never allowed to become General Secretary of the UN.

Only four years later, the historical Cana of Galilee, like the rest of South Lebanon, was almost entirely destroyed by the merciless 33 days of Israeli bombings. Today the town is visibly suffering, slowly but relentlessly trying to face the too vivid memories of their townspeople, brothers, sisters, sons, daughters who died there, of their razed houses and of their mutilated lives to be rebuilt once again from scratch.

  1. Another moving post from Lebanon… I had no idea that his first miracle was turning water to wine at a wedding. What a sad period Cana is in now.

  2. I’ve only known the basics about Lebanon’s tragic and complicated history. Thanks for shedding more light on Lebanon and Cana, in particular. Whenever hearing of Cana, I’ve always just thought about the miracle.

  3. So sad that there continues to be so much suffering in that part of the world. Some friends of mine who visited Lebanon two years ago said that among the people they talked to, there didn’t seem to be any interest in reconciliation. Is that what you’re finding too?

    • I’m not sure what your friends mean by “reconciliation”, since the occupation is now over. For sure Lebanese are not willing to accept another occupation in case Israel invades again, in case this is what your friends are talking about… Also, let’s not forget Israel is still invading Palestine, keeping expanding their settlements and keeping expelling natives from their lands.

  4. Guarda, fa rabbia sentire certe cose! Una zona martoriata e la maggior parte delle persone ne sa niente, vuoi per ignoranza, ma sopratutto perché i media dicono poco e in modo distorto!

  5. Dire que ces régions sont- pour nous catholiques – le berceau de notre
    foi et elles sont massacrées,injuriées, non respectées continuellement! Il faut le dire sans cesse, que tout le monde sache ce qui se passe!

  6. Cana was forme just a place of miracles. Thanks for sharing more details about the place.

  7. I’ve always thought that Lebanon was too dangerous to travel to, until I saw you were there doing it. How very somber to be reminded of its violent past. I imagine its hard to let go when there is still so much volatility in this nation. At least you got to see the place of the first miracle.

    • Although I’m not exactly a very religious person, it was still powerful to go to such a place considered holy by Christianity. Sad that the town has such a tragic history, hopefully their conditions will get better.

  8. Thanks so much for sharing this. As a Christian, it makes me very sad to see such hatred and destruction happening in places that are so significant to my faith. Thank you for raising awareness on this important tragedy.

    • Thanks Ellen, the recent history of Cana is truly heartbreaking, and there are so many towns in South Lebanon that share the same destiny. There were not many people at the cave, I was quite surprised, as it’s apparently the place of Jesus’ first miracle I would have expected more pilgrims, or at least some!

  9. Thank you for sharing this touching post from Lebanon and for the Christianity lesson. For years, I’ve heard of the miracle of turning water into wine, but had no idea that the miracle occurred at a wedding.

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