Well, today was the first day that our body clock’s have been reset. We slept normally last night and didn’t feel nearly so tired today. What a busy day we had, though! It started with a little exploring on our own. I noticed on google maps that the tomb of Maimonides was only about 1/2 mile away from our hotel in Tiberias. So, shortly after watching the sun rise over the Sea of Galilee, Cindy and I walked up several blocks to a monument which stands over the tomb of one of the greatest medieval philosophers, Maimonides, born in Cordoba, Spain in the early twelfth century. He was very important rabbi, physician, and astronomer whose influence was great. It was very cool to visit his tomb.
We, then, returned to the hotel for breakfast before we walked around the hotel to board our ship for an excursion out onto the Sea of Galilee. This experience has to contend for the highlight of our trip thus far. After nearly leaving three or four members of our group (we had left the dock and had to return for them), we took a glorious boat ride across this magnificent lake surrounded on all sided by beautiful mountains. After a little while, we cut the engines to the boat and partook of the Holy Eucharist while out on the Sea of Galilee. I can’t tell you how emotional this experience was! From our boat, after partaking of the body and blood of Christ, we turned and looked out over the land where Jesus spent most of his ministry. We saw the mountainsides where he preached and performed his miracles. We saw the towns he visited and the terrain which bore his footprints. A little while later, we disembarked at the northern end of the Sea of Galilee and entered a museum which housed the actual remains of a first century fisherman’s boat like those on which Jesus and his disciples would have taken out on the water. This was an amazing archaeological find by a couple of men who stumbled upon it during a time when the Sea was especially low due to drought.
From the museum, we boarded the bus and journeyed up the finger of Israel (that section of land that projects in a finger-like manner up between Lebanon and Syria) where we visited the ancient site of Tel Dan. There we visited the ruins of the temple and altar constructed by Jereboam after the split of the Kingdom of Israel into a northern and southern kingdom. It was at Tel Dan, that an artifact (The Tel Dan Stele) was found which confirmed to many archeologists (who were skeptical of a significant Israeli kingdom in the time of Solomon and David) the biblical teaching of this Israelite dynasty of kings by making reference to the “house of David.”
After visiting Jereboam’s temple, we walked down to view the Abraham gate, a mud-brick gate build in approximately 1750 BC through which Abraham likely walked on his entrance into Dan to rescue his nephew (Genesis 14:14). I will never read the Bible the same again! We then walked a little further down to the Iron age gate dating to the time of the Judges and visited the remains of the walls of the ancient city of Dan. Tel Dan is a designated nature reserve which provided beautiful scenery one our walk from one site to another. What an amazing morning!
From Dan we made our way further northeastward (passing within a couple of miles of Lebanon) through part of the Golan Heights to Caesarea Phillipi. This ancient city was built on a site previously known as Paneus, a cultic site which was dedicated to the worship of the god, Pan. We visited a famous grotto in the rocky mountain at which Pan was worshipped. Their were also Temples dedicated to Caesar and to Zeus at the site, as well as courts in which to worship other deities. It was near here that Jesus asked the disciples the all important question of, “Who do you say that I am?”, to which Peter responded, “Thou art the Christ the Son of the living God!” How exciting to be on the spot where this occurred!
After a few moments, we left to have lunch at another Druze village further into the Golan Heights, not far from Syria. The majestic snow-covered peak of Mt. Hermon (over 7300 feet) towered over us as we journeyed on. The restaurant sits by a lake which sits in a crater formed by the eruption of one of the several volcanoes in this region. Cindy and I loved our lunch of Labne and local olives. Labne is a dish consisting of goat cheese, olive oil, and a blend of herbs placed in a large tortilla/crepe like bread which is rolled and grilled. Mmm! After lunch, we drove down the eastern edge of the Golan Heights and stopped to view the border of Israel and Syria. We stood one mile from the fence which separates these two countries. There were numerous Israeli military outposts on the mountainside and at the border as well as U.N. observation stations. The fields around the road still contain active land mines which have not been cleared from the 1973 Arab/Israeli War. Military bunkers scattered the hillside as we drove along.
From the Syrian border, we drove southwestward, back toward the Sea of Galilee. Our next stop was Korazim (Chorazin), an ancient village on a hill in northern Galilee. Along with Bethsaida and Capernaum, Korazim was one of the villages in which Jesus did “mighty works,” but were ultimately cursed because they rejected him (Matthew 11:20-24). A wonderful, ancient Jewish synagogue is found here, along with a Jewish ritual bath.
From Korazim, we continued on to the Church of the Beatitudes, which sits on the hillside upon which Jesus is said to have preached the Sermon on the Mount. This church is located close to a 4th century Byzantine Church commemorating the event. Thousands sat in the triangular valley next to this hill listening to Jesus Christ teach on, among other things, the Beatitudes. (Of course, the name of our home and sailing vessel is derived from this word, meaning “supremely blessed.”) The octagonally shaped church (symbolizing the eight beatitudes) was simple, yet beautiful. The gardens surrounding the church were also magnificently manicured and beautiful. We sat in the gardens for a few minutes, while Father Reid shared some thoughts on the Sermon on the Mount.
Once we were done at the Mount of the Beatitudes, we drove a short distance down the hillside to another church, The Church of the Multiplication. Beneath the Altar of this church, lies the stone on which tradition states Christ laid the loaves and fishes when he performed the miracle of multiplying the food to feed the multitude. How amazing to visit this site and this church, located at Tagbha on the northern shore of Galilee. There are actually three churches here, one built on top of the ruins of the other. These date all the way back to the fourth century. The floor of the church contains magnificent 5th century mosaics which depicted various figures and animals. It is interesting to note that none of the animals depicted are native to the area, but are from Egypt. The workman who was hired to do the mosaics, clearly seems to have been hired from the land of the Nile.
After this busy, busy day, we boarded the bus and returned to our hotel in Tiberias. After a little bit of rest, we enjoyed dinner at the hotel once again. Cindy and I purchased a lovely Mt. Hermon red wine for 28 shekels/glass. The shekel is the main currency of Israel. One U.S. dollar equals about four shekels.
What a day we had! A boat ride on the Sea of Galilee, Tel Dan, Caesarea Philippi, the Golan Heights, Korazim, The Church of the Beatitudes, and The Church of the Multiplication! This is our last night in Galilee. Tomorrow morning, we will visit Capernaum before heading south toward the Dead Sea.