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From Galilee to Jerusalem

Wow...we have had a busy few days. So busy, in fact, that I have been unable to write a blog post. But, our group has made it safely to Jerusalem and we are enjoying our time together.

On Thursday, we travelled north up the Hula Valley and visited the sites of Hazor, Abel Beth Maacah, Dan, and Caesarea Philippi. After lunch, we traveled through the Golan Heights and were able to enjoy the view into Syria from Mount Bental. We ended our day by seeing the first 

Friday's stops included Capernaum, a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee, Nof Ginnosar, and an opportunity to step into the sea. We were able to have lunch at a local restaurant to have "St. Peter's Fish". We ended our day by climbing to the top of Mount Arbel and viewing the entire Sea of Galilee. It was a wonderful day.

This morning, we left the serenity of the area of Galilee and headed toward Jerusalem. On the way we made stops at Jezreel, Spring of Harod, Bet She'an, Jericho, and the baptismal site. Our arrival in Jerusalem was met with much cooler temperatures than what we experienced to our north. It was a welcome relief. 

Not only is the group doing great, but they are an absolute joy to be around. Tomorrow, we head towards the Dead Sea.

One Year Ago - The Sea of Galilee

arbel NOTE: I am continuing my series of retrospective posts on the our tour one year ago. I invite you to start at the beginning and read through all of them.

Admittedly, I have not seen every place in the entire world. But, the Sea of Galilee has to be one of the most beautiful places on earth. And when you combine that beauty with all of the Biblical history that took place in and around this lake, this quickly becomes one of the favorite spots on the tour.

Our day started off with a boat ride across the beautiful lake. From this vantage point, it is easy to visualize the paths that Jesus and His disciples took during the first century. Our boat ride ended with a visit to the museum at Nof Ginnosar, where we could see the remains of a boat from the first century.

During the day, we visited the cities of Capernaum, Magdala and Chorazin. We also visited a number of traditional sites such as the Church of the Beatitudes and the Church of the Primacy.

Our day ended with nearly the entire group sitting on the back porch of our hotel enjoying the last rays of the sun reflect off of the surface of the lake. (Sigh.)

Tomorrow: We go up to Jerusalem.

2015 Israel Poster B

Have you been enjoying these posts on last year's tour? Are you interested in traveling with me this year? Then, I would love to have you join me. Our 12-day tour is scheduled for October 12-23. We will stay one night on the Mediterranean Sea, three nights on the shores of the Sea of Galilee and five nights in beautiful Jerusalem. During the day, we will visit dozens of sites that will enhance your understanding of the land and of the Biblical stories that take place in them. Reservations are coming in, but we still have some availability! This is a first-class tour with many extras thrown in that many Israel tours overlook. If you are interested, I encourage you to read the itinerary and contact me personally for more details.

Seaside Village of Capernaum

capernaum_from_sea Peter, Andrew, James and John were fishermen before they became apostles of Jesus. Much of their fishing activity that is recorded for us took place around the town of Capernaum. The picture is taken from the Sea of Galilee looking north toward the ruins of that city.

Are you interested in traveling to Israel? Join me this October for a 12-day Bible Study tour of this beautiful land. See the Israel Tour Page for an itinerary and pricing details.


02_Capernaum_1 On the northwestern coast of the Sea of Galilee lays the village of Capernaum.  This port city would have seen much trade during the first century, and many ancient stone anchors can still be found along the shoreline.  Archaeological finds here (behind the trees here) include a monumental limestone synagogue built atop its first century predecessor and the remains of a 5th-century octagonal church built over the traditional site of Peter’s house.

The Ministry of Jesus

The Ministry of Jesus


Today's activities were centered around the ministry of Jesus and the north western shore of the Sea of Galilee. We started the day by being picked up at our hotel's dock by our boat which would take us upon this beautiful lake. We headed northeast and were able to view the sites of Capernaum, the Cove of the Sower, the Mount of Beatitudes and Magdala.

We ended our boat ride at Nof Ginnosar and viewed a boat which dates back to the first century. It was found in 1986 while the lake level was lower than it is today. It has been beautifully preserved and they have a nice area in the museum to display it.

mount_of_beatitudesThe Mount of Beatitudes was our next stop. This hillside Catholic chapel commemorates the preaching of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. This site offers some tremendous views of the Sea of Galilee as it sits above Capernaum.

From there we had quick visits to Chorazim, Bethsaida and Capernaum. I was impressed by all of the improvements that they have made to Capernaum. They have made it more accessible to large groups and many of the artifacts are more easily seen.

magdalaAfter lunch, we went to see the new facility at Magdala. Five years ago, this site was just getting started. Now, they have a large amount of excavations available to the visitors. The prize piece of what has been found is the remains of a first century synagogue. It is possible that Jesus went into this synagogue while He walked on the earth.

Many of the tour group had asked about the possibility of retrieving some rocks from the sea. This is easily done at the Church of the Primacy of St. Peter. This church commemorates the events of John 21. Everyone enjoyed the ability to walk out into the sea.

