DAY 7 – SUNDAY, JUNE 18:
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.
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.
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.
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