Holy Land Day 3
Fewer pictures, faster download. Tonight I am writing you from Tiberias, on the western shore of the Sea of Gallillee. Our morning started earlier, 7am, and began with a bus ride to the east around Jericho. We turned north and traveled through the west bank and Jordan River Valley toward Gallillee. This is a two hour trip. Along the way, we went from an elevation of 2600 ft (Jerusalem) and a rocky, desert like climate down to 900 feet BELOW sea level just north of the Dead Sea. While headed north, I saw electrified barbed wire fences that serve as the border between Israel and Palestine. There are farms, beautiful farms, of date palm trees and banana trees. The mountains in Jordan (Moab in ancient times) were to the east. As we came out of the west bank we went through a checkpoint where an israeli soldier, fully armed, came aboard the bus, and walked through looking at each of us.
Our first stop was Beit Shan. This site was an archaelogical site with Roman ruins. The city has been uncovered and is quite impressive. More importantly, we all noted as we drove into the town that it was very clean, life looked normal, and it appeared to be a nice place to live. Unlike Bethlehem or the other areas I had seen so far, this area looked great.
After leaving Beit Shan, we headed north again along the river valley. When we reached the southern end of Gallillee, we turned west and went to a Baptismal Remembrance site. Here, at the Jordan River, I was immersed in remembrance of my Baptism. It was a great experience, something I will always remember.
Next, we traveled the eastern shore of the Sea of Gallillee to have lunch and then take a boat across the Sea. The seas turned stormy and it was about a 30 minute trip across the Sea. We arrived on the western shore just north of Tiberias. Upon arrival we viewed an ancient ship that had been recovered from the shores of Gallillee during a drought in 1986.
The remainder of the day was more meaningful to me than anything I had experienced so far. We went to Caperneum – Here we saw three sites: The Church of the Heptapegon, the home of Simon Peter, and the Church of the Beatitudes. The Church of the Heptapegon is where Jesus peformed the miracle of the loaves and fishes. The home of Peter is known to be such a place because pilgrims were visiting the location as early as 126AD and leaving evidence of such. A church is built over the home.
The Church of the Beatitudes is where the Sermon on the Mount was given. Personally, I had always pictured this like Charlton Heston as Moses walking up a steep mountain – instead Jesus holding outstretched arms from some rough terrain. Upon visiting, I understood everything very differently. First, Jesus lived here, the north end of the Sea of Gallillee. It is beautiful. The Sea of Gallillee is 900 feet below sea level. Right now it is spring and everything is lushly green, blooming, and there are flowers and fields everywhere. To the east side are the Golan Heights and the west side has the mountains where Tiberias is. Picture a beautiful afternoon, blankets spread out, families listening and children running about. The wind was probably blowing in the trees and Jesus was speaking to his friends, sharing the better ways to live, the things that as Christians we should do.
We spent the night in Tiberias.