We’ve been home several days now, but there is still so much to share from our 21 days in Israel. Maybe tomorrow I can share about davening in the rear galley of a 777 and two incredible conversations on the way home, but this evening I want to share some video and pictures from our last day of touring.
Last year, I made the mistake of booking flights that caused us to miss the last half day of the Congress, so I overcompensated this year by scheduling us to leave two days after the Second B’ney Yosef Congress ended. Frankly, it was a good choice as I needed to just lounge around the hotel for a day before getting back in gear. The last day we were in the Land, we had the option of joining the Connect to Israel Tour with Hanoch Young and Mikel Clayton, for their trip to Shiloh, Itamar and Har Bracha, or we could set out in our rental cars and drive all over the Golan. Honestly, it was a tough choice, but Mike reviewed the map with me and said he thought the boys would enjoy and get more out of Gamla and the Peace Overlook than riding a bus to Elon Morei and the wine tasting at Har Bracha.
We set out at dawn, driving through the quiet winding roads of eastern Samaria being careful to avoid a few Palestinian towns known to be less than pleasant. Our first stop was at an overlook of the Jordan valley as we got onto the eastern side of the mountains for our descent to route 90.
Once in the valley we took a left and paralleled the Jordan River up the valley until the base of the Knerret, or Sea of Galilee. From there we drove east a few kilometers to find route 98 and wound our way us the steep slopes onto the very flat plateau known as the Golan Heights.
The Golan Heights are a critical piece of real estate that Israel captured in the 1973 Yom Kippur War with Syria and Egypt among others. Until this war, the very high plateau of the Golan had been used to shell Israeli farmers and settles in the much lower valley around the Sea of Galilee. Capturing this key area was a prime objective to insure the security of Israeli citizens. Further, it added very fertile plains for cattle (think: fat cows of Bashan) and farming.
The Summers in Israel are hot and dry. Sukkot is a time to pray for rain and usually, during the feast, the first rains of Fall arrive. We did not see any during the Feast, but experienced a torrential downpour on our way to the Peace Overlook, our first stop on this day tour of the area. Once we got to the overlook, we waited for it to lighten up before running through continued showers to a narrow overhang we could huddle under. I was disappointed that we had driven so far but could see nothing, nevermind the other side of the Galilee. We waited a few minutes and then a break of sunlight began to happen far across the north west end of the sea. Then, we witnessed a most interesting change in the storm such that a fascinating line of storms began to race across the water while everything around seemed to clear. I took two more short videos of the interesting development.
By the time we left, the Peace Overlook had cleared sufficiently for us to get a nice view of the whole Galilee as well as stand in awe of the storms that can come and go so quickly! The experience added nice depth to our understanding of several stories in the gospels.
We drove on to Gamla, another point of major military significance, only this one was of value about 1900 years ago. As we headed toward the National Park, I relayed a bit of the story of why Gamla has huge historical significance for the Jews.
In 67CE, when Vespasian’s Legions were trying to take control of the revolting Jews, Gamla was one of the fortified cities in Northern Israel. It nearly defeated the Romans who could not enter the extremely well built and fortified city that had steep ravines on three sides of the hump shaped mountain it sat on, thus the name Gamla, meaning ‘camel.’
Long story short, Vespasian led a secret attack with 200 horsemen that breached the wall before Roman soldiers came in and slaughtered every man, woman and child, throwing many alive from the sheer rocky faces the city perched on. Allegedly, only two women survived to take the story of the heroes and horrors to Jerusalem. It was this story that galvanized the Jews in Jerusalem and later caused those at Masada to commit suicide rather than being taken alive.
A year ago, Kelly and I saw Gamla from the overlook with Mike Clayton and David Altman, but this year we decided to hike down in so we could get a closer look at the ruins, the synagogue and the rocky peak. It was a tough steep climb down, but well worth the effort.
After the boys and I climbed to the very top and took in the incredible 360º view, we climbed back out and drove on through the Golan and down toward Capernaum. I felt bad that we were a stone’s throw from Eliyahu’s, but time would not allow us to drop n on him a third time this trip. (If you are reading this… sorry bro. But, I will be back, heard the pizza shop in Katsrin and the silver shop are terrific stops I did not previously know about… excuses to come see you.. 😉 )
Our next stop as we headed back down the western side of the Galilee was to walk around Capernaum. Having seen the area before, I am still amazed at how very small the town is. Situated on the rocky shore of the Galilee, this little fishing village of the gospels is only a couple hundred yards each way. Maybe the size of two city blocks.
We walked the boys around the ruins and through the synagogue that probably dates to a couple hundred years after Yeshua. A couple, like their momma last year, wanted to put their feet in the Galilee.
We drove through through Tiberias, a thriving seaside town with a Mediterranean feel, and headed back to the south end of the Galilee. Our last stop was for coffee at a little cafe in a shopping center. Two days before Al, Eliyahu and I had visited the same cafe in early evening hours as we traveled from Ariel to Katsrin. We all sat around a table outdoor basking n the sun and talking about the wonderful trip we had, as well as what we needed to pack and ready when we got back to the hotel.
We drove back the way we came along route 90 and then the back way into Ariel. Knowing it was our last day we stopped a couple times to just soak in the air and sun. We also filmed another neat storm. Our trip was three weeks and it was still too short. So many things we wanted to see we did not get to, but we had experienced so many things and interacted with so many special people that we knew we had been blessed far above our expectations when we set out on this journey.
We’ll be back. Hopefully, one day, to stay.