As I sit on my bed the colors of a setting sun reflect on the Golan Heights across the Sea of Galilee. The oranges and light pinks are beautiful against the blue lake and large puffy clouds above. We had a few sprinkles today while at Tel Dan (just to make a liar out of me – I promised no rain on this trip). Another chance for humility.
It was a good day exploring the northern reaches of Israel. We started out on time driving north to Hazor. It is a significant tel which gets very few visitors. I find that hard to believe. We were the only bus there this morning – and the guy at the gate was so friendly and appreciative of our visit as we were leaving.
They have done a lot of work on the site in the past few years – you hardly even have to leave a wide cement path to see the site. It’s great. We visit the upper city (20 acres) and gaze below at the lower city (180 acres). Just a small portion has been excavated. But what they have uncovered is very interesting.
We walk through a Solomonic Gate – one of the three cities he fortified during his reign (Megiddo, Hazor, and Gezer). Have to get back to Gezer one of these trips. We then move up to the Canaanite palace area. They found an Israelite storage chamber on top of it – but they moved it to another location. Under that Israelite structure was most likely a palace (Jabin’s?). In Joshua it tells the story of the conquest of Israel in the land and battle which included the defeat of Hazor. The one city they obediently burned with fire. And there, in Hazor, is evidence of that fire. The strong basalt stones are all cracked, and there is only one explanation for that phenomenon. A fire. A really, really hot fire. The accuracy of the biblical account is highlighted once again.
We walked around some of the other areas of the site – it is all interesting. And quiet. I like that part. Of course. When we got back onto the bus we were headed farther north. We passed through Kiryat Shemona (most shelled Israeli city in recent history) on our way to Tel Dan.
We start our time in Tel Dan with a walk through the nature preserve. Lush landscape. Roaring stream (by Israeli standards). It’s a very cool environment compared to where we’ve been lately – the humidity is the hardest element. But today had some clouds (some dark ones) which cooled the day off considerably.
After wandering along the stream we ended up at the high place of Jeroboam. He led the rebellion of the ten northern tribes against Rehoboam and Judea. He set up two golden calves as a competition to Jerusalem – one at Bethel and one at Dan. We visited the one they’ve uncovered here at Dan.
Then we walked around a bit more and came across (none of this is a surprise, mind you) a Canaanite Gate. By its construction it is dated to the days of Abraham. It was even built with an arch – the oldest arch ever found anywhere in the world. It has been filled in so it was preserved. But Genesis 14 talks about Abraham coming after Lot to rescue him from some kidnappers. He came even to Dan, the text says. So here we are. Canaanite Gate dating to the days of Abraham…in a place Abraham is said to have visited. Overwhelming. But we aren’t done yet.
A little more walking and we are at the Israelite period gate structure. The place for the king to make judgements. A market place. A meeting place. And a few years ago they found, just outside the gate itself, in a courtyard, a stele from a pagan king which mentioned, “the house of David.” Found here, where we were standing. Of course, the stele is not there – it’s the Israel museum in Jerusalem. But many schools of archeology doubted the actual existence of a King David. But…a pagan king believed he lived.
The veracity of the God’s Word has been underscored a lot today. That’s so significant and special. What a day. Oh, and it’s not done yet.
We are now off to Banias, or Caesarea Philippi. We were just there in our walk-through Matthew at church. It’s a great site to get the feel of what Jesus said to His disciples about the church and the Gates of Hades and the rock. Special place.
Back on the bus for a short trip to the parking lot above the Banias waterfalls. The walk to the falls was all downhill – so it was all uphill coming back. It was mostly steps, but so well worth the trek. It was a flowing sheet of water, seemingly coming out of nowhere. To be cool was delightful – and even if it had been a really hot day – the trees formed a lovely canopy of shade.
Back to the bus and on to….lunch. Finally. It was approached 2 pm by now, so time for lunch was certainly due. We drove up the Golan Heights, passed Nimrod’s Castle (Muslim fort built during the Crusades which has nothing to do with Nimrod). It’s such a massive structure sitting up on the hillside. Impressive.
Lunch was in a Druze village, a place I’d eaten before a couple of time. I love it, actually. They have three choices ($12/each). Lebneh “sandwich” (large “pita” bread – no pockets…the Druze version) or schnitzel or falafel. The lebneh is my lunch of choice in this place. They put lebneh on the large “pita” and then a sauce of olive oil and zaatar – then they heat it up on a large skillet. It is amazing. We were the only bus there. And we are high enough in altitude by now that it was delightfully cool. We sat out on the patio with cool breezes overlooking an extinct volcano filled with water. It’s a fun place to eat – and it was so quiet after lunch yesterday.
We took a small stroll to take in the view – then back on the bus and off for a short drive to Mt. Bental. It’s a former military base high atop a mountain. It has a great view over Syria and Israel. We can see the deserted village of Quneitra. And the village of New Quneitra – rebuilt by the Syrians a few miles closer to Damascus. From here you can see Mt. Hermon clearly (tho clouds covered the top today). You can get a taste of the modern political landscape and current borders and disputes. It’s really interesting.
Time to head back to the hotel in Tiberius. Drove down the Golan Heights passed Bethsaida and over the Jordan River. Passed Capernaum and Tabgha and the Mt. of Beatitudes. The Sea of Galilee spread out before us – it’s a lovely and historic drive. We got back to the hotel just before 5. We check out in the morning and head south. It’s desert day tomorrow. Another full one, by the way. Aren’t they all? Yes, they are.
Back from dinner. It was interesting. I think every group has checked out. They knew where’d I’d sit without even asking. So, it ought to be quiet, right? WRONG. There’s some wedding here – and the place was pretty full again. But…there were kids everywhere. EVERYWHERE. And half the food on each child’s plate was on the floor. No kidding. Dinner was good. But the dining room was a total disaster. They might wish for the tourists back if you worked on busting tables. Just saying.
Went out to say farewell to the Sea of Galilee. The moon was bright orange, but not quite full anymore. It was warm and quiet. A lovely evening. I left the group to come back and watch a little bit of church back home.
It is time to head south in the morning. So everyone will be packing back up tonight. We’ll be swimming in the Dead Sea soon enough.