Israel Trip: Sea of Galillee
On Thursday, the five of us squeezed into the rental car and started heading north to spend the day exploring several Christian sites around the Sea of Galilee area. After the long and exhausting day before of hiking and walking, a day consisting of more driving seemed like welcome relief to us all (except maybe Chuck, who did all the driving).
Driving North Around the West Bank
In Israel, you can't always drive direct to your destination. Since a large portion of the center of the state is West Bank territory, you have to choose whether to drive around the eastern or western sides of it.
Since we were planning to start at the southern end of the Sea of Galilee, Uncle Chuck wanted to drive us up on the eastern side of the West Bank, along the Jordan border. Israel controls the borders, so we were allowed to drive around that direction, though most of the area and towns surrounding the roads were part of the West Bank.
We were amazed at the scenery. Having flown into Tel Aviv (a large city), and then spent most of the week in Jerusalem, the contrast of the desert was staggering.
It was literally like being dropped down into the Bible - wandering camels and all!
Traveling around the eastern side of the West Bank brings you close to the Dead Sea, so you do a lot of traveling DOWN mountains. We made the obligatory stop at Sea Level.
While we were there, a man offered to let Ben ride the camel for 5 shekels. As soon as Ben sat down, the man changed his price to 5 shekels for a picture, 10 shekels for the camel to stand up, and 20 shekels for a ride. The photo sufficed for us...and it's a gem! ;)
As we continued our drive, we passed numerous agricultural farms. Israel produces all kinds of fruits and vegetables and has developed an amazing drip irrigation technology that allows them to successfully grow crops in the desert.
The drive up to the Sea of Galillee was about 2 hours, and we never tired of the changing scenery. We saw shepherds and sheep traveling across the mountains, Arab towns in the distance, camels wandering unattended, and tons and tons of mountains and desert.
When we arrived at the Sea of Galilee area, our first stop was the Yardenit Baptismal Site on the Jordan River.
Yardenit was established as a replacement baptism site for Christian pilgrims when the actual location of Jesus's baptism in Qasr el Yahud became a part of frontier territory between the Israeli and Jordan border after the Six Day War.
While we were visiting, several tour buses full of visitors from South American countries were there having a group baptism ceremony in Spanish. Since we couldn't understand a lot of it (my Spanish isn't *that* good), we had to guess at exactly what they were reading from and saying.
They immersed themselves several times throughout the ceremony.
This group appeared to be from Venezuela and at the end of the ceremony gathered around their flag in the water during a prayer.
Yardenit is a beautiful spot at the base of the Jordan River, where it meets the Sea of Galillee. It was a good place for us to start our day following around the area of Israel where Jesus spent most of his ministry.
After Yardenit, we drove north through Tiberias, a port city popular for fishing and tourism. We managed to get lost and made several "U-ies" because of some poor signage and crowded traffic...but we DID finally make it through the little coastal city.
Our next stop was Kibbutz Ginosar and the Yigal Allon Museum, to see the "Jesus Boat", a 1st Century fishing boat that was discovered by local fishermen and amateur archaelogists during a severe drought in the late 1980s.
We watched a short video about how the boat was found, dug up (in 12 furiously busy and highly guarded days), and then carefully preserved and transported. It had to be submerged in a chemical bath for 7 years before it could be displayed to preserve the wood and prevent it from disintegrating.
Of course, it's a mystery who *actually* owned and sailed in this boat. A couple visiting while we were there asked me "How do they know this was Jesus's boat?" We set them straight. It's from the time of Jesus -- but isn't necessarily Jesus' boat. :)
The area around the museum was gorgeous, and on that day, the weather was unbelievable (high 70s) and the sky and water were just beautiful. The top of the museum had an outdoor lookout where we could really soak in the beauty of the area.
Mount of Beatitudes
From our lookout, we could see some of our next stops - several churches that mark important moments in Jesus' ministry.
- The Mount of Beatitudes, where Jesus preached his Sermon on the Mount
- The Church of the Primacy of Saint Peter, where Jesus is said to have laid out a breakfast of bread and fish for the Apostles, and told Peter to "Feed my sheep" after the miraculous catch, the third time he appeared to them after his resurrection.
