20. November 2009 03:27
Two things I would have never thought to put together are Dean Martin and the Sea of Galilee. However, I found myself experiencing both at the same time during a ride around the legendary lake (it’s a lake even though it’s referred to as a sea) on a replica of first century vessel. The wooden boat looked the part with its curved shape and simple design, so the captain chose some music to fit the scene like Hebrew songs and religious tunes, along with some classic Dean Martin to encourage dancing. As we glided along, the boat excursion had moments of fun with impromptu karaoke and moments of reflection when we passed certain mountains attached to Biblical stories, such as the Mount of Beatitudes where Jesus gave one of his most famous sermons.
The Sea of Galilee has been the running theme of the day from the moment I woke up in Tiberias with the body of water in view until the boat ride this evening. Since Jesus spent most of his time preaching around the lake where he first recruited his twelve followers, the area is a pilgrim’s paradise with churches, gardens and archeological ruins from the time of Christ at most stops. I visited some of the main religious sites at the peaceful Mount of Beatitudes, Tagbha's mosaic-filled church dedicated to the multiplication of the fishes and loaves miracle, and Capernaum where Jesus began his ministry. At the Church of the Primacy of Peter, I joined other excited visitors intent on wading in the water so filled with history.
Wading in the Sea of Galilee
Mount of Beatitudes
Pilgrims' Boat ride
19. November 2009 02:48
Last night at dinner, our guide joked that a phone call to God from Israel is cheap because it is a local call. I think he might be right. The land where Jesus was born, lived, preached and died all fits into a spot on the map the same size as New Jersey. This center for Islam, Judaism and Christianity doesn’t take long to drive across, but it could take years to properly explore because around every corner lies another ancient site dating back to the Old Testament and beyond.
My first day in the one and only Holy Land began with a trip to a palace built by King Herod in Caesarea. Now made into a national park, the area holds archeological ruins from the time of Christ including a remarkably intact Roman Theater. As my guide helped me imagine the wealth and splendor of the once mighty port city on the Mediterranean, I felt transported to the movie Ben-Hur, since part of the extensive ruins featured a huge stadium that charioteers once raced around holding on to their chariots for dear life. To help me visualize the past grandeur of the site, the park had a museum with interactive exhibits and a video that virtually transformed the palace remains into a thriving metropolis.
The rest of the day I had to keep reminding myself that I wasn’t dreaming as I toured site after site pertaining to the life of Jesus Christ. Each site straight out of the Bible had its own church devoted to its Christian connections, including Nazareth’s Basilica of the Annunciation, Cana’s Wedding Church and Mount Tabor’s Church of the Transfiguration. Worn out from a plentiful dinner of lamp chops, goose liver and fruit crepes, I fully expect to fall straight asleep before embarking for more holy adventures tomorrow.
The Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth
Caesarea National Park
View from Mt. Tabor