Monday morning started out with us driving to Tiberius to catch a boat ride at 8:30AM. We were planning to meet our friend Karen Kruger and board Daniel Carmel’s Worship Boat together to make the journey to Ginosaur. It was great to see Karen in Israel and to know that she was greatly enjoying her tour with the Prince Albert Alliance Church. Candace, Brandon and Cassidy joined Karen on Daniel’s boat while I drove the car to the next dock.
Next on the agenda was viewing the Jesus Boat at the Yigal Allan Centre. This is a boat that was excavated 20 years ago and dated to the time of Christ. For tourists purposes it was suggested that Jesus and his disciples might have used it. It was neat to see the size of boat that was in use back then. Brandon and I felt that both the Sea of Galilee and the boats were much smaller then what our imaginations told us when reading stories in the New Testament.
The museum had two parts, the second of which most tour groups missed. The exhibit of the second museum was showcasing the Spring Gathering which encourages relationship building between Arabs and Jews by pairing schools from neighbouring communities and building on shared community work. They are seeking a shared vision for the future of Israel. Providing young people with the opportunity to get to know each other, ask questions about identities, religions, interests and fears is foundational for turning Israel into a just, democratic and peaceful society. The exhibit showed many crafts made by the children during the spring gatherings. Having people meet face to face and create together is a powerful way to change cultural norms and stereotypes.
As we travel through Israel, one can immediately tell when we are in Jewish communities versus when we are in Arab communities. The Jewish cities have a much more European feel while the Arab cities have a Middle-Eastern vibe. Coming from the west ourselves, we have an inclination toward Jewish cities. They seem to feel safer and more well organized. However, we must remember that these are stereotypes that we are using to filter our environment. When one goes to the unknown, we grasp on to the known. We hold the known tight and have a hard time being open to the unknown. I have been reading Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Talking to Strangers” and he subtlety refers to these inclinations that cause us to misunderstand people around us. The only answer I can find is to make people strangers no more. Through relationship and learning to know people's dreams and livelihood, we are able to change the stranger into a friend. Jesus calls us to be strangers no more, but members of a family. He showcased this by feeding 5000 ‘strangers’ and sharing a sermon on the mount to a large group gathered in Galilee.
We were able to go to the spot in Tabgha where the feeding of over 5000 people took place. Jesus embraced the crowd even though he was tired and the disciples did not want to be there. We went to the chapel that was built over the stone thought to be where Jesus placed the fish and the bread. I wonder if the Catholic Church would let me bring a pita full of fish and eat it there? Maybe I will do that on Wednesday.
The next stop was the Mount of Beatitudes, a beautiful spot overlooking the sea with gardens and trees. A great spot to reflect and seek to understand more fully the sermon on the mount. We read the beatitudes together in a corner of the park and walked the paths of the church yard.
We also when to Chorizin (cursed by Jesus for unbelief) and saw some ruins that Brandon really appreciated. This was the first time he had seen ruins of this magnitude. Candace and Cassidy had seen a lot already. Brandon appreciated the work that the archaeologists did so that we can see a better picture of how people lived.
After a busy day, we stopped one more time at Capernaum. This time, instead of the going to the Pilgrimage Church of St. Peter in Capernaum (Catholic) we went to the Greek Orthodox Monastery and Church that is right beside it. It was much quieter and has a church dedicated to the disciples. The walls and ceiling of the Church have beautiful murals from the ministry of Christ all over. Another busy eventful day at the Sea of Galilee.
On Tuesday, we set out for Nazareth Village - a place which is a living museum seeking to show visitors the Nazareth Jesus lived in and share the stories of Jesus. It was great to be here and listen to the guide connect carpentry, olive presses, sheep, and more to the stories Jesus shared about the same items. Really brings everything to life!
The guide shared the story that happened in the Nazareth synagogue from Luke 4:16-31. Jesus read from Isaiah 61:1-2 - “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn.” Then Jesus sat down, everyone was looking at him and he said “Today this scripture that you just heard is fulfilled.”
Everyone in the synagogue was excited and amazed. They were wondering how this could be, is this not the son of Joseph? They wanted him to do miracles and healings that they have heard happening in Capernaum. Jesus responded by saying no prophet is accepted in his home territory. Then he shares two stories from scripture - one about Elijah helping a gentile widow, the second about Elisha healing Naaman the Syrian. People were furious. The Messiah was to be coming for the JEWS not the GENTILES! They were going to throw Jesus off a cliff of Nazareth (since it was built on a mountain), but he walked away and went back to Capernaum.
Such a powerful story, especially when you are in the vicinity of where it happened as you study it. Jesus has come into this world to show us a new way. We must always remember that Jesus has come for the poor, the broken hearted, the captives, those who mourn. He is not just for us or the people in our church. In fact, sometimes we do not understand Jesus as much as those on the outside.
During our stay in Nazareth, we also went to the Basilica of Annunciation - and it was crowded with pilgrims. We also stopped at the Wedding Church in Cana, also crowded with people. I led everyone from Nazareth Village to the Basilica on a shortcut through back alleys that I found on Apple Maps. It was hard to follow, lots of steps and crazy alleys, and we almost lost Brandon and Candace because I was walking ahead too far! The short cut was five minutes LONGER then the regular street path. What an experience.
The last two stops of the day were at Gan Hashelosha and Bet Shean. Gan Hashelosha is a beautiful nature park that has a warm stream running through it. Swimming is encouraged, but the air just felt too cool to take the plunge. We found a spot where lots of fish were waiting for us to put our feet in. They feed off of people's dead skin - its suppose to be something good to try. Nobody felt like having goldfish come and suck on our legs! The last stop was at Bet Shean, we had already been there, but wanted to show Brandon what it looked like. This time we also climbed to the top of the Tel to check out the Egyptian/Philistine/Israelite (and 17 other civilizations) archaeology evidence. It’s also the spot that the Philistines brought King Saul and his three sons' bodies after they won a war against Israel. They hung the bodies on the wall in victory.
Another busy day with so much to process!