DAY 9: MONDAY, NOVEMBER 6:
Today was the first of two days here in the north. It would be another wonderfully sunny day, with a bit cooler temps (as expected in the Golan Heights) in the 70s.
We left this morning at 7:30 a.m. We read from Matthew 4 about Jesus’ calling of the disciples. Our destination: the Golan Heights. Making our way from the NW corner to the SE corner of the Sea of Galilee, we included taking a small dirt road to the new excavations of El Araj. It is an archaeological site proposed as the possible location of Bethsaida. It was just excavated this past summer. While standing around this new site, we read from Mark 8 (the blind man) and John 6 (Feeding of the 5,000), two events that took place here. This possible new site of Bethsaida was also the home of Peter, Andrew, and Philip (John 1).
From here, we ascended to the heights of the Golan to Gamla. On the way, we made a brief stop for a panoramic view of the entire northern area of the Sea of Galilee and beyond. Visibility was quite good today. Arriving at Gamla, we viewed this Jewish site from above. This was a Jewish city that was destroyed by the Romans in 66 AD. There is a 1st century synagogue here. Perhaps Jesus taught here (?). We read from Acts 5 about a certain “Judas the Galilean” who led the first revolt. We also saw a griffon vulture.
Close by is the Talmudic city of Katzrin. Here we saw the stone ruins of this city that dates from the 3rd-7th century AD. We sat in a reconstructed stone house that resembled what a house in Jesus’ day must have looked like. We read from Mark 2 and celebrated the forgiveness He offers to each of us. We also walked through the synagogue here.
Driving further north (and east), we arrived at the Syrian border. Shlomo shared with us about the 1967 and 1973 wars with Syria. It was interesting to look across the border at this war-torn country. The Syrian city of Kuneitra could be seen directly across the border.
Traveling westward and passing by Mt. Hermon (Israel’s highest mountain – 7,300 feet, Psalm 133), our next site was Caesarea Philippi. The Banias spring starts from here. This was a very pagan city during the days of Jesus. We read from Matthew 16 and 17. It was in this region where Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do you say I am?” Among the grotto area, we saw the location where the temple of Augustus was, as well as the niches of Pan, and other gods (Zeus, Nemesis).
Our last site of the day was the nature preserve and archaeological site of Dan. Walking along the main tributary of the Jordan River was amazing. We stopped in the middle of our walk to listen to Shlomo play a Jewish song on the recorder. We also read form Psalm 42 and sang a song. Sitting on the steps of the high place, we read from Judges 18 and 1 Kings 12 about the “pattern of disobedience” established here. It was here (and at Bethel) where Jeroboam set up a golden calf.
Nearby the high place, we looked into Lebanon while Shlomo shared the current geo-political situation with this country. We even saw three jackals down in the fields. Leaving the site we saw a Middle Bronze/Canaanite mud-brick gate perhaps used by Abraham (Ge 14:14). We also saw the Iron Age/Israelite walls and gates of the city.
We drove back to the hotel for dinner and a group gathering on the shoreline of the lake. It was a nice time of worship and sharing.