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.


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