Oct-Nov 2017 Egypt-Jordan-Israel Tour Update – Day 10

DAY 10: TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 7:

Today was a day spent all around (and on) the Sea of Galilee. The brilliant sun provided warm temps in the 70s. We have been blessed with wonderful weather so far!

Mt. Arbel

Mt. Arbel

The Sea of Galilee from the hike up Mt. Arbel

Leaving the hotel again around 7:30 (and reading Mt. 6 as we departed), our first destination was only 5 minutes away – the trailhead of Mt. Arbel. About 15 in the group enjoyed a hike up this cliff – an ascent of about 800 feet. The rest in the group bussed around to the other side and walked about 300 yards to the top. The view from on top was spectacular! We could look down and see much of the region of the Sea of Galilee, including the Mt. of Beatitudes and Capernaum on the NW corner of the lake.

Jordan River Baptism

Driving south to Yardenit, we enjoyed an optional renewal of our baptism in the Jordan River. Fourteen in the group entered the waters of the Jordan for this special time of reaffirming our faith in being followers of Christ. Pastors John and Phil officiated. We had the entire place to ourselves.

Magdala

Magdala synagogue

The 1st century Magdala synagogue

Driving back north through Tiberias (a city Jesus would not have entered), we entered the archaeological site of Magdala. This was the home of a certain “Mary Magdalene.” Here we saw a 1st century synagogue. No doubt Jesus must have taught from here. We also enjoyed a time of singing in the newly-built prayer chapel. The acoustics were wonderful!

Jesus Boat

After lunch (a nice St. Peter’s fish lunch), we saw the ancient boat (“Jesus Boat”). It was discovered in 1986 by two brothers from the Nof Ginnosar kibbutz. This wooden boat dates to the time of Jesus.

Capernaum

Capernaum

The shoreline of Capernaum near where Jesus called his disciples

Driving to the NW shoreline of the lake, Capernaum (Kefar Nahum, the village of Nahum) was our next stop. This city was located right on the main route through this region, and because of this it served as Jesus’ “home base” for his Galilean ministry. Sitting in the 5th century synagogue, we read from Mark 1, 2 and 9; Luke 7; and John 6 … all stories that took place here. In addition to seeing stone structures (e.g. houses) from Jesus’ day, we enjoyed some reflection time on the shoreline. This was where Jesus most likely called Peter, Andrew, James, John, and Matthew, the port-tax collector.

Mt. of Beatitudes

Up on the hillside nearby, we enjoyed listening to portions of the Beatitudes. This was shared by Jesus to probably 1000s of people. This “Sermon on the Mount” is found in Matthew 5-7. We listened to the Beatitudes shared first in Hebrew and then in English. Following a time of reflection once again, some in the group walked down the path to the road below.

Boat Ride

sea of Galilee sunset

Sunset on the Sea of Galilee

We ended the day with a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee. As the sun was setting over the cliffs of Arbel, we enjoyed a time of worship, Scripture (Mark 4, Matthew 14), and quietness on the calm waters of the lake. It was a great way to end a great day of focusing on Jesus, the Master.
We returned to the hotel for dinner and an optional gathering down on the lake’s shoreline. We leave this place tomorrow morning.

DAY 11: WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 8: NAZARETH PRECIPICE, MEGIDDO, MT. CARMEL, CAESAREA, JERUSALEM

 

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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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Has Ancient Bethsaida Been Found?

HAS ANCIENT BETHSAIDA BEEN FOUND?

El Araj

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

Biblical archaeologists continue to excavate ancient sites in Israel. The discovery of the ancient city of Bethsaida is another one of these sites being uncovered that connects us directly to the Bible.

The Site of El Araj

On the last Israel trip I led (September 4-17 2017), we visited the site of El Araj. Finding the location of this new excavation through the guidance of a few friends, we diverted from the main asphalt road on the NE corner of the Sea of Galilee to a small unmarked dirt lane that took us to the site. Let’s just say that going to “off-the-beaten-track” sites like this is something I like to do with groups and something that every “touristy” Israel tours do not do. For me, visiting this possible site for Bethsaida was the highlight of the trip!

