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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

All Good Things.....

Baha'i temple and gardens in Haifa

We weren't allowed on the steps because
of the rain...quite beautiful

The Temple is actually a tomb of the
founder of Baha'i

From the top of the Gardens looking down toward

A great view out to the Mediterranean Sea
All good things must come to an end and so it is with this adventure into the Holy Land. We left Tiberias under cloudy skies which quickly turned to rain. The drive west toward the Mediterranean was still beautiful with lots of green fields and interesting sites to see from the windows of the bus. We traveled to the third largest city in Israel Haifa, which is a port city with lots of industrial muscle.

The cave of Elijah, with church built around it.  Of all
people Napoleon was here and lost many men to the
Ottoman Turks.

Just because you don't
often see a Joseph with
child.  Here's to all the

The Bible tells us that Ravens came and brought Elijah is one of their descendants!
Our first stop was the Baha’i Temple and gardens. An offshoot of Islam, here at the Temple in Haifa there founder is buried and you find the world headquarters.

From there we went on to Mount Carmel where we not only stopped at the church built upon the cave that Elijah the prophet hid in to escape the wrath of King Ahab and Queen Jezebel; but then went to the top of the mountain to the site of his famous ‘contest’ with himself and the prophets of Baal. It was a beautiful trip up Mount Carmel even in the rainy weather. We had lunch at a little ‘falafel’ stand where the owner treated us to some music from an Iranian inspired 11 string guitar.

a little lunch time music
Aqueduct from 1st century AD
or earlier!  Caesarea Maritima

Orinaal seats and theater from King Herod's Theater
built around 12 BC it sits 4000 people

Hippodrome...ready for the Horse Races, again built
by King Herod in 12 BC... original seats!

famous inscription
by Pontus Pilate

Kelly amongst the ruins of Caesarea Maritima
From there we traveled to Caesarea Maritima which is quite the ancient city. Still standing are the Roman aqua ducts, beautiful theater and even a hippodrome for horse racing. What makes this site so important is that it was the first place that we discovered archaeological evidence of Pontius Pilate.

Old City of Jaffa

final dinner together

View from the Renaissance hotel room.  Yes, those
are the breakers of the Mediterranean you see!
Our day, and really our trip, ended with a wonderful dinner in Jaffa, the old city of Tel Aviv. Here is where Cornelius had sent for Peter, Peter saw his vision of all things being clean to eat, and Dorcas or Tabitha was mourned for her great gifts of charity to the early church. It is also from where Jonah took off in his ship to flee God and the city to which the mighty cedars of Lebanon came floating down to supply Solomon and the building of the temple. For us it was a place for dinner, laughter and preparing for goodbyes.

After a nice rest in the Hotel Renaissance (it’s perfect John and no problems checking in!) we’ll head for the airport, stand in lines, wait in layovers in Istanbul and New York and finally some time Thursday morning find ourselves back in California. I think it will take several days, weeks, maybe even months to digest everything we’ve seen and done.

What I didn’t blog about was the conflict between peoples, politics, land and religion. Suffice it to say there are many Palestinian Christians here who have a very hard time, they are discriminated against on both sides. Often they are the ones that we forget about. There is an ugly wall that encircles Bethlehem and lots of young people carrying weapons. But there were also lots of children, laughing, playing and bouncing about; they just might be the best prospect for peace. We’ll pray that they will be able to accomplish what their fathers and mothers couldn’t….peace in the Holy Land for Palestinian Christian, Arab and Jew.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Following Jesus and the Church he loves....

Inside the Church of the

Outside the Church of The Beatitudes.  Here
is where the sermon on the mount was given

Kelly on the grounds of the
church of the Beatitudes

Kelly sailing on the Galilee

Wine from Cana, bread from Tiberias, Holy
Communion on the Sea of Galilee

Passing another boat, ours
looks different!

View from Communion, up to the church of the
Beatitudes and of the Primacy of Peter on
the shore.  Perfect setting for the meal.

