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Hula Valley

Early Rains Are Here!

Early Rains Are Here!

Every year, I tend to become more and more fascinated by the weather in Israel. In the fall, I begin looking to the digital sky and watch as the early rains begin to fall. Over the past several years, Israel has been experiencing a drought. This is evident not only in the data, but also walking around the land.

The water level in the Sea of Galilee has dropped several feet in the past several year. Places along the shoreline where I have taken my tour groups to board boats are no longer accessible. The water level is just too shallow for a boat to dock in those locations. In addition, as you visit different areas along the shore, more and more of the land is visible. This is especially evident along the northwest corner of the lake as there are many visual markers that show this fact with clarity.

But….good news…the rains have arrived. This morning, I took three screenshots from web cameras that are located in the northern part of the land. The first picture is from the city of Sefad, which sits a couple of miles north of the Sea of Galilee. On a normal day, you would be able to see part of the lake from this image. But, not today.

The second image is from the top of Mount Bental, about 50 miles north of the Sea of Galilee. Again, you will see that it is a rainy day. It is not uncommon to see visitors and families eating picnic lunches from this vantage point.

Finally, this picture is from Merom Golan, which is very near Mount Bental. Again, rain everywhere.

To me, these are beautiful views. These rains will fall through the Hula Valley and into the Jordan River. From there, they will flow into the Sea of Galilee and offset the water shortages that currently exist. In addition, they will make the land nice and green for us to see later next year.

“And if you will indeed obey my commandments that I command you today, to love the Lord your God, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul, he will give the rain for your land in its season, the early rain and the later rain, that you may gather in your grain and your wine and your oil. And he will give grass in your fields for your livestock, and you shall eat and be full.” - Deuteronomy 11:13-15

Rare View of Mount Hermon

dsc_2564 I have been lucky enough to travel to Israel several times. But last June, when I was traveling with the team from Appian Media, I was able to see something that I have never seen before. While we were staying in Tiberias, it was clear enough so that I could see Mount Hermon from the lake. The picture at the top of this post was one (of many) that I captured. Most of the time, there is too much haze in the Hula Valley to see the mountain from this distance.

The above picture was taken late one afternoon. You can clearly see Mount Hermon and the location where the Hula Valley (with the Jordan River at its base) empties into the Sea of Galilee.

Mount Hermon sits about 60 miles north of the Sea of Galilee on the modern-day borders of Israel, Syria and Lebanon. It rises over 9,000 feet in elevation. Since the Sea of Galilee sits approximately 700 feet below sea level, the top of the mountain is nearly 10,000 feet above the location of this photograph. The Old Testament city of Dan and the New Testament city of Caesarea Philippi sit near the base of the mountain.

In the 4th century, Bishop Cyril of Jerusalem suggested that since many of the activities in the lifetime of Jesus happened around Mount Tabor, therefore he preferred that site as the probable location of the Transfiguration. Consequently, that site has been recognized as the traditional location of the event since that time.

However, many recent scholars prefer the location of Mount Hermon for the Transfiguration. Just prior to the Transfiguration, Jesus and His disciples were at Caesarea Philippi. This is told to us in Matthew 16:13, when Jesus discusses who they believe He is. Peter responds by saying that "Jesus is the Christ, the son of the living God." Then, six days later (Matthew 17:1), Jesus took Peter, James, and John onto a "high mountain". While it would have been possible to travel from Caesarea Philippi to Mount Tabor (a distance of about 70 miles) in six days, it seems more logical that the "high mountain" that was mentioned in Matthew is referring to Mount Hermon, especially since they were already in the area. I agree with this assessment.

Understanding the Land

7_1_Hazor_FullTel_small A couple of years ago, some friends of mine (Trent & Rebekah Dutton) had the opportunity to spend six weeks traveling across the land of Israel on their own. This allowed them the chance to see the land from different perspectives that people on a normal tour do not get to see.

One of my favorite pictures in their collection is one taken from the hills west of the Hula Valley and north of the Sea of Galilee. The picture is directed toward the east and shows the Hula Valley spreading across the foreground and the Golan Heights rising in the distance. In the floor of the valley is the tel of Hazor. (In the picture, the tel is located in the bottom right hand corner just above where the road crosses the small ravine.) This picture is a perfect example of the importance of understanding the land and having pictures and videos to study by.

As I have mentioned before, I love maps. But even the best maps represent the city of Hazor as a simple dot. It is hard to appreciate the importance of the position of the city of Hazor unless you see the city from the perspective of this picture.

That is one of the many reasons why I am so excited about the Appian Media Kickstarter project. We are going to be making five 20-minute videos about the early life of Jesus. To do this, we are going to travel to Israel and capture video from the places where these events took place. By seeing video of these places, Bible students can better appreciate the writings in the Gospels and the narrative of Jesus. Our goal is to create these videos and give them away for free for Bible students all over the world. We have already reached our primary goal, so the videos will be made. But, we have a number of stretch goals that we would love to hit to provide additional resources for all of the users.

Will you help us?

Visit our Kickstarter page and please forward this link to anyone who you might feel would be interested. And please pray for our efforts and that God's Word will be spread.

Up The Hula Valley

Up The Hula Valley


As I write this post, I am sitting on the balcony of my hotel with a view of the Sea of Galilee. As a Christian, it is difficult to put into words what it means to see this beautiful location. Peter, Andrew, James and John used to fish these waters. Jesus calmed a storm that raged on these waters. Jesus walked on these waters. All of those events happened within sight of where I now sit. I am truly humbled to be here and to be sharing this experience with this group of people. We started our final day in this region by visiting the ruins of Chorazim. Jesus cursed this city for their unbelief. While there, we were entertained by a number of rock badgers that cross-crossed the paths in front of us.

We followed that visit by driving north up the Hula Valley and visited Hazor. By standing on the top of this tel, it is easy to understand the strategic importance of this location. It is no wonder why Joshua conquered this city as part of his northern conquest.

We drove by the tel of Abel Beth Maacah. While going by, we read the account from 2 Samuel of the wise woman of this city who singlehandedly saved her city.

A visit to the northern part of Israel is not complete without a visit to Tel Dan. As you walk around the high place built by King Jeroboam, you are reminded how this single decision probably condemned his nation in the years to come. We also visited the Israelite Gate and the even more ancient Canaanite Gate.

Our next stop was at Banias, known in the Bible as Caesarea Philippi. By seeing he remains of the pagan temples that was the main part of this city, it is easy to understand why Peter stated that "Jesus was the Christ, the son of the living God."

As we drove back to the Sea of Galilee, our path took us through the Golan Heights. We made one stop at an overlook where we could see the Syrian plain in the direction of Damascus. Saul walked near here when he saw his vision of the risen Jesus.

Tomorrow morning we will leave Galilee and go "up to Jerusalem". As we do so, I will think of my wife, who loves the sea, but graciously stayed home and watch the kids and allowed me to come here. I will also think of all of the memories that have been made in the past days and the more that will be made in the days to come.

Until then, Shabbat Shalom.