Our final stop was at the top of Mount Arbel. We had attempted to visit this site on Thursday, but it was closed by the time we arrived. In hindsight, this was a blessing. Today's weather was much clearer and we were able to look down on the Sea of Galilee and discuss many of the places that we had visited today.

Tomorrow morning, we leave the area of the Sea of Galilee and head toward Jerusalem. We will see many sites along the way in which we will discuss tomorrow night.

Until then....shalom.

Mount of Beatitudes

Mount of Beatitudes


In my last post, I mentioned a small inlet of water in the Sea of Galilee, commonly called the Cove of the Sower. Just north of this location, and just uphill, is a Roman Catholic Franciscan chapel which was built in 1938. This chapel sits on the traditional location where Jesus taught the people in what we commonly call "The Sermon on the Mount".

Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him. And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you." - Matthew 5:1-12

Capernaum, on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, as seen from the Mount of the Beatitudes.While the actual site of the Sermon on the Mount is unknown, this site has been commemorated since the 5th Century. Whether or not it is the actual location is something that will never be known, but given the context of the Scriptures and knowledge of the geographical area, one can easily conclude that it is in the general area. In fact, if you read the beginning of Matthew 8, you will see that after completing the sermon, Jesus came down from the mountain and entered Capernaum (Matthew 8:1, 5). From the chapel, you can look down the hill and see the remains of Capernaum.

The Sea of Galilee is a beautiful place. We will look at a few more locations around the lake in future posts.

From Nazareth to Capernaum

View of the Arbel Pass from the Sea of Galilee.  In Matthew 4, there is a seemingly uninteresting sentence about Jesus. It states:

Now when Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, He departed to Galilee. And leaving Nazareth, He came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the regions of Zebulun and Naphtali. - Matthew 4:12-13

Jesus went to Nazareth (his hometown) and then decides to go to Capernaum. There are a couple of different ways that He could have travelled, but there is one way in particular which is the most direct. Nazareth is about 325 meters (1400 feet) in elevation and sits on the northern ridge of the Jezreel Valley. Capernaum, on the other hand, sits on the shore of the Sea of Galilee at an elevation of 212 meters (700 feet) below sea level. In the 30 kilometers between the two cities, the road drops nearly 550 meters (2100 feet) as it descends to the sea.

The path goes through the Turan Valley and then arrives at the Sea of Galilee through the valley seen in the picture above. The ridge on the left is Mount Arbel, which towers to 181 meters (~550 feet) in elevation, or about 380 meters (~1100 feet) above the surface of the sea.

Once the path reaches the shores of the Sea of Galilee, it is met by the town of Magdala. When Jesus arrived at Magdala, he would have turned north and walked another 10 kilometers (~6 miles) to Capernaum.

Knowing a little bit about geography of the Bible lands can help even the uninteresting verses become, well, interesting.

2012 Israel Trip - Day Five

2012 Israel Trip - Day Five


This morning started off with a beautiful sunrise on the Sea of Galilee. Our hotel rooms all have windows that face east overlooking the sea. It was a great way to start the day. After breakfast, we headed for the delayed boat ride on the Sea of Galilee. Actually, our misfortune from yesterday was a blessing this morning. Yesterday morning featured some haze along the lake, but today was crystal clear. It was a perfect day for viewing the sites. Our boat ride lasted about two hours. We were able to see Tiberias, Magdala, Capernaum, Mount of Beatitudes, Tabgha and the Cove of the Sower. You can learn so much about the stories in the Gospels by actually being out on the sea. The same sea that Jesus calmed by speaking to it. The same sea that Jesus walked on to meet with his disciples. And, the same sea in which he instructed some local fishermen to go against everything they knew about fishing and cast their nets on the other side of the boat.

We got off the boat at Ginnesor and visited a museum which contains an ancient boat from the first century AD. About 30 years ago, the Galilee region suffered a drought and water level dropped considerably revealing an ancient boat. The boat was dug out, protected and placed in the museum for us to enjoy. Again, it allows us to see the type of boats that were used during Jesus' time.

From there we made multiple stops:

1) Magdala Archaeological Dig Site - Recently, they have discovered remains of the city of Magdala. The city is not mentioned in the Bible, but we do know of one of its residents. Remember Mary Magdaline? A better translation of her "name" is Mary from Magdala.

2) Mount of Beatitudes - This is the traditional location of where Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount. Honestly, it is probably not the exact location, but it is in the vicinity of where that even occurred.

3) Capernaum - The ruins of this city lies along the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee. During the first century, it was a thriving fishing community. Jesus spent much of his ministry in and around the Capernaum area. From the shore, you can envision the disciples heading out across the sea in their boat.

4) Chorazim - We drove by the ruins in ancient Chorazim. This is one of the cities that Jesus condemned due to their unbelief.

5) Bethsaida - We toured the site of ancient Bethsaida. Honestly, there is considerable questions about the validity of the site. Obviously, there is an ancient city here, but whether or not it is Bethsaida is the question.

We made our way around the eastern side of the Sea of Galilee finishing up by looking at the ruins of ancient Tiberias. Tomorrow morning, after worship, we will leave the Galilee region and head south toward Jerusalem.