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

Day 8 Trip Summary – January 2018 14 Day Israel Tour


Today we headed north to the Golan Heights. Once again like yesterday, the weather was very nice, with sun and temps in the 60s. We read from Matthew 13 as we left the hotel shortly after 7:30 a.m.


Sea of Galilee

The Sea of Galilee from the NE corner. Tiberias is in view.

Driving around to the NE corner of the Sea of Galilee, our first stop was was to be El Araj. However,  the muddy road through the field to get there didn’t’ allow us to visit. El Araj is a new archaeological site that is possibly suggested as the Bethsaida of the Bible and home town of Peter, Andrew, and Philip (John 1). The question about locating Bethsaida is not only archaeological but also one of topography (e.g. how close to the water was Bethsaida located). It will be exciting to keep an eye on what they find this new season!

So we continued past this site and began our ascent up the Golan Heights. We made a brief stop for an overview of the entire NE corner of the Sea of Galilee. The visibility was absolutely stunning! From here we could see Mt. Tabor in the Jezreel Valley, Tiberias across the lake, the snow-capped Mt. Hermon to the north, and even the Shuff Mountains in Lebanon 50 miles north! We read from Mark 8 (healing of the blind man) and John 6 (Feeding of the 5,000). It all took place right below us!



Gamla and the Sea of Galilee

Making our final ascent up the Golan Heights, we leveled off and finally came to the plateau. This is  where Gamla is located. This was a 1st century city taken by the Romans in 66 AD. From high above the site we saw the synagogue and the city wall and tower. Josephus is the one who tells of the story about Gamla. We read from Acts 5 that mentions a certain “Judas the Galilean” who may have been from here.



Inside the reconstructed house at Katzrin

Continuing north on the plateau of the Golan, Katzrin was our next visit. This was a Talmudic Jewish city (4th – 7th century AD). In the reconstructed stone house, we read from Mark 2 about the paralyzed man being healed by Jesus. Sitting in this house made the story come alive! It was probably in a house like this where the healing took place. We celebrated God’s healing grace freely offered to us! Leaving the site we also saw the synagogue.



Bental on the northern border with Syria

Located on the border with Syria, the view from Bental, an old military outpost, offers a commanding view of this northern region. Shlomo took the time to share some modern Israeli history related to the 1967 and 1973 wars with Syria. With the very clear skies could clearly see in all directions! We could see the Hills of Naphtali to the west, villages in Lebanon, and the Syrian city of Kuneitra from here. To gain such a close view of Mt. Hermon was incredible! It was special to hear how much medical care and aid the Israelis offer to Syrians refugees too!

Caesarea Philippi

Caesarea Philippi

Caesarea Philippi

Driving down off the heights of the Golan we made a brief stop at the Saar water falls before arriving at Caesarea Philippi. This was a very pagan city during the time of Jesus. It was in this region that Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do you say I am?” (Matthew 16). Climbing up to the grotto of the city we saw where the Temple of Augustus once stood as well as some of the shrines dedicated to Pan, Nemesis, and Jupiter. One of the tributaries of the Jordan River, the Banias spring, is located here. We also read about Jesus’ Transfiguration from Matthew 17.


The altar at Tel Dan

The altar at Tel Dan

Our last site of the day was Dan. Walking through the beautiful nature preserve led us to the archaeological site. We stopped by the quiet waters to hear Shlomo play as well as read (and sing) from Psalm 42. On the steps of the high place of Dan we read from Judges 18 (about the Danites capturing the city and renaming the city from Laish to Dan), and 1 Kings 12 (about Jeroboam building a false worship center here). Leaving the site, we saw a Middle Bronze/Canaanite mud-brick gate as well as the Iron Age/Israelite city with its high walls and double gate.

Driving back through the Huleh Valley (and past Hazor, a large OT site taken by Joshua… see Joshua 11), we arrived back at the hotel for dinner and another gathering down by the water’s edge.


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April-May 2017 Israel-Egypt Tour Update: Day 4


Today we traveled north and east to the Golan Heights. It was another sunny day, with temps in the upper 80s to low 90s.


Gamla in the Golan Heights

Departing after breakfast again at 7:30, we drove to the NE corner of the Sea of Galilee where we made our first stop overlooking the Plains of Bethsaida. We read from Mark 9 (blind man healed) and John 6 (Feeding of the 5,000). Peter, Andrew, and Philip were from Bethsaida.

Climbing a bit more to the plateau of the Golan, Gamla was our next stop. Although not mentioned directly in the Gospels, no doubt Jesus was here, teaching in the 1st century synagogue here. Gamla was mentioned by Josephus as a Jewish city attacked by the Romans in 66 AD. The only indirect reference to Gamla may come in Acts 5 (which mentions a certain “Judas the Galilean” who may have been from here). From the panoramic view on top, we could look down and see the synagogue as well as the city’s fortifications. The Griffon Vulture also is protected here. We saw a few flying around.


A reconstructed house at Katzrin (Qatzrin)

Next, we drove to the primary city in the Golan, Katzrin (Qatzrin). Here we visited a Talmudic Village (3rd-7th century AD). Here we were introduced to the Hebraic background of Jesus’ ministry. We sat in the reconstructed stone house of Rabbi Abun where we read from Mark 2. We could see the story unfold before our very eyes! There is also a synagogue here as well.

Driving east to the border of Syria, we looked into the city of Quneitra within this war-torn country. On the top of Bental (an old military site), Shlomo shared a little modern history, particularly about the 1967 and 1973 wars with Syria. It was amazing to be so close to Syria. We paused to pray for the victims of the war here.

Caesarea Philippi grotto

Caesarea Philippi

This afternoon we descended down from the Golan to Caesarea Philippi. This was a very pagan city in Jesus’ day. We read from Matthew 16. It was in the region of this city where Jesus asked the question, Who do you say I am?” Here we saw the grotto area where the pagan temples and niches dedicated to Pan were located. The Banias spring here is one of the three tributaries of the Jordan River.

Close by is the nature preserve and archaeological city of Dan. We enjoyed walked on the quiet pathway along the largest of the three tributaries of the Jordan here. We paused to listen to Shlomo share on his recorder. We also considered the words of Psalm 42 (“as the deer pants for water…”). It was a nice quiet time of reflection. Continuing on the path to the archaeological site of Dan, we sat on the steps of the high place of Dan. Here we read from Judges 18 and 1 Kings 12 about the false worship that took place here. It was Jeroboam who set up a golden calf here (as well as in Bethel just north of Jerusalem). Upon leaving the site, we also saw a Middle Bronze/Canaanite mud-brick gate (used by Abraham, see Gen. 14:14), as well as the walls and gates of the Israelite city.


Looking into Lebanon from Misgav Am, Israel

On our way back to the hotel, we drove past Abel Beit Macaah where both Pastor John and Tom excavated in 2014. We read the primary story from 2 Samuel 20 about “Sheba” and the “wise woman” who lived in this city. We also ascended the hills of Naphtali to Misgav Am. Located on the border with Lebanon, we could look into southern Lebanon. We also had a wonderful panoramic view of the Huleh Valley and Mt. Hermon. Shlomo shared some more modern history about the conflicts Israel has had with this northern neighbor.


Swimming in the Sea of Galilee

Driving back to out hotel, we enjoyed dinner together (a few went swimming in the Sea of Galilee before dinner), followed by an optional devotional gathering on the water’s edge. It was a great day here in northern Israel!


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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