May 7

We started the day by driving to Bet Shean, a city which is nicely excavated to the Roman era, although the Tel has has some remains from early Israel history.  It was an unusually cool and cloudy morning, making the time spent exploring this site quite nice. I have been there several times before and I noticed several improvements and continued excavation.  For example, a portion of the main street (Cardo) has been modified to show the condition after the major earthquake which destroyed the city.

From there we drove up into the Golan Heights and had an excellent overview of the whole Sea of Galilee.  The day was so clear that we could see across the lake and all the way from the north to the south.  The road up to this overlook is extremely winding, causing a few stomachs to turn!

We made our up to Mount Ben Tal, which is about a far as you can drive north in Israel.  The place was a military site until the 70’s, but is now a destination for Israelis and those of us who want a good view of Mount Hermon, and into Syria and Lebanon. Do not worry it is perfectly safe, there is a huge military presence in the area, and the UN observers are usually present as well.  A highlight for me is Coffee Anan, a coffee shop with a nice gift shop which sells items made in the Golan Heights.  Anan is the Hebrew word for cloud, so the shop is “coffee in the clouds.”

Sadly, it was so overcast, we could not see Mount Hermon, although there was snow still at the lower elevations.  It was also quite cold, maybe in the low  60’s.  Along with a high wind, it was chilly.  Our driver, Feras, warned us that we would be very cold, so I explained to him what “we are from Michigan” means weather-wise.

We drove to Ma’sada, a Druze village where we had a nice lunch.  I had Druze bread, which is a sandwich made of a thin bread, like a tortilla but even thinner, with two sauces spread in the inside.  I ate a little dish of fresh local olives as well.  Very tasty.

Our next stop was Banias, which is the site of Ceasera Philippi.  I read the story of Peter’s confession in Mark 8.  After a short time talking about this passage we walked up to the Temple of Pan and looked at some the Roman remains.

Our last stop of the night was Tel Dan, a nice hike though the jungle-like national park.  The highlight is the city gate and the sacred area.  They have a large metal structure set up to show the general size and shape of the altar Jeroboam built there after the kingdom split.  Remember that he built to golden calves in Bethel and Dan, this was the norther limits of his kingdom.  We were able to hike over to the middle bronze era gates to the city, which are the only such gates Israel (perhaps the world, or at least that was the claim of another another guide who came in after us).

It was a long drive back to Ma’gaan, but since it is Sabbath here there was light traffic, especially driving through Tiberius, which is usually a real traffic mess at that time of day.

Sadly, we have a prayer need.  One of the Rochester kids, Robin, seems to have eaten something which bothered her, and she was quite I’ll on the bus.  My guess is the road up to the Golan Heights was a contributing factor, but she spent most of the day sleeping on the bus.  She seems better now, hopefully a good night sleep will put her right again.

We visit several “Jesus” sites tomorrow, I expect a great day.

In the Pistachio Tree