On Thursday, we started our journey to the Sea of Galilee from Arad of the Negev Desert. This little city of Arad became a special place for us over the last seven days. We enjoyed having many meals in our apartment together and coming back to our little home having gone on journeys of discovery. I have eaten lots of pitas and hummus over the last week - it tastes so much better here than at home! It has been interesting to live among so many Orthodox Jews.
We leave Arad, drive through a mountain road with signs warning of dangerous curves for the last time, drive by the Dead Sea and visit Qumran Nature Reserve. The Dead Sea Scrolls were found in 11 different caves from 1946-1956 by Bedouin treasure hunters and archaeologists. The national park also had excavated the dwelling place of some Essenes who created the scrolls and hid them in the caves. It was suggested that John the Baptist spent time in the village. A very interesting site.
Candace really appreciated going to the Qasr al-Yehuda Baptismal Site. This is a site along the Jordan River that is historically used for pilgrimage. Both the Israel and the Jordan side have made the river accessible. It is also traditionally considered to be the place where the Israelites crossed the Jordan River and the prophet Elijah ascended to heaven. Candace had always wanted to visit the Jordan River since hearing about Jesus’ baptism in Sunday School. This site was closed from 1967-2011 because of the location in the West Bank. We saw visitors on the other side of the Jordan coming to the location from the country of Jordan.
The next stop was the Bet She’an National Park. During the time of Jesus this city was called Scythopolis and was the leading city of the Decapolis. The Bible states that multitudes of people from Galilee, Decapolis (10 cities), from Jerusalem, from Judea and from beyond the Jordan. (Matthew 4:25) It was the during the assembly of this crowd that Jesus went up a mountain and shared the Sermon on the Mount. Scythopolis looks like a powerful city with an 8000 seat theatre, large paved streets with marble pillars all over. One feels like they are in Athens or Rome when you visit this spot. Just think, many of the people that heard the Sermon on the Mount could of travelled from this town 30 km away to hear Jesus.
We then arrived at our home on the Sea of Galilee. We will be there for the next seven days. We have huge windows in the living room that overlook the Sea. It’s quite special to be here!
On Friday we went to Magdala. There was a vision in the Catholic Church to create a spectacular retreat centre in the Sea of Galilee region. Land was purchased in 2006 and a hotel and restaurant was to be built. In 2009, Israeli Antiquities Authority archaeologists began a five month excavation at Magdala to make sure any history was discovered before a building permit would be released. They found a first century synagogue at Magdala! This was an amazing find. This was the best preserved and only Synagogue in the Galilee area that could be dated to the time of Christ.
The retreat centre built the Duc In Altum in 2014. It is a place that celebrates the stories of Jesus and the women in the life of Jesus. The architect did a wonderful job in creating a building that tells a story. There is so much to see and experience that a blog post cannot do justice. You must all come and see it for yourself.
The Duc In Altum is all about going deeper in your relationship to Jesus. There is a boat in the front of one of the chapels where the gospel message is shared daily. Jesus used a boat, went to deeper water, so that the large group could hear what he was saying. His desire was to bring depth to their faith. Go deeper with Jesus - we all need to do this daily.
Father Eamon Kelly, one of the leaders of the retreat centre, gave us a three hour tour of the archaeological park and the Duc In Altum. He explained that the Magdala Stone found in the centre of the Synagogue has been declared the greatest find in Israel since the Dead Sea Scrolls. The Magdala Stone has carvings on all sides giving us understanding of the faith of 1st Century Jews. Father Kelly also asked us where can a Catholic father preach in a Jewish Synagogue to a bunch of evangelicals on a daily basis? Only in Magdala!
We were blessed by the tour and encouraged to spend time in prayer. Pray for the people in your life that need healing. Pray for someone in your life that needs spiritual renewal. Pray for your community, your province, your country, the world. Pray for revival in the church worldwide. The Holy Spirit is working in this place!