We visited a number of sites related to Jesus today. We started at the Jordan River baptismal site, although the real baptism of Jesus was in the south near the Dead Sea. This is an convenient location for tourists and there are several baptism areas to accommodate larger groups. Josh Tweist commented that it was a bit more touristy than he expected. He was right.
We drove through Tiberius and up to Mount Arbel, one of the Horns of Hattin. This is a very high scenic overlook into the northwest corner of Galilee, essentially all of the locations we were about to visit. The cliffs are rugged, but we are quite safe, despite the impression you get from this picture. From Mount Arbel, we drove to the Mount of the Beatitudes. While this is not the actual location of the Sermon on the Mount, it is the general area of Jesus’ teaching large crowds and I think that it is a good place to visit and reflect on the Beatitudes. The church closes from noon to two, so we had to rush a bit, especially in the gift shop. I was fine with this, but I got a few glares.
From the Mount we drove to Capernaum. The crowds were manageable, and we got to Peter’s house at just the right moment, in between two very large groups. While I was teaching in the shaded area an unusual thing happen. A man had a video camera and I thought he was just taping the synagogue scene behind me. He was video taping me as I talked through Mark 2:1-12. It was more than a little strange, and he stayed right on me until I was finished. He never said a word to me. (if you every read this blog, mystery man, let me know what you thought of the lesson!)
We got to walk down to the Sea at Capernaum, something I have never been able to do before. We had a nice view of the sea, looking south to Tagbha (the traditional site of the feeding of the 5000) and the Church of the Primacy (the traditional site of the restoration of Peter). Both of those were closed for Mass, so we did not get to see the nice mosaics at Tagbha.
We had an excellent lunch at the Jesus Boat museum in Ginosaur. Pizza was a popular choice, but I maintained my commitment to falafel. The Jesus Boat tour is always good, the way the boat was discovered and preserved is amazing.
After the Jesus Boat we drove to two of more out of the way locations, Korazin and Kursi. Korazin was one of the cities which Jesus cursed when they rejected him as messiah. It features a nice third century synagogue with a “seat of Moses” and some interesting decorations. Kursi is the traditional site of the casting of the demon Legion into a herd of pigs. There is a little Byzantine chapel there, but little else that could confirm the location. It is more or less opposite Tagbha, where the disciples set out the night before, but it is impossible to be certain.
Tomorrow we head into the desert, visiting Qumran and En Gedi. We eventually will get to Tamar south of the Dead Sea.