El Araj team

The el Araj team, summer of 2017

About a month ago, the results of the 2nd year of excavation at El Araj were published. I must say that what was discovered at this point is quite exciting. Indeed, the search for the true site of Bethsaida has been ongoing since the 1800s. But it was not until the 1980s when Father Pixner, a Benedictine monk, excavated a site about 1.5 miles north of the water’s edge today (more recently, the University of Nebraska has been digging here). The site called et-Tell reveals an impressive 1st Temple four-chambered gate (9th century BC) and two large Hellenistic houses (2nd century BC). But that is about it. No 1st century ruins contemporary with the time of Jesus or the New Testament have been found. While what Dr. Bryant Wood (of Associates for Biblical Research) has said is important (e.g. “The lack of evidence does not mean the evidence of absence.”), the main leading issue is not just the archaeology but primarily the location of et-Tell. For it to be a fishing village (Bethsaida literally means “house of fishing”), you would expect it to be on the water’s edge. It is not even close. However, this new site, El Araj, precisely is!

silver coins - Nero found at El Araj

The two coins found in the summer of 2017. The left one depicts Nero – 66-67 AD (credit: National Geographic).

We know the El Araj (later re-named Julius by Herod Phillip in 30 AD when he “upgraded” the small Bethsaida to a polis or city) actually was on the water’s edge because of the 1st century Roman bathhouse and mosaic found this year. This one lone discovery tells us that the water of the Sea of Galilee did not come further north (as those who hold to the view that et Tell is Bethsaida contend) or else these uncovered structures would have been underwater. Topographically, el Araj’s location fits much better with the historical (and Gospel) records.

So what has been discovered so far?

map of el Araj

(credit: Biblical Resources)

While I will direct you to a few more detailed articles already highlighting this summer’s most recent finds (e.g. CBN, National Geographic, and Ha-Aretz), the discoveries include Roman structures, mosaics, two coins (one of them a silver coin of Nero – 66-67 AD), a Byzantine Church, and the ruins of a Crusader building. About the significance of the Byzantine Church, co-director Dr. Steve Notley said, “Willibald, the bishop of Eichstätt in Bavaria, visited the Holy Land in 725 C.E., and in his itinerary, he describes his visit to a church at Bethsaida that was built over the house of Peter and Andrew. It may well be that the current excavations have unearthed evidence for that church.”  Only time will tell if this was that church!
About the findings this year, archaeologist Dr. Mordechai Avram stated, “[The discovery of] a bathhouse is something that leads us to understand that we are within some kind of a city, some kind of a sphere of people who are building communal structures, public structures and although the dig here is very small, it immediately hinted us that we are in a very good place to suggest that we discovered the city of Julias.” 

Mosaic floor at el Araj

Mosaic Roman floor (credit: Zachary Wong, 2017)

So visiting this new site was very exciting especially in light of the Gospels telling us this was the home of Peter, Andrew, and Phillip (John 1). It was also the home of the blind man healed by Jesus (Mark 8). Additionally, the Feeding of the 5,000 took place here too (Luke 9). Lastly, this may have been a small fishing village visited by Jesus Himself!

Stay tuned for further updates upon next year’s excavation! If I can work it in my touring and teaching schedule, I would love to dig here in 2018!
It goes without saying that el Araj will be a site we will visit on each and every upcoming trip I lead!
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September 2017 Israel Tour – Day 5

DAY 5 – THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 7:

Sea of Galilee - Kinneret

The Sea of Galilee from the top of Mt. Arbel

Today was a great day of focusing upon the life and ministry of Jesus around the Sea of Galilee. The day would be another sunny day, with highs around 90. Leaving shortly after 7:30 and reading the kingdom parable from Matthew 13 on the way, we drove to the trailhead that leads to the top of Mt. Arbel. 15 in the group hiked to the top (about a 800 foot climb), while the rest of the group bused around to the western side and walked up a more gentle path to the top from there. The view of this NW corner of the lake below was wonderful!

From here we drove to the southern end of the lake to the place called Yardenit. It was here where 20 reaffirmed their commitment to be followers of Christ in the waters of the Jordan River. It was a special time for all.

Baptism at Yardenit

Baptism in the Jordan River

We returned to the NW corner of the lake and visited Magdala. This was the home of Mary Magdalene. We walked around the 1st century synagogue discovered just a few years ago. No doubt Jesus would have taught from this modest synagogue. We also enjoy a time of devotion and singing in the newly-built chapel.

After lunch, we visited Chorazim. The ruins at this site date to the 3rd century AD. Standing in the synagogue here, we read from Matthew 23 where it mentions the Moses Seat. One was found here. Chorazim (like Bethsaida and Capernaum) was condemned by Jesus (Mt. 11).

