A wonderful link to the past
Pastor Allen opened the morning by sharing a devotional from Genesis. We looked at the conflicts in the life of Jacob, mainly when he wrestled with the angel. At that point Jacob was alone, except for the Lord. Pastor Allen reminded us that we all experience times when we must get alone with God. This time alone allows Him to conform us to His image, to teach us what He wants us to learn, and ultimately to bless us.
On our way to our stop we crossed the Jordan River - yay!
Miriam shared with us about the geography of the Golan. The Golan Heights region is volcanic. We passed by evidence of that, basalt, which are black rocks. She used this rocky soil to illustrate for us as a picture of Jesus’ parable of the sower going forth to sow sowing seed (Luke 8). She told us that possession of the Golan gives Israel tactical depth in protection of its land and its people.
We passed through the Hula Valley, which was once a swamp. All that remains of that time is Hula Lake. The area is now beautiful! Just another example of God’s hand on this tiny piece of land.
We enjoyed a wonderful visit at Israel’s northern most kibbutz, Misgav Am. We saw the kibbutz’s proximity to Syria and Lebanon and were amazed by their strength. We learned that they survive by agricultural, renting rooms to 130 local college students (who they love dearly), and tourism. The Israeli Defense Force (IDF) also stations four soldiers at the kibbutz on a permanent basis. The sobering reality of their situation was shown so clearly as we were told they don’t wait for police, the army, or anyone else. Any problems that might arise they will handle themselves – it is their job to protect each other.
After traveling up to Misgav Am, we headed back down the mountains and over to Caesarea Philippi. Named after Caesar Augustus, Caesarea Philippi was built (modified) by Herod Phillip. Today the area is called the Banias Nature Reserve. The area was associated with Pan, the half goat, half human god of mischief. Later identified as Panias under the Muslims it morphed into Banias as the Muslims can’t really pronounce the letter “P” so it became Banias.
I shared a brief devotion from Matthew 16 where Jesus asked His disciples “who do men say that I am?” Then he asked the all-important question “who do you say that I am?” Peter’s response was quick and received praise from the Lord. The church of Jesus is built firmly on Peter’s declaration of who Jesus is “You are the Christ, the son of the living God.” Hell’s Gates could not and cannot stop the gospel. Gates are defensive, not offensive. We closed by singing a wonderful hymn and then we were given time to explore the grounds.
We stopped in the town of Mas’ade, one of four Druze towns near the Golan Heights. We ate lunch at Bearkat Ram a quaint Druze restaurant near the Golan.
Miriam told us about the Six Day War when Israel was attacked on Yom Kippur June 5-10 1967. Syria launched one of the largest tank battles in history. They only made it 2/3 of the way. The city of Quenitra was controlled by Israel until 1973. From where we stood, the city of Damascus is only 60 Miles away.
Israel has taken in hundreds of wounded Syrians because of the civil war going on there. They treat them at local field hospitals and then transport them to Israel’s main hospitals.
Israel placed a geological park right near the Syrian border that shows students how the land is structure.
On the way to Gamla Miriam told us the account of Eli Cohen who died in 1966. You can read his story here: https://www.haaretz.com/weekend/the-makings-of-history/the-abduction-that-never-was-1.457381
Gamla was a Jewish City in the Golan Heights. It was where the rebellion started in 66 AD and led to the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD. Much like Masada in 73 AD, the people in Galma ultimately committed suicide instead of giving in to the enemy. The ancient town of Gamla was discovered after the 1967 war. The Jewish people of Gamla were fighting for the freedom of Zion. Jewish people use Gamla and Masada as a symbol to stay united.
Known sometimes as the “Masada of the North,” Gamla is most famous for its strong defense against the Romans in the Jewish Revolt in AD 66. The site is bordered on all sides by deep wadis of the Golan Heights and is approachable by only one footpath from the northeast. The earliest settlement was in the Early Bronze Age and the site was reinhabited by returning exiles from Babylon. Herod the Great settled Jews here to populate his border cities.
As we traveled back down to the Sea of Galilee we stopped at the Mount of Beatitudes. There was once a church that was built 1500 years ago along with a beautiful mosaic on this spot. This area has been part of Christian tradition for centuries. The current Italian facility on this property was built in the 1930s and was financed by Benito Mussolini and built by Antonio Barluzzi.
Bob Duarte, an advancement team member with The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry read Matthew 5 for us. Miriam and Jim Showers shared a funny story from a previous tour when it was told who built the church, and the elderly nun who worked there declared, “Not Mussolini, Barluzzi!” We were given some time to walk around the property there on the Galilee.
Mount of Beatitudes
The so-called “Sermon on the Mount” is recorded in Matthew 5-7 and Luke 6. The alleged discrepancy between Matthew’s version being on a hill and Luke’s being on a level place is easily reconciled with observation of many level places on the Galilean hillsides. Scripture gives no indication of the exact location of this event, but the Byzantines built a church to commemorate it at the bottom of the hill. Some of Napoleon’s men placed it on the nearby Arbel mountain.
We then departed for the Galilee Boat and some much appreciated shopping! How the boat was found, moved and actually saved never ceases to amaze me. What a beautiful building to house this wonderful link to the past. You can read the story here: https://www.jesusboat.com/Story-of-the-Jesus-Boat
Our evening ended with an amazing dinner at the Lido Decks restaurant on the Sea of Galilee. We all enjoyed hummus, pita bread, fried onions, Salmon, mushrooms, sweet potatoes, chicken, lamb ribs, and steak. We also had French fries and two amazing Kosher desserts. We were given the honor and surprise of fireworks and a special song, “We are Standing on Holy Ground.” It was such a blessing and many were moved to tears.