Today our tour focused on sites in Galilee associated with Jesus and his ministry. We began our day with a drive through Tiberius to Mount Arbel. This is not so much a biblical site, but a hike up to the top of Mount Arbel to view the Sea of Galilee. From the top of the cliffs we can see the west and north quarters of the sea, essentially where all of the Jesus sites are located. The carob tree at the top of the hill was struck by lightning a few years ago and is recovering nicely (I have done group photos from that spot for many years). Although the morning was warm, there was a strong breeze on top of Arbel so the walk was pleasant.
We arrived at the Mount of Beatitudes and it was already quite crowded. We found a mostly shaded spot to read from Matthew 5 and talk about the Beatitudes. (See this post, What are the Beatitudes?) The group was able to visit the octagonal chapel then had a few minutes to pray and read the Bible privately.
After the Mount of Beatitudes, we drove of to Korazim, a site I have not visited in a few years. This is one of the cities that reject Jesus (Matthew 11:21). One of the highlights is a “seat of Moses” in the synagogue. Jesus says in Matthew 23 that the Pharisees “sit in the seat of Moses,” although the rest of the chapter condemns their hypocrisy.
We then drove a short distance to Capernaum. For most the highlight here is Peter’s house, although it is difficult to see much of the house due to the large church built over the top. There is also a beautiful synagogue, although it dates to the fifth or six century, long after the time of Jesus. For me, the highlight of a visit to Capernaum is walking out in the beach near the Sea and reading the Bible. In this case I read Mark 2 since the healing of the paralytic takes place at Peter’s house.We took some time in the shaded area near the synagogue to read Mark 2:1-12 and talk about the authenticity of the site (is this really Peter’s house? Maybe?)
After lunch (Aroma Coffee, egg salad sandwich and a an iced coffee), we walked over to Migdal. Although this village was the home of Mary Magdalene, the place is rarely mentioned in the Bible. However, a first-century Synagogue was excavated along with an unusual carved stone found near the center of the synagogue. Some scholars have suggested the stone was carved to look like the Second Temple, although this is not particularly conclusive.
What is important is this is a first century synagogue not far from Capernaum. Although there is no evidence Jesus taught in this particular synagogue, the gospels portray him is teaching in many of the synagogues in Galilee. So it gave us an opportunity to discuss what teaching at the synagogue might have been like. There are a number of other excavated buildings adjacent to the synagogue including several mikvoth (pools for ceremonial washing; there are as many as seven excavated.
After Migdal we drove the short distance back to Nof Ginosar to to the Yigal Allon center where the Galilee boat is on display.There is a presentation describing how the boat was discovered and preserved and the actual boat is on display in a climate controlled room. I have visited this museum a few times and I have enjoyed the presentation.
We then met our guide at 5:30 for a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee before dinner. We were able to talk through the two big miracles on the sea of Galilee (See Matthew 14:22-33, Why does Jesus walk on the Water? and Why Does Peter Ask to Get Out of the Boat?) Several people shared some idea about why Jesus chose to reveal himself first in Galilee and many enjoyed some praise music.