Oct-Nov 2017 Egypt-Jordan-Israel Tour Update – Day 9

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.

Bethsaida

El Araj - Bethsaida

El Araj – the new possible archaeological site for Bethsaida

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).

Gamla

Gamla

Gamla – the “Masada of the North”

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.

Katzrin

Katzrin

A reconstructed stone house at Katzrin

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.

Syrian Border

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.

Caesarea Philippi

Caesarea Philippi

The Roman ruins and “grotto” of Caesarea Philippi

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).

Dan

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.

Jackals

Jackals at Tel Dan

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.

DAY 10: TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 7: ARBEL, MAGDALA, CAPERNAUM, SEA OF GALILEE BOAT RIDE, YARDENIT, MT. OF BEATITUDES

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September 2017 Israel Tour – Day 4

DAY 4 – WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 6:

El Araj

The recent excavation at El Araj – possible “Bethsaida” of the Bible.

We began our day with a great breakfast before leaving the hotel at 7:45. We read from Matthew 4 about Jesus calling His disciples on the shoreline as we drove to the NE corner of the Sea of Galilee. Our first stop was to El Araj, a brand new excavation! We took a small dirt road to get there. It is very possible that this site was ancient Bethsaida, the home of Peter, Andrew, and Phillip. Although the ruins were limited, it was thrilling to be here! We read from Mark 8 (blind man) and John 6 (Feeding of the 5,000), with both events taking place here.

Ascending to the Golan Heights, we visited Gamla next. This was a 1st century Jewish city that revolted against the Romans. In 66 AD the city was destroyed. A 1st century synagogue is located here. Jesus perhaps taught here.

Close by was Katzrin, a Talmudic village (3rd – 7th century AD). We crowded into the reconstructed house of Rabbi Abun. Here we read from Mark 2 about Jesus physically restoring the lame man and spiritually forgiving his sins. We also walked through the synagogue here.

Katzrin Rabbi Abun

Reconstructed Talmudic stone house of Rabbi Abun at Katzrin

With David providing bananas, apples, and snacks for us for lunch, we continued our way to the Syrian border. Here, Shlomo shared some “modern history” about the 1967 and 1973 wars with Syria. It was remarkable to learn that Israel continues of provide health services to 1000s of displaced Syrians from the war.

Traveling through a few Druze villages, we arrived at the base of Israel’s ski resort at Mt. Hermon. We took the chair lift to the top of this mountain (the mountain is shared by three country: Syria – peak of 9,200 feet, Israel – peak of 7,300, and Lebanon – peak of less then 7,000 feet). The view on top was excellent. We read from Psalm 133 about the “dew from Mt Hermon…”. Seven in the group took the very difficult hiking trail down, while the rest descended by the chair lift.

Mt. Hermon

View from the top of Mt. Hermon

Driving off the Golan Heights, our next stop was Caesarea Philippi. We read from Matthew 16 and heard the question Jesus asked His disciples – “Who do you say I am?” Here in the region of this pagan city, Peter responded, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” We saw the grotto (cultic) area of the city, where the Temple of Augustus was as well as other pagan shrines.

Our last stop of the day was at the nature preserve and archaeological site of Tel Dan. We walked along the Dan spring under the shade of the Eucalyptus and fig trees. We stopped to listen to Shlomo share a song on his recorder. We also read (and sang) Psalm 42. We continued to the high place of Dan, established by Jeroboam (1 Kings 12). He continued a pattern of disobedience from the time of the Judges (Judges 18) when the Danites re-located here. We also saw a Middle Bronze-Canaanite gate that dates close to the time of Abraham (Gen 14:14).

Mudbrick gate

The Canaanite mud brick gate at Tel Dan

Driving back to our hotel through the Huleh Valley and past Hazor (Joshua 11), we enjoyed dinner together as well as a gathering down on the shoreline. Under a brilliant full moon, we shared and reflected. About eight in the group went swimming under the moonlight afterwards.

