Israel 2013

The Dew of Hermon

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.

Israel 2013

Stepping into Galilee

Today, we left Akko, the port city that was known as Ptolemais in Bible times, and headed south, through Haifa, to the ancient city of Caesarea Maritima where Herod the Great had a palace (and where the only archaeological evidence of the existence of Pontius Pilate may be found).  There are some remarkably well preserved ruins there, including part of the hippodrome and most of the theatre.  What is even more remarkable about this place is that it was only uncovered in the 1950s; a farmer was tilling his ground, and got stuck on something.  When he uncovered what it was, it began an archaeological dig that revealed some amazing pieces of the puzzle that is the history of the Holy Land 

From there we visited Meggido, a strategic battle site in the history of this land, and one which John was probably envisioning when he depicted the battle of Armageddon in the book of the Revelation.  From the top of this hill, you can see a long way; we walked uphill a long way, too!  And we descended all 183 stairs to an ancient aqueduct that ensured the fort was not cut off from needful fresh water.  Then, we climbed another 80 stairs to get back to ground level.  A pretty fair workout for us all.

From Megiddo we went on to Nazareth.  What we picture in our mind’s eye as a little hick village in the middle of nowhere is now a bustling city of some 75,000 inhabitants, virtually all Arabic in race; there are some Christians – perhaps 20 percent, but almost everyone else is Muslim.  We visited the first-century depiction of Nazareth Village, a project begun by the YMCA that is now its own foundation.  The folks who put this on are not kitschy about it at all, but there is a sense of authenticity about this ‘museum’.

We then visited the Mount of the Beatitudes, where pilgrims remember the time Jesus spoke the Beatitudes, recorded in Matthew 5.  We have no way of knowing if it was the actual place where he spoke the words, but it is a place where that is remembered.  From there, we watched the sun set over the Sea of Galilee.

Tonight, we are staying at a kibbutz on the south shore of the lake.  A serene place indeed!

(Tried to post this last night, without success.  This morning, the sky is clear, there’s a gentle breeze, and the roosters across the road are crowing with great vigour!)