We spent the last few days in the region once described as Galilee. This is an area around the sea of Galilee where Jesus spent most of his ministry.
The sea of Galilee is not a sea, of course. It is an inland, fresh-water lake, which is why it is also known as Lake of Gennesaret, Lake Kinneret, Lake Tiberias, the sea of Tiberias, or the Lake of Too Many Names. In any case, it is still beautiful, and, unlike the towns and cities or Israel, unchanged from Bible times. We were fortunate enough to go out on a boat for a short tour.
Afterwards, we stopped at a new archaeology site as Magdalene (think, Mary of) where a first century Jewish synagogue is being uncovered. Jesus most probably visited here and taught here (it is only a few miles from the other cities he visited).
Next it was to Capernaum, where an amazing find awaited us. Peter the Apostle lived in this sea-side city as a fisherman, and the remains of his house have been found. The tradition linking it to Peter goes back very far, and the authenticity of the site is almost certain. Over the centuries, at least three churches have been built on the site, and the last builder (in the 20th century) had the good sense to elevate the new church so that the site underneath could be excavated. Thus, one can look not only on the whole neighborhood, but also see the very house of Peter, wear Jesus healed Peter’s mother in law, and from which he no doubt taught while living in the area. It was amazing and humbling to picture Jesus there, in that spot, only 15 feet away, teaching and fellowshipping with his followers.
Later we visited Caesarea Phillipi, where a pagan temple was built as the spring which marks the beginning of the Jordan river. Here is a picture of Pan’s cave.
The next day (Monday) we headed to Jerusalem. On the way, we stopped at some spring-fed swimming holes that are now part of a national park. The scenery was amazing, and, since it was still early, we pretty much had the place to ourselves.
We then visited Qumran, where a Jewish sect called the Essenes established a commune in the years of 200 B.C to 68 A.D. (when the Romans wiped them out). They are most famous for preserving the dead sea scrolls, which they hid from the Romans. They hid them so well that it was not until 1947 that the first one was found. The Dead Sea scrolls are one of the greatest archeological discoveries of all time, transforming so much of what we know of the first century religious scene.
After this we made a late afternoon trip to Jerusalem, our home for the next four days.