DAY 5 – THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 7: ARBEL, MAGDALA, CHORAZIM, CAPERNAUM, SEA OF GALILEE BOAT RIDE, YARDENIT, MT. OF BEATITUDES

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January 2017 Israel Tour – Day 4

house of rabbi abun qatzrin

The house of Rabbi Abun at Qatzrin

DAY 4 – FRIDAY, JANUARY 13:

Following breakfast we departed around 7:40 and drove north today to the Golan Heights. The weather was foggy for the first few hours of the day, but it later cleared up nicely, with temps in the 60s. Our first stop was to the NE corner of the Sea of Galilee. Shortly after ascending the Golan Heights, we stopped for an overview of the region below. Looking down to the city of Bethsaida (where Peter, Andrew, and Philip were from, John 1:44), we read from Mark 9 (healing of blind man) and John 6 (Feeding of the 5,000). It was from here where the disciples got caught in a storm while sailing back to Capernaum at night. Jesus came walking to them on the water.

As we drove further up in elevation, the visibility worsened. We turned into Gamla, our scheduled next site, but it was too foggy to see anything (the pictures displayed at Gamla are from a previous tour). Gamla was a Jewish city built on a camel-shaped ridge. THere is a 1st century synagogue here. Jesus no doubt taught here. So we left Gamla without seeing anything and drove to Katzrin, with the visibility improving as we drove. At Katzrin we visited the reconstructed house of Rabbi Abun. Although it dates to the Talmudic Period, we enjoyed listening to the Mark 2 passage about the man being lowered through the roof to Jesus within this restored stone house that was probably very similar to the houses of Jesus’ day. We could see the story unfold before our eyes!

caesaea philippi grotto

The Grotto at Caesarea Philippi

From here we drove north and east to the Syrian Border. We could look across the border and see the city of Quneitra. Shlomo shared some modern Israeli history of the 1967 and 1973 wars. Nearby we also stopped by the Valley of the Tears where the famous tank battle took place.

Following a lunch of bananas, apples, and pretzels, we descended the Golan Heights. On the way to Caesarea Philippi we made a brief stop to see the Sa’ar waterfalls. The city of built at the Banias Spring, one of the three tributaries of the Jordan River. We read from Matthew 16 and pondered the question Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do you say I am?” We visited the grotto area of the city.

Close by was Tel Dan, our next stop. We walked through the nature preserve that is located along the largest of the three tributaries of the Jordan. We stopped in the middle of the walk to listen to song played by Shlomo on his recorder. We also enjoyed reading and singing Psalm 42 as well. The pathway led us to the archaeological part of Dan. We read from Judges 18 and 1 Kings 12 about the pattern of disobedience that was on display here. It was here where Jeroboam established a high place and a sacrificial altar. Located right on the border with Lebanon, we also heard some of the recent history about this northern neighbor of Israel as well.

Herodium temple omrit

The Herodium temple at Omrit

On our way back to the hotel, we made an extra stop at Omrit. Hiking through the cow pastures, threw mud, and up a narrow lane, we reached this impressive Roman city. Against the backdrop of the beautiful snow-capped Mt. Hermon, we saw the remains of a newly discovered Roman imperial temple complex. Its temple is identified as the Augusteum described by Josephus and built by Herod. Driving back along the Huleh Valley, we arrived back to our hotel on the NW corner of the Sea of Galilee. After dinner we enjoyed a group gathering down on the water’s edge. It was a great second full day!

DAY 5 – SATURDAY, JANUARY 14: ARBEL, MAGDALA, CHORAZIM, CAPERNAUM, SEA OF GALILEE BOAT RIDE, YARDENIT

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Oct-Nov 2016 Israel Tour – Day 7

DAY 7 – SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 6

gamla synagogue

Sitting in the 1st century synagogue at Gamla (in the Golan Heights)

Today we headed north to the Golan Heights. It was another sunny and beautiful day, with temps around 80. Departing after breakfast at the hotel, we drove to the NE corner of the Sea of Galilee and up the Golan to where we made our first panoramic stop. With Bethsaida below us, we read from Mark 8 (blind man healed) and Matthew 14 (also John 6). The Feeding of the 5,000 took place right below us! From this corner, Jesus also walked on the water in the middle of the night to His disciples’ boat (Mark 6).

Our first site we visited was Gamla. This was the predominate Jewish city on this NE corner of the lake. Here, the 1st Jewish Revolt took place against the Romans. Here is also a 1st century synagogue. Even though not mentioned, there is a high probability that Jesus taught here (Mt. 9). For this reason, it was special to actually sit in this synagogue! The indirect reference to Gamla is Acts 5 (e.g. about a certain “Judas the Galilean” who may have been from here). Josephus (who was in this battle) records the details in his Jewish Wars.

