Today was our final full day in Galilee. Our day began at the Mount of Beatitudes, where Jesus gave His famous Sermon on the Mount. Our group broke off along he hillside overlooking the Sea of Galilee to read Jesus’ Incredible message. If the clearest instruction that God gives in the Old Testament is the Ten Commandments, then Jesus came to give even more clarity through the Sermon on the Mount (the pinnacle of the new testaments teaching). Our group then re-gathered and boarded the bus together, while headed to our next destination students shared the things that stood out to them or challenged them from Jesus’ famous message.
Our next stop was a place called Tel Dan. Dan was one of the 12 tribes we read of in the book of kings that decided to abandon their territory because of the looming threat & presence of the Philistines. Dan move north and when the kingdom divided, the northern king of Israel set up an alter in disobedience – in the end, leading the Northern Tribes of Israel into idolatry. As we hiked through the area we sat at the footings of the ancient alter that was constructed. Drew had us open our bibles and read the story together. Just amazing! We also explored an ancient mud gate of a city that dates back to the times of Abraham that has been excavated in this region! Just crazy to reach so far back in history and open a bible to read descriptions that perfectly fit what is in front of your eyes!
Our team then made a short drive up the road where we walked thru the site we know as Caesarea Philippi. This is the spot that Jesus took the disciples to when He asked them; “Who do men say that I am?” and “Who do you say that I am?” The base of this massive mountain face still has the remains of the three pagan temples that once stood there. There is even a deep cave that was referred to as the ‘Gates of Hell.’ It was the hub of pagan worship in Jesus day, but Jesus said that not even it could withstand the power of the gospel! And today we see, the Gospel continues to take ground and move forward, whereas the pagan practices & temples of that day are in ruins. Pete Plotnik both read through the story and shared his testimony with the team while we were at this site; he gave us a good challenge to embrace faith even while we wrestle through our questions and doubts.
Our lunch today was in a Druze village. This unique people group were a branch of Islam nearly a thousand years ago. Many muslim countries regarded them as heretics and drove them out of their lands. Today there are many small Druze villages in Israel; most of which are off the beaten path, in a bit of an isolated area. The Druze are kind people and incredible masters of the shish-kabob! Our lunch was amazing, and was topped off with mini cups of Turkish Coffee!
We made our way to Northern most point in Israel after lunch. From this spot, we were able to look down over both Lebanon and Syria. Our wonderful guide talked us thru the modern history of Israel and the battles they have been engaged in over the past 60+ years. He then talked about the atrocities taking place in Syria today. Just so sad and crazy to look into a land full of so many innocent families that are stuck in the middle of a crazy power grab. Some estimates put the death toll in Syria as high as a half million people. Many of which civilian families.
After a very sobering time in the Golan Heights, we drove all the way back to the coasts of the Sea of Galilee to board a wooden boat that took us out onto the water. It was an incredibly gorgeous evening! Once we were on the middle of the lake, we quieted the engines and opened our bibles to read the gospels story about Jesus authority over the Sea. It was one of those ‘pinch me I must be dreaming’ moments!
The team then gathered to eat dinner together and exchanged glazed over glances – we are tired as our days have been very full.
What an adventure we have had together! Thank you so much for your support of our team! – Trevor & the Youth Missions Team