We stayed in little cottages on the Sea of Galilee. It was after dusk when we arrived so it was hard to get a good picture. Gilad was apologetic for the darkness as well as the brownness of this time of year, but it was still beautiful. If you look across the sea, you can see into Syria and Lebanon.
Everyone else went to dinner but I went to bed. It was not a successful attempt at sleep, however. Tired as I was, my body seemed to know it was 2:30 pm, not 9:30 pm and I could not sleep. It didn’t help that my phone kept buzzing, beeping, and ringing. I was afraid to turn it off because it was my only alarm. I’m not so sure the international cell phone plan is such a good thing after all.
This day was spent around Galilee–basically, in the area where Jesus spent most of his ministry. In His time–just like today–one side on the sea was non-Jewish. So when Jesus went to the other side to get away, he was really going out of the country and into gentile territory. And, in His infinite wisdom, He didn’t have an international cell phone plan.
Jesus would have stood on that bank when He called His disciples out of their careers as fisherman into a new calling as fishers of men. A few years later, He would have fixed breakfast somewhere on those rocks just before returning to heaven.
We read some of the other stories of the Sea of Galilee from Mark, including Jesus calming the sea and his casting many devils out of the man who lived among the tombs.
From there, we saw the remains of the poor town of Capernaum as well as the Mount Beatitude and the place believed to be where Jesus fed the five thousand with five loaves and two fish. To this day, it is a desolate place with no place to buy food.
But you can get cell service.
The mix of Jewish, Christian, and Catholic influences have made for interesting touring. Many of the sites are now owned and run by the Catholic Church. At first I found it a little irritating to see the Bible stories turned into basilicas and relics, but the reality is that the sites would probably never have been preserved if they hadn’t. The average Jew neither knows nor cares anything about New Testament history. Of course, the same is true for the Arabs.
As Gilad read the story of various miracles which took place at each site, He gave us a “Jewish” interpretation. Which was basically that they were not miracles at all–just allegories. I guess when you don’t want to believe Jesus is the Son of God, that is what you do–change literal into allegorical. But, as Curtis pointed out, one thing He could not explain was why the people in the stories would marvel. Lives were changed when Jesus touched them. People were not just healed physically, but willing to follow the Lord anywhere.
Magdala was our next stop. I was less familiar with this place (although we all know at least one of its citizens–Mary Magdalene), but the ruins were interesting and the history was fascinating. Basically, the entire fishing village was martyred for its Jewish faith by the Romans around 67 AD.
What was most interesting about this town, however, was that while most of the ruins we have seen–including temples, synagogues, and churches (though old and historical)–were built hundreds of years after the time of Christ, Magdala has remains of one which was existing at the actual time of Christ. In other words, given the close proximity to Capernaum, this was ground Jesus probably actually walked in and stones he actually sat on…not 30 feet above them and not built in His honor 300 or 1300 years later. He was actually here.
The synagogue was the remains of a fairly small stone structure with one podium and two rows of seating along the walls where Jesus would have read from the Torah. I could almost hear his voice ringing in the hall, Today, this Scripture had been fulfilled in your hearing.
You can choose not to believe it and you can argue a lot of things, but this man and his fisherman followers definitely turned this world upside down. People are not traveling here from all over the world and all walks of life because of allegories and parables.
Truly, this was the Son of God.
We stopped for lunch at a little Arab cafe and ate an interesting assortment of salads, bread, and sauces. The waiter spared us no smiles, slapped the food on the table, and didn’t mind touching it in the process. I tried not to think about that part. I was hungry.
Even without a scrap of meat on the table, the tab came to $10 a person. This country is not cheap.
We headed up Mt Tabor–otherwise known as the Mount of Transfiguration. We stopped along the way to look down over the plains including the place where Deborah and Barak conquered Cicera and where Gideon and his army of 300 beat the Mideonites. We were also overlooking the plain where Elisha brought the Shunamite woman’s son back to life.
The Mount of Transfiguration, like so many of the other sites, has a Catholic Church built on top. The views were beautiful though and we could see the whole country it seemed. The story of the transfiguration from the gospels reiterates Jesus claim to be the Messiah as God foreordained and as John the Baptist declared.1
Our last stop of the day was at the Jordan River. Because it was the end of the day and the start of a holiday, we weren’t able to see the associated church or go down to the traditional baptismal site.
But Gilad said he could get us down to the Jordan another way. And he did. Turned out to be one of the strangest experiences ever.
I thought someone was joking when they said they saw American Indians. But the next thing I knew, we were driving up to an arch decorated with a canoe and an American Indian mannequin. There was a strip of land with water access decorated with totem poles, canoes, feathers, carnival games…the whole deal.
Apparently, in the normal course of things, you can rent a canoe and paddle the Jordan. Business must have been winding up for the day and there were just a few scattered Indian looking people, some girls sun bathing in next to nothing, and a little child running around in less than next to nothing.
So…as I mentioned…it was weird. Kinda hard to put my mind in the context of the baptism of Christ given the Totem poles and all. And sort of an anti climactic end to the day.
So…we watched the guys skip rocks and then left and got ice cream. That helped a lot. Seriously, I hadn’t had chocolate since yesterday morning. That’s a lot of life lived between chocolate.
With that need met, we loaded up and headed for Jerusalem. But I’ll save that story for another day except to tell you along the way we passed another site Gilad said is actually more likely the true baptismal site. I think I’m going with that story. No totem poles. No cell service.
PS – Anita wanted some olive oil and we stopped at a fascinating tea and spice kind of shop. Probably fifty different kinds of spices in open baskets competing for air. Many shekels were spent on that diversion. PPS – Donna…this place would have killed you. And all the Mileskis. Period.