We had coffee on our balcony, then took a walk down to the lake. The cliff we see in the distance is where, in 70 AD the Zealots held out against the Romans, who scaled down from the top on dangling ropes to enter the caves and kill them.
The lake is low, even though rainfall has been average. For breakfast, we had eggs, cheese, fish and salads. It's delightfully peaceful here, and shortly after breakfast, we're on our way. I have learned that we are on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee, near Magdala, and are, surprisingly, are about 200 metres below sea level, the lowest fresh water lake in the world. Thanks to recent rains, the hills are green, and because of new technologies, able to grow a variety of tropical fruits.
Jesus preached around here because three times a year, those who could afford it, would go to Jerusalem and thus leave the remaining Jews with no leadership. It would take over a week to travel to the Holy City, so these local Jews would have no teaching for about a month and were influenced by Syria to the north. They needed Him. It's a double-edge, though. This way, Jesus's teachings could also reach into Syria.
We passed the hill where the Sermon on the Mount took place. The half bowl shape of this hillside makes for excellent acoustics. All Jesus had to do was walk up the hill a short distance, and speak and he could be heard by thousands. It's a natural amphitheatre. The Church of the Beatitudes overlooks it.
I discover that it costs 2 shekels to use the washroom at the church.
We are told that this is the northern edge of the Syrian/African rift, and was for thousands of years, a swamp, with mosquitoes so thick no one could live here. Now, it's drained and fertile land and Israel keeps it rural and agricultural so tourists can enjoy it. Originally, 10,000 people, mostly teens, worked to drain this, taking 4 years, starting in 1948.
We learn that traditional Jewish mysticism, Kabbalah, started here, something Madonna practices. I wonder if it's just something she's done for publicity.
Israel grows cotton in three colours, we learn, as we watch Israeli fighter jets practice overhead. There's the yearly exercise happening now and is over the Golan Heights. I am sure this is not a coincidence, but thankfully, Syria is busy fighting ISIS and not Israel. But not once have I felt unsafe.
We see Mount Hermon in the distance, and it has snow on it. It's where many believe the Transfiguration took place. Soon we will see the two separate sources of the Jordan River. The Dan, and the Pan.
We visited one spring, which delivers 300 litres per second of water. Syria once tried to relocate the spring, something against international laws, but soon learned you cannot relocate a water source. Water does what water wants to do.
The Pan source is a dramatic place that features a cave where they used to sacrifice goats. In fact, many gods were worshiped here.
Jordan means, 'Of the Dan' and walking through the quiet national park is relaxing, despite encountering old bunkers from the war with Syria. Israel took over the Golan Heights in 1967 as they didn't care to see the mountains around them belong to Syria. It was too dangerous to live in the valley.
We drove to Caesarea Philippi, on the road to Damascus, and see excavations all over the place.
Jesus took his disciples near the previously mentioned spring, asking them who the people thought he was.
The Bible records this meeting:
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.
The trees are in bloom. I am surprised by the number of apples available here. The combination of pollen and those eating apples on the bus is stuffing me up. Thank goodness for Benadryl.
Our lunch is in full view of an ancient caldera and the Castle of Nimrod, built by the Crusaders and the relaxing time allows me to catch up with my writing. In the next post, I will talk about the demilitarized zone and the UN there, plus a stop in the city of Tiberius.