DAY 9 – SUNDAY, MAY 12: BETHSAIDA PLAIN, GAMLA, QATZRIN, SYRIAN BORDER, MT. HERMON, CAESAREA PHILIPPI, DAN
Today was another perfect weather day. The sun was shining, with temps in the 80s. We traveled north to the Golan Heights.
Leaving the hotel again at 7:30, this morning we read from Matthew 13 as we departed for the north. Our first stop was to a place overlooking the plain of Bethsaida. Visibility was outstanding today, allowing us to see even the top of Mt. Tabor in the Jezreel Valley. Mt. Hermon to the north was quite visible! We read from Mark 8 (blind man from Bethsaida) and John 6 (Feeding of the 5,000). Looking down to the northern end of the Sea of Galilee, we could see the two possible locations where archaeologist suggest the town of Bethsaida was.
Driving up to the plateau of the Golan Heights, our next site to visit was Gamla. This was a large Jewish city perched on a high hill about 6 miles east of the Sea of Galilee. This was a city that revolted against the Romans in 66 AD. While we can’t be sure, Jesus may have taught in the 1st century synagogue that we could see below. The only indirect reference to Gamla in the Bible comes from Acts 5 that mentions a certain “Judas the Galilean” who may have been from this city. We also saw a few griffon vultures circling high above us. Gamla is a refuge for them!
Further north is the ancient Talmudic village of Qatzrin/Katzrin. This was a Jewish city from the 3rd-8th centuries AD. Sitting in a restored ancient stone house, we read from Mark 2. We could picture it taking place in a house like this! Jesus displayed authority in not only healing the paralyzed man, but in forgiving his sins as well. We also saw the synagogue here.
Driving northeast, we arrived about 1.5 miles from the Syrian border! The Syrian town of Quneitra could be seen from here. Shlomo shared some modern history about the past wars with Syria (1967 and 1973) and the current status with them. Indeed, Israel has offered medical and humanity aid to those caught in the middle of this civil war!
“Going north today was incredible.I never knew Israel had such high mountains. Mt. Hermon even has a ski resort on it. These are the kinds of details you learn while on a DeLancey-Shlomo tour!” -Tour Member-
Passing through a few Druze villages, we arrived to the ski resort at Mt. Hermon. The base of this mountain is 5,200 feet high. Taking the chairlift, the elevation at the top was 6,700. With the good visibility, we could see the outline of the Sea of Galilee 35 miles to the south. The hills, vilages, and mountains of Lebanon could also be seen. We returned back to the bottom by taking the ski lift back down.
Located off the slopes of the Golan Heights is Caesarea Philippi. This was a very pagan city during the days of Jesus. A temple of Augustus, Zeus, Pan, and Nemesis were all located here. We read from Matthew 16. It was in the region of this city where Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do you say I am?” It was also here where Jesus shared for the first time that He would go to Jerusalem, be killed, and on the third day rise again! We visited the grotto area. The amount of water here from the Banias Spring was impressive for this time of year!
Nature Preserve/Tel Dan
Our last stop of the day was to the Dan Nature Preserve and site. We walked along the largest of the three tributaries of the Jordan River. It was a beautiful walk through the preserve along the river that led us to the archaeological site. Shlomo played us a song on the recorded. We also read from Psalm 42 here. While sitting on the steps of the high place, we read from Judges 18 and 1 Kings 12. A false worship center was established here by Jeroboam. Looking into Lebanon, Shlomo again shared with us the past and current situation with Hezbollah in Lebanon. As we left the site, we past a Middle Bronze/Canaanite mud-brick gate that Abraham may have used when he past through this site.
We drove home along the Huleh Valley. Passing Hazor (Joshua 11), we arrived back to our hotel for dinner and a free evening.