June 2018 Israel-Jordan Tour Update – Day 4

DAY 4 – WEDNESDAY, JUNE 13: GAMLA, QATZRIN, MT. HERMON SKI LIFT, NIMROD, CAESAREA PHILIPPI, DAN Today we traveled up to the Golan Heights. It would be a partly sunny day, with perfect temps around 80. We even had a late afternoon shower at our last site, once again very unique for June in Israel. We also celebrated the arrival of our 14 delayed friends. They arrived at our hotel at 11:15 last night! El Araj/Bethsaida Leaving shortly after 7:30, we drove to the northern end of the Sea of Galilee (13 miles long). Taking a dirt road through fields, we visited the new archaeological site of El Araj. It is suggested that this was Bethsaida, the home of Peter, … Continue reading

March 2018 Israel-Jordan Tour Update – Day 4

DAY 4 – WEDNESDAY, MARCH 14: GAMLA, QATZRIN, SYRIAN BORDER, CAESAREA PHILIPPI, DAN

Today we headed north to the Golan Heights. It was another sunny day, with perfect temps around 75. It would be a day of blessing.

Plain of Bethsaida

NE corner of Sea of Galilee

NE corner of the Sea of Galilee

Following a great breakfast (with freshly-squeezed orange juice), we left the hotel around 7:30. Driving to the northern end of the Sea of Galilee, we then headed east towards Bethsaida (the hometown of Peter, Andrew, and Philip, John 1). While the muddy and rutted dirt road to El Araj (a new possible site for the Bethsaida) prevented us from seeing this new excavation, we drove to a wonderful overlook further east of the region below. Here we could see the eastern shoreline of the lake (Mark 5), Tiberias to the west, and with the good visibility even the top of Mt. Tabor far in the distance in the Jezreel Valley. To the north we could see Mt. Hermon (Israel’s highest peak – 7,300 feet, see Psalm 133). But looking down to the lake we read form Mark 8 (healing of the blind man from Bethsaida) and John 6 (the Feeding of the 5,000).

Gamla

Gamla synagogue

The 1st century synagogue at Gamla

Continuing to the plateau of the Golan Heights, Gamla was our next stop. This was a Jewish city from the 1st century BC. The city was one of the first major cities taken by the Romans during the First Revolt (66 AD). We walked to the 1st century synagogue here. Although not mentioned specifically, perhaps Jesus taught here as He did in many of the Galilean synagogues (Mt. 4). We even saw a few griffon vultures.

Katzrin

Katzrin house

Inside the Talmudic house at Katzrin

The Talmudic village of Katzrin (dating from 3rd-7th century AD) was our next stop. We were introduced to the Hebraic background of the culture, and specifically of the life and ministry of Jesus here. Entering the reconstructed house of Rabbi Abun, we read from Mark 2 about Jesus healing the crippled man lowered down to Him through the roof. We could see it happening in a stone house like this! Here, Jesus also displayed authority (s’mekah) in forgiving the man’s sins too. We paused to celebrate God’s forgiveness for us! Leaving the site we walked through the synagogue.

Bental

Mt. Hermon

Mt. Hermon from Bental

Eating bananas, apples, and snacks for lunch today, we made out way to Bental. We saw a few gazelles along the way! This old Israeli military outpost overlooks the border with Syria. Shlomo shared about the 1967 and 1973 wars that took place in this region. Looking across the border, we could see Kuneitra as well as numerous other Syrian towns. We felt perfectly safe here despite what has happened in Syria so close to the border. The up-close view of Mt. Hermon was amazing!

Caesarea Philippi

Caesarea Philippi

The sacred area of Caesarea Philippi

Descending down off the Golan Heights, we visited Caesarea Philippi. This was a pagan city during the day so of Jesus. Yet it was in this region where Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do you say I am?” We saw the grotto/cultic center of the city, which included a Temple of Augustus, and shrines dedicated to Pan, Nemesis, Zeus, and the sacred goats.

Dan

mud-brick Dan gate

The Canaanite mud-brick gate of Tel Dan

Our last stop of the day was to the nature preserve and archaeological site of Dan. Walking along the largest tributary of the Jordan River (Banias and Hatsbani are the others), we enjoyed the beauty of this area. We stopped along the path to listen to Shlomo share a song on his recorder and to read (and sing) Psalm 42. Walking further, we entered the archaeological site. At the altar and high place built by Jeroboam, we read from Judges 18 and 1 Kings 12. Overlooking the Lebanon border to the north, we also heard Shlomo share about the present situation with this country. Leaving the site, we saw a mud-brick gate that possibly dates to the time of Abraham.

