We woke up in the kabbutz wondering what we were going to see. At least, I did. Our journey through Israel the night before had begun at the border, where there had been a mix up and we'd waited for our bus to arrive to pick us up, and through the last hour of sunlight into dusk. By the time we'd checked into our rooms, it was late at night.
Sunshine greeted us, and as the bus picked us up, we had good views of the Sea of Galilee. All I could think of was that we'd arrived at another lake in the Okanagan. The lake is about 21 km long, so there is a lot of shore line. We could see lights of the town of Tiberias across the shore line, a town Jesus was familiar with in his day.
During this day we traveled first, up into the Golan Heights, to visit the place Herod had his holiday home in the hills. Cesearia Philippi, or Banias, a place where a rushing waterfall made a great spot for Herod to build a palace. This is one of the sources for the Jordan River, surrounded by trees, and the chirping of birds. This is the place where we hear Jesus saying to Peter "You are Petros (means, Rocky) and on this rock I will build my church." We listened to the words from scripture, and had our first encounter with the wisdom of our very own Peter, our Palestinian Christian guide. The Golan Heights is considered occupied territory by Syria, who claim this small patch of land as part of their own. We could see towns in Lebanon in the heights as well. This small troubled part of the world, with a strategic importance to three countries, has a significant message to tell about nations and power, with questions about where true security comes from. It is interesting to realize that all three nations share one mountain for recreation in the winter. Skiing occurs on three slopes, each claimed by one nation. How ironic, that a mountain may be shared for recreation, shared in peace, and yet surrounded by yellow signs announcing the presence of land mines outside the boundaries. Here is one ski hill where patrons will not be risking any back country skiing.
Our next stop was the Mount of the Beatitudes, a lovely place overlooking the Galilee. Again, we sat and listened to the history of the place, and the reading from the text we know well from the New Testament.
From here, we journeyed down to the lake, for an hour long cruise. The water sparkled, on what began as a very calm day. During the cruise, the crew shut down the motor, and we drifted on the lake, in silence. The story of the disciples in a boat on the sea in a storm, where Jesus came walking across the water was told. We listened to the story as a metaphor for the church. When Jesus isn't in the little boat that the church is, things can be pretty turbulent. As our cruise continued, the wind picked up as some clouds formed overhead. We got a small taste of the power of the wind and waves of this place.
Following a lunch of 'St. Peters fish' (tilapia) we continued to Capernaum. This small town was the home of Peter, with his mother. His house was made into a house church, and over years, the walls were changed into a small circular worship space. Over this site a new church has been built.
Our guide had a rating scale he uses to describe whether it is possible, probable or certain that Jesus was present at a place. 1 is a certainty. 2 is possible, but not certain. 3 is not possible, even if people have said this was the place, archeology doesn't back it up.
Capernaum is a 1. This town is a place archeology backs up as the actual site of the town. This is a place scripture backs up as a place Jesus was. And the site of Peters house has been marked and used from very early on in Christian history.
We gathered in the small park, and listened to the story of Jesus teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum. We were sitting in a grove of trees, with the remains of the town synagogue less than 15 feet behind us. A new synagogue, using white marble, was built on the black, rock foundation of the old synagogue Jesus would have stood in. I walked through the synagogue, and stood on the front step, looking out at the shoreline of the lake, the view which hasn't changed much in 2000 years. Then I walked past the other ruins, to stand and look at what remains of Peters house. My response was to be interested, but there wasn't much of an emotional connection. Then I walked down to the shore line.
That is where I connected. Looking at the lake, thinking about being a fisherman, sitting here, with this view, mending nets, repairing the boat, sorting fish. Across the lake I could see Tiberias, and the line of hills. The shore line was the same black rock used to build the ancient homes, the synagogue. If this was my lake, I'd be happy to call it home. A lovely place, peaceful, beautiful. The lake sparkled in the sunlight, reeds dotted the shoreline. 40 feet away was Peter's house. Not bad, Big Fisherman. Not bad at all.