Today was less pilgrimage and more archaeological, with some politics thrown in. In the course of the day, we travelled around the entire Sea of Galilee, with some breathtaking views. We began the day by visiting Bethsaida, home of Peter, Andrew, James, and John. Excavations on the site have happened only recently, and just open to the pubic. The city itself used to be on the Sea of Galilee, but an earthquake caused a landslide and now the site is some distance away from the sea. The city was abandoned around the time of the Jewish Revolt and the Roman destruction of the temple (70 A). So, that means that what the diggers uncovered went back to the time just after Jesus. Likely, we walked on the very same street as he did. They have also uncovered a fisher’s house, and since we know that St. Peter came from there, this likely could have been his house. That’s an amazing thought. Of course, we don’t know for sure that was where he lived because there is nothing there with his name on it. Also, he wasn’t there when we called, so we couldn’t ask him.
Next, it was on to Caesarea Philippi, a city made by the son of Herod the Great. There is a large cave in the side of the wall which sat behind a temple to the god Pan (the half-man, half-goat). There victims would be thrown in, and if you never saw them again the gods
answered you prayer. If you saw blood rise, well then you got another victim. It also had another name due to the belief that when the cave flooded, the demons would come race out of hell, leading this place to be called ‘the gates of hell’. Before our guide told us all of this, we stood in front and listened to Matthew’s version of Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Christ. So, in the vicinity of Caesarea Philippi with it’s gates of hell, Jesus told Peter that he would build his church upon the rock – which the ‘gates of hell’ could never prevail. Jesus had to have had this temple in mind when he said this.
Also at Caesarea Philippi, we found the source of the Jordan River at the Hermon River Springs. This was beautifully landscaped with the channels created to direct the water wherever it was needed. Just a beautiful area.
The rest of the day took a decidedly political slant, as one might expect with a Israeli native guide and a mostly pro-Israel evangelical tour group. We visited the Golan Heights, which was in Syria possession until the 1967 war. We heard a very Israeli take on the situation. My dad jokingly asked a fellow tour member, ‘Do you think you’re up-to-date on the politics?’ She responded, ‘Hate Syria. That was the gist of it.’ That pretty much did summarize it (yesterday, we were show the wall that guards the West Bank, which was described by our tour guide as ‘the wall that separates the sheep from the goats’.) Oh, and the United Nations is only unified when it’s against Israel. Many agreed with our guide when she said the United Nations is useless (which, unless I am mistaken, the United States made sure of, so I don’t know why we are complaining). Anyway, my dad said this is it for the tour, so thankfully, that part is over. (FYI: our tour guide is extremely knowledgeable archaeologist and has given some great information, but I have heard the ‘Israel can do no wrong’ line from so many people that I get a little tired of it.)
Tomorrow, we take a biblical turn and will be visiting the Sermon on the Mount location, the feeding of the 5000 location, and the Jordan River.