Sailing back
We woke up to partly cloudy but nice whether here in Tiberias which is on the southern shores of the seas of Galilee.  We headed out for the mount of Beatitudes and the church that is built on the site.  In Matthew's Gospel beginning with chapter 5, Jesus begins his famous sermon on the mount and tradition with a little archaeology has located the general area where the church is built and a thriving Christian community of sisters still live.  It is a beautiful, green, garden like setting that you can just imagine with your minds eye Jesus standing in the midst of folks preaching and sharing those beatitudes of Matthew 5...Blessed are the poor in spirit...

One of the most famous mosaic floors in the Christian world. 
Tabgha, or the church of the multiplication of the loaves is
built on several older churches.  This floor is from the 300's
AD when Helen came to determine Christian sites.

This mosaic not as old as the other
but beautiful and probably done
by an Egyptian craftsman

The front of Tabgha church looking past the baptismal font to the
altar where the mosaics are located

Kelly by an ancient Olive
press for getting Olive
From The Mount of Beatitudes we went down to a kibbutz and got on a replica of a 1st century fishing boat (modeled after one that was found in 1976 here at this site) and sailed on the Sea of Galilee.  After sailing for a while the boat was stopped, the engine cut and we just floated on the waters with the mount of Beatitude in the background we had Holy Communion together--a truly moving part of our trip.  Here on the waters that Jesus traveled so often, stilling the storm, walking on water, healing and teaching, here we sat to hear the word and receive the gift of his body and blood.   A blessed moment.

The church of the Primacy of Peter
built where the resurrected Jesus
cooked breakfast for the disciples
in John's Gospel and reinstated Peter

Here the ancient steps cut into the rock that pilgrims once
used to commemorate the spot of Jesus' fire on
the beach

Here the rock where very early on
1st century AD Christians came
to remember this event.  The rock
was where the fire was for

Still fishing the Galilee

Kelly sitting next to the sea of Galilee, near the place of Jesus
resurrection appearance.
 From the boat we went to the famous Tabgha--church of the multiplication--where Jesus feed the 5000 with only two fish and five loaves.  The church hosts a 3rd century mosaic on the floor which speaks to this being an ancient site for Christian pilgrims.  

From there we traveled just a bit to the church of the Primacy of Peter.  This church commemorates the Resurrection appearance to Peter on the Sea of Galilee, where Jesus making breakfast for the disciples asks Peter three times if he loves him, each time telling Peter to feed his sheep or tend his (Jesus') lambs.   It is an old site, where one can see that pilgrims have been coming to venerate and commemorate the place early in the life of the church,,,some say even in the 1st century AD.  It is a wonderful place.

Next we come to Jesus' adopted hometown of Capernaum.  What a beautiful place.  Birds chirping, lots of flowering trees and Bogavias surround the ruins.  Chief of which are a church built over the ruins of a first century house which is said to be that of Simon Peter.  It is an old site, where pilgrims from the first century seem to have preserved it.   Nearby are the ruins of other homes and then a beautiful synagogue which is built later, but on the ruins of the 1st century synagogue.  So that means that right here in this place Jesus taught and healed.   Here is where Jairus came to beg for his daughter's life and where the women with the unstoppable flow of blood reached out in faith and touched Jesus cloak.  Capernaum is where the disciples were called away from their fishing nets and where Peter's mother-in-law was healed of her fever.  Capernaum was where....... and her we stand, right here in the place.  Not once upon a time in a far away land...but right here, right in this place Jesus walked and taught and called folks to follow him.
This church is built over Peter's house in Capernaum

The ruins of what has been
enshrined as Peter's house

The church above with glass floor to look down into
Peter's house

Sign identifying this as a 4th
century Synagogue; but built on the
same location as Jesus' synagogue

Kelly and I in the
the Synagogue of

Ruins of the houses in Jesus day.

Kelly between an old doorway
in Capernaum

From Capernaum we headed just a bit north to eat lunch on the Galilee....and what did we have?  St. Peter's fish of course!  Caught this morning and served up for us this afternoon.  Here is a picture of the real deal!  I admit, I ordered mine as a head or tail for me....or bones!  It was delicious.

