Today, we travelled all the way to the top of Israel, to its borders with Syria and Lebanon, getting a great view of Mount Hermon. Some 3000 metres above sea level, it is the highest point in the area and is a significant landmark. Our tour leader remarked that it was the first time he had seen Mount Hermon without snow on it.
Along the way, we began our day with a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee. Because every journey seems to have a soundtrack, the ship’s captain played praise music for us while we sailed. For a few moments, however, we stopped the boat, silenced the engine and the music, read Scripture and took in the sights around us. Within such a short distance, we could see several sites that involved significant moments in Jesus’ life and ministry: the place where he named Peter “Rocky”, the synagogue and Peter’s mother-in-law’s house at Capernaum; the place where Jesus performed the miracle of feeding the five thousand. It is moving, to say the least, to walk where Jesus walked.
Travelling up the Golan Heights, our tour guide told us about the political aspects of the acquisition of this land, and how Syria left it filled with land mines. In several places, viticulture has taken over, and the mines have been replaced with vines! However, there is still a very obvious military presence there. The United Nations has a base quite near the border.
We visited Caesarea Philippi, where Jesus challenged his disciples – amid the pagan temples – to identify the Son of Man. Flowing by, sourced by the melting snows of Hermon, was the beginning of the Jordan River. “How good and pleasant it is,” wrote the Psalmist, “when kindred live together in unity! It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the bear, running down on Aaron’s beard, down upon the collar of his robes. It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the Lord bestows his blessing, even life forevermore” (Psalm 133). The Dew of Hermon, via the Jordan, eventually flows south toward Jerusalem!
After Caesarea Philippi, we went to Dan, and saw two ancient gates, including the so-called Abraham gate, which is over 4000 years old. Four Thousand Years! And it’s only in the past 15 years that this has been discovered. When Abraham accepted God’s call to come to the promised land, he will have walked past that gate. Unbelievable. But oh, so real.
Real: that’s what a trip like this does for the Bible. It makes it real. That’s what it’s doing for me.