Shavua tov! That’s “good week” in Hebrew, a typical greeting on Sunday when the Israeli work week begins. We started this morning waking up in the east coast of the Sea of Galilee.
We headed out to a site called Katzrin, though not mentioned in the Bible as a place Jesus may have gone, it is a real site that has been excavated showing what life was like in the first century. We dressed as first centuries Jews, learned about harvest wheat and grinding it to flour, and walked through a first century house. We discuss what it was as they live in such close community, even sharing walls with their neighbors at times.
When sitting in the 1st century house, the story of Jesus healing the lame man came alive (you remember the one who was lowered down by his buddies in Mark 2 & Luke 5). It wouldn’t take too many people to fill up a 1st century house! What great community that man had that his four friends would work to interrupt Jesus’ teachings and lower their friend through the roof.
Before leaving we got to finish out the process and shape and cook (and eat!) our own 1st century style bread.
After leaving Katzrin, we headed further north to Tel Dan. Here we followed beautiful streams to learn about all that happened in the Northern Dan region. We learned about the disobedience of King Jeroboam creating alters to idols. We even saw the place where one giant altar had been placed. We also got to see the gate to the city of Dan, which had only recently been discovered. We learned that Abraham himself probably walked right where we were. We ended our time at Tel Dan eating lunch.
We also took a quick stop to see a magnificent waterfall. It’s hard to believe that just a few days ago, we were touring the desert learning about the Israelites yearning for God’s promised land which would be full of water and fertile. Now, up on the north end of Israel we find so much water, life, and richness -just as God promised.
We then stopped in Caesarea Phillipi, which was a Roman city filled with pagan temples. It was the epitome of a dark place in 1st century Israel. There was even a place located in this city called “the gates of hell.” We read when Jesus came to this town with His disciples, He told them that His kingdom would be built on the rock that is the confession that Jesus is the Christ. He says that “the gates of hell” won’t prevail against it! (Matt 16)
After leaving Caesarea Phillip, we went up the most northern portion to a place called Mt. Bental. Now, this mountain is not a biblical city, but here we learned about the more contemporary Israeli military history over the past 70-80 years. We were able to see Syria in the distance from the mountain.
After we left Mt. Bental and ate dinner, we headed down to the beach outside of our rooms, and we had a bonfire with (Israeli) smores and dancing, along with inter-generational music highlights!
Today was a rich day full of re-imagining what first century life was like, to comparing the rich northern region of Israel to desert, to remembering that we have the same confession of who Jesus is that Peter gave 2000 years ago. We saw portions of the northern and eastern borders to Israel, seeing Lebanon and Syria at different parts of the day today. Tomorrow we finish up all of what we’ll see outside of Jerusalem, and head into the Holy city in the evening!
Until then: Shalom!