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Sunday, February 10, 2008

 

From Jerusalem - Thursday, February 7, 2008

For our final day in the Holy Land we boarded our bus early to take a tour of Jesus sites in Galilee, about two hours or more north of Jerusalem. We travelled to Galilee with a quick stop in Jericho and then headed north through Samaria. Many sites from Jesus' ministry years are located just north of the city of Tiberias on the Sea of Galilee.

Our first stop was the Mount of the Beatitudes, a possible site for the Sermon on the Mount. Our guide pointed out that good Biblical scholarship doubts that what is written in Matthew 5 ("Blessed ar the poor in spirit..." etc.) was preached in this or any one place. The beatitudes are more likely a compiling of a number of sermons preached at the number of places. No matter, this a beautiful spot on a hillside overlooking the Sea of Galilee as likely as any place for Jesus to have gone when he "saw the crowds...went up the mountain...and taught them..." (Matthew 5: 1&2)

We stopped for a late lunch (most folks had "St. Peter's fish" which is talapia) and then headed to Tabgha, the probable site of the feeding of the 5,000 (Matthew 14: 13 - 21). This is one of Kris' and my favorite spots - the church here is quite beautiful and grounds lovely. The floor of the restored church includes a mosaic of a loaf of bread and two fishes, an image you see on many souvenir items here. Under the church altar is a rock that is said to be the actual traditional site of this miracle.

Right next to this site is the Church of the Primacy of St. Peter, a stone church built along the Sea of Galilee shoreline. In it is said to be the rock on which Jesus said, of Peter, "on this rock I will build my church" (Matthew 16:18). More interesting to me is the tradition that on the very rocky beach of the Sea of Galilee next to this church is the site of Jesus' post-resurrection breakfast "fish fry" (appearance to his discples) in John 21, the spot where Jesus also told Peter and some other disciples, who had all returned to fishing after Jesus' death, to go back out again to fish "and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish" (John 21: 6). We shared Holy Communion in an outdoor chapel on the church grounds.

Our next stop was Capharnaum (Capernaum), the town where Jesus lived as an adult and also the home of St. Peter. A lovely modern church is built on the ruins of St. Peter's birth home. There are also ruins of an early synagogue where Jesus may have taught. The town itself is basically an archiological site and is most interesting.

From Capernaum we headed southwest to Nazareth, home of Mary and Joseph and the place where Jesus grew up. This is the site of the Annunication, when an angel tells Mary that she will bear a son, Jesus (Luke 1: 26 - 38). It was nearly dark when we arrived in Nazareth and hurried to the Basilica of the Annunciation, a beautiful modern church built over a possible site of the home of Mary and Joseph and Jesus. This is an amazing church building, a wonderful combination of modern and traditional.

It was now quite late and we had a long drive to Tel Aviv where we were to stay overnight in a hotel so that we would be close to the airport for our early Friday morning flight. We arrived at the Merkur Hotel in Tel Aviv after 8:30 p.m. and had a late dinner together there after 9:00 p.m.

Eric

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