Israel Study Tour with North Coast Church

Nov 17-28, 2019

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Galilee

We started our day by visiting the ruins of Chorazin. This is a 1st Century “Insula” that has been excavated in an area in the Northwestern area of Israel, just above the Sea of Galilee. This is an area filled with basalt rocks (volcanic rocks) that the people used to build their home, next to their father’s home, next to their father’s home, etc. The site that was excavated is a very large village consisting of well over 2,000 people! An Insula is the housing complex that consists of the home area used for sleeping and storage, the open courtyard area used for food preparation, communal meals, the well, an area to protect the livestock and the play area for children. This whole area would have had a wall and gated entrance. Outside the walls would have been where the family would go to work each day clearing fields, planting, harvesting or taking the goats and sheep out to graze. It’s amazing to picture the size of the community, how difficult life would have been for them back then, and how much of their day would have been dedicated to food production, especially in the large extended families.

Chorazin

The synagogue at Chorazin is a typical “Galilean” style synagogue. These synagogues are characterized by 1) a basilical shape with three hallways separated by two rows of pillars; 2) three doorways and the central one is the largest; 3) benches around the interior walls; 4) a stylobate to support the weight of the arches.

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We saw the recreated community Synagogue and had a detailed look at the purpose of the building (more or less a Community Hall) where the different family patriarchs would meet to determine situations and make decisions “for the good of the group.” We learned what each section of the Synagogue was for, and who participated in the Sabbath meetings. We then discovered that at the first century, worldwide, less than 5% of the population could read and write, but Israel had over 80% of their population that was literate! The reason for this was that at 5 years old all of their boys, and some of their girls, were sent to school. This school would have been run by the local Rabbi and his disciples! The Torah was broken into 52 sections, and the children memorize and learn how to write one section of the Torah each week, so that at the end of the year they have memorized the entire Torah! The school year runs from just after Rosh Hashana (Feast of the Trumpets) and Sukkoth (late fall) through the entire year. The next year starts the process all over again, so that by the time a boy is 13 he would have firmly implanted the Torah into his mind.

At 13 the boy would have a Bar Mitzvah which isn’t the party that’s celebrated today, but would prepare about 90% of the boys to take on the duties of a man in the community. At this point about 10% stay on at the school learning the Bet Midrash (I might have spelled that incorrectly). This is when the Rabbi takes the most promising of the boys and teaches them how to incorporate scriptures. Graduation is between 15&16 year olds and, if they’ve done well they’ll be selected to be Disciples of the Rabbi. Otherwise, they return to the family business.

These disciples become the teachers of the youngest children under the supervision of the Rabbi. If they excel, it takes two Rabbi’s to determine that the disciple is ready to become a Rabbi and there’s a ceremony for that as well.

I was fascinated at the structure and planning that went into this entire community!

After that we went to the Mountain of Beatitudes. We saw the terrain of the mountain and could feel the Holy Spirit’s presence so clearly within our group. Chris Brown went through the first 12 Beatitudes with us, helping us to see the meaning of the words in the way of THAT world he was living in at the time. In fortunately, this was a very popular tourist spot so we needed to move on quickly for the next site to make room for others coming to see the area.

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.

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After that we went to Tabgha, another location on the Sea of Galilee. The most amazing part of this location is the fact that we are certain of the location where Jesus would have stood and taught in this site. This is the location described in Mark 4:18-19 and John 21.

Tabgha

Two miles west of Capernaum is what Josephus referred to as the “well of Capernaum.” Undoubtedly a popular fishing spot of the locals because of its famous “seven springs,” Heptapegon (today the name has been corrupted to Tabgha) is the traditional location for several episodes in Jesus’ ministry.

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Next we went to Capernaum which was, simply put, indescribable. Here we know that Jesus actually lived and taught for three years and there are so many scriptures to back that up: Matthew 4:13, 8:5, 11:23, 17:24; Mark 1:21, 2:1, 9:33; Luke 4:23,31, 7:1, 10:15; John 2:12, 4:46, 6:17,24,59.

We saw the Synagogue where Jesus would have regularly taught and the house where Simon Peter lived with his wife and mother-in-law. To know without a doubt that my Lord and Savior, Jesus, lived, taught, healed the sick and gave sight to the blind gave me literal goosebumps!!

Capernaum

Jesus made Capernaum his home during the years of his ministry: “Leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum” (Matt 4:13).

Peter, Andrew, James and John were fishermen living in the village. Matthew the tax collector also dwelt here.

Capernaum is one of the three cities cursed by Jesus for its lack of faith.

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After that we went to Gennesaret and went to a museum where we saw an actual first century fishing boat that had been discovered in the mud of the Sea of Galilee during the 1980s in a time of extreme drought. We boarded a ship where we saw Mt. Arbel, Tiberius and then we crossed the sea back to the location of our resort.

We learned so much today about the life and time of Jesus! Tomorrow we leave for Jerusalem and I will certainly be busily note taking with all of the information being taught to us. If you ever have the opportunity to take this trip, please do!

—Cheryl S

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