Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Trip of a Lifetime! (Day 6)

Wednesday, May 4th

I shot this picture from the bus as we were traveling to Capernaum this morning.  There were caves like the ones visible on this mountain throughout the country.

Rejected in his hometown of Nazareth, we are told that Jesus moved to Capernaum and made it his own.  Several important events in Jesus' life took place in Capernaum: the calling of the Disciples; the healing of Peter's mother and others who came to their house; the healing of the Centurion's servant and the sick woman with "an issue of blood twelve years"; the raising of Jairus' daughter from the dead; the healing of the paralytic whose friends lowered him down to Jesus on a stretcher through the roof; and Jesus' first confrontations with the scribes and Pharisees.

This stone used to be mounted on the synagogue whose remains we saw at this site.  It shows the Ark of the Covenant.

 These are the remains of the home of St. Peter (in the center).  In the 5th century an octagonal church was built around the remains.

These are the remains of the mosaic floor that was in the octagonal church built around St. Peter's home.  These are 1500 years old!

 This would have been the center of the village, with the 4th century synagogue on the left.   

In the courtyard there is a display of fragments of the large synagogue, along with industrial stone tools that were used at ancient times for farming, such as several oil presses like the one pictured here in the center.

This synagogue was built in 4th century AD, but excavations have revealed a synagogue from the time of Jesus with walls made of worked stone and 4 feet thick.  These earlier walls were preserved up to 3 feet high and the entire western wall still exists and was used as the foundation for the later synagogue.  

The picture below shows the pre-existing wall from the Synagogue of Jesus.  It was in this synagogue that Jesus gave his sermon on the bread of life (John 6:35-59).

This is the 4th century synagogue built over the Synagogue of Jesus.

The hill next to Capernaum is the Mount of the Beatitudes.  In the picture below we are standing on the shores of the Sea of Galilee in Capernaum and the Mount of the Beatitudes is the hill you see sloping gently upwards towards the domed church at the top right.  The lie of the land is such that it forms a natural amphitheater sloping down to the lake side, so it is likely that Jesus stood at the bottom of the hill.  The Beatitudes were given as part of Jesus' "Sermon on the Mount" (Matthew 5-7 and Luke 6). In this Sermon Jesus showed the disciples how to pray (the Lord's Prayer), gave many lessons in the form of parables for them and the multitudes, and related the eight verses known as the Beatitudes.

The domed church in the upper right corner of the photo is where we visited next...

That is the Sea of Galilee behind us.

The picture below shows the domed church at the top of the Mount of the Beatitudes.  While here we listened to John Lund give a lecture on the Beatitudes.  Several statements stood out to me:

1) Take your love to your loved ones, and your frustrations to the Lord.  Many times we tend to do the opposite.  There is no such thing as constructive criticism.  We should make an effort never to criticize.  If we take our frustrations only to the Lord, then he will intervene in our behalf.

Divine Intervention: 
ways in which the Lord will help us through our problems
(in the order of frequency in which they show up in the scriptures)

- he will soften our hearts or theirs
- he will strengthen us
- he will raise up others to help (why send angels if home teachers will do?)
- exodus: he will help you get away from the problem
- he will remove the problem

2) Righteousness is being in the right place, at the right time, with the right intent in your heart.  We are not required or able to be perfect - just be in the right place, at the right time, making a valiant effort.

3) When you get tired of failing to live gospel principles, making the same mistakes over and over, don't give up on living the gospel.  Give up on living in an incorrect way.  Basically, if it's not working for you - change it.

4) I liked the statement that we should say, "Not only Lord thy will be done" but "Lord, thy timing be done".

5) Regarding persecution: "Everyone will be persecuted, but if you are persecuted for doing what is right DO NOT BE OFFENDED.

6) Don't give away your todays and tomorrows to your yesterdays.

Walking inside the church...

The inside of the church was absolutely gorgeous!  The stained glass windows proclaim the words of the Beatitudes.  Our group encircled the room and sang "As I Have Loved You" together.  The acoustics in the church were amazing and the song sounded so beautiful.

The grounds surrounding the church...

Another picture of the countryside as we were traveling to our next destination...

Our next stop was Tel Dan.  This is where the tribe of Dan once lived.  It is located in northern Israel in what is now a beautiful nature preserve.  There are gorgeous trails leading through dense forest with streams and the Chatzbani river.

When we got off the bus, two Israeli soldiers asked one of the girls that was with us if she would pose for a picture with them.  With those big machine guns over their shoulders how could she refuse!  Actually they were very nice.  They aren't used to seeing blondes.

That was something that made us nervous when we first came into Israel - the tons of military personnel everywhere.  Some of them wore polo shirts and shorts, but had these big machine guns slung over their shoulders.  They smiled and were very casual about it.  We learned that the reason for the high military presence was because National military service is mandatory for all Israeli citizens over the age of 18, although Arab citizens are exempted if they so please, and other exceptions may be made on religious, physical or psychological grounds.

