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Journey Through Israel – Day Two

Journey Through Israel – Day One

Since I followed the advice of fellow United Methodist Pastor and emergency responder, Ken Jackson, I slept like a baby thanks to the Tylenol PM I took on our flight to Israel.  I was already adjusted to the time change and was ready to eat breakfast.  Before heading downstairs, I took a moment to look at the window and see the sun coming up over the Sea of Galilee.  I stood there for a moment, caught up in the thought that while many of the churches and shrines around the country couldn’t all be trusted to be the “orginal site of…”, I could trust that Jesus had seen that same sun come up over those same hills.  I was so glad to be there.

Before heading to the traditional tourist sites, our tour guide took us to a place just outside of Tiberius called the “Valley of the Wind”.  I’ve looked this place up on Google and can’t find it, but basically it is a dirt path between a couple of high hills that appear to serve as a funnel for Mediterranean wind blowing in from the west.  It seems to have some effect on the lake conditions and weather at the Sea of Galilee.  You’ll find more than one account in the Gospels of a storm around the Sea of Galilee so this made sense.  From there we traveled to Kibbutz Ginosar where we were able to see an ancient fishing boat that dates roughly to the time of Jesus and gives us a look at the kind of boat some of the disciples may have fished from.

We then hopped on a boat at the Sea of Galilee so we could take our own boat ride.  It’s hard to explain how cool it feels to say “I’m on the Sea of Galilee.”  This was a really weird experience, though, because the boat captain and first mate ran an American flag up on one side of the boat and played a CD of the Star Spangled Banner.  I looked around at everyone thinking, “this is weird.”  When the song was over, the captain said, “USA, Israel is behind you.”  Then they started playing the favorite worship songs of Amy Grant and every other 80’s pop worship artist.  I leave this without any more commentary.

After the patriotic boat ride, we visited three churches.  The first was an octagonal church built in the 1930’s by Mussolini.  It is called the Church of the Beatitudes, which is a little ironic to me since Jesus said “Blessed are the peacemakers…” and Mussolini sure wasn’t one of those.  The view and the church were beautiful and I got someone to video me giving a message to the church and that video was played before worship on the Sunday I missed.  The next two churches we saw were at Tabgha.  The Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and the Fishes is possibly the best named church in the world.  It had a beautiful mosaic floor.  From there we walked to the Church of the Primacy of Peter which is supposed to be “the rock”.  It was an interesting church but really no where near Caesarea Philippi.

From there we went to Capernaum and saw the remains of some first century homes as well as a synagogue.  The top part of this structure had been rebuilt in the 3rd or 4th century but the black rock that served as a foundation was the synagogue that Jesus preached in and cast out demons (Mark 1:21-28).  We left Capernaum, drove around the north side of Galilee and down the eastern shore to the Kibbutz Ein Gev for lunch.  One could have eaten tilapia in a restaurant for nearly $20 but I opted for a coke and an appetizer in a bar because I can buy a bag of tilapia in Wal-Mart for like $4.  Yes, I’m that guy.  Being a kibbutz, Ein Gev had a uniform building plan which made it look like the Dharma Initiative had built everything.

After lunch we made our last stop of the day at the Jordan River.  The place where we stopped was, um, let’s say commercialized.  It’s a long way from any wilderness that John the Baptist might have done ministry in, but we were told that since the country Jordan was diverting water to irrigate their farmlands there is little to no water on the southern end of the Jordan Valley.  So, we have to settle for the north end in order to teach about the Jordan.  I was looking forward to this time because our Bishop had said that he would lead us in a service of Baptismal Remembrance which is as close as a group of Methodists will get to being baptized in the Jordan.  The first thing I saw as we walked in was a sign with the pictures of famous pastors who had baptized people there.  Perry Stone, Benny Hinn, John Hagee, Chuck Smith, and some dude I’ve never heard of named Pastor Skip.  It was a who’s who of TBN.  There were lots of people getting in the water so I’m sure a gathering of Methodists who weren’t baptizing or rebaptizing looked a little strange and I was okay with that.

We got to the hotel after sundown and so it was the Sabbath.  Everything shuts down for the Sabbath.  Everything except little boys who make it their business to point and yell “Shabbat!” when they see someone on their computer like I was.

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