The good news is that I had a solid 4 ½ hours sleep last night, which is not so bad when you factor in that there is a seven hour difference between Tiberius and Augusta. The bad news is that I fell asleep at 8 pm and I awoke at 12:30 AM – a full four hours ahead of schedule! I am writing and reading in the hotel lobby which overlooks the Sea of Galilee. Even though it is nearly four in the morning here there are about a half a dozen young adults still partying hard mixing their Hebrew with English vulgarity (I think they are trying to impress me).
We are staying in the same hotel as our group from 2010. The Sea of Galilee is surrounded by gently rolling hills and is dotted by fisherman plying their trade according to 21st century methods! Driving in yesterday we got to appreciate the verdant and lush Jezreel Valley with Mt. Carmel overlooking us. Mt. Carmel is mentioned throughout the Bible but one particularly interesting story is found in 1 Kings 18. Israel was in a drought and it was lifted at Elijah’s word. Drought was a sign of God’s curse and rain is a sign of God’s blessing.
If rain is a sign of blessing then God is really blessing the Holy Land on this trip!
Breakfast included a variety of yogurts, cheeses, eggs, breads and fish. Since most places are kosher, the dietary restrictions prevent serving dairy products with meat. Fish is the exception (which I still do not understand after all these years). There were plenty of fresh fruits, olives and dates as well as coffee and juices. We will not starve on this tour.
With clearing skies, but chilly temperatures in the 40s and 50s, we visited sites all around Galilee, also know as Lake Tiberias. In Hebrew it is called Kinnert because it is shaped like a kinnor or harp. Our first stop was to Kibbutz Ginosar and saw a restored first century “Jesus boat” which was discovered in 1986. After its discovery it went through a meticulous eight restoration process. Thankfully this was not the boat we boarded to explore a small portion of the Sea. It was a blustery ride across the Sea and Jake Malone gave a fitting devotion on Jesus calming the Sea. When he prayed, the waters actually stilled for a moment…and the Delores chastised me for rocking the boat and it was all over! (alright I am teasing Delores).
After disembarking the boat we embarked on the bus and disembarked yet again to visit the Church of the Beatitudes which is the traditional site where, as the name easily implies, the Sermon on the Mount was delivered. While not a “historic” location, it is provides a striking perspective of how it may have looked when Jesus uttered words of peace, mercy and comfort to the crowds. A few minutes from this site we visited the shores of Galilee where a church was founded commemorating Jesus preparing breakfast for his disciples in John 21.
Since we are use to eating every hour or so we were ready for lunch – I mean it had been a good four hours since our last meal! We dined along the Sea on St. Peter’s fish (it looked like bream to me), hummus, and dates. Several of us followed all this up with espressos and cappuccinos. If I am going to have jet lag, I might as well be fully awake to embrace it.
Capernaum filled a good portion of our afternoon. This is the “hometown” of Jesus during his time of public ministry. The remains give a great impression of life in the first century, the Octagon Church sits over one of the most important sites connected with Jesus – the house of Peter’s mother-in-law. In the first chapter of Mark we read that this was the place where Jesus healed Peter’s mother-in-law and she became an early example of service as discipleship. Since the first century it has been venerated as a destination for Christian pilgrims.
Our last stop for the day was to Tabgha, the traditional location of the multiplication of fishes and loaves. The fifth century mosaics are some of my favorites in all of Israel. One mosaic made me think of Amy, whom I miss having by my side on this trip. It depicts two birds and it is called “The Canoodling Birds” because their necks are entwined.
I am excited about supper – our group will be specially treated to a Middle Easter version of barbeque. I bet it is not pork, and yes, I am aware that Texans think that beef is the only way to have barbeque!