February 11, 2015

Day 1 in Israel: A day in Northern Israel

Greeting Friends,

Wow what an incredible first day in Israel. We arrived late last night...well....early morning at 3:30am and starting touring today at 8:30am after a good breakfast of eggs, yogurt and granola. The Sea of Galilee this morning was calm and beautiful and I spent a few minutes by myself on the shore, in awe of it's quiet beauty and transported to a time when Jesus walked and taught along the same shoreline I was sitting on this morning! I am truly overwhelmed with the opportunity to be here!

Our first stop on our tour was the ruins of the 4th century settlement of Chorazin. It is a city that was around when Jesus was ministering in the Galilee and many of the main buildings have been excavated. It was amazing to see the 4th century synagogue and "Moses Seat" where people speaking during synagogue gatherings would sit. We also saw the city gate, a fishermans house and an olive oil press.

After Chorazin we headed north to Hazor, an ancient 18th century BCE settlement of the Canaanites and later one of Solomon's main fortified cities. Here we saw the large city gate, King's palace and a 150 foot deep water cistern built by King Ahab in the 9th century BC. Many of us decided to walk down to the bottom of it, which was awesome. Walking back up however, was not.

We continued north to the Hula Valley and the city of Dan. Both Hazor and Dan are mentioned in the book of Joshua and it was so cool to see these cities full of rich biblical and archaeological history. The Dan river feeds into the Jordan River, the main river in Israel. The water here is crystal clear and our guide, George, said it was safe to drink, so I did!  It tasted better than bottled water ;) also interesting in Dan was the site of Jeroboams temple that he built after Israel split into the Northern and Southern Kingdoms. The land up here is lush with vegetation and reminded me a lot of the Pacific Northwest.

Our final stop this afternoon was one I have been looking forward to since I found out about this trip: Caeserea Philippi. This is the spot where Jesus asks his disciples in Mark 8 and Matthew 16, "who do you say that I am?" and Peter makes his great confession, "you are the Messiah, the Christ!" It was so amazing to be in the same place where Peter realized just who it was he was following. Even though it had started raining pretty hard, I went up to the grotto where there were temples built in the 3rd century BC to the Greek Gods of Pan, Caesar Augustus and Zeus. To think about Peter making his confession in the midst of all these Greek temples was a powerful thought. I stood in the temple of Zeus and confessed with my own lips that "Yeshua HaMeshiach VahaMelek." (Jesus is the Messiah and the King) it was a deeply moving experience.

All day I have found myself overwhelmed with gratitude and appreciation for the opportunity to be here. To me, this place feels like no other place in the world and a part of me feels closer to Jesus here than anywhere else. The richness of the land and the images it evokes are powerful messages to God's love for people and His creation. Today was a day of all new sites for me. I am looking forward to visitng Capernaum, Tabgha, Beth Shean and the Jordan River tomorrow as well as hopefully a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee.

The weather forecast is for rain and currently it's raining hard outside my condo here at the Ma'Agan Kibbutz. The food is great and the team we are traveling with is enjoyable. We are all safe and well.

Until tomorrow!


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