DAY 4 – TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 6: GAMLA, QATZRIN, SYRIAN BORDER, CAESAREA PHILIPPI, DAN
Today started out with a beautiful sunrise on the Sea of Galilee, followed by another very full buffet breakfast. The sun stayed with us all day as well, with ideal temps in the low 70s. We would spend the day in the Golan Heights.
Plain of Bethsaida
Leaving shortly after 7:30 this morning, we started with the familiar words of Matthew 4 (Jesus calling His first disciples by the lake). Driving to the northeastern corner of the Sea of Galilee and ascending the Golan Heights, we enjoyed a great view of this region below. We read from Mark 8 and John 6 (Feeding of the 5,000) as we talked about the two possible locations for Bethsaida. This was a town from where Peter, Andrew, and Phillip grew up.
Ascending higher to the plateau of the Golan Heights, Gamla was our next stop. This was a Jewish city from from the 1st century BC until it was destroyed in 66 AD in the First Revolt again the Romans. We were introduced to Josephus here, someone who actually was part of the battle here in 66 AD against the Romans. We looked down to his ancient city from a cliff above the city. We also saw a few Griffon Vultures here as well (Gamla serves as a refuge for these protected birds).
Next, we continued north to Katzrin, a Talmudic village from the 3rd – 8th centuries AD. Sitting in an ancient yet restored stone house, we read form Mark 2 about Jesus healing the paralytic who was lowered down through the roof. We could see the story unfold before us! We celebrated the amazement of God who forgives our sins too! Before leaving we also saw the synagogue here.
“We traveled north today to the Golan Heights. I never knew Syria was so very close to Israel. Lebanon too. My favorite part of the trip was walking through the nature preserve at Dan and listening to the flow of the water as we red from Psalm 42. It was a nice quite time of reflection…” -Tour Member-
Syrian Border / Quneitra
Driving now northeast, we arrived on the border with Syria. Here all three our of guides shared the past and present situations with Syria. We looked across the border to the Syrian town of Quneitra. Since the 1973 war, the UN monitors the buffer zone between Israel and Syria.
From here we passed Mt. Hermon (Psalm 42, 89, and 133; Songs of Songs 4). This is Israel’s highest mountain (7,300 feet, while Syria owns the highest peak of the mountain, 9,200 feet). Israel even has a ski resort on top (4 chairs, and 12 runs or so). Descending off the Golan Heights, Caesarea Philippi was our next destination. It was here where Jesus asked the most important question of His disciples, “Who do you say I am?” In the region of this pagan city, Jesus prepared His disciples for His ultimate mission for them. At the site we saw the sacred grotto area where the Temple of Augustus once stood, as well as the place where Pan, Jupiter, and Nemesis were honored.
Dan – Nature Preserve and Site
Our last stop of the day was to the nature preserve and archaeological site of Tel Dan. First we enjoyed a gentle walk along the largest of the three tributaries of the Jordan. In the backdrop of the quiet flowing waters, we also enjoyed a reflective time of hearing Shlomo play his recorder as well as reading/singing Psalm 42. Ascending to the top of the site we sat on the steps of the High Place as we read about the patterns of disobedience from Judges 18 and 1 Kings 12. Before leaving the site, we saw the Middle Bronze mud-brick gate of Laish (the former name of the city) that dates close to the time of Abraham.
It took about an hour to drive back through the Huleh Valley to our hotel for dinner and a free evening. What another great day here in Israel!