Rabbi Abun's house katzrin

A reconstructed house at the Katzrin Village (Golan Heights)

Continuing to drive on the plateau of the Golan, Katzrin (also Qatzrin) was our next stop. We visited this Talmudic village where we sat in a reconstructed stone house similar, no doubt, to the houses in Jesus’ day. While crowded in this stone house, we read from Mark 2 about the paralyzed man being lowered down through the flat roof to Jesus below. Jesus not only healed him physically, but also spiritually. Praise God for the “authority” (S’mekah in Hebrew) of Jesus to forgive sins! There is also a synagogue here as well.

Driving now north and east, we stopped at the border with Syria. Shlomo shared some modern history about the 1967 and 1973 wars against these northern neighbors. We actually were able to look over the border into Quneitra, Syria! We prayed for those innocent victims of the civil war in this war-torn country.

Caesarea Philippi

Caesarea Philippi

Grabbing lunch “on the go” (e.g. bananas, pretzels, and snacks), we spent the afternoon at two more national parks. The first one was Caesarea Philippi. This was a pagan city during Jesus’ day. But it was in the “region” of this city where Jesus asked, “Who do you say I am?” It was Peter who replied, “You are the Christ!” (Matthew 16) Here we saw the cultic grotto used in pagan worship, including the niches used for Pan. The Banias spring here serves as one of three tributaries of the Jordan River. The transfiguration of Jesus (Matthew 17) also may have taken place here too!

Coming down off the Golan now our last stop of the day was Dan. We first walked through the nature preserve. Here is the largest of the tributaries of the Jordan. The walk along the river was beautiful! We enjoyed Shlomo’s recorder playing. We also considered Psalm 42 and sang together. The path leads into the archaeological part of Dan. We sat on the steps of the high place as we read from Judges 18 (the Danites conquered this city, called Laish, and relocated here) and 1 Kings 12. Jeroboam set up a false worship center here, including an altar and golden calf. We also saw the mud-brick gate of Dan, dating to around the time of Abraham.

Dan nature preserve

The Dan Nature Preserve

Since we still had ample daylight, we ascended the hills of Naphtali to Misgav Am. Here we had a tremendous view of Mt. Hermon to the east and Lebanon to the north. We literally were about 1/2 mile from the border. Shlomo shared some modern history about Lebanon. We also heard the story from the Bible (2 Samuel 20) that took place at the tel of Abel Beit Maacah below.

Driving back south through the Huleh Valley, we arrived at our hotel for dinner. We enjoyed an optional gathering down at the water’s edge to conclude the night.

DAY 8 – SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 6 – MT. ARBEL, JORDAN RIVER BAPTISM, MT. CARMEL, CAESAREA, JERUSALEM

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June 2016 Israel Tour – Day 4

DAY 4 – FRIDAY, JUNE 24

Gamla

Gamla – the “Masada of the North”

Today was another sun and warm day, with temps in the high 90s (although cooler on Mt. Hermon). Leaving the hotel at 7:30 after breakfast, we drove to the NE corner of the Sea of Galilee, climbing the Golan Heights. Here we read from Mark 9 (blind man from Bethsaida healed) and John 6 (Feeding of the 5,000). Although it was hazy this morning, we could see the area where these stories took place. The Healing of the Demoniac story took place on the eastern side as well, but further south.

Further east is Gamla. This was an important Jewish city that revolted against the Romans in 66 AD. Josephus describes the battle that took place, with 1,000s of Jews losing their lives. Here we saw from a vantage point the city walls, the round tower, and the 1st Century synagogue. Although not specifically mentioned in the Gospels, Jesus no doubt taught here. He only indirect reference to Gamla in the Bible is through the name “Judas the Galilean” who was from here. He is mentioned in Acts 5 and he was a part of an earlier revolt (in 6 AD) here.

Mt. Hermon

Mt. Hermon ski lift

Continuing north in the Golan Heights we stopped at Katzrin, a Talmudic Village (3rd-7th Century AD). Here we saw one house that was partially reconstructed as well as another house fully restored. Crowded together in this house, we read from Mark 2 (the lame man who was lowered down through the roof to be healed by Jesus). We celebrated God’s grace to us and the gift of His forgiveness.

Driving now north and east, our next stop was along the Syrian border. Shlomo shared some more modern history about the 1967 and 1973 wars that took place on this front. We prayed for Syrian refugees misplaced as well as Christians killed by ISIS in this country.

