DAY 7 – SUNDAY, JANUARY 20: ARBEL, JORDAN RIVER BAPTISM, MAGDALA, CHORIZIM, CAPERNAUM, SEA OF GALILEE BOAT RIDE
There was a cool start to the day today, but the sun warmed things up to around 65 in the afternoon. The entire day was a focus on the life and ministry of Jesus. We would spend the day around the Sea of Galilee.
Leaving the hotel (Nof Ginnosar) at 7:30 following a great breakfast, we drove a short distance to the trailhead leading up 800+ feet to to the top of Arbel. While this mountain is not specifically mentioned in the Gospels, the view from the top provides a panoramic perspective of the entire NW side of the lake below. Mt. Hermon 35 miles north was in clear view too! 21 in the group hiked to the top while the others bussed around and walked to the top from the visitor center. This mountain may have been the place where Jesus met his disciples following the resurrection (Mt. 28:16) as well as at others times during his ministry.
Yardenit / Jordan River
Driving to the southern end of the lake, we celebrated six in the group who were baptized in the the chilly waters of the Jordan River. The baptismal place here is called Yardenit. It was a special time for all. Jesus was also baptized in the Jordan River, but further south across from Jericho (John 1).
From here we drove north along the shoreline of there lake to the Kinneret Cemetery. We stopped here to hear the story about Rachel, an early Jewish pioneer to the land. This woman died in 1931. Many of her poems are read here. Rachel even appears on the new 20 shekel bill.
“The life of Jesus began to come alive today! We spent the entire day around the Sea of Galilee. From the view of the lake form the top of Arbel to our last site from Hippos, I now have a new appreciation for how Jesus served so many in this area. The sunset on top of Hippos capped off another wonderful day!” – Tour member –
Our next site we visited was Magdala. This was the home of Mary Magdalene. This was a prominent Jewish harbor-city that eventually was destroyed by the Romans in the First Revolt (66 AD) by the Romans. After the Feeding of the 4,000 (perhaps on the SE corner of the lake), Jesus sailed into this city (Mt. 15:39). Among the ruins we saw here was a 1st century synagogue. Jesus must have taught from here! It is quite modest, with stone benches for perhaps 50-60 people only. It was incredible to picture Jesus entering this synagogue and teaching here!
After lunch, we visited Capernaum. This city in Jesus’ time located on a prominent route served as the home-base for Jesus’ Galilean ministry. Sitting in the 5th century AD synagogue, we read from Mark, 1,2 and 9; Luke 7 and 8; and John 6. Jesus taught here and performed many miracles. After seeing the other ruins (and 5-6th AD octagonal church), we sat on the shoreline for reflection. It was probably here where Jesus called his first four disciples. Matthew (or Levi) also lived here as a tax collector.
We ended the day with an extra site not on the program. Driving around to the east side of the lake. On this east side is the site of Kursi. It is only a traditional site for the Mark 5 narrative of Jesus exorcizing the demoniac from the land of the Garazenes. But we drove past this site to one of the Decapolis cities, Hippos, also called Susita. This is an off-the-beaten-path site founded during the Hellenistic Period (2nd century BC). However, most of the ruins we saw were from the Roman and Byzantine Period (1st – 7th century AD). We saw the city gate, colonnaded stone streets, the forum, and a few Byzantine churches. The building stones were massive! Better yet, the view of the entire length of the Sea of Galilee (13 miles) below us to the west was spectacular! We could easily retrace some of the events (e.g. boat excursions) of Jesus from here. The sunset from here was equally amazing! What a great way to end our day!
We drove back to our hotel by going back around the northern end. We enjoyed dinner together, followed by a free evening.