Israel Trip Day Three: Gathering at the River and Blessed are the Cheesemakers – Sea of Galilee, the Jesus Boat, and More

Today began with a boat ride across the Sea of Galilee, marred only by the haze that didn’t allow the views on the opposite side. One can only imagine how beautiful it is on a clear day. Many in our group were moved by this journey, one Jesus made many times. We had readings and then singing. Thankfully, the water was not as choppy as that faced by the apostles when Jesus was in the boat. And no one attempted to walk on water.

Our first destination was the ‘Jesus Boat’. In 1986, two fishermen (and amateur archaeologists) found it on the shore during a heavy recession of the sea. They dated it to the first century. Our guide wants to say it was the Jesus boat, but we can only say with certainty that it was from Jesus’ time. Regardless, the story behind it’s discovery (April and I had the pleasure of meeting the archaeologist who worked on it and was the first one 2000 years to sail on it) and seeing it was fascinating. It helps tremendously to visualise the disciples and Jesus in it.

From there it was on to Mount Beatitudes. There is a church beside the natural amphitheatre that is the best possible location for where Jesus gave the Sermon on that Mount. Whilst the church is lovely and built in an octogonal shape (based on the Catholic interpretation that there are 8 beatitudes), the site of the natural amphitheatre is no longer accessible. Whover owns it no longer allows people to roam there. My dad tells me the acoustics are so fantastic and one can easily hear a speaker around the hillside.

The next stop was the Church at Tabgha, believed to be the site where Jesus multiplied the fish and the loaves. Our guide certainly believes it is (I can’t remember her full explanation off hand). Inside the church, there was an altar built over a rock, which is believed to be the rock Jesus rested on and placed the loaves and fishes. The church, with 4th c. mosaics, was beautiful in its simplicity. As we walked in, another group was seated and began singing the Taize chant, ‘Bless the Lord’. It was a beautiful experience. I lit a candle in front of Jesus’ icon as a prayer for my godson. Unfortunately, we didn’t have much time.

This is where travelling with a group really becomes frustrating. Our guide allowed an hour for the gift shop at the Jesus Boat museum, but we were only allowed 15 minutes at Tabgha. I don’t want to complain about the guide or those in the group who don’t want to see these sorts of sights, so I will end it here.

We moved on to a hurried tour of Capernaum, the home base of Jesus’ ministry. There we saw the house believed to be the home of St. Peter. Archaeologists have found a strange anamoly for a first c. house – an extra room that would have housed an early Christian community. Then there is also the remains of a 4th c. church with the name of ‘Church of the House of St. Peter’. Now there is a modern church (chapel, really) built on stilts on top of it. Not far from the house is the remains of a 4th c. synogogue – built on top of a 1st c one! This would be the synagogue where Jesus drove out that demon!

Our day ended with a visit to the Jordan River baptism site – not where Jesus was baptised, but where one can often see photos of people being baptised. The baptism site itself is lovely, if not a bit commercialised. They move people in and out to have their own services. Carl baptised many in our group (a redidication, really) and it was important experience for many of them. I may write on this in a later post.

We leave Galilee tomorrow, and head on to Jerusalem!

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