After grabbing a quick fruit lunch, we drove to the Israel’s ski resort where we took the chairlift to the top of Mt. Hermon. It is a 7,200 foot mountain (with the Syrians controlling the highest peak at over 9,000 feet). Who would have thought that Israel not only has a snow-capped mountain 6 months/year, but also a ski resort? The wild mountain flowers on top were beautiful! Because of time, we all took the chair lift down as well (some hoped to hike down).

Lebanon

Looking into Lebanon

Descending the slopes of the Golan Heights, Caesarea Philippi was our next stop. Matthew 16 was shared. It includes the key question Jesus asked His disciples – “Who do you say I am?” Here we saw the grotto area of this pegan city. This included seeing the area where the temple of Augustus once stood, various niches for Pan (the shepherding god), as well as other evidences of pagan worship here.

The nature preserve and archaeological site of Tel Dan was next. After walking along the Dan tributary of the Jordan River (the largest one of three), we enjoyed Shlomo’s song he played on his recorder. We also read from Psalm 42 and sang “As the Deer.” Walking from here into the archaeological part, we read from Judges 18 and I Kings 12 about the patterns of disobedience that took place here. Here we saw the high place and the altar area. Leaving the site we saw a mud-brick gate dating to the time of the Middle Bronze Period. Perhaps Abraham saw or even walked through this gate (Gen. 14:14)?

On the way back to the hotel, we ascended 1,800 feet (to 2,500) to the top of the hills of Naphtali. Here the looked across the Lebanon border. We read from 2 Samuel 20 (about Abel Beit Maacah). Shlomo followed by sharing about the situation both past and present with Lebanon.

We drove back to the hotel for dinner and a nice gathering down on the shoreline of the lake to end the day.

DAY 5 – SATURDAY, JUNE 25: ARBEL, MAGDALA, CHORAZIM, CAPERNAUM, SEA OF GALILEE BOAT RIDE, YARDENIT, MT. OF BEATITUDES

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April, 2016 Israel-Egypt Tour, Day 5

DAY 5 – THURSDAY, APRIL 14

Sea of Galilee, Kinneret

Sea of Galilee sunrise!

Today was a perfect weather day, with sun, puffy clouds, and temps in the high 60s/low 70s. We left the hotel around 7:30. Driving north on the east side of the Sea of Galilee (past the area where the Geresene demoniac was healed – Mark 5), we began climbing the Golan Heights. Our first stop was an overview of the NW corner of the lake near where Bethsaida was located. We read from Mark 8 and John 6.

Our first site we visited was Gamla, the “camel-humped Masada of the north.” This was a city that led the 1st Revolt against the Romans in 66 AD. Although we cold not descend down to the 1st century synagogue (no doubt where Jesus taught), we could see it from above. Even though not mentioned directly in Scripture, a certain “Judas the Galilean” (founder of the Zealots in 6 AD) was from here (Acts 5).

Overlooking Gamla (in the Golan Heights)

Overlooking Gamla (in the Golan Heights)

Driving northward on the Golan Heights now, Qatzrin was our next site. This was a “Talmudic” village (3rd-7th century AD). Here we sat in a reconstructed stone house no doubt similar to the type of houses that existed in Jesus’ time. Crowded in the house, we read from Mark 2 (the paralytic lowered down to Jesus). We considered Jesus’ remarkable ministry of compassion and mercy to the “shamed” of the world.

Driving northeast, we climbed an dormant volcano called Bental where we viewed the border with Syria. Shlomo shared with us some of the modern day history (1967 and 1973 wars) with Syria. We paused to pray for those inflicted by war in Syria these last few years.

After lunch at a Druze restaurant located on the foothills of Mt. Hermon (Psalm 133), we descended off the Golan Heights to Caesarea Philippi. Here we read from Matthew 16 about Jesus’ question, “Who do you say I am?” We saw the grotto and the shrines of this pagan city, as well as the plentiful amounts of water that flow from these springs originating from Mt. Hermon.

Dan, Israel

The nature preserve at Dan

Our last site of the day was Dan. This is in part a beautiful nature preserve in addition to an archaeological site. Here, we walked along the largest of the Jordan tributaries, enjoying the shady trees. We stopped by the quiet waters where we enjoyed Shlomo playing his recorder. We also read from Psalm 42. Walking to the “high place of Dan, we read from Judges 18 and 1 Kings 12 about the “pattern of disobedience” here. It was Jeroboam who established this high place and golden calf here. The city was destroyed in 722 BC by the Assyrians.

