Mount of Olives panorama

Mount of Olives panorama
A panoramic view of the Mount of Olives

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Mother's Northern Tour, Day 2: "Jesus Sites" in the Galilee, followed by the Hula Valley and the Golan

The first thing that I did upon getting up Thursday, December 29, of course, was to go on a long run.  After that, I took Mom and Lindsay out to look at the Sea of Galilee off of our back porch (it was dark when we arrived last night).

Rachel, who was fighting a cold, stayed in our kibbutz apartment with Samuel while the rest of us went to several sites important to the Galilean phase of Jesus' ministry (see my earlier post here). We then went back to En Gev, where we picked up the kids and then took them with us on a driving tour up through the Hula Valley and then over and around the Golan.  Look at the map carefully, because our afternoon driving took us rather close to Lebanon and Syria!

Our first stop was at Capernaum, which served as Jesus' base for much of his ministry.  More miracles are recorded here than at any other site.  Before we did anything, we first walked down to the waterfront, reading from Matthew 4 and Luke 5 about Jesus calling fishermen as his first disciples.

The most impressive monument in Capernaum today is a striking white synagogue built in a very Hellenistic style. While it dates to the fourth century, long after the time of Jesus, it stands on the site of an earlier synagogue, which might date to the first century and can be discerned from the black basalt foundation that lies under the white synagogue.  Regardless of its dating, the tendency to build on the same sites makes it very probably that there was, at some point, a synagogue here where Jesus taught and worked miracles as described in the Synoptic gospels.

Under the courses of white stone can be seen the black basalt foundation of the earlier synagogue
The dark basalt that characterizes most of the first century structures can be seen in the foundations and remaining walls of many small homes that lie to the south of the synagogue.  This same stone was apparently used in the commercial production of millstones and other grinding stones, which makes one think of the image Christ used in his teaching of a millstone hung around one's neck.  One of the houses was identified by early Christians as the "house of Peter," and it became the site of a Byzantine and then later Crusader and Franciscan churches.  As we walked over to that site, with me pushing mother, a sweet nun in a group came over to pat mother's hand and smile at her.  I know that her needing to be pushed in a chair perhaps made her look sicker than she is, but it was a nice gesture nonetheless.
Sketch of the first century "house of Peter"

The modern Franciscan church that straddles the ruins of the first century house, the early Christian house church, the Byzantine church, and Crusader remains.

We next drove up to the so-called Mount of Beatitudes, where a beautiful chapel at the top of a hill commemorates Jesus' delivery of the Sermon on the Mount.  There I met a sweet nun, Sister Mary Rose, whom we work with in getting places for our BYU groups to hold devotionals when they come here.  She, like the earlier sister, was very sweet with Mother, taking her hands and telling her how glad she was that Mother had made it here.  Very earnestly she said, "The Lord always answers our prayer, just not always when we want him to."  We read (and I translated) the Beatitudes in Latin alone the base of the chapel's dome.  We then walked through the beautiful gardens, finding a place to sit where we could read portions of Matthew 5-7 together.

This hillside outside of the church grounds may reflect what the the hill looked like when Jesus preached

Before going back to the kibbutz to pick up the children, we stopped at Ginosar, a kibbutz on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee where a first century boat was found.  This is the kind of boat that Peter, Andrew, James, and John may have sailed.

After picking up Rachel and Samuel, we headed north of the Sea of Galilee, taking some small back roads that allowed us to see ranches and other sights that we would never have seen otherwise.  Getting back on a major road, we drove through the rich Hula Valley.  Arriving at Qiryat Shemona, the second most northern town of Israel, we found a mall and had another riotous lunch at an odd place that mixed french fries and onion rings with highly spiced little hot dogs.  Mother wanted more salt, but when Lindsay and I tried to communicate that to our Hebrew-only store employees, somehow we ended up with Thousand Island salad dressing,packs and packs of it.

By the time we arrived at Banias, the modern site of the ancient Caesarea Philippi where Peter declared that Jesus was the Christ, the national park had closed (the early winter hours always catch us off-guard).  So, we stood outside the gate and read Matt 16 nonetheless!  We then drove throughout the Golan Heights, where I subjected my family to a lengthy discourse on the Druze and their religion since they are the major group on the highlands.

As we came around the far side of the Golan and started to head south, we came to a lookout point right on the Syrian border.  Here we were able to look out over the UN buffer zone that separates Israeli from Syrian forces.  We could also see the ruins of Quneitra, which was completely destroyed in the 1973 War and was left in that state as a witness of that conflict. 

While we were there, I met my Druze friend Ahmed, from whom I bought apples last time I was here.  He used to be a school teacher in Quneitra and is now retired, but he farms in the Golan and sells many products, jellies and the like, that his wife makes.

Quneitra ruins

With Ahmed at the Quneitra overlook

Ahmed and his wares


  1. ıt's gorgeus travel ınfo Mr Erıc thank you... and come north cyprus.. .here very beautıful old harbour castel kyrenia... and barnabas monestery andreas monastery. . .have a nice day