DAY 4 – WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 6: BETHSAIDA PLAIN, GAMLA, QATZRIN, SYRIAN BORDER, CAESAREA PHILIPPI, DAN
Today we traveled north to the Golan Heights. We viewed the borders with Syria and Lebanon. It was another day of connecting the dots between the sties we saw and Scripture. The weather was perfect, with sunny skies and temps around 80.
Plain of Bethsaida
We started once again shortly after 7:30 after a full breakfast. We drove to the NE corner of the Sea of Galilee where we looked westward from the western slope of the Golan Heights down the the Plain of Bethsaida. Three disciples were from this small village located on the northern side of the lake, Peter, Andrew, and Philip (John 1). We read from Mark 8 (healing o the blind man fro this village) and John 6 (the Feeding of the 5,000). The Demoniac story (Mark 5) happened on the east side of the lake nearby as well.
Next, we continued to the plateau of the Heights where Gamla is located. This was a Jewish city established in the 1st century BC. From high above the city, we could see the 1st century synagogue discovered here (one of only 7 or so found here in Israel that date to the time of Jesus). Even though Gamla is not mentioned directly in the Gospels, it is likely that Jesustaught here (Matthew 9). This city was destroyed by the Romans in 66 AD. We also saw a few Griffon Vultures.
The largest city of the Golan Heights is Katzrin. Here we visited an ancient village from the Talmudic Period (3rd-7th centuries AD). In a reconstructed stone house, we read from Mark 2. Even though this story took place in Capernaum, wecould see it unfold before our very eyes. Jesus displayed His s’mekah (“authority”) once again in not only healing the paralytic physically, but also forgiving his sins. We also saw the synagogue here.
“My eyes were opened today to the fact of how Israel has to protect the country. Traveling to both the Syrian and Lebanon borders brought a new perspective on Israel’s present challenges with these countries. I also have to say that looking into these countries I did not feel unsafe at all.” -Tour Member-
Driving northeast, we made a brief stop overlooking the border with Syria. Shlomo and Ralph (our guides), shared about the 1967 and 1973 wars that took place here. We could see the town of Kuneitrain Syria! It was incredible to be able to look across the border into this war-torn country. We pray for peace in Syria!
Driving through a few Druze villages and then descending down off the Golan Heights, we arrived at Caesarea Philippi. Here we read from Matthew 16. In the region of this pagan city Jesus asked the question, “Who do you say I am?” We also saw the ruins of the grotto area that once included a Temple of Augustus, Zeus (Jupiter), Pan, and Nemesis.
Nature Preserve and Site of Tel Dan
Close by is the nature preserve and archaeological site of Tel Dan. We started out the visit by walking along the river that is fed by the spring of Dan. After enjoying a time of song (Shlomo played his recorder) and singing (Psalm 42), we sat on the steps of the high place of Dan built by Jeroboam. We read from Judges 18 and 1 Kings 12 about the patterns of disobedience displayed here until the fall of this city to the Assyrians in 722 BC. We also saw a mud-brick gate that dates to the Middle Bronze period. Perhaps this was a gate used by Abraham (Gen. 14:14)?
Misgav Am/Lebanon Border
We returned south towards our hotel but not before ascending the hills of Naphtali for a view across the border with Lebanon. Here at the Misgav Am kibbutz Shlomo shared about the recent past and current history with Lebanon. From here we returned back to our hotel through the Huleh Valley for dinner and a free evening.