Chorazim synagogue

Synagogue at Chorazim

Driving back to our hotel, we visited the museum that houses the famous 1st century wooden boat discovered here in 1986. It was probably a boat like this that the fishermen used in Jesus’ day. Taking our own boat ride from here, we “sailed” for 45 minutes or so along the coastline. We enjoyed a time of worship together. Reading from Mark 4 and Mathew 14 (the two storm narratives), we paused to consider that when we encounter the unexpected “storms of life,” Jesus cares for us!

We ended the day on the Mt. Of Beatitudes. Reading from Matthew 5 (in Hebrew and in English), we considered the kingdom principles that Jesus shared here. Most in the group walked down the path that leads to the shoreline of the lake. We walked in silence, reflecting upon the words Jesus shared in this area.

The view of the Sea of Galilee from the Mt. of Beatitudes

We returned back to our hotel for dinner and a free evening. Some went swimming in the lake and the pool. It was another great day here in Israel!

DAY 6 – FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 8: CAPERNAUM, BETH SHEAN, JERICHO, DEAD SEA, JUDEAN WILDERNESS

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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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September 2017 Israel Tour – Day 3

DAY 3 – TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 5:

Caesarea theater

Caesarea Theater

Today was our first full day here in Israel and it was a good one! With sunny skies greeting us, with eventual highs in the high 80s, we loaded our bus after breakfast and drove to Caesarea. Located in the Shalom Plain, this was a city built by Herod the Great in 22 BC. Walking from one end of the city to the other, we saw the theater, the palace, the hippodrome, the Crusader part of the city, the harbor (used by Paul), and the aqueduct that brought fresh water into the city from the Carmel Range. We read from Acts 10 (Peter and Cornelius), Acts 12 (Agrippa), and Acts 26 (Paul).

Driving to our region, the Carmel Range, we ascended the highest peak called Muhraqa (“burnt offering”) today. Here we heard the story (1 Kings 18) about Elijah and the prophets of Baal and Asherah. We also remembered other passages that connect us to this region (2 Kings 4, Song of Songs 7, Isaiah 35, and Amos 1). After entering the small chapel to sing a few songs, we went to the rooftop for our first view of there Jezreel Valley. From here we enjoyed lunch nearby.

Jezreel Valley

Jezreel Valley from Mt. Carmel

Following lunch, we descended down to the valley and to the ancient site of Megiddo. This is a large archaeological site with over 2 dozen levels of ruins spanning a time period of about 2,500 years. After seeing a model of the site, we climbed the tel (ancient mound). We saw two difference Canaanite gates, a Solomonic gate, stables, and a granary/grain silo). We stopped to look across the valley where we could see Mt. Gilboa (1 Sam. 31), the Hill or More (Judges 6-7), Mt. Tabor (Judges 4-5), and the Nazareth Ridge. We also celebrated Christ’s victorious return and the end-time battle where God has the final word (Rev. 16 and the Valley of Armageddon). We left the site by descending down 180 steps through the water system.

Megiddo

Megiddo water system

Driving across the Jezreel Valley we came to Sepporis. Even though this city (located only 4-5 miles from Nazareth) is not mentioned directly in the Bible, it was the most prominent site at the time of Jesus. Here we saw lots of Roman ruins including many mosaics. The most famous being the Mona Lisa of the Galilee mosaic.

We ended the day by ascending to the precipice of Nazareth. Here we saw the Jezreel Valley from yet a different perspective. We read from Luke 4 (Jesus in the synagogue) and John 1. It was Phillip who invited us to “come and see” Jesus! We enjoyed a quiet reflection time before getting back on the bus and driving through Cana (John 2) to our hotel located on the NW corner of the Sea of Galilee north of Tiberias.

Jezreel Valley

The September 2017 group on the Precipice of Nazareth, with the Jezreel Valley in the background.

As we arrived at Nof Ginnosar our “kibbutz-hotel” for the next three nights, the full moon over the Sea of Galilee was spectacular! We enjoyed dinner together and a free evening.

DAY 4 – WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 6: GAMLA, QATZRIN, MT. HERMON SKI LIFT, CAESAREA PHILIPPI, DAN, ABEL BEIT MAACAH

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June 2017 Israel Tour – Day 8 Summary

DAY 8 – MONDAY, JUNE 19:

Sea of Galilee from Arbel

The Sea of Galilee from the top of Mt Arbel

Today we started out at about 7:30 once again. The sunny temps rose to the high 90s today, but the breeze and shade helped at most sites. Our first site as Mt. Arbel. Ten in the group choose to hike this 800 foot mountain while others bussed around to the other side and ascended to the top on a shorter trail. The view from the top of the NW corner of the Sea of Galilee below was amazing! No doubt Jesus traveled through the Valley of the Doves from the Lower Galilee to Capernaum, going past this mountain many times. While we can’t be sure, Jesus perhaps climbed this mountain from time to time also.

