DAY 5 – THURSDAY, APRIL 30
It was a beautiful day, with sunny skies and highs only in the 70s. We headed south first along the western shoreline of the Sea of Galilee before swinging north on the eastern side. We passed Kursi, the traditional location of the “Legion & Swine” story (Mark 5) before beginning our ascent to the Golan Heights. On the way we stopped for a view of the Plains of Bethsaida. Even though the morning haze prohibited us to see much of the NE corner of the lake, we read from Mark 8 (healing of blind man) and John 6 (Feeding of the 5,000), both stories taking place near Bethsaida. A little further up was Gamla, a 1st century city known for leading the 1st Revolt against the Romans (66 AD). We bussed down to the site and sat in the 1st century synagogue. No doubt Jesus would have taught here, even though it’s not mentioned in the Gospels. Gamla was known as the “Masada of the North.”
Further north was Qatzrin (Katzrin). This was a Talmudic village from the 3rd-4th century. We entered the re-constructed house of Rabbi Abun where we sat and listened to the story of Mark 2. We talked about Jesus authority (s’mekah) to forgive sins. We continued north to Ben Tal, an old military outpost that overlooks Syria. Shlomo shared some history from the 1967 and 1973 wars with Syria. With visibilities good, we could see a long way into this war-torn country.
We drove to the base of Mt. Hermon for lunch (at another Druze place). Descending the Golan Heights, we next visited Caesarea Philippi. We read from Matthew 16 and heard Jesus’ question, “Who do you say I am?” We climbed up to the high place and saw the grotto area of this pagan city. Nearby was Dan. We walked through the nature preserve to the archaeological ruins. One of the three tributaries of the Jordan River is here. A massive amount of water flows down into the Sea of Galilee from here. On the walk, some even saw a wild boar with a few small cubs. Quite remarkable to see these, since Shlomo (in 30 years of guiding) has never seen them here. We read from Judges 18 and I Kings 12 about the “pattern” of disobedience and false worship that took place here. Archaeologically, we saw the high place, the altar area, and the Middle Bronze mud-brick gate that perhaps Abraham once walked through (Gen. 14:14)
We ended the day with an extra experience. We drove the Misgav Am kibbutz overlooking Metulla (Israel’s most northern city) and Lebanon. We even could look north and see Lebanon’s Shuf mountains (famous for the Lebanon Cyprus tree). Shlomo shared a little about the 1982 and 2006 Lebanon wars.
We drove south along the Naftali ridge, driving only 30 meters from the border fence with Lebanon. We even received waves from the UN guards posted here. We descended down to the Huleh Valley, passed by Hazor (a huge archaeological site, Joshua conquered this city), and back down to the Sea of Galilee and TIberias. We enjoyed dinner together and a gathering down by the water’s edge before retiring for the night. Another wonderful day!
We plan to visit the plains of Bethsaida, The Golan Heights, Gamla, Qatzrin, Ben Tal, Caesarea Philippi, and Dan. We also may see, if time permits, Abel Beit Maaacah.
DAY 6 – FRIDAY, MAY 1
We plan to visit Mt. Abel, Magdala, Chorizim, Capernaum, the ancient boat and boat ride on the Sea of Galilee, Yardenit (baptism), and the Mt. of Beatitudes.