Israel...Day Three (but really day 4 and also Father's Day)

(I must state here that my order of events may not be accurate, as in we were on and off the bus so many times, for so many days, I am simply rereading my journal entries and phone notes and trying to compile the best of my memories and take aways from this beyond amazing trip, thanks for your grace.)

This morning was nothing short of magical.  We woke early, like before the sun early in hopes that God would be showing off for us over the Sea of Galilee.  No surprise, He did.  I witnessed our group of students gather together on a concrete jetty, the very one we had jumped off of the day before, and worship our Creator.  That sun rose, big and bright over the horizon.  Casting a glow on the body of water below it.  Ombre pinks and yellows lighting up the sky before us.  And meanwhile we stood there mouths gaping and in awe of the sight.  It was worth fighting the sleepy eyes to witness this.  


Barely peeking over the horizon.

 The Mount of Beatitudes.  Walking on to this holy site caused pause in my soul.  We took time to reflect, read through the passage and pray, allowing the Holy Spirit to invade us with His presence.  And that He did.  Other than the sounds of nature surrounding us, there was only silence.  No faces behind phones or cameras, no small talk, no lecturing or scripture references, my Bible open, the hills in front of me and quiet.  Stillness and space to process just how sacred Jesus’ words are, in the place where they were delivered.  Our time in that place set a tone for the rest of my travels throughout Israel.  If I could only remember to call upon that holy place and allow the spirit to invade me as he did there.  While sitting on a bench overlooking the valley below I read and reread the Sermon.  I squinted my eyes shut and maybe even rocked back and forth.  I know, I can't even imagine what that must have looked like.  I was not concerned with that or anything else.  It was me and the Holy Spirit and Jesus up there on that hill.  Communing.  I didn't journal or type or take a picture.  And then I walked, alone, and prayed.  This.  I tried to ignore the Catholic church that was built there.  Looked past the people I was passing.  Shut everything out but His words and I felt them.  To my core. This was a sacred space.  

Mosaic and my toes.  Proof.

I could have stayed on that hill for the rest of the day, but no, there was more to see, more places to go.  So we did.  Onward to Tel Dan.  A nature walk through the Northern most city of Israel in the Old Testament.  This city runs on the headwaters of the Jordan River and is beautiful, filled with plant life and archaeological surprises around every corner.  Again, a recent discovery of an altar built to offer a golden calf for worship by Jeroboam stood waiting to tell it's secrets.  Around the corner, city walls, made of basalt stones, from approximately the 4th millennial.  Just think about that for a moment.  I stood staring, mouth wide open I'm sure, at exactly what was before me.  I am certain we could have spent all day dissecting these walls and all they represent.  

Entrance to the Reserve.

City Gate.

Onward.  To Caesarea Philippi.  The northern most site of Jesus' ministry and a site that had a heavy atmosphere to it.  A population of Druze live in the area, an off shoot branch of Islam.  Previously this land had been used as a place for sacrificial offerings to Baal. When the Greeks took the land they dedicated it to Pan; The god from which the story of Peter Pan was taken.  Caesarea was not my favorite place.  I walked alone on the grounds and wandered off the paths.  And while it was beautiful a sense of darkness hung over the structures and I couldn't shake it.  Enough said about that.  

Looking up into the hills.

Now Capernaum; The center of Jesus' ministry and the hometown of Peter, James, Andrew, John and Matthew.  The city itself is an open air museum with a reconstructed ruin of a synagogue dating from the 2nd-4th century AD.  It's importance during Jesus' time was mostly due to it's access to the Via Marais, essentially the main trade route.  To the east there Gentiles and on the West the Jews.

Bethsaida was yet another stop on our itinerary and one of 350 villages in the Galilee area.    It is on the West side of Tiberias and the hometown of Peter, Andrew and Philip.  A blind man was healed here, as told in Mark 8:22.

Our last stop of the day was the Church of Peter of Primacy.  There is a chapel on site that was built in 1933 to mark the place where our Risen Savior appeared to His disciples.  It is the place where Peter was commissioned to go and feed His lambs.  We sat on the concrete steps and listened to the students read a selected passage, we walked into the chapel and along the shore of the Sea of Galilee. I imagined what it most have felt like for the disciples to see Jesus, with piercings on his hands and feet, walking towards them.  Or Peter, being asked how much he loved His master.  And then the way Jesus answers.  Profound and telling of  three different kinds of love and the response necessary.  This church also happens to be the place where I left my Bible.  All because I was attempting to get the best angle for our group photo using the Sea of Galilee as our backdrop.  I didn't realize it until we were boarded on the bus and ready to head out.  Surprisingly I did not feel remorse about this, no angst or sadness.  I knew it was left behind for a reason.  For someone else, hopefully.  

And that marks the end of this day.  Back to the hotel on the Sea of Galilee for the night.

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