- Church of the Multiplication, marking the location where the miracle of the loaves and fishes took place. (John 6:2)
Since the churches are all closed during the middle portion of the day, we took the opportunity to eat some lunch at a Lebanese restaurant called Katzeh Hanachal in Ginosar before heading up to see the churches.
The church at the Mount of Beatitudes was incredibly crowded with tour buses and tourist groups. What I had kind of expected to be a quiet and calm spot, was VERY loud and conjested.
But what WAS very cool about this spot, was the dirt trail that headed from the top of the Mount of Beatitudes down toward Tabgha. Ben and I decided to make the walk down, while Grandma, Grandpa and Chuck drove the car to the Church of the Multiplication to meet us at the bottom.
The walk was quiet, dusty, and undeveloped, which made it a really special moment on our trip as we descended the hill toward the water.
Remarkably, we had a brief (and sunny) rainshower while we were walking. No rainbows that I spotted, but that would have been unbelievable. :)
When we reached the end of the trail, we ended up at the Church of the Primacy of Saint Peter, where you could walk right up to the rocky shoreline of the Sea of Galilee.
I think Ben may have picked up a pebble for Ayla. ;)
When we realized where we were, and that we were NOT at the Church of the Multiplication, where we were supposed to meet Chuck, Grandma and Grandpa, we spent a few minutes trying to figure out how to get where we were headed. We stopped some Australian tourists (amazing how quickly you recognize overheard English!) and asked a couple of other tour guides to try and get our bearings and figure out where to head next. If we'd have had about 2 minutes of patience, we could have figured it out ourselves - we found a sign & arrow almost immediately.
We met up with them at the Chuch of the Multiplication, saw the famous mosaic tile floor, and admired the church architecture.
Then we had to head out and hit our last stop of the day, before it closed - Capernaum.
Capernaum is the town where many of Jesus' apostles lived and where he spent much of his time. The ruins found there are very cool to see the walls and rooms of the homes of people from that time.
We had a short visit there, but appreciated seeing some of the ruins of the town and the synagogue that was from the 4th or 5th Century and is one of the oldest synagogues in the world.
When we finished up there though, we were all pretty tired and ready to start heading back to Jerusalem -- around the western side of the West Bank this time, via Tel Aviv for dinner.
Having spent a good portion of the day driving and getting lost a few times, I confess, I was a little crabby by the end of the day. When you're traveling with the Rosenbergs, everyone is a "leader" and a "navigator", which makes for some noisy and argumentative rides. Since I was in the center of the car, I heard it from all angles. I tried to just keep my mouth shut. There were enough GPSs, maps, opinions and plans in that car without my input. :)
As a result, we had some stressful tired, hungry and "lost" moments getting from the Sea of Galillee to Tel Aviv - Jaffa for dinner. Most of us kept our cool. I might have snapped at one moment and told everyone to just let the GPS tell us where to go instead of commenting on every. single. turn. :)
Tel Aviv / Jaffa
We had hoped to make it to Jaffa by sunset, so that we could see the Mediterranean Sea during daylight. We didn't quite make it there in time, but we did get to watch the sunset as we drove down along the coast.
We got to see a little bit of Tel Aviv at night as we drove through some heavy traffic.
After finally reaching the Jaffa area, and finally finding a parking spot, we went in search of a restaurant through the artsy port area of Jaffa. Jaffa would definitely be a neat place to spend the day shopping and wandering -- but we just didn't have it in us that night. We (I) needed food.
Food makes me much less crabby. :)
Though it was a long and very full and crowded day, the views and the sites we got to see were definitely worth it! Even if we did get lost several times...
Israel Trip Wrap-Up:
- Israel Trip: Getting Ready to Go
- Israel Trip: Layover in Chicago
- Israel Trip: Traveling Across the World
- Israel Trip: Jerusalem - The Old City
- Israel Trip: Bethlehem & West Bank
- Israel Trip: Yad Vashem & Ben Yehuda Street
- Israel Trip: An Israeli Wedding
- Israel Trip: Mount of Olives
- Israel Trip: City of David
- Israel Trip: Sea of Galillee
- Israel Trip: Kibbutz, Gaza & Shabbat
- Israel Trip: Dead Sea & Ein Gedi
- Israel Trip: The Food