8:46 pm. Shabbat.
Done with dinner. Done with Galilee. I hate that, actually. Once we leave the peaceful roads of Galilee the trip just seems to fly by. I’m not ready for that yet. But tomorrow we head south – Bet Shean and the Dead Sea await us.
This morning started bright and early with a drive up to Tel Hazor. We got to spend a little more time on the bus today – which I think was good for our exhaustion level. The bus is air conditioned quite nice – and it is a smooth ride which is a bit better than the up and down hikes we did yesterday.
Solomonic Gate at Tel HazorOur first stop was at Tel Hazor. I was overwhelmed again at the sheer size and scope of the tel. it is huge. It towers over the road below and it covers over 200 acres, if you count the upper and lower city. It’s massive. We took some time to review the geography of the area on our 6’ map. Then we walked through the Solomonic gates (this was one of the three cities he fortified during his reign. We already visited Megiddo…but don’t get to visit Gezer). So we walked again where Solomon probably walked on his inspection tour!
We stopped briefly at the altar which stands in front of the palace of the king (Jabin). Then we sat in the shade to read the story of the conquest of Hazor by Joshua in Joshua 11. It’s a fascinating story to ready while sitting in Hazor. We could see where the armies camped against Israel down in the Huleh Valley – and how Israel routed all those armies that conspired against them.
Tel Hazor - cracked rocks as a result of the Israeli burning of Hazor by JoshuaAnd we saw the evidence of veracity of God’s Word. You could see hundreds of cracks in the hard/dense basalt stone. Only a fire could have caused those cracks – and the charring of the mud bricks. And guess what the text says? Joshua burned Hazor with fire. And here we are thousands of years later inspecting the consequences of that fire. For the new folks – it was overwhelming. Great stop (glad I insisted on including it!).
Then we were off to drive through Kiryat Shemona and on to Tel Dan and a lovey walk through the nature preserve. What a little bit of paradise that reserve it. Well, we had to start the trek with a white chocolate Magnum Bar. It’s only appropriate.
The walk through the forest and stream was as lovely as ever. It is such a stark contrast to what we will see tomorrow and the next day in the wilderness of Judea. It is hard sometimes to imagine the contrasts of this land. And really, the importance of water to life.
Tel Dan Nature Walk
At the end of the walk/stroll we come to the cultic center of Jeroboam. We read the account of his creation of this false-Jerusalem. To keep the loyalty of the northern tribes, he created his own “temple” at which his people could come to worship.
Pagan to the core. But interesting, nonetheless.
Then to the city gate of Dan (the tribe that migrated to these greener pastures from down in the Tel Aviv areas – where they should have defeated the Philistines). The gate is an interesting way to learn of the significance of that area in each ancient city.
I was ready for lunch. But alas, no lunch on the horizon.
We were off to Banias (Caesarea Philippi). It was built – and thoroughly pagan – by Herod Philip to serve as the capital of his region gifted to him by his father, Herod the Great. We learned of the sacrifice of babies at the headwaters of the Jordan River. They would throw the babies off the cliff – until one didn’t float down, but into the mouth of the cave – “the gates of hades” – and would appease the anger of the gods.
Of course we cringe as such a thought. And we judge that culture a bit. Who could destroy life to bring satisfaction to a god? Well, it struck me that we do the same thing in our world. We sacrifice millions of babies through abortion – not to appease some god and guarantee successful crops. No, we appease the god of self. We kill babies too, but in a more sterile and civilized manner – and to the god of me. Sad.
We had our devotional at Bania (as per usual). Then we walked around the ruins and saw the niches in the stone wall and the ruins of the temples they had built there for Pan.
Then it was back to the bus – and we headed for lunch. We didn’t eat at the “usual” place right there in Banias.
Lunch in a Druze VillageInstead we drove up onto the Golan Heights to one of the Druze villages. There we had our choice between schnitzel and falafel and lebneh. Not sure what they really called it – but it was the large Druze bread (like a tortilla) with lebneh and oil and spices (can’t remember its name either – but I LOVE it). Then they rolled it up and heated it on a griddle. And wow – it was delicious. We sat outside on a patio and enjoyed a Druze lunch.
Back on the bus for the ride to Mt. Bental. I’ve been there several times, and we go not for the biblical history – but for recent history, as well as current event perspective. We could see into Syria. Part of what we saw was controlled by the government. Part of what we saw was controlled by Syrian factions. It was fascinating. And at the top of Mt. Bental we met a couple of UN soliders, stationed up their just to keep an eye on things from this high perch. They were quite friendly (one from Finland, the other Argentina). They watch from up there every day. No one watches from the Syria side because no one can guarantee their safety.
We felt completely safe, however. Always have on this trip.
After some delicious (so I’m told) coffee – it was back onto the bus. We were headed back to Tiberious and our hotel, with just one more stop. It’s another of my favorites – Kfar Haruv. The Peace Vista. It’s a kibbutz on the edge of the Golan Heights overlooking the entire Sea of Galilee. It wasn’t completely clear – there was some haze – but it wasn’t enough to keep us from seeing the entire area spread out before us. Beautiful. It was a great way to end the touring day.
It was probably 5:30 before we got back to the hotel. The streets were pretty empty on our way back, but that was because of the onset of Shabbat not long from then. This is a very Jewish town, so everything was shutting down in preparation. We would walk to town again tonight – but Andre said everything would be closed so don’t bother. We didn’t.
Swimming in the Sea of Galilee after a long day (as in Pastor Jim)When we got back to the hotel, Christie wanted to stroll by the water. So I put on my suit and joined her. Once I got there, I couldn’t resist a swim in the Sea. It was delightful. The water was not cold at all. It was a little rocky by the shore, but I just started swimming as soon as I could and avoided the rest of the rocks. I missed by Sea of Galilee swimming buddy (Terry O’Neill). It would have been a great swim with him. But I was by myself and enjoyed it thoroughly. It was so very refreshing.
Back to the room for a shower. And to begin the process of each evening – downloading the days’ pictures so they can be uploaded to the website and shared. Dinner was at 7 (the time we agreed on going), so I didn’t get all that done before it was time to eat. And….I had a Back Page to write after dinner as well. But you can’t go to sleep too early! I won’t.
The Back Page is done. The pix are up onto the website. Now I just have to finish this journal. Oh…and we leave the hotel in the morning so I probably ought to give some consideration to packing. Ugh.
But it was a great day today. Everyone is excited and seems to be thoroughly enjoying every aspect of the trip. All are healthy too. Yay. Well, I feel another scratchy throat coming on. Let’s hope it is just in passing.
The food here has been delicious. The dining room is crowded and can get a bit noisy. But the selection of food is impressive – and most of it really quite delicious. I will miss it in Jerusalem for sure. But tomorrow night we feast at the Dead Sea. That’s quite a spread.
But if I’m going to make it there – I’d better get packed up now. So, I shall sign off and get things settle for tomorrow. The Sabbath.