February 9th was our 4th day in the Holy Lands. We visited Mount Bental, the Golan Heights, Tel Dan, Caesarea Phillipi, and a museum with the "Jesus Boat".
Mount Bental is a mountain in the middle of the Goshen Heights. It is an area with a double portion of political and religious strife. The Goshen Heights are mine fields. Active mine fields. Miles and miles of land just sitting there with high powered explosived lying in wait. After years of Syrian and Israeli conflict the fields were handed over to Israel. Yay lots of land... oh wait. There are thousands of mines underneath the ground? Perfect. Don't worry or anything. It's not like we walked through them or anything. We just drove on the high way by the fields up to Mount Bental. From the top of the mountain we could look over into Syria and Lebanon. There was a coffee shop, lookout point, and tourist shop on top of the mountain as well as military bunkers and a camp for UN soldiers who are stationed to keep the peace in such a volitile area. At one of our stops on the tour of Tel Dan we looked out over a valley toward the border of Lebanon. Two years ago there was a war here. Two countries that despise each other sent young men to kill each other in this field just two years ago. And there we were, 30 college kids from America standing listening to facts, taking notes in a moleskin journal, and snapping pictures with out digital cameras. It is difficult to understand the hate and strife in this area. It is difficult to understand the conflict, nevermind any possible solution.
Our next stop after Tel Dan and seeing the head waters of the Jordan River was in Caeserea Phillipi. I was really looking forward to this stop. Several years ago I heard a lesson on this place and the biblical account in Matthew 16:13-20. When Jesus took his disciples to this place it was the equivalent of your Youth Minister taking the youth group to Las Vegas... Can you say fired?! This place is a Pan worship site. There are carving in the stone where idols used to sit and where people would gather for pagan rituals in worship of the god Pan (the god who's name gave us the term panic). This place was evil. The spring that flow out of the mouth of a cave in the rock was thought to be the gates of Hades. Jesus brings the disciples here and asks who people say he is. It is probably here that Peter confesses that Jesus is the Christ to which Jesus replies "on this rock I will buld my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it." Woah. Right? Can you imagine sitting at this place thinking about how much trouble you would be in if your mom found out your'e here, and then Jesus declares that he can build his church and kingdom over such a place and that the gates of Hades don't stand a chance. I love it.
As if that weren't a great way to end the day, we headed back to the Galilee region to a museum with the "Jesus boat". In this museum they have a boat found and excavated from the Sea of Galilee in 1986. It is dated back to the 1st Century AD. It is amazingly well preserved. It is made of 12 different woods imported from around the middle eastern region. Archaeologists say it is a miracle that this boat exists in such good condition after such a long time. After seeing the boat, we had a Yossi moment (extraordinary moments in the tour, that because of our guide Yossi, we get to experience unlike any other 'normal tour'). Yossi snuck us down into the basement of the museum into the head archaeologist's workshop. They are close friends, and even though he was out of town, Yossi 'broke into his office' and gave us a tour of the different project that are in progress. There were shelves and shelves of pottery and boxes all waiting to be sifted through and pieced together and catalogued . I touched pottery from the 1st Century BC. And to conclude my day I skipped rocks on the Sea of Galilee. All of the posts get increasingly surreal.
|On top of Mount Tabor overlooking Syria and Lebanon|
|Last night by the Sea of Galilee|
|Bet Shean central road|
|The Feta Five in the theater at Bet Shean|
|Prayers in the floor in the church on Mount Tabor|
|In the desert overlooking the Dead Sea|
|Me and Brooke riding Charlie the camel|
|In the Dead Sea... weirdest feeling ever!|