The drive back to the southern end of the Sea of Galilee to our hotel was beautiful, with great visibilities of the region and a great sunset. We enjoyed dinner together and another gathering of worship and reflection on the water’s edge. It was another great day!

DAY 6 – FRIDAY, APRIL 15: MT. ARBEL, MAGDALA, CHORAZIN, CAPERNAUM, ANCIENT BOAT, SEA OF GALILEE BOAT RIDE, MT. OF BEATITUDES

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Oct-Nov 2015 Israel Tour Day 8

DAY 8 – MONDAY, NOVEMBER 2

Arbel (overlooking Sea of Galilee)

Arbel (overlooking Sea of Galilee)

Today was a day spent around the Sea of Galilee. With sunny skies and temps a little warmer today (around 80), it was a perfect day to spend around the Sea of Galilee. Leaving at 7:30 today, our first destination was Mt. Arbel. 13 in the group hiked to the top (ascending the trail and using hand-holds towards the top), while the others bussed around and walked the final 300 yards to the top. The view was great today of the Sea of Galilee below.

Driving back down through Tiberias, next we stopped at Magdala. Here we saw a 1st century AD synagogue, only one of seven found dating to this time period. “Mary Magdalene” was from here. No doubt Jesus taught in this synagogue as well. We also enjoyed here the new chapel. We enjoyed the mosaic murals and the acoustical singing.

From here we drove to the NW corner of the Sea of Galilee to Chorazim, one of the three cities condemned by Jesus. We entered the 3rd century synagogue here and saw the “Moses seat.” We read from Matthew 23 and heard Jesus’ exhorting words on living humble and honest lives.

Synagogue in Capernaum

Synagogue in Capernaum

Located below on the NW shoreline of the lake is Capernaum. We visited the synagogue here too (5th century AD). We read a number of the Gospel stories that took place here (Mark 1, 2, Mark 9, Luke 7, and John 6). We also enjoyed a brief time of reflection on the shoreline. Peter, Andrew, James, John, and Matthew were all probably called to follow Jesus here.

Following a “St. Peter’s fish” lunch (for most), we stopped at Nof Ginnosar to see the 1st century boat found in 1986. We could picture Jesus and His disciples crowded in a boat like this. We then “sailed” ourselves on the lake, enjoying a time of worship and reflection.   The water was a bit rough because of the eastern wind. We read from Mark 4 and Matthew 14 about the storm narratives Jesus and His disciples encountered.

Baptism in the Jordan River

Baptism in the Jordan River

Driving back to the southern end of the lake, we stopped at Yardenit for our optional baptismal service. 15 reaffirmed their commitment to follow Christ as one of His disciples, while 1 was baptized for the first time. It was a joy to celebrate God’s call upon our lives together!

Returning to our hotel, we enjoyed dinner together and a “Jeopardy/Wheel of Fortune, etc… game as well, using the sites of Israel as the questions. It was a great way to review the trip.

DAY 9 – TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 3: MT. OF BEATITUDES / REFLECTION DAY

This will be a mid-tour “reflection day.” We will have intentional times of group discussion and silent meditation. Our focus for the day is the teaching of Jesus from Mathew 5-7.

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March 2015 Tour – Day 5

DAY 5– WEDNESDAY, MARCH 18 It was another great day, with sun and temps around 65-70. Today we headed to the Golan Heights. Driving from the NW corner of the Sea ofg Galilee to the NE corner, here we began our ascent to the Heights. Overlooking Bethsaida, we read from John 6 about the feeding of the 5,000. It most likely took place in the valley below us. From here we continued to the plateau of the Heights to Gamla (the “Masada of the north”). It was here where the First Revolt (in 66AD) was met by a strong Roman challenge. The city fell to the Romans, with thousands killed.  From a distance we saw the synagogue (only one of seven … Continue reading

January 2015 Israel Tour – Day 7

DAY 7 – FRIDAY, JANUARY 16 We started the day at 7:30. Rain was predicted for today, but it did not rain at all. Following breakfast, we boarded the bus on for a day primarily in the Golan Heights. From our kibbutz on the NW corner of the Sea of Galilee, we drove to the NE corner for an overview of the city of Bethsaida. We read from Mark 8 and John 6. Ascending now into the Golan, our first stop was Gamla, a city contemporary with the time of Jesus. This was the “Masada of the north” as it was here that the First Revolt started in 66 AD against the Romans. Here, one of the seven synagogues that … Continue reading