Lent::40 Days of Israel Part 2:Mount Carmel, Tiberias, Mount of Beatitudes, Tel Dan, Caesarea Philippi, Golan Heights...

[Mount Carmel and the Statue of Elijah at Muhraka, The Place of Burning]

From Megiddo, we continued north to Muhraka (which means the place of burning) on Mount Carmel. Muhraka is the traditional site of Elijah's contest with the prophets of Baal, and home to a Carmelite monastery where a statue of Elijah with a raised sword marks the events of I Kings 18. Mount Carmel is not a single mountain, but a 13 mile long coastal mountain range that projects into the Mediterranean Sea at Haifa in NW Israel. The panoramic view from Muhraka is spectacular.

At every stop on the tour, our Israeli guide would lecture on the site's historical and geographical significance, and Nathan Holsteen, Professor of Theological Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary, would teach from scripture and challenge us to consider the spiritual applications to our lives today. Nathan is an excellent teacher, and so much fun, and fortunately for us, he brought his lovely and sweet wife Janice with him. Unfortunately for all of us, Janice fell in the theater at Caesarea by the Sea the first day and badly sprained her ankle--confining her to crutches and/or a wheelchair for the rest of the tour. Sadly, we often had to leave Janice behind at the hotel.
[Tiberias on the Sea of Galilee]

Leaving Mount Carmel, we headed for Tiberias and our hotel on the western shores of the Sea of Galilee. Tiberias was founded by Herod Antipas as his capital, naming the city for Tiberias Caesar, emperor of Rome (AD 14-37). Our hotel in Tiberias was home for the next 3 nights, where we lingered at dusk and dawn, and dined in the evening at the edge of the Sea of Galilee, gathering for worship and fellowship. Some of the photo above were taken from the bus as we descended into the city, as well as a photo of the buildings with solar water heaters on the rooftops. In 1980, Israel passed a law requiring that all new homes and apartment buildings be installed with solar water heaters. As a result, Israel is now the world leader in the use of solar energy per capita. Our first dusk and dawn along the Sea of Galilee were rather foggy, but we couldn't resist lingering.
[Mount of Beatitudes] 

After a peaceful, but foggy sunrise along the Sea of Galilee the next morning, and breakfast at our hotel in Tiberias, we boarded Jade Bus 7 for the Mount of Beatitudes. With several more buses on our tour, we gathered for a worship service and teaching on Matthew 5:3-10 from Dr. Swindoll. The Mount of Beatitudes is a hill overlooking the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee--the traditional site of Jesus' most famous sermon. In the spring, when we were there, the hillside is lush with green grass and flowers. "See how the lilies of the field grow?" Jesus asked the multitudes gathering around him on that hill. An Octagonal shaped chapel, representing the eight beatitudes in Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, sits atop the hill, but we only had time to glance toward it as we returned to the bus and headed for Tel Dan.

Since our trip to Israel last spring, Hillsong United's album "Of Dirt and Grace" has become one of my favorite DVDs. Recorded live in Israel, the song "Say the Word" was recorded at the Mount of Beatitudes overlooking the Sea of Galilee.
[Tel Dan] 

Leaving the Mount of Beatitudes, we headed for Dan at the base of Mt. Hermon. In the OT, Dan was considered the northernmost city in Israel. When the writers of Scripture spoke of all of Israel from the north to the south, they wrote, "from Dan to Beersheba". When the nation of Israel was divided into two kingdoms, with two kings and two capitals, Jeroboam, king of the northern kingdom, felt threatened that the one place to worship God was in Jerusalem in the south, so he made two golden calves (one he set up in Bethel on the road to Jerusalem, and the other in a temple at Dan) and told his people that it was too much for them to have to go to Jerusalem and convinced them to worship in the substitute temple he created, with substitute priests, etc.

At Dan, we made our way down trails through lush foliage and over crystal-clear streams and springs to the excavated podium where Jeroboam placed the golden calf, the courtyard where archaeologists uncovered an Aramaic inscription referring to the "House of David" and the over 4,000 year old "Abraham's Gate"--so named because it was in existence during the life of Abraham, and Genesis 14:13-16 tells us that Abraham traveled from Hebron to Dan to rescue his nephew Lot. He surely must have walked through the gate. Abraham's Gate is one of Israel's most significant archaeological finds.
[Caesarea Philippi] 

A short drive in the northern Golan Heights from Dan is Caesarea Philippi--originally called Panion or Panias after the Greek god Pan. Established as the capital of Herod the Great's son Philip's tetrarchy, and, of course, named Caesarea to honor the Roman emperor. Today the city is an archaelogical site called Banias in the Hermon Stream Nature Reserve. At one time, the spring, one of the main sources of the Jordan River, emerged from a large cave called the Grotto of Pan, where sacrifices were cast in pagan worship to Pan. Caesarea Philippi marks the northernmost limits of Christ's ministry. It was at Caesarea Philippi that Peter declared the deity of Christ in response to Jesus' question, "Who do people say the Son of Man is?" Caesarea Philippi is mentioned in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark. (Matthew 16:13-16, Mark 8:27-30)
[Golan Heights border with Syria] 

As we headed back through the Golan Heights to Tiberias, our Israeli guide, Ronny Simon, took us to a lookout across the demilitarized zone along the Syrian border. From the bus window at one of the crossroads, we could see snow on Mt. Hermon. The history and politics of the Golan Heights is long and complicated, and while recognizing the bias of news sources, I encourage you to research it from all sides. Looking across the DMZ and beyond to Syria while listening to our excellent Israeli guide (he's in one of the photos above,I'll write more about him later) was a powerful and sobering moment, and in sharp contrast to the beautiful blossoming trees surrounding us. On the ride back to our hotel, we crossed over a narrow section of the Jordan River. Before all 700 of us gathered for dinner that evening, concluding our second full day in Israel, several members of the tour were baptized in the Sea of Galilee.

Next week Monday-Saturday on instagram and facebook: Church of Primacy of St. Peter, Capernaum, Nazareth, and The Jesus Boat., Sea of Galilee (worship), Beth Shan, and Jericho.

Lent::40 Days of Israel Part 1:Atlanta, Tel-Aviv, Caesarea by the Sea, Megiddo