DAY 4 – THURSDAY, APRIL 27:
Today we traveled north and east to the Golan Heights. It was another sunny day, with temps in the upper 80s to low 90s.
Departing after breakfast again at 7:30, we drove to the NE corner of the Sea of Galilee where we made our first stop overlooking the Plains of Bethsaida. We read from Mark 9 (blind man healed) and John 6 (Feeding of the 5,000). Peter, Andrew, and Philip were from Bethsaida.
Climbing a bit more to the plateau of the Golan, Gamla was our next stop. Although not mentioned directly in the Gospels, no doubt Jesus was here, teaching in the 1st century synagogue here. Gamla was mentioned by Josephus as a Jewish city attacked by the Romans in 66 AD. The only indirect reference to Gamla may come in Acts 5 (which mentions a certain “Judas the Galilean” who may have been from here). From the panoramic view on top, we could look down and see the synagogue as well as the city’s fortifications. The Griffon Vulture also is protected here. We saw a few flying around.
Next, we drove to the primary city in the Golan, Katzrin (Qatzrin). Here we visited a Talmudic Village (3rd-7th century AD). Here we were introduced to the Hebraic background of Jesus’ ministry. We sat in the reconstructed stone house of Rabbi Abun where we read from Mark 2. We could see the story unfold before our very eyes! There is also a synagogue here as well.
Driving east to the border of Syria, we looked into the city of Quneitra within this war-torn country. On the top of Bental (an old military site), Shlomo shared a little modern history, particularly about the 1967 and 1973 wars with Syria. It was amazing to be so close to Syria. We paused to pray for the victims of the war here.
This afternoon we descended down from the Golan to Caesarea Philippi. This was a very pagan city in Jesus’ day. We read from Matthew 16. It was in the region of this city where Jesus asked the question, Who do you say I am?” Here we saw the grotto area where the pagan temples and niches dedicated to Pan were located. The Banias spring here is one of the three tributaries of the Jordan River.
Close by is the nature preserve and archaeological city of Dan. We enjoyed walked on the quiet pathway along the largest of the three tributaries of the Jordan here. We paused to listen to Shlomo share on his recorder. We also considered the words of Psalm 42 (“as the deer pants for water…”). It was a nice quiet time of reflection. Continuing on the path to the archaeological site of Dan, we sat on the steps of the high place of Dan. Here we read from Judges 18 and 1 Kings 12 about the false worship that took place here. It was Jeroboam who set up a golden calf here (as well as in Bethel just north of Jerusalem). Upon leaving the site, we also saw a Middle Bronze/Canaanite mud-brick gate (used by Abraham, see Gen. 14:14), as well as the walls and gates of the Israelite city.
On our way back to the hotel, we drove past Abel Beit Macaah where both Pastor John and Tom excavated in 2014. We read the primary story from 2 Samuel 20 about “Sheba” and the “wise woman” who lived in this city. We also ascended the hills of Naphtali to Misgav Am. Located on the border with Lebanon, we could look into southern Lebanon. We also had a wonderful panoramic view of the Huleh Valley and Mt. Hermon. Shlomo shared some more modern history about the conflicts Israel has had with this northern neighbor.
Driving back to out hotel, we enjoyed dinner together (a few went swimming in the Sea of Galilee before dinner), followed by an optional devotional gathering on the water’s edge. It was a great day here in northern Israel!
DAY 5 – FRIDAY, APRIL 28: ARBEL, CAPERNAUM, SEA OF GALILEE BOAT RIDE, YARDENIT – BAPTISM IN THE JORDAN, MT. OF BEATITUDES