Capernaum, a small town on the bank of the Galilee was where Jesus found several of his disciples. It is also where we began our day.
There is a church dedicated to Peter over the ruins of what they think is Peter’s house. This big building suspended over the ruins is the church, and Franciscans run it (if I got their habit correct). When excavations were done in this area, they found the remains of a house with the ruins of a 5th century and 3rd century churches around it (built in an octagonal shape, which was popular at the time). Because of this, they believe it was the home of Peter. Surrounding the area are the remaining walls of the town. The largest building left more-or-less standing is a 4th century synagogue, which is the feature image for this post. The white stones are from the 4th century, but the black stones beneath are from the synagogue that Jesus taught at. From this town Jesus called Peter, James and John, and Andrew to Him.
Mt. Beautitudes was about a 20-30 minute drive away, near the town of Tabgha.
Every so often a pope comes and preaches the beatitudes to the congregation. Throughout the gardens surrounding the church are the beatitudes in Latin and English, creating a very peaceful environment. When we were there we passed by several Bible studies. This is the view from Mt. Beatitudes. Can you believe how green everything is, even during winter? Below, in Tabgha, Jesus fed the multitude with the two fish and five pieces of bread. We also visited that church, which, fittingly, was decorated with tiles in the designs of fish.
We journeyed far up into the northern parts of Israel, the Golan Heights, which borders Lebanon and Syria. We didn’t see much of a military presence, but we did pass an Israeli tank and a couple of UN trucks. The UN is on the border to monitor what happens in Syria.
We ate lunch up on one of the mountains. Everything was covered in snow, but slowly melting. Several of us were eager to see Syria, so our bus driver found a good overlook into Syria. It was a park, full of families playing in the snow (it may be the first time some of the children have ever seen snow!) and we got a good look at the southeastern corner of Syria. Everything there, at least, seemed peaceful.
Behind my head is a UN camp, and beyond that are Syrian villages.
The mountain tops were cold! I think everyone in the van was ready to descend and go to Banias. It is a park and archeological dig at the bottom of Mt. Hermon, in Golan Heights. It was originally called Paneas, after the god Pan. Arabic doesn’t have the letter P in it, so they pronounce everything with a P into a B (unless they’re from Morocco), so the name was eventually changed.
There are beautiful springs and a waterfall in the park. This is a bad photo because I took it.
On the other end of the spring is the archeological site, the place of Caesarea Philippi. Herod the Great erected a temple here to the god Pan and dedicated it to the Roman caesar. Later, Philip built a town around the area, and even later Agrippa lived here. According to tradition, this is the site that Jesus healed the woman who had been bleeding for 12 years. It is also the place that Peter told Jesus he was the song of God. I found it ironic that in a city centered around a temple to Pan, a temple to Hermes, and a temple to Zeus, Jesus halted his disciples and asked them who He was. And how Peter answered.
The grotto behind Jordan was the back wall of the temple to Pan.
We returned to Nazareth right as the sun set, and settled in for another cold night. The next morning, our last day in northern Israel, was split between the Sea of Galilee and the Jordan river.
We stopped in Tiberias, named after the caesar (how did you guess?) and walked along the Sea of Galilee for a while. Storm clouds rolled in quickly and it began to rain. While we were somewhat disappointed in our time being cut short by rain, it did remind Jordan and I of the story of Jesus calming the storm. And the story of Jesus walking on water. We could just barely see the other side of the lake. It’s also incredibly deep.
About 20 minutes later it stopped enough for us to get out and see the Jordan river. This is as near as people can guess where Jesus was baptized–give or take a couple miles. We were both surprised at how small it was. When I imagined the Israelites fording the Jordan to conquer Israel, or John the Baptist hanging out there for days on end, I pictured something a little bit more like the Mississippi river. Not quite that big, but not this either. In the words of our guide, “what we Israelis call a river you Americans call a sewage drain.” We compared notes with our German roommate back in Jerusalem, and he laughed and said that “the Jordan river is so small you can spit across it.” That’s a little bit of an exaggeration, but not much.
Then we finished our trip back to Jerusalem!
I suppose this speaks of my ignorance, but the thing that has surprised me the most about Israel is how green everything is. Seriously! Look at this gorgeous land!
Now I understand why the Israelites called it the land flowing with milk and honey–especially since they’d just spent 40 years in the desert. This much green was shocking to us, and we had just spent around 9/10 days in the desert. I also have been surprised at how many mountains there are here. Of course, most of the mountains are in the north–where I’ve been, so perhaps it’s a little out of perspective. All of these mountains make me a little relieved we aren’t hiking the Jesus Trail, though. These steep hills would have made the Galilee region quite remote 2,000 years ago, so now I have a better understanding why everyone thought the disciples were country bumpkins.
Tomorrow we visit Bethlehem (in the West Bank) and the Mount of Olives!