Israel, Day 2: Christian Pilgrims, Jesus’ Home, and…I’m on a boat!


Both wifi and wakefulness are hard to come by on this trip. My body is still trying to get used to being 7 hours off. Anyway, my biggest lesson on this day was a small, but profound one: I’m having to repaint the mental images of the entire BIble in my mind.  Israel is in the Middle East, right? The Middle East is desert and barrenness, right?

Wrong. I can see why this was the Promised Land. It (so far) has been nothing but lush and beautiful. We’ve yet to see sand anywhere. If this were a movie, the overall color palette would not be a dry, arid yellow, but green, grey, and black. It lush and rocky. The beaches are gravel-grey, not yellow and sandy. It is beautiful. Hopefully my pictures can convey some of this. On this rainy day, we spent it around the area around Northern Galilee.

Starting tomorrow, we will be staying with Palestinian Christian families in their homes in Bethelehem, and we’ll likely not have much access to internet and modern conveniences. Don’t know when I’ll put another post up (I’m already a day behind in writing! We had a crazy day today!), but keep up in your prayers, and enjoy the pictures.

Hazor

A newer archaeological dig on the site

In Joshua 11, Joshua comes and destroys a town called Hazor, and it’s the only one he destroys by fire. And sure enough, they’ve found ancient Hazor, and it seems to have endured a city-wide fire destruction around this time. This is where we were. It was an ancient Canaanite settlement until Israelites took over. They built a cultic center (a “high place”) and had a strategic (and gorgeous) view over all the surrounding lands from this place.

Sea of Galilee

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Yep, this is the main sea on which Jesus and his disciples hung out and fished. We got to go out on it and see what Jesus would have seen. Further, we were out there in a storm, so we go to experience some of what the disciples would encounter on right days. Also, fun thing to know: this is not a “sea”, it’s a freshwater lake.

Christian Holy Sites

Olive Tree Courtyard

It was kind of weird going to Christian “Holy Sites”. We don’t have any of those in the U.S. These area churches that have been established in places commemorating specific events in the life of Jesus. Did these events happen at these particular spots? Unlikely, but it’s not really known. All these sites were identified very early in the life of the Church as the spots where Jesus did these things, so…maybe?

Mount of Beatitudes

This is where Church History has said that the Sermon on the Mount was given. Now, there is a beautiful church and monastery there.

Church of the Multiplication

This is the site that commemorates Jesus feeding the 5,000. This church and convent is still recovering from an attack it faced from radical religious fundamentalist Jewish terrorists, who tried to bomb and burn the place. At the foot of the altar inside, there is a famous mosaic about the event.

Church of the Primacy of St. Peter

Yeah, that’s a weird name, but all it refers to is the story in John 21 where Jesus restores Peter after Peter denied him three times. The disciples were fishing, Jesus showed up on the beach. The disciples met him and ate with him on the beach. How have you imagined that scene before? I imagined a light brown sandy beach. But no, look at those pictures and see if you need to readjust your mental picture a bit.

Capernaum

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This was one of the most powerful sites for me. This was Jesus’ adopted hometown. After growing up, he spent more time here than anywhere else. This was his home base, and he only occasionally traveled back home to Nazareth or Jerusalem for festivals. He lived here. This is where he did so many of his miracles and key moments. The synagogue here would have been his synagogue (although the one standing today is a 4th-century one built on the foundation of the older one).

This was a manufacturing town full of Gentiles. They quarried and shaped black basalt rock for everything from building to olive presses to bread mills. They have found manufactured items from this town as far as Turkey! The entire city is built out of this black rock. Again, what picture have you had of Jesus’ miracles and upbringing? Sandy limestone villages? Nope. Black stone everywhere, and right on the water. Jesus walked these very streets, and unlike many similar sites, we know this is the right spot.

Capernaum had a Roman garrison stationed there. There was a harbor. On this site is also the ruins of the oldest known church, which they believe was started and expanded in Peter’s own house. There is a spaceship-looking church built on top of this church. It has a glass floor through which you can see the first church ever, while you worship. This was a rich and powerful site for me.


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