What life would have been like
This morning we came prepared for the rain, but it ended up holding off and turned into a beautiful day! We met by the beach and looked out to the Sea of Galilee… again. I’m telling you, that view will never get old. It is so peaceful and serene. I love starting the day that way.
We hopped on the bus and headed to Katzrin (Located in the Golan Heights), where we were met by two goats, a peacock, and a rooster! We immediately knew we were in for a treat. Our guide for this site was awesome! She had the best sense of humor and kept this large group engaged the whole time. She asked every single one of us to put on robes and headdresses! It was cool to get the full experience of what life would have been like and it was also a pretty good laugh for the group. Next, all 50 of us piled into a first century house, which was very small. Terry read from Mark 2, the story of the paralytic - where his friends lowered him down from the roof of the house Jesus was in so that he could be healed. As we were all crammed into that room together, we were challenged to evaluate our friendships. Do I have people in my life that would do whatever it took to get me to Jesus? Friendship is a two-way street so I also had to consider… Am I the kind of friend to someone that would do anything in my power to get them near Jesus? It was a powerful time of reflection in such a tangible environment. Our final moments in Katzrin included rolling dough, baking over fire, then eating our delicious homemade pita!!
The ancient Jewish farming village of Katzrin was built around a spring, which still flows. Although there were standing ruins on the site, archaeological excavations have increased the number of accessible ancient buildings. An ancient synagogue was discovered in 1967 and excavated between 1971 and 1984. Other parts of the village were excavated beginning in 1983. Some of the buildings have been reconstructed on their ancient foundations and furnished with replicas of household goods and tools
We drove down the road a few minutes to an olive oil factory, which began with an introductory video explaining that they not only make amazing olive oil, but reuse the leftovers from the olives for skincare products. This led to some sampling of their edible and skincare products, then straight to the gift shop we went. We left with softer skin and emptier wallets!
For lunch, we picnicked at Caesarea Philippi which was once a place that symbolized the gods of the culture and was home to the Temple of Pan. This temple (and massive cave) could very well be the place that Jesus refers to as the “gates of Hades” in Matthew 16:18 when Jesus is with his disciples in Caesarea Philippi.
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.
On this adventure we’ve had many chances to hike or drive up to heights to see panoramic views of Israel and where Yehuda can show us (with his fancy telescopic retractable pointer) all the rich culture and history that surrounds us. Today we stood at an overlook at Mount Bental and not too far off into the distance you could spot the border wall between Syria and Israel. While we were already in the northern part of the country, we took the bus along Israel’s border with Lebanon. As Americans, it’s not every day you can casually drive along multiple nations borders and peer through the fence.
Lastly, we explored Tel Dan and hiked off some of the pita we ate! It was here that we saw ancient city gates dating back to the Canaanite and Israelite periods. in 1 Kings 12, we read how Jeroboam set up two temples: one in Bethel, and the other in Dan. This ancient temple is what we were able to see and walk through. Shortly after Yehuda gave us the breakdown of the various sections of the temple, he pointed out that the steps where all of us were sitting and listening from represent the steps leading up to the Holy of Holies in the temple.
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.
The scripture shared here was Amos 5, where God was announcing the coming judgment upon the northern kingdom. At the time, people were checking the boxes of religion as if it were just a routine or ritual, but their hearts weren’t fully in it. There was no evidence of authentic love and devotion for God. They were placing value and worshipping other things in their lives. None of us as human beings are exempt from this happening… It’s when going to church or simply doing a few kind acts here and there checks the box for us. God doesn’t want our religious routines. He wants every part of us. He wants our heart.
Terry said it best, “God expects our devotion, not just our ritual items of obedience.”