Driving to the southern end of the Sea of Galilee, 17 in the group were baptized in the Jordan River at a place called Yardenit. It was a special time of renewing our commitment to follow Jesus. One in the group (Chase, a 15 year old young man) proclaimed his faith and was baptized for the first time!

Jordan River baptism

Our baptism group in the Jordan River

Returning to the NW corner of the lake, Magdala was our next stop. Here we saw a 1st century synagogue recently excavated. Once again, we could picture Jesus teaching in this modest structure. Mary “Magdalene” was from here. Following the Feeding of the 4,000, Jesus and His disciples sailed into the port here. Before leaving the site, we enjoyed some music and singing in the newly-built chapel. The wall mosaics here are beautiful!

Following lunch, we visited Chorazim and Capernaum, two of the three cities condemned by Jesus (Matthew 11). At Chorazim we read from Matthew 23 in the 3rd century synagogue and saw a replica of the Moses Seat here. At Capernaum (Jesus’ “home-base” for his Galilean ministry), we read various Gospel stories about what happened here (Mark 1, 2 and 9; Luke 7; John 6). This was also most likely where Jesus called His first disciples (Matthew 4). It was special to spend some time on the shore’s edge thinking of this calling.

Sea of Galilee

The Sea of Galilee from the Mt. of Beatitudes

At Nof Ginnosar, we saw a 1st century wooden boat excavated from the shoreline in 1986. It is called today the Jesus BoatIt was amazing to see it so well preserved! It was from here where we boarded our own boat for a short ride out on the lake. We enjoyed a time of worship as well as reflection, reading Mark 4 and Matthew 14. These two storm narratives reminded us that Jesus calms even our fears and helps us when the “waves and the wind” blow against us!

Fox in Israel

A fox near the Sea of Galilee

We ended the day on the Mt. of Beatitudes. Shlomo read the first part of Matthew 5 in Hebrew for us. Overlooking the lake below, it was inspiring to consider these “kingdom principles.” Following a quiet time of reflection, most in the group walked down the path to the water’s edge.

We returned to our hotel for dinner and free evening. It was a great day here and around the Sea of Galilee!

DAY 9 – TUESDAY, JUNE 20: BETH SHEAN, MT. GERIZIM, SHILOH, WILDERNESS OF JUDAH, JERUSALEM

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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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June 2017 Israel Tour – Day 6 Summary

DAY 6 – SATURDAY, JUNE 17:

Caesarea Theater

The theater at Caesarea

Today was another sunny day, with temps around 90. The breeze all day long made it comfortable. Checking out of the hotel, we drove north to Caesarea. Located in the Sharon Plain on the shoreline of the Med Sea, this city was developed by Herod the Great in 22 BC. The city served as the major harbor in the area. Sitting in the theater, we considered the bold witness of both Peter (Acts 10) and Paul here (Acts 26). Other people from the Bible (e.g. Phillip who lived here 20 years, see Acts 22; and Barnabas and Titus (who must have also passed through this city, see Galatians 2) were connected to this city as well. Herod’s grandson also died here (Acts 12). In addition to the theater, we saw the palace (where Paul was most likely tried), the hippodrome (for horse races), the Crusader part of the city, a few marble statutes, and the area of the harbor.

Driving inland, we ascended to the peak of Mt. Carmel. This is actually a 13 mile mountain range. In a small chapel called Muhraqa, we read from 1 Kings 18 about the story of Elijah vs. the prophets of Baal. In an awesome way, God revealed Himself that day! We also considered other passages that mention this area (Song of Songs 7, 2 Kings 4, Isaiah 33 & 35, and Jeremiah 50). From the rooftop, the view was wonderful. We looked down into the Jezreel Valley. We could see the Nazareth Ridge, Mt. Tabor (Judges 4-5), the Hill of Moreh (Judges 6-7), and Mt. Gilboa (1 Samuel 31).

Megiddo

The Megiddo Water System

Following lunch (at a place owned by Druze), we drove down into the Jezreel Valley to Megiddo. Archaeologically, this ancient city has more than two dozen levels of occupation spanning about 3,000 years. Megiddo was a strategically-located city guarding the main entrance into the valley. Climbing the site we saw three different ancient gates, a stable, an altar, and a grain silo. From here we also could see Nazareth, Mt. Tabor, the Hill of Moreh, and Mt. Gilboa. We remembered Revelation 16 (“Armageddon”) and rejoiced that in the final day when Christ returns, God will have the final word!

