Thursday, February 21, 2013

Israel Experience (Day 5)

This morning we left the Sea of Galilee (boo) in Tiberias and headed up to Cana (yay) where the miracle of Jesus changing the water into wine took place.  The church there was absolutely beautiful.  We saw a basin that would have been used to fill up with water.  It was bigger than I had imagined it to be.  I bought wine from Cana and look forward to sharing it with my wife.

                We drove through Nazareth.  We did not stop at the Church of the Anunication, but we did pass by it.  Our next stop was the Mountain Precipice...where some angry Jews tried to throw Jesus off because of his revolutionary and perceived-as-blasphemous teaching.  This would have been the place many people were thrown over and stoned to death.  I always wondered where they got the rocks to stone people, when you go to the site, it's obvious, there are sizeable rocks everywhere.

View from Mountain Precipice 

  Large stones were abundant

Next, we made our way through Palestinian territory over to Megiddo.  Megiddo was really neat.  Throughout history Megiddo has been destroyed 25 times and rebuilt 25 times.  It made sense to the biblical writers that this would be the place the final battle would happen: Armageddon.  It was conquered and occupied so many times and was so sought after that it made sense.

It was so important for many years because it was located off of a main road called the Via Maris.  If you controlled this road you had power and money and wealth.  That’s why it was conquered so many times.  Ahab and Solomon both reigned from Megiddo.  

 Ruins of Megiddo

View from bottom portion of Megiddo - you can see why the area was sought green and lush and conducive to most farming 

A manger...yes, probably similar to what Jesus was placed in...minus the water. 

The metal horses were a little out of place so why not have fun with it! 

Tunnel for the water system coming into Megiddo 

Again, no wonder it this area was considered so valuable.

We then went to what I would call was the highlight of the day: Jacob’s Well.  In Bible times this was Shechem today it is called Nablus.  What is so amazing about Jacob’s well is that people know it is the same well that Jesus used.  The church recently built there is absolutely stunning. We could see Mt. Carmel and we passed through Bet Sha’an and Shiloh. We could see Mt. Ebal and Mount Gezerim as well. 

The drive from Nazareth to Samaria was long.  When scripture says that Jesus traveled from Nazareth/Galilee through Samaria it wasn’t a short walk.  It wasn’t an easy walk.  It was long and hilly and stoney and difficult and probably took a week to do.

Another reason Jacob's well was so amazing is that driving this route to visit the place for tourists had been shutoff for a long time.  We drove through Palestinian cities and saw how their resources were so much fewer than that of the Israelis.  The conflict between the Palestinians and Israelis is one that involves the Jews coming into the land in 1948 because of World War 2 and being allowed by the UN to occupy the territory even though the Palestinians were already there.  Eventually there was a peace agreement that gave Palestinians some territory, however, the Jews kept building settlements within Palestinian territory to occupy more land and resources.  This conflict continues today.  Neither side has kept their end of the bargain with the most recent peace agreements.  The wall into Jerusalem is a constant reminder of the divide between Palestinians and Israelis.  That's my very brief and not-researched-enough understanding of the situation.

On a very different note, when we got back to Jerusalem where we would stay the next three nights, I was surprised to find that the key I was given actually worked for this room:

Yep, I was accidentally given a Presidential Suite!  I took it at as a blessing.

Views from the room of Jerusalem:

It was an amazing day even though it was a lot of bus riding.  We were on the bus for 3 hours, that's how long it would have taken in total to get back from Tiberias to Jerusalem going through Samaria...of course the stops along the way broke it up, but it was still a lot of time on the bus.

The dinner at this hotel (the Olive Tree) has been the best so far.  Check out the spread:

Monday, February 18, 2013

Israel Experience (Day 4)

Today we traveled to the Sea of Galilee.  Locals call it Lake Tiberias and it was also called Lake Genesaret.  It's a popular vacation spot for locals...much like Myrtle Beach is for many of us.  It was over a two hour drive from where we were in Bethlehem.

We went through Tiberias and on to the place where there’s a museum of a boat they found 20 years ago that is an original fishing boat from the 1st Century.  It’s called the Jesus boat.  It would have been the same type of boat Jesus and the disciples used.  

After we learned about the boat we took a boat ride across the Sea of Galilee.  It was a calm and clear day.  The Bishop said he had never seen the lake that calm.  We could see Mt. Herman in the distance.  The captain turned off the motors and we held a worship service on the boat in the Sea of Galilee.  Talk about a surreal experience!

We arrived at a restaurant called Ein Gev on the other side of the lake where we ate St. Peter’s Fish.  It's a type of fresh water Tilapia only caught in the Sea of Galilee.  It was delicious.  

Our tour guide Deeb

From there we traveled by bus to Capernaum.  It would have been a fishing village in Jesus' day.  It was amazing.  It was the home of Peter and where Jesus spent a lot of his time.  

Synagogue in Capernauem 

Statue of Peter
Ruins of Capernaum

Church built on Peter's home

Millstone: Luke 17:2 - these weighed at least 700lbs and up to 2,000lbs...brought the seriousness of the verse to a new level for me.

Then we went to the place where it is said that Jesus gave the Beatitudes and also where the miracle of the multiplication of the bread and fish took place.  The general area is called Tabgah which literally means 7 springs.  One spring is still running.  

 Pics of the Church of the Beatitudes

We were unable to go to the church of the Multiplication, it was closed that day.  However, we did walk down to the Sea of Galilee and visited the church of the primacy of Peter...where St. Peter was restored by Jesus.  We worshipped in the church and then went out to the shore of the Sea of Galilee and had a powerful moment there as well.  I just imagined Jesus walking on the water and the disciples being worried in the boat and Peter being restored.  Words don’t come close to describing the feeling.

Pics of the the walk down to the Sea of Galilee from the place where Jesus taught the Beatitudes and where he multiplied the fishes and loaves.

Pics of the Church of the Primacy of Peter and sitting by the shore...

It’s amazing to walk where Jesus walked.  To see the nature that Jesus would have seen.  To smell the smells and feel the water and just think about all the stories that happened in this area.  It really brings the Bible to life.

We came back to Tiberias where our hotel was located.  The Royal Plaza Hotel.  It was very nice with an extraordinary view of the Sea of Galilee.  The food, hospitality and view made it just an amazing place to stay.