Saturday, March 27, 2010

Galilee Spring

The Galilee field trip was great. Most days are full days of visiting sites, but three of the 10 days are spent in three hour long New Testament classes. The weather was so nice that we held all of these classes outside over-looking the sea. This photo is looking south from our boat in the middle of the sea (actually a Bear Lake size lake) where we talked about Christ walking on water and calming the storm. It is always nice to sing the requisite "Master the Tempest is Raging."
We all walked from the Mt of Beatitudes down to Tabgha (Miracle of loaves and fishes). Along the way there were good visual reminders of the parable of the sower. Here you can see three of the four types of soil: the wayside, thorn infested and fertile/productive.
A modern day fisherman at St. Peter's Primacy where Jesus told Peter to "Feed my sheep."
Sunset from En Gev Holiday village on the eastern shore.
Gamla on the Golan Heights. It is called the Masada of the north because during the Jewish revolt, the Jewish residents of this town ending up falling to their deaths from the rocky pinnacle in the center of the photo. It was either a mass suicide (like Masada) or a crush of people who jumped or were pushed to their deaths as the Romans soldiers neared.
I loved all of the wild flowers on the hike to Gamla.
This is an anise plant. Its seeds have a licorice flavor and are used as an herb tea (yansoon) and in baking. The seeds were used by Jesus as an object lesson when he stated: "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cumin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy and faith" (Matthew 23: 23)

One afternoon the faculty went on a field trip to Nazareth. Our main destination was the Sisters of Nazareth convent. I have always liked this statue of the holy family.
Underneath the convent are Roman era ruins, including this rolling stone tomb. There is good enough archeological and historical evidence to allow the nice Sisters to suggest that this could be the site of the home of Joseph where Jesus grew in wisdom and stature. The Sisters are quiet in their claims however because they don't want to offend their Franciscan brothers who lay claim to the more traditional site of the house of Joseph.
We were blessed with some nice clear days. Here is a view of the southern end of the Sea of Galilee. Kibbutz Degania where I stayed as a student is located just south of the lake. The valley in the far distance is where the Yarmuk River flows down from Syria and Jordan. Jordan is to the right of the valley.
Looking west from En Gev

Looking NW from the southern Golan Heights

Wheat growing on the southern Golan Heights across the Yarmuk valley to the hills of northern Jordan
From the Peace Overlook on the Golan Heights.
Looking SW. Mt. Tabor, one of the traditional sites of the transfiguration, is the rounded hilltop in the top right corner.
During the off season, there are no life guards at En Gev so there is a swim at your own risk policy for guests. For liability reasons, last semester (and for years before) students were only allowed to go in up to their ankles. That was a disappointment to students and Emmetts alike so I lobbied the powers that be and they changed the policy to allow swimming up to our waists (only at pre-determined times and with student life guards and faculty supervision) . The weather was still a little coolish but that didn't stop us from having fun.
Marie and the kids came up for the weekend. Joel brought along a Flat Stanley (who is in this photo taken from the balcony of the Tiberius Chapel) that he will mail back to the teacher of his second grade teacher from last year with photos of Stanley in Jerusalem and the Galilee.
The hymn board of the four official languages of the Galilee Branch--English, Spanish, Russian and Hebrew.
After church we went to Mt. Arbel for an amazing view.
The students of my New Testament class at Arbel.
After lunch we then went for a Sabbath excursion. Here is the view from Beit Rimmon (House of Pomegranates--a hilltop Jewish settlement) looking down on a Bedouin village and the Netofa valley. Bisecting the valley diagonally is the National Water Carrier (a canal) and in the distance at the far left base of the hills in a round nob that is thought to perhaps be Cana.
A few miles south of that site is the modern day Israeli Arab town of Kfar Kanna which is the traditional site of Cana and the miracle of the water turned to wine.
In all my visits to the Holy Land I have driven through Cana countless times, but I have never visited its churches. This time I visited the Roman Catholic Church twice--once with faculty and once with family. The Greek Orthodox church was never open.
Behind the alter are six jars and a nice painting of the miracle.
We then drove through the western hilltop of Nazareth. In 1989, a dilapidated tomb of a Muslim saint stood on this site. Now it is a large mosque whose minaret is the highest point in Nazareth. This mosque was build in an area with few Muslims. Its towering minaret is seen by some Christian Arabs of the town as a intentional sign of the ascendancy of Muslims in Nazareth.
In 1989 this shell of a Greek Orthodox Church was all that remained of the Arab village of Mujeidel. In the 1948 war most Arabs from Mujeidel fled to the safety of near-by Nazareth. After the war the conquered Arab lands of the Galilee were annexed into Israel. The refugees from Mujeidel who were now citizens of Israel were not allowed to return to their homes. To prevent their return the village was demolished (this was done to about 300 abandoned Arab villages), The only thing that was not demolished was this place of worship. The Jewish town of Migdal ha-Emek rose along side the ruins.

A few years ago the Greek Orthodox church was restored. It is completely surrounded by a growing Migdal ha-Emek.

From what I understand, the main parishioners now are Russian Orthodox residents of Migdal ha-Emek who emigrated to Israel with Jewish spouses or because they had a Jewish mother or Grandmother. The Arab Christians of Israel are a declining community, but the numbers of non-Arab Christian Israelis is on the rise thanks to recent shifts in immigration patterns.

Wheat and (possible) tares ready for harvest.
One late afternoon I went on a geo-political exploration hoping to see the disputed Yarmuk River and the Israeli-Jordanian border. Without planning to, I ended up driving along the border patrol road for a dozen or so miles. I kept expecting Israeli soldiers to pull up and turn me around, but I didn't see a soul. Once on the road there was no real way to get off it. You can see part of the road I traversed on the left and then the Yarmuk river on the right. The fields on the right are Israeli and the town in the distance is Jordan.
Here is the patrol road and border fence that parallel the river with Jordan in the distance. I eventually hooked up with highway 90 near where the Yarmuk flows into the Jordan.
Oh Galilee, Sweet Galilee.


  1. Those pictures almost bring tears to my eyes - the Galilee overview shots are spectacular. Love the fields and the peaceful atmosphere that comes through in those shots.

    Kudos to you for getting that swimming policy changed. And I'm VERY jealous you all WALKED down to Tabgha. We took the bus. So I missed out on all those little sites along the way - natural habitations that would have been around when Christ walked those roads. Lousy bus...

  2. Great pictures! You must have been kept busy between the students and your family. The pictures will serve as a good reminder of your year in Israel in the future. The Sea of Galilee always reminds me of Bear Lake and vice versa.

  3. Wow. Great photography, as usual. Thank-you for a new perspective on the childhood home of Jesus. I never pictured his home in that way. I also glad your geo-political travels have been uneventful. Not many people would end up in places where they are expecting to be turned around by Israeli soldiers.

  4. Yet another marvelous virtul tour of Galilee! Wonderful photos - I believe I spotted a lupine in your wildflower collection. Cool. Now, just be careful around East Jerusalem.