Driving across the Jezreel Valley, we arrived at Sepporis. This was the main Jewish city in the days of Jesus in the Lower Galilee. We saw many mosaics, including the famous Mona Lisa of the Galilee.

Precipice of Nazareth

The precipice of Nazareth

We ended the day at the Precipice of Nazareth. Located overlooking the Jezreel Valley, this was the “backyard” of Jesus when growing up. We read from Luke 4 and John 1 about Jesus’ ministry and were invited to “come and see” Jesus anew!

From here we drove through Cana (John 2) to our hotel located on the NW corner of the Sea of Galilee. We enjoyed dinner together. Some walked down the water’s edge before retiring for the evening. We will spend three nights here at Nom Ginnosar!

DAY 7 – SUNDAY, JUNE 18: GOLAN HEIGHTS, GAMLA, QATZRIN, MT. HERMON SKI LIFT, CAESAREA PHILIPPI, DAN, ABEL BEIT MAACAH

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April-May 2017 Israel-Egypt Tour Update: Day 6

DAY 6 – SATURDAY, APRIL 29:

Today we checked out of our hotel and left the Sea of Galilee region. The sun was once again bright, with afternoon temps still comfortable although reaching the 90s.

Beth Shean

The Roman city of Beth Shean (located along the Jordan River Valley)

After breakfast and loading the bus, we drove south to the southern end of the Sea of Galilee. We made a brief stop at the Kinneret Cemetery. Many Jewish pioneers are buried here, including the famous “Rachel” (Rachel Bluwstein). She was a Ukranian Jew who died in 1931 at the age of 40. Her poems are still read today! She will soon appear on the 20 shekel bill.

Driving south about 20 miles through the Jordan River Valley, we arrived at the huge archaeological site of Beth Shean. This was not only an Old Testament site but also a massive Roman city. It was the only Decapolis city on the west side of the Jordan. We spent about 1.5 hours here, seeing many ruins. This included the Roman bathhouse, agora, street, many pillars, a shrine, public latrines, and the theater. Some in the group climb to the top of the OT tel, providing a great view of the region as well as the Roman city below. We read from 1 Samuel 31 (death of Saul, with his body being hung on the walls of this city), and 1 Corinthians 15 (“standing firm” on the foundation of Christ).

Retaining walls of Jericho

The retaining walls of Jericho

Close by was the 6th century AD synagogue of Beit Alpha. Here the impressive mosaic floor of this synagogue is preserved. The fictional story about the making of the mosaic was entertaining.

From here we drove on a road leading us through the Samaritan Hill Country. We saw many shepherds along the way of this barren landscape. We drove nearby Shechem /Sychar (Deut. 34, Joshua 24, John 4), Shiloh (1 Samuel 3-4, Jer. 7), Bethel (Genesis 15, 28), and Ai (Joshua 7-8). Driving towards the Judean Desert we past by Michmash (1 Samuel 13-14). On the way to the specific desert of Pareth (Jeremiah 13), we saw a number of gazelles.

Dead Sea

Reflections upon the Dead Sea

Meeting up with the main east-west road leading to Jerusalem, we descended east and arrived at Jericho. Following lunch we climbed the ancient tel of OT Jericho. We first looked east across the Jordan River towards Mt. Nebo (Deut. 34). Elijah & Elisha also had their ministry in this area. It was also in the Jordan River here (John 1) where Jesus was baptized by John. NT Jericho was about 1.5 miles to the south (where we remembered guys like Zacheaus, Bartimeaus. Looking west we remembered Jesus’ temptation. But besides seeing the oldest standing structure in Israel (the round tower), we walked to the south end of the tel where the two stone retaining walls can still be seen. These walls date to the time of Joshua. It was the mud-brick wall on top of these stone walls that came “tumblin’ down.” Yes, the Bible is historically accurate in every respect!

Floating in the Dead Sea

Floating in the Dead Sea

Driving south along the western shoreline of the Dead Sea, the reflection of the afternoon sun against the slopes of Moab on the Jordanian side as brilliant. Arriving at our hotel in Ein Bokek, we also enjoyed floating in the Dead Sea (33% minerals & salt) as well as dinner.

DAY 7 – SUNDAY, APRIL 30: MASADA, EIN GEDI, QUMRAN, WILDERNESS OF JUDAH, JERUSALEM, MEMORIAL DAY SERVICE

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