Men serve three years, while women serve two. The women who volunteer for several combat positions often serve for three years, due to the longer period of training. Women in other positions, such as programmers, who also require lengthy training time, may also serve three years. Women in most combat positions are also required to serve in the reserve for several years after they leave regular service.

As we walked along the beautiful trail leading through Tel Dan we saw many beautiful plants...

Then we came to this Canaanite wall... 

Mark and I loved when we had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Lund.  He was so knowledgeable and also brought the spirit into everything we did.  We loved listening to his lectures everywhere we went.  Here, Mark is having some of his questions answered about what we were seeing...

Beyond the Canaanite wall, up a hill, and down a little path we came to the "High Place of Jeroboam", the site where Jeroboam erected a golden calf for the Israelites to worship.  The restored walls and gates give us an excellent idea of the fortifications Joshua would have faced as he conquered the land.

At the "High Place of Jeroboam" we could also see more examples of Herodian stone (with the frame around the block)...

Also here, we were standing at the point where both Lebanon and Syria's borders meet with Israel's border.  You could have thrown a rock from where we stood in Israel, over to either Lebanon or Syria.  We looked over beautiful rolling, grassy, green fields with trees and flowers - it did not seem like a site of conflict - but it has been.  The picture below shows us looking over at Lebanon to our left...

and Syria to our right...
In the above picture you may be able to spot a barbed wire fence (going horizontally about 1/3 of the way up).  Between that fence and us is a minefield!

Next we traveled to the foot of Mount Hermon to the site of the ancient city of Caesarea Philippi.  It was also known as Banyas, Banias, Paneas, and a host of other names.  It is 25 miles north of the Sea of Galilee and is the location of one of the largest springs feeding the Jordan River.

This is believed to be the site of Jesus' Transfiguration.

In ancient times many springs were held to be sacred - especially those like Banias that emerged from the mouth of a cave (you can see the cave in the center).
This cave became the center of pagan worship.  Beginning in the 3rd century B.C., sacrifices were cast into the cave as offerings to the god Pan.  Pan, the half-man half-goat god of fright (thus "panic"), is often depicted playing the flute.

The Greeks settled here and built a temple dedicated to Zeus.  Apparently known as Baal Hermon and Baal Gad in the Old Testament period, this site later was named Panias after the Greek god Pan (the god of shepherds and nature) who was worshiped here. Banias is the Arabic pronunciation of that name.

To the right of the cave where the spring flows out there are niches which were considered sacred to the Romans.  We know that statues of the deity were placed in these niches by depictions of such on coins of the city.  One niche housed a sculpture of Echo, the mountain nymph and Pan’s consort.  Another niche housed a statue of Pan’s father, Hermes, son of nymph Maia. Inscriptions in the niches mention those who gave large donations. 

As we sat and listened to John Lund talk about Christ we dangled our feet in the Banias.  It was a welcome way to cool our tired and hot feet.  We did a lot of walking on this trip!

"When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?  And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.  He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?  And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." (Matthew 16:13-16).

It was here that Jesus said, "Thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Matthew 16:18).

 From Caesarea Philippi we drove up to the Golan Heights.  Along the way we could see lots of terracing on the sides of the mountains.  Terracing helps retain soil and moisture.  I just thought it looked beautiful on the sides of the mountains all over Israel.

We also passed this castle on our way to the Golan Heights.  It is called Nimrod's Castle.  It is mistakenly associated with Nimrod, an ancient figure of great strength mentioned in Genesis 10:8-9. This is one of the castles that was built by the Muslims, but it changed hands several times in the 12th century (the period of the Crusades). The fortress was strengthened in the 13th century and most remains visible today are from that period. The mountain is over 1,300 ft long, and in places its width reaches 490 ft. The summit rises to an elevation of 2,600 ft above sea level. The castle is also known as the Citadel of the Mosquitoes since swarms tend to rise up at times and cover the entire area.

Our stop at the Golan Heights took us near the Syrian border.  We were met by this man selling fresh orange juice.  He wanted $8 for one very small dixie cup.  We talked him down to half that.  It was good but not $8 good!
The Golan Heights are very beautiful.  There is a lot of agriculture there.  We saw rolling meadows filled with beautiful grasses and blossoms of all colors.  

The Golan Heights have been fought over since Old Testament times.  Cattle have been raised in this area, in ancient times as well as today. Both beef and dairy cattle are currently raised in the Golan Heights. In biblical times, this area (known as Bashan) was known for its cattle and its oak trees: 

“Many bulls have compassed me: strong bulls of Bashan have beset me round" (Psalms 22:12). “Howl, fir tree; for the cedar is fallen; because the mighty are spoiled: howl, O ye oaks of Bashan; for the forest of the vintage is come down” (Zechariah 11:2).  "And upon all the cedars of Lebanon, that are high and lifted up, and upon all the oaks of Bashan" (Isaiah 2:13). 

From here we were right next to the Syrian border.  This valley is where the road to Damascus was - where Paul became a follower of Christ. (Acts 9)

From here we drove back to the Leonardo Plaza hotel for our final night in Galilee. 

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