DAY 4 – THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 22
Greeted by a beautiful sunrise over the Sea of Galilee, we began this new day by driving to the northeast corner of the Sea of Galilee. The day would be another sunny and mild day, with cooler temperatures. As we started out, we saw a herd of gazelles. Climbing into the Golan Heights, we first stopped to overview Bethsaida, the hometown of Peter, Andrew, and Philip. We read the stories about the blind man being healed here as well as the Feeding of the 5,000 miracle (Mark 8, John 6). These stories both took place in this area.
Next, we climbed further to the plateau of the Golan Heights to Gamla. This was a Jewish city that revolted against the Romans several times. There is a 1st century synagogue here, only one of seven found in Israel that dates to the time of Jesus. We read from Acts 5, the only indirect reference to the city (Judas, the Galilean may have the been from here). We even saw a few griffon vultures here.
Driving north now, Katzrin was our next stop. At this Talmudic Village (4th – 7th century AD), we sat in a reconstructed stone house very similar no doubt to the houses of Jesus’ day. We read from Mark 2, and envisioned the story unfolding before our very eyes! We celebrated God’s grace in forgiving us. Here we also saw a synagogue.
Driving to the border with Syria, we stopped briefly to look into this war-torn country, specifically to the town of Quneitra. Shlomo shared with us some of the history of the 1967 and 1973 wars that took place here. We learned that Israel provides medical care for inflicted Syrians (both civilians, soldiers, and rebels alike) on a regular basis. We also paused to pray for the Syrian refugees.
This afternoon, we drove to the base of Mt. Hermon. Here we enjoy the unique experience of riding up the chair lift at Israel’s ski resort. The ride was actually quite cool. The view from on top was very good. Some in the group hiked down the steep boulder path back down to the bottom. Mt. Hermon is mentioned a few places in the Bible (Ps. 42, 133).
Caesarea Philippi was our next stop. This city was built on one of the three tributaries of the Jordan River, the Banias Spring. Here we read from Matthew 16 and heard Jesus ask the question, “Who do you say I am?” We walked up to the grotto area where there was one a Temple of Augustus as well as sacred places dedicated to Jupiter, Pan, and Nemesis.
Coming back down off the Golan Heights, the nature preserve and archaeological site of Dan was our next stop of the day. We walked along this tributary of the Jordan as well. We enjoyed a time of quiet reflection (Psalm 42). Shlomo also shared a song on his recorder. We also saw the high place of Dan, and read from Judges 18 and 1 Kings 12. On our way out of the site, we also saw a well-preserved Middle Bronze mud-brick gate as well as part of the Israelite walls and gate system.
On the way home, we climbed the Hills of Naphtali for a spectacular view of Lebanon, Mt. Hermon, and the Huleh Valley. We read the story of Abel Beit Macaah (2 Samuel 20) as we looked down upon this OT site. Shlomo also shared some modern history about Lebanon. E literally looked into this northern country of Israel only ½ mile away!
Driving south back to the Sea of Galilee and our hotel, we enjoyed a free evening. It was a great day up north.
DAY 5 – FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 23: ARBEL, MAGDALA, CHORAZIM, CAPERNAUM, SEA OF GALILEE BOAT RIDE, YARDENIT, MT. OF BEATITUDES