Day 6 – Saturday, June 18: Jericho, Beth Shean, Beit Alpha, Sachne, Spring of Harod, Mt. Gilboa, Sea of Galilee
Today was another warm and sunny day, typical for Israel in the summer. High temps were in the 90s, but with a nice breeze. It was also another day with many biblical connections. Following breakfast and checking out, we read from Psalm 44:8 as we drove to our first site.
Tel es-Sultan, or OT Jericho was our first site of the day. While waiting for the site to open, we saw a nice replica of the Medeba Map, a 6th century AD map of the region. We then climbed the ancient site of Jericho. Looking eastward first we saw the area of the Mt. Nebo (Deuteronomy 34), the ascension of Elijah (2 Kings 2), and the baptism location of Jesus (John 1). At the site we saw mud brick walls, stone retaining walls, and the oldest tower / structure in Israel. We read from Joshua 6. We celebrated the historicity of Scripture in light of who have used archaeology to discredit the Bible narrative. The papayas were sweet after visiting the site! Before leaving the area of Jericho, we also drove south to view the area of Herod’s winter palace and the location of NT Jericho. Jesus befriended Zacheaus (Luke 19) and Bartimeaus (Mark 10) somewhere here.
Driving north along the Jordan Valley, we arrived at Beth Shean. This was the only city of the Decapolis located on the west side of the Jordan River. For sure, the archaeology site of Beth Shean is the most impressive in all of Israel! In the Roman part of the city, we saw the bathhouses, colonnaded streets, many mosaics, the agora/market place, public latrenes, and the best-preserved theater in Israel. Some climbed to the top of the OT site where the bodies of Saul and his sons were hung on the walls of there town square (1 Samuel 31, 1 Chronicles 10). Popsicles hit the spot on this hot day!
Following a great lunch near Afula, we visited the 6th century AD synagogue of Beth Alpha. The mosaic flood is complete with reliefs of the Ark of the Covenant, the story of Abraham and Isaac, menorahs, shofars, and even the signs of the Zodiac.
Nearby are the spring waters of Ein Harod. Today, this spring creates a massive swimming hole called Sachne. It is a national park where many people come and enjoy the swimming. Many of us experienced the warm waters and enjoyed the pounding water falls on our shoulders. We spent about 1.5 hours here.
“Today was another amazing day. We headed north from Jericho. The scenery changed once we got into the Galilee area. We are seeing so much! The group is also becoming a ‘family’ which makes the journey even more special.”
To close the day, we made an additional stop on Mt. Gilboa. The view looking eastward towards Beth Shean was spectacular! We read from 1 Samuel 31 about the fall of Saul and his sons here. Also in view was the Hill of Moreh (Judges 6-7), Mt. Tabor (Judges 4-5), Shunem (2 Kings 4), and Tel Jezreel (2 Kings 9 and others.
It took about an hour to drive to Tiberias and Nof Ginnosar, our kibbutz-hotel for the next three nights. It’s located on the western shoreline of the Sea of Galilee. We are looking forward to two full days here in the north!