A trip around the Sea of Galilee:  From the Town of Jesus to a Kibbutz to the Golan Heights.

If you are a dedicated Christian pilgrim to the Holy Land you should probably consider walking the 65 km long Jesus Trail.  If you are a bit less dedicated, an air-conditioned ride in the car along the north-western coast of the Sea of Galilee would be a good start.  That’s what we did.  In many ways we failed even in that:  We could not find the birth house of Mary Magdalene; the Mount of Beatification on which the famous Sermon of the Mount was supposed to have taken place was closed; a third century synagogue was nowhere, and one of the oldest mosques in all of Israel in that area, still facing Jerusalem in its prayer direction, just wasn’t where we thought it should be…  That was a less than promising start.  But we did manage a few things.

The Church of the Multiplication was a tranquil spot containing both a church dedicated to the feeding of the 5000 and a chapel built over a rock on which Christ stood and declared Peter his first and most important disciple.  And who was there with a group of tourists?  Allen Rabinowitz, the guide whom I had met at Qumran a few weeks earlier.  He recognized me and first of all, I assured him that this time I was not going to crash his group and ask for a ride.

What a nice coincidence!  With him at our side we would not have bumbled around like ignorant tourists and not missed half of our anticipated destinations.  But what can you do?  Guides don’t come for nothing.

Capernaum, the Town of Jesus, as the sign at the gate advertised, was a great little place.  Like the Church of the Multiplication, it was situated directly at the Sea of Galilee with a beautiful lakefront and view.  Over an ancient church, the Franciscans had erected an interesting modern chapel for worship.  Black basalt ruins clearly outlined an ancient town and a gleaming white 2nd century Greco-Roman synagogue in the center of the ancient town marked the spot on which the synagogue once stood, which Jesus and his followers would have used.  Jesus visited the town frequently on his various trips since it was Peter’s home town.  So much for tracing Jesus, today.

Several Kibbutzim line the shore of the Sea of Galilee.  We had hoped to visit them all, but as expected we ran out of time.  The first one on our way was Kibbutz Ginnosar which operates the Yigal Allon Center, a museum dedicated to the history of the kibbutz, its most famous member Yigal Allon, and most famously, the “Jesus Boat”.    God works in mysterious ways and perhaps, this is the “Jesus Boat”.  Most likely however, it is just a boat from the 1st century owned by a poor fisherman, judging by its numerous repairs.   Nonetheless, it is a wonderful artifact which only was discovered a couple of decades ago by some kibbutz members during a drought at the bottom of the lake.  The rescue mission recounted in a film at the museum was spectacular.

A film about the early pioneers of the kibbutzim movement brings it home how much idealism there was in the beginning of building Israel, how much dedication and enthusiasm and how much has changed; some of course for the better, but not all.   Just looking at the kibbutzim we saw today:  Both now operate resort hotels and cruises on the lakes for income.  One opened the museum, the other two luxury restaurants.  We did not mind since we got a delicious fish dinner in an absolutely gorgeous setting out of this.  But my idea of what a kibbutz is has been thoroughly shattered.

We wanted to see the Golan Heights, imagining a mountain range at the northern edge of Israel.  When we stopped at the Golan Heights Winery for a wine tasting, we realized that we had been traveling in the Golan Heights already.  Everything around us was the Golan Heights!  It is not a disputed mountain range but a whole area (large, but I have no figures) of hills, fields, vineyards, olive gardens, military camps, old bunkers, a fully developed road system, and occasional small villages!  We finally reached an outlook post from where we could see the “border”, better the “disengagement zone”.  There was nothing there!  No barbed wires, no walls, no tanks.  Just fields, a road and a few white houses, occupied by the UN overseeing the border agreement.  Despite the lack of a formal peace agreement with Syria, this border has been one of the quiet ones since 1974.  We looked into a Syrian village which seemed just a mile away.  Around the mountains there were military posts and in the area we passed several military installations.  I guess, the army is ready in case a conflict would start.  But as the guy at the winery put it:  If you are stationed in the Golan area as a soldier you have a good life.

Once again we had seen much.  After 12 hours on the road we got home and the level of exhaustion was clear:  David crashed on his bed and in full regalia zonked out within seconds!

Good night.

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