Israel Study Tour with More Than Music

October 31 - November 11, 2022

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Day 05 - Galilee: Katzrin (cultural experience), Mount Bental, Caesarea Philippi, Tel Dan

Today began with a 45-minute drive up to the Golan Heights, where over the course of the day we heard the fascinating story of the formation of Israel and its relationship to its neighboring countries over the last 125 or so years. Dan is really a spellbinding storyteller... you really have to come here to hear all this from him sometime!

Our first stop was at the restored village of Katzrin, restored ancient ruins the Ministry of Tourism operates to help give a clearer (non-Disneyland) understanding of what first-century life might have felt. We donned costumes (this part felt a bit hokey, let's be honest), pressed our own olive oil (currently very muddy... check back with us in a week) on an ancient olive press, ground wheat (WOW that's a lot of work), and made and devoured pita bread (YUM). A highlight was the time we spent inside a restored rabbi's home - we sat on sheepskin-covered benches and contemplated (lit by small olive oil lamps) a ceiling perhaps like what the paralyzed man's friends might have removed in Mark 2/Luke 5.  Our guide also mentioned the house had an upper bedroom like the upper chamber of 1 Kings 17 (where Elijah raises the widow's son).

Next we went to a modern olive oil factory where we sampled and learned about the most DELICIOUS oil, produced through regenerative farming. Also interestingly they told us it's better to keep the weeds in the soil to help process CO2 than to wipe them out with some sort of herbicide spray. This company's owner patented how to turn the "black water" (olive waste rejected from the olive-oil-making process) from an environmental problem to a booming skincare business... he accidentally fell in, then noticed how beautifully smooth his skin was once he got out! (after a thorough unintentional exfoliation)  Thus Olea Essence came to be, and if you're lucky, someone you love is bringing you home some oil or skincare products! (Let us be clear... the oil is extremely delicious!)

Then we went to a nearby hillside overlooking very nearby Syria, where Dan concluded his daylong story with the events of Israel's near defeat in 1973. That's far too quotidian a sentence for the gravitas of the experience, but it's the best I can do. You'll just have to come hear it for yourselves!

Meanwhile, back to the Bible. Our next stop was at one of my favorite Bible sites, Caesarea Philippi, one of the sources of the Jordan River. This is where Peter's famous confession of faith occurred (Matthew 16), but what the Bible doesn't tell us is what the site was (because Matthew's readers were Jewish and would've immediately known it was a BIG NO-NO to go there!). Caesarea Philippi, formerly called Banias, was originally named Panias, and the home of orgies and Pan worship. Not the place a good Jew would've gone, yet Jesus took His disciples there... why?  Perhaps it's because it was a place everyone would've known for its detestable pagan practices, so when Jesus said to Peter, "on this rock I will build my church," He might as well have been saying "and even on this rock (gesturing to the giant rock cliff looming overhead) I can build My church." This is another location like Tabgha where understanding the geography and history of the place really helps the Bible jump off the page for me!

It's also worth mentioning (as always) the excellence of the picnic Eli (our driver) had waiting for us after we visited the cave and saw the springs. In particular the pickles are super-delicious, and every morning he goes to get fresh bread while we're at one of our early stops!

We finished the day at Tel Dan, land the Danites conquered after the Philistines chased them out of their home nearer Tel Aviv and Jerusalem (the end of the story Dan started to tell us at Bet Shemesh all the way back on day 1).  It's an incredible tropical jungle!  Dan the guide told us Dan the territory is the only part of Israel that has enough water... too much, in fact.

Bible Archaeology-wise, Tel Dan is hugely important, for 3 main reasons:
1 - here archaeologists (almost accidentally) discovered the first non-Biblical evidence of King David, and it meant David was an indisputable part of history because an enemy king mentioned him on a carved stone advertising his defeat! No one would bother to carve a minor victory in stone, so David must have been a mighty king. Goes with what Dan told us a few days ago about how there really isn't much archaeological evidence of David because he spent all his time at war or running for his life, not building.
2 - archaeologists also found the location of King Jeroboam's detestable golden calf altar of 1 Kings 12 (so of course most of us hiked up to see it). Dave, while standing next to it, posed his theory to us about this place... we read in the Old Testament about the "sin of Jeroboam," but Dave posits it's really Solomon's fault since he's the one who legitimized idol worship.
3 - There's a 3000-year-old gate there, through which Abraham would've traveled on his way to Damascus to recover his kidnapped nephew Lot in Genesis 14. It's astonishing to see such an ancient structure - it's 3000 years old - but even more astonishing when we notice it's an arch. It was thought, until the discovery of this gate, that the Romans invented the arch. Dan pointed out it's not a perfect arch (no keystone), but it proves the Romans didn't invent arches as an architectural feature, they rediscovered (and, admittedly, improved) them.

We finished the day with a moonlit (and flashlight-lit) baptism ceremony at the Sea of Galilee in front of the hotel. Dave baptized 13 of our 23-person group! As Dan reminded us, the Sea of Galilee is full of the River Jordan (the Jordan flows in from the north and out to the south), and it was an incredibly special moment for both those being baptized and those observing. We're all so grateful!


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