7 April 2016

galilee

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upon our arrival in israel, at the immigration counter at the tel aviv airport, we were asked the purpose of our trip. i responded with “tourism.” as we moved towards baggage claim, i commented to ian that it probably would have been more accurate to say “spiritual pilgrimage.”

wanderlust and thirst for adventure/culture/beauty compelled us to visit the holy land, just like any other trip we’ve taken. but this journey was different, because significantly more than any other force, it was our faith that truly brought us there. like so many others from around the world and over thousands of years, we yearned to be in the spot of earth where so many religiously significant things happened, where records of god communicating with men anciently were recorded, and – most of all, for us – where jesus christ lived and ministered, died and was resurrected.

{being in the place where such personally, globally and eternally significant events happened is certainly enriching and really cool. but i learned poignantly again on this trip, as i had nine years earlier during my semester in the holy land, that physical location is not a sure-fire generator of spiritual assurance. i’ll write a bit more on this topic later.}

and so, it was thrilling and wonderful to spend a few days around the sea of galilee: a place frequented and beloved by jesus, the site of parabolic and remarkable teaching and of plentiful miracles. bonus! it’s also a stunningly gorgeous locale full of other (ex-biblical) history, kind people, and delicious food.

click through for pictures of and thoughts about our time in galilee…

our first morning in galilee, we headed straight out on the water on a “worship boat.” we ended up with a big group of norwegian christians, and it was pretty awesome. we enjoyed the changing colours and textures of the sky and water as our new friends shared testimony and sang hymns in norwegian. the captain of the ship told his conversion to christianity story in english and then sang worship songs for us (and with us, when we could follow along) in hebrew. it is really fantastic to witness others’ spirituality and devotion, which cuts through to transcend any cultural barriers. 

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a storm started to roll in during the end of our sail, and we pondered on the times this very sea was narrated as being tempestuous in the gospels. then, we disembarked and went inside the museum near to the pier to see the remains of a two thousand year old fishing boat that was found at the bottom of the sea just a few years ago!

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there are a handful of beautiful churches commemorating different events from the life of christ dotted around the northeast shore of the sea of galilee. we went first to tabgha, the traditional site where jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes to feed thousands. there were so many pilgrims like us there, in big tour groups (something we got very used to on this trip!) – and clearly they all wanted a picture of the loaves and fishes mosaic on the church floor, preserved from the fifth century church built on that spot. i managed to get my camera up with all the others to capture the iconic image a little :)

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next, we went to st. peter’s primacy church, commemorating the resurrected christ’s instruction to his disciples to “feed his sheep.” it is such a pretty little church right on the peaceful shore, and it was also full of believers from all over the world.

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then, we went to capernaum, where jesus often stayed when he was in galilee, and where he taught, ministered and performed miracles. the excavations and history of capernaum are apparently quite thorough and precise, so this is one place we can be sure the saviour spent time.

we sat in the shade of some trees and had a picnic lunch of pita and hummus (we ate sooo much of that over our two weeks in the holy land!), and read john 6 – christ’s sermon about living bread that he delivered in capernaum. IMG_9703IMG_9711

we drove from capernaum to the top of the mount of beatitudes. it was such a beautiful day and i love this peaceful pretty place overlooking the sea. we read the sermon on the mount and tried to imagine crowds of people gathered on the slow slope of that hill listening to the saviour teach such remarkable doctrine.

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our last “religious site” stop of the day was bethsaida, at the north end of the sea of galilee. we were the only people there – a sharp contrast to the other places we visited! the excavations of this ancient city, which date back to long before jesus, were interesting to explore, and the surrounding area bursting with yellow wildflowers was so, so beautiful in the late afternoon light.

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we decided to drive the long way back to our airbnb in tiberias, just because it would be neat to circumnavigate the whole lake. the sky gave us a wonderful show on our drive! difficult to capture in photographs.

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that night we went to an awesome restaurant recommended by our airbnb host in tiberias, and ate some traditional “st. peter’s fish.” when i was in galilee nine years ago, all of us students thought we were pretty cool to eat a fish fried up with bones, skin and eyeballs all still in place, and i thought ian would enjoy the experience too :) our spread of food was amazing and the fish was pretty delicious – caught from the sea of galilee that very day!

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the next day we drove up to the golan heights, north of the sea of galilee. we went to nimrod’s fortress, a medieval muslim castle built around 1229 on the southern slopes of mount hermon. the ruins sure seemed pretty new compared to a lot of the things we’d been seeing, but it was fun to scramble around and the views were breathtaking. i was obsessed with the golan heights when i went there as a student, and being back there helped me remember why.

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after exploring the castle, we went to banias nature preserve. many believe that this place is the town of caesarea philippi, mentioned in the new testament as the location of peter’s declaration that jesus is “the christ, the son of the living god,” and jesus consequently promising to bestow upon peter “the keys of the kingdom of god.” there’s some interesting ruins there from a temple built to the greek god pan – amazing to think on what magnificent structures stood there so long ago.

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^^ almost bought this hat for the boy. because he does love jesus! ^^

we took a little hike to banias waterfall, and the wildflowers along the way! so so so lovely.

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^^ see nimrod’s castle up there on the mountain?! ^^

that evening, we walked from our airbnb to find a place to sit by the sea as the sun set and the moon shone on the water. it was so beautiful and peaceful!

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on our last day in the galilee area, we knew we wanted to go to the lookout point on top of mount arbel (we had tried to go there twice already and it was closed!) and take a dip in the sea. we experienced some awesome views, some more (yes, i’m obsessed) gorgeous wildflowers, and some preeeeettty cold water! it was tricky to find a place to swim, but we figured it out, and enjoyed the way someone had arranged the rocks on the shore!

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such a special place!!!

when we left galilee, we headed to two different baptismal sites along the jordan river and then headed for jerusalem!

6 comments :

  1. we ate at that restaurant too! it was pricier, but honestly that falafel tasted so so good. i recognized that garlic pita bread, which was also delicious and way too buttery on some pieces, haha. it's too bad we didn't overlap!

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  2. These photos are wonderful! I think I would have struggled with the crowds at some of the places - terrific that you had many spots that weren't as...densely packed... Looks like you had a great experience!

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  3. We have such great memories of these places....sitting on those ancient ruins in Capernum at the feet of the Master Teacher, Truman Madsen and standing by a tank on the Golan Heights, eight months pregnant. So may memories rushed in as I read this wonderful post! Amazing!

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  4. Char! Thanks for bringing me back! I wish I could more clearly remember my time there. I loved this post, it brought stuff back. Especially appreciate the pictures of flowers. For some reason I remember every one of those flowers. Ahh, spring in Israel. (this is Saydi, BTW, not Jeff).

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  5. Absolutely gorgeous photos and such a fascinating post. Thank you so much for sharing this lovely tour!

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  6. Absolutely gorgeous photos and such a fascinating post. Thank you so much for sharing this lovely tour!

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