Catch of the day!  Actually very tasty!  St. Peter's Fish

Light breaking through on the Galilee
Tomorrow we head toward the Mediterranean Sea and to Ceaserea Maritima, home of Pontus Pilate when not in Jerusalem, then a final dinner as our friends fly home and we spent one last night in Tel Aviv before our flight leaves the next morning (Thank you John and Rachel!).   Quite a journey.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Following Jesus in the Galilee

some of our Nigerian friends
Did I mention that there are about 300 Nigerian pilgrims here in the hotel with us!  Very fun.  Today, one of their evangelists made sure that we all loved Jesus, treated us to a little sermon/testimony and then prayed for us.  I'm not sure about all his theology but he said that 2012 would be a good year.  One can only say Amen to that!  

Inside the church at Cana

Outside the courtyard in Cana

The Happy Couple
We started today with a great surprise.  We went to Cana where Jesus performed his first miracle at the wedding there.   It was actually the feast day of this event and the church was all decked out for a special mass and celebration.  The bells were ringing almost non stop.  I'll post a video of our guide trying to talk over the bells.  We also renewed our wedding vows---I know how sweet.  But what a cool place to do this on the feast day itself.

Courtyard of the Church of the
Annunciation in Nazareth

Kelly looking into Mary's house

Chapel that takes in Mary's house in Nazareth

Door leading into the church
of the Annunciation

Facade of the Annunciation Church
Bummer, all the way to Nazareth to be called a 'loser.'
Mt Tabor or Transfiguration

View going up Mt. Tabor

The Church of the Transfiguration
From Cana we moved to Nazareth--Jesus' home tome.  It is a big city which is an Israeli Arab city, about half the folks are Muslim and half Christian.  I'll post a picture of a warning  to half the population.  We visited the church of the Annunciation which is built over a house that is said to be that of Mary and where the angel Gabriel came to speak to her.  Is it really?   Who knows, but it is a very old site with many churches and chapel predating the current one.  It is a beautiful church and whether or not it is Mary's house below (visible by the way from excavation) it is a wonderful place to remember, pray and hope to become as obedient in faith as the Mother of our Lord.

From there we headed up Mt. Tabor, the mountain of Transfiguration.  Where Moses and Elijah appeared with Jesus in the presence of Peter, James and John.  Really a wonderful spot, with beautiful views and a car ride to the top, not for the weak of heart!

Ruins of Roman Theater built in 1st Century AD
Time of Jesus.  This is one of the Decapolis cities

Walking down one of the
main streets.  Still beautiful
mosaics on the floors of shops

Broken columns of marble once mighty city now in ruins
almost forgotten.  30,000 people lived here in 500 A D
We then traveled past such places as Nain, where Jesus raised the widows son from the dead.  To be honest every time you turn around you are passing a place of some importance.  We traveled next to Bet Shean, which is one of the decapolis cities (Greek Cities) mentioned by the Gospels and a place that Jesus would have certainly visited.  This is a gem.  An archaeological park that preserves Roman roads, columns, shops and mosaics and a great Theater built in the 1st Century AD  (time of Jesus).   It is also famous in the old testament as the place where the Philistines hung the body of Saul and his sons (The first king of Israel) on the city gates.   

You climb the "tel" to reach the oldest ruins and great view

Looking down
Egyptian Hieroglyphics found here from when
the Egyptians used this as a way to control Palestine

Up top ruins from 5000 BC!  Egyptian occupation, King David

and Solomon.  Amazing History in one place
When you climb the 'tel' or mountain you also get a glimpse of the famous history here.  You see remnants of a 4th to 5th Millennium settlement  (That's 4000 to 5000 BC).  Ruins of King Davids and Solomon's fortress, and most surprisingly ruins of an Egyptian fortress which had a continued presence there early on, and again after the death of the Israelites in the 8th century BC.   What a place.

Finally from there we went to the River Jordon.  Right were it leaves the Galilee we had an affirmation of our Baptism, sung "Shall we Gather at the River" and just enjoyed.   Everywhere you go you can hear the voices of history, speaking out quietly, sometimes with more intensity, but always there.  

Here's how close to Jordan we are.  Their flag on the hill

Baptism spot on Jordan River

Why I prefer baptismal founts... muskrats in the river

Kelly and I at the Jordan River
Tomorrow more of the Galilee!