Harkening back to such a special time
Today, we woke up again on the shore of the Sea of Galilee.
Allow that to sink in. Today, we woke up again to the sounds of the waves of the Sea of Galilee rhythmically lapping against the sandy shore.
No, we weren't at our traditional places of worship this Sunday morning, but this particular Sunday was, without a doubt, divinely worshipful and memorable.
If Sunday is the day to dress your best, we certainly dressed uniquely at our first stop which was an ancient Talmudic-era village in Katzrin. We essentially took a journey back in time to experience life in a village dedicated to the Talmud. We learned about the olive press, family life, and even made our own bread with a little help from our guide. Our time there ended at the ruins of an ancient synagogue, giving us time to reflect on such a special place harkening back to such a special time.
Katzrin (cultural experience)
Ancient Katzrin is a restored Byzantine period village in the central Golan area. This unique archaeological park provides a complete picture of the everyday life in a typical Jewish village at these times, also known as the Talmudic period. The park is located near the modern city of Katzrin - the main Jewish city of the Golan.
The olive is such an important part of the experience and history of Israel. Olive trees and, certainly, olive oil are key components to Israel’s economic stability. Our next stop today was at a place called Olea Essence which is a family farm that creates skincare products and various olive oils. What sets Olea Essence apart is it discovered a way to not waste any of the olive. Olives, when pressed, not only produce the coveted oil, but also a bitter, environmentally destructive liquid. Olea Essence found a way to chemically engineer this liquid to create an effective hand skincare product as well as a cleaning product. God has provided a real gift to Israel in the form of an olive, and Israeli ingenuity takes that gift and makes the most of it.
Next, we made our way up to the Golan Heights, a geopolitical region captured from Syria and occupied by Israel as a result of the Six-Day War. Although it is a beautiful view overlooking Syria to the east and Mount Hermon in the north, it is also a stark reminder that Israel must always be vigilant against those that wish to do her harm. Israel has always found a way to overcome overwhelming odds on the battlefield and the Golan Heights is a place that tells a story of such resolve and steadfastness.
If the Golan Heights was a reminder of what violence we are capable of as human beings, what would we find at the Gates of Hades? That is exactly where we stood next as we visited Caesarea Philippi. If we weren’t standing exactly where Jesus was, we had to be close. And we were reminded of what is written in Matthew 16, the account of Jesus standing with his disciples looking at a spring-filled cave in Caesarea Philippi that those in the region had come to believe was a gate to the underworld i.e. Hades. This hub of pagan idol worship was everything that Jesus and his followers stood against, and we found ourselves asking the same question that Jesus posed to his disciples, “Who do you say I am?” Peter answered it by saying, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” We would do well to respond the same.
This abundant water supply has made the area very fertile and attractive for religious worship. Numerous temples were built at this city in the Hellenistic and Roman periods.
After that impactful moment, we made our way up to Tel Dan. Tel Dan is home to one of the greatest archaeological sites in all of the world. A gate dating back to the time of Abraham was found here. Even more, the Bible reminds us that Abraham traveled down to the city, meaning Abraham would have passed through this very gate. As has been the case this entire trip, our Bible stories continue to leap off the pages and dance in our field of vision. These holy places are bringing scripture to life for us, and we are humbled to be here to experience it.
What is even more potent for us on this special day is that God hasn’t stopped telling great stories here on the Sea of Galilee. Tonight, many in our group waded into the waters of the lake following Christ’s example and were baptized. We ended our time of baptisms by sharing in communion with one another, These are benchmark moments in time that will outlast the annals of men. These are stories written in heavenly places about lives once again changed at the Sea of Galilee.
On the northern frontier of the kingdom, Dan was particularly well fortified. This gatehouse was built in the ninth century BCE, probably by Ahab, and is part of a series of gateways discovered.