Monday, July 4, 2011

June 25: In and around Galilee

I don't know about everyone else, but I slept like a baby, taking advantage of a real (twin) bed, rather than my seat at the very back of the plane.    They say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and the spread at the Mt. of Beatitudes was the real deal.   This started my love affair with dates during the trip. 
A friend who had been to Israel told me before that every breakfast looked like a salad bar-she wasn't lying.  Tomatoes, cucumbers, hummus, baba ganoush, feta, zatar, halva, hard boiled eggs, olives, pita, fruit etc. 
The majority of Jesus's 3 year ministry took place near Galilee.   Our first stop was the Ancient Galilee Boat a fairly recent find of a boat that dates back to near the time of Jesus.  From the museum we headed out into the sun and down to the pier to sail on the Sea of Galilee.  I think for many people in our group this was the first "I'm really in Israel" moment.   There is no disputing the Sea of Galilee.  It is definitely a "class 1" place, as Peter would say.   On the boat, we read aloud the scripture from Matthew 14: 22-33 where Jesus walks on the water:

"Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it. Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

Our second stop of the day was Tabgha to visit the Church of the Multiplication which celebrates the miracle of the loaves and fishes.   The scripture reference for this miracle is Matthew 14: 13-21:

"When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. 14 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick. As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.” Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.” “We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered.  “Bring them here to me,” he said. And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children."

One of the interesting things about this church is there is a famous mosaic that features the loaves and fishes.  Why is it famous?  Because there are only 4 loaves in the mosaic.  The implication is that Jesus, the bread of life, is the fifth loaf. 

We then headed into the Golan Heights, we were close enough to Lebanon that we could see it.   We had an opportunity for a brief nature walk at Banias Falls (home of the self-proclaimed "most beautiful trail in Israel") and then headed to the Temple of Pan which was also Caesarea Philippi in biblical times.   My biggest memory from the Temple of Pan?  The fig trees, which made the whole area smell sweet and delicious. 
Banias Falls
Reading Matthew 16: 13-20 at Caesarea Philippi

"When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Then he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah. "

Onward to lunch at a restaurant in a Drewze village (Shi'ite Muslim sect) in Mas'ada (not to be confused with Masada which we visited later on the trip).   The specialty of this restaurant, Birkat Ram, was the Lebani, which is made with a giant thin flat bread (like a tortilla, but not), slathered with a thin yogurt like cheese and zatar and then put on the grill.  Yum!


Heading back towards the Sea of Galilee, we stopped along the border with Syria where, just down the street from a giant pick your own orchard, where last month Palestinians from Syria tried to storm the border (for a story from the Washington Post, click here).  It was an interesting contrast from the history that we've already started learning that is 2000 years old to talk about something that was very recent. 

Our final stop of the day was Capernaum which was Jesus's "second home."  We learned a little about village life in the time of Jesus.  Capernaum has the ruins of a synagogue, and a fairly recently built Church of the House of Peter, which is believed to hold the ruins of Peter's house.  Two healing stories occurred here, Mark 1 - driving out the impure spirit and Mark 2 - the healing of the paralytic. 

Mark 1: 21-26
"They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach. The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law. Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an impure spirit cried out, “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!” “Be quiet!” said Jesus sternly. “Come out of him!” The impure spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek."
Mark 2: 1-5
"A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. They gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”

After Capernaum we headed back to our beautiful home away from home at the Mt. of Beatitudes in time for dinner and wine.  Pretty amazing for our first full day in Israel. 
Simon's home in Capernaum
View of the Sea of Galilee from Capernaum

Random fun fact of the day:  Peter loves ABBA.  And Shakira.

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