Back to the Hotel

From here we drove back home through the Huleh Valley. Passing Abel Beit Macaah (where Pastor John dug in 2014), we read from 2 Samuel 20 about the “wise woman.” On our way back to the hotel we also passed by Hazor, a major Canaanite city destroyed by Joshua (Josh. 11). We returned to the hotel for dinner and a nice gathering down by the water’s edge.

DAY 5 – THURSDAY, MARCH 15: ARBEL, MAGDALA, CHORAZIM, CAPERNAUM, SEA OF GALILEE BOAT RIDE, YARDENIT, MT. OF BEATITUDES

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June 2017 Israel Tour – Day 7 Summary

DAY 7 – SUNDAY, JUNE 18:

Gamla

Gamla – the “Masada of the north”

Today we headed north to the Golan Heights. We would once again have sunny skies, with temps a bit cooler (highs around 90). Driving around the the NE corner of the Sea of Galilee, we first stopped to overview Bethsaida. This was the home town of Peter, Andrew, and Philip (John 1). We read from Mark 8 (blind man healed) and John 6 (Feed of the 5,000) the took place in this area.

Driving to the plateau of the Golan Heights, Gamla was our second stop. It is located 6 miles east of the NE corner of the Sea of Galilee. This was a Jewish city in the time of Jesus, and the first city to revolt against the Romans in 66 AD. Although the road down to the 1st century synagogue was closed, the view of this “camel-shaped” city was great from above. Even though not mentioned in the Bible, we read from Acts 5 that mentions a certain “Judas the Galilean” who some think may have been from here.

Qatzrin

Qatzrin – Reconstructed house of Rabbi Abun

Continuing north, The Talmudic village of Katzrin was our next stop. Here we were introduced to the Hebraic background of Jesus. Sitting in a reconstructed stone house similar to one during the time of Jesus, we read from Mark 2 (that actually took place in Capernaum) about the lame man being lowered through the roof. We could see the story taking place in front of us! We also saw a synagogue dating to the same time period (4th-7th century AD).

Close by we drove to the border with Syria and looked into this war-torn country. Quneitra is the city we could see directly across the border. Shlomo shared with us some history of the 1967 and 1973 wars with these northern enemies of Israel. Today, Israel medically treats many wounded Syrians.

Mt.. Hermon

View from top of Mt. Hermon

Eating lunch on the go today (apples, bananas, and snacks), we next drove through the dew Druze villages to Mt. Hermon. This is the highest mountain in Israel (7,300 feet!). Taking the ski chair-life up to the top, the view of the region from here was spectacular. Five couples renewed their wedding vows here as well. It was special for all. Most took the ski life back down although a few in the group joined Pastor John in waking down the steep trail back to the bus. We read from Psalm 133 that mentions this mountain.

Descending down off the Golan Heights, Caesarea Philippi was our next site. It was “in the region” (Matthew 16) of this pagan city where Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do you say I am?” We walked to the grotto area of this ancient cultic center. Also here was one of the three tributaries (called the Banias) of the Jordan River.

Lebanon

Looking into Lebanon from Kibbutz Misgav Am in northern Israel

Our last site we visited was Dan. This is actually both a nature preserve as well as an archaeological site. The walk along the Dan (the largest of the tributaries) was beautiful. On the walk we stopped for a brief time of song and devotional (Psalm 42). We also considered the stories of Judges 18 and 1 Kings 12 while sitting on the steps of the high place of the archaeological site of Dan. It was Jeroboam who established false worship here. Upon leaving the site, we saw the Middle Canaanite mud-brick gate that perhaps was used by Abraham (Genesis 14) as well as the Israelite gate complex from the 9th century BC.

On our way back to the hotel, we ascended to Misgav Am located on the Hills of Naphtali. The view into Lebanon, Mt. Hermon, and the Huleh Valley below was incredible. We read from 2 Samuel 20 (about Sheba and Joab at Abel Beat Macaah) and heard Shlomo share some modern history about Lebanon.

Driving back to our hotel, we enjoyed dinner and an optional gathering down at the shoreline of the lake together. It was another great day here in Israel!

DAY 8 – MONDAY, JUNE 19: ARBEL, MAGDALA, CHORAZIM, CAPERNAUM, SEA OF GALILEE BOAT RIDE, YARDENIT

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