Israel Blog Day 4 (Sunday May 8th)
Our fourth day of travels began on Sunday morning in Israel. We had breakfast at the hotel and headed out for an itinerary that was to include a morning service, conducted by our fearless leader, Pastor Ben Jaquith.
We left our hotel at 7:45am and walked down to a local pier on the Sea of Galilee, boarding a boat that would take us from Tiberias, on the western coast of the Sea of Galilee, to the northern coast. The weather was beautiful and picturesque. The skipper of the tour boat drove us out to the middle of the sea of Galilee, and cut the engines while we conducted a short service that included a bit of singing, some prayer and a short message. Following the service, we were lead in traditional Israeli dance by the boat’s tourguide, before landing at our destination, which was the “Jesus Boat Museum”.
The “Jesus Boat Museum” is dubbed as such, due to the discovery of a 2,000 year old boat in the Sea of Galilee. In the year that it was discovered in the mud, there had been a drought and the water levels of the Sea had decreased. If it weren’t for that, the boat would have never been discovered. This is the only boat from that era that has been discovered, so it is quite a fascinating and important discovery.
After the Jesus Boat Museum, we headed north into the Golan Heights. There is an outpost on Mount Bental, at the northern point of the Golan Heights, near the Syrian Border. There is a UN peacekeeping outpost on the Israeli side of the border, and UN troops are stationed there for reporting purposes. The soldier we were able to talk with told us that the border has been very quiet.
This was one of the most fascinating stops we made, recognizing the significance of the tensions that have been present between Israel and some of its neighbors.
Our next stop was Caesarea Philippi. This was also a phenomenal stop! It has incredible Biblical significance, being the place where Peter first confessed the significance of who Christ Jesus really is.
Matthew 16:13–19 (NIV) — 13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” 14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” 16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” 17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”
Notice in verse 18, that Jesus refers to a rock, and that the gates of Hades will not overcome his Church. There is a monumental rock cliff at Caesarea Philippi that would have provided the backdrop for Jesus’ statement. Going a step further, the competing religion in that region recognized a god known as “Pan”, who roamed the rock mountains of the region. An opening in the cliff was considered the entrance to the gates of Hades, which Jesus referenced in his statement to Peter.
At Caesarea, we walked a bit across the street and visited the Palace of Agrippa.
Finally, we rounded the day off by going to Tel Dan. Tel Dan includes an ancient altar, as well as a glimpse into Lebanon.
The bus ride took us back to our hotel, the final stay we would have on the Sea of Galilee. Tomorrow morning, we would set out for a new country – that of Jordan, who is one of Israel’s friendly neighbors.
The entire group of 20 travelers is doing well, including all from Gateway. We are continually amazed at the depth of history here in Israel. It is not something that we see in North America, which does not have the same level of historic sites and certainly not the Biblical history of the Middle East. God is a good God, and it’s amazing to see how His gracious hand led and preserved a people for Himself over the generations. Thanks be to God, that He called you and I to follow Him, and to join in the family of chosen people today, which is his Church – the Church of Jesus Christ.