Monday, April 18, 2016

Galilee and beyond... northern Israel.  Often called 'land of the Bible' is the area around the Sea of Galilee and is the most lush and green part of the country.

Our first stop as we headed north of Jerusalem was Beit of the most ancient cities in the country.

We passed through a residential and commercial area of the modern day city...and on to the National Park of Beit She'an which lies just north of the city.  Here we will took a walk through an excavation of the city as it was during the Roman era. 

Our tour guide led the way to the amphitheater (built around 200 AD)...once used for gladiator fights and able to seat more than 5,000 spectators. 

That is definitely the oldest seat I have ever sat on!

Beyond the main street of that ancient Roman city lined with white the Tel (mound) which was the site of the ancient Biblical Beit Shean that we read of in the Old Testament.  It was a Philistine city during the time of Saul and we read in 1 Samuel 31 that King Saul's head was displayed on the wall of the city following his death.  Later King Solomon made Beit Shean a main administrative centre. A major earthquake destroyed and buried the city in 749 AD...and so it remained until modern times.  Excavation began in 1949 and continues to today.

Here at Beit Shean archaeologists have marked different times in Israel’s history...under the Jebusites, Canaanites, Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, Egyptians, Maccabees, Romans, Muslims, Crusaders, Ottomans, Brits and anyone else who ever raised their flag here over the last 5,000 years. 

We came.  We saw.  We were in awe!

Next we stopped at Nazareth...where Mary and Joseph made their home and where Jesus grew up.  Though it was just a small village at that now is a large city of some 75,000.

We toured the Basilica of Annunciation...a Roman Catholic church built in 1969 and the largest Christian sanctuary in the Middle East.

On the church walls (as well as in the outer courtyard) are many mosaic murals...each one given by a different country and reflecting the flavour of the nation that gifted it.  Though most were tile seems Canada and the USA presented quite unique gifts.  The Canadian artwork is a wood carving...appropriate, I guess!

In northern Galilee we visited Israel's highest city, Safed...located at an elevation of 900 meters.  If we go back to the Old Testament, we learn that Safed belonged to the Naphtali tribe after Joshua's conquest.

Now it is a picturesque mountaintop city with ancient cobblestone alleyways...a gathering place for Jewish mystics and artists.

Wherever there are hills in Israel...there are caves.  Seeing them makes it easy to picture all those Old Testament stories that involved kings and prophets hiding in caves.

We sailed on the Sea of Galilee...and had a lesson in casting out the net (on both sides of the boat).

At a peaceful spot along the Jordan River...we were blessed to witness the baptism of some of our tour members.  Now that was most touching!

Capernaum...a place Jesus called home after being rejected in his hometown of Nazareth. It was where he called some of his disciples...where he healed Peter's mother, the leper and the Centurion's servant...where he cast out an evil spirit...raised a child from the dead...and where he taught in the synagogue.

It was where we visited the ruins of the synagogue...believed to have been built around 300 AD.  It is built above the foundation of a previous synagogue...thought to be the one where Jesus taught.  How surreal it feels to know that Jesus once walked, talked and lived right here!

Before I finish this post on Galilee...let me include a little trip north and east of the Sea of Galilee to the Golan Heights...where much of the conflict we hear of has taken place.

We stopped at the Quineitra Viewpoint (situated on the flanks of a dormant volcano)...from where we could easily see the Syrian border just a short distance away.  Just last week I saw photos of Israeli government officials meeting right at this very location.  A visit to Israel makes ancient history come alive...and gives insight into what is happening there today!

Above and behind us was Mt. Avital...where the many eyes of Israel's top-secret military defense program peer into Syria.

Residents of the Golan depend primarily on agricultural income.  Most of the farming in Israel is done on collective farms.  We passed by dairy farms, chicken farms, and many crops being grown beneath white netting called Antivirus net...a mesh that blocks the insect's physical access to plants, while allowing sunshine in and enabling air circulation.

The next stop along our tour will be Haifa, Caesaria, TelAviv...places along the Mediterranean coast.  It has been a good exercise to document some of the photos I took...since it seemed impossible to process it all as we toured.  

Let me end this chapter...on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. 


  1. On and beside the sea of Galilee, so amazing. That must have been wonderful to witness baptisms there, too. I enjoyed visiting this part of our ancient history as Christians...

  2. This is so interesting and exciting to see these places where Jesus walked. The old ruins are fascinating and to think they were once buried by an earthquake. All the history amazes me and makes the Bible come alive. Thank you for sharing your adventure Judy. Have a blessed week.

  3. I am wanting to go on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, but after the bus was blown up yesterday, I am fearful. What do you think about safety in that area?
    Pam B.

    1. We never felt unsafe at any time...and security was tight everywhere. We were most surprised to hear of the bus incident and glad we were not there when it happened. I guess it could happen in Paris, Brussels, Jerusalem or anywhere else for that matter.

  4. Even I can feel the awe of those places via your excellent photographs and commentary. Yes, having visited, you must understand things a little more clearly than before or better than those of us who have never visited. Israel's such a small country. Did you get that sense of it while visiting? I wanted to ask the safety question, too, so am glad that someone was brave!

  5. What an amazing trip! I really appreciate you sharing your trip with us as this is most likely the only way I will ever visit here! Just to think of walking where Jesus walked! I am so happy you got to do that! I am glad you included the photo of you on the stone seats! And the one of you both at the end!

  6. It is interesting to compare your ancient sites to the ones we saw 2 years ago in places like Ephesus and Rome. I wonder how it feels for those who dig up these ancient cities? I like the last photo!

  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

  8. I had to erase my first comment as the ate hour made me make a mistake. How amazing it must have felt to walk where our Lord once lived and see the Jordan River where St John The Baptist baptized Him! To think of all the history of this place and all the peoples that have lived here over the thousands of years! What an exciting experience!

    I am late in visiting all your posts and will catch up this evening

  9. Such amazing sites you are seeing. I can't imagine walking along the same streets that Jesus may have walked. The Sea Of Galilee is beautiful as I always assumed in would be. Thank you for sharing your trip!

  10. What a tour it must have been! I remember having lunch by the Sea of Galilee (and contracting food poisoning!) but I wasn't lucky enough to be in a boat - that would have been incredible!

  11. Gorgeous photos. What a beautiful, amazing place! Thank you so much for sharing.

  12. Gorgeous photos. What a beautiful, amazing place! Thank you so much for sharing.


'The ornament of a house is the friends who frequent it.'
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson