Northern Galilee

Israel Day 10, Northern Galilee

We certainly are waking up to the most beautiful view of the trip while staying in Tiberias. Some of us who came without our husbands feel guilty to be experiencing all this without them – the palm trees and blue waters of the Sea of Galilee just add to that guilt!

But, don’t worry, we make the most of it!

Our first stop today was to Caesarea Philippi at the northern edge of Israel. I’ve looked forward to seeing this since I found out I was coming to Israel.

I told you of my love for all things medieval, but my love for all things Greek goes a little deeper. English major that I was…

Well… Caesarea Philippi was first established by the Greeks, way back in Alexander the Great’s day. Fourth century. If you can think back to your middle/high school days, what do you recall about Greek mythology? Do you remember the “main god,” Zeus? Or his wife, Hera? Maybe Aphrodite or Ares?

Caesarea Philippi is one place where the Greeks set up shrines and altars to these gods of theirs.

The area is pretty with lots of plants and rocks, including one really big one, almost cliff-like. In this cliff were indentions they’d carved for idols. They reminded me of the alcoves some of the newer houses have for artwork.

Those alcoves are still there. The signs helped us understand what we were seeing, identifying what each area was about. There was even an alcove for Zeus. All the sudden my years of research and teaching all this became a lot more real. Real in the sense that people actually worshipped these idols – not that their gods were real.

It was as Jesus and his disciples were walking through this area, surrounded by these idols, that He asked them a very important question, “Who do you say I am?”

Today we, like the people in Jesus’ day, are surrounded by a world filled with distractions…idols that can keep us from following Christ with all our hearts, mind, and strength.

It was a good moment for me, standing there amid the rubble, thinking about what idols I put before God. It was good for me to stop and ponder, “Who do I say Jesus is?”

As history went on, the Romans took over the Greeks, which was when this area was actually named for one of the Roman Caesars, Philip. After the Romans, the Muslims took over the area and went back to the original Greek name, Panyas. Ariel said that “P” in Arabic sounds like “B,” so today the name of the area Banias.

Our next stop was a hike through the Dan Nature Reserve. It was nearly a jungle it was so lush with trees, plants, flowers, vines, and undergrowth. The spring/stream, called Dan, running through it provided the most refreshing sound. Dan Spring is one of the main tributaries feeding the Jor-Dan River.

Bet you never put that together. Jor-Dan. “Jor” comes from the Hebrew “Yar,” which means “of.” So this spring is “Of Dan.” I thought that was pretty cool.

Dan, the city, is another tel, but the vegetation is so thick that there is very little excavation done there. We enjoyed our hike. As we hopped from rock to dirt back to rock, looking at all the plants and trees that were foreign to us, smelling the eucalyptus trees…we wondered if JUST MAYBE this is where the Garden of Eden could have been? There we even fig trees growing there…

The icing on the cake for our adventurous day was a “kayak” trip down another tributary of the Jordan. There were three of us to a boat…more of a raft than a true kayak.

And did we ever have fun! We’d get spun around by rapids, bumped into by other boats, slapped by tree limbs and leaves, and dumped over a short falls.

Beyond that, it was a calm float. Our boat took the role of “sweeper,” and brought up the rear. We enjoyed watching the other boats in front of us get caught in the shallow waters, and we loved meeting people in other boats (from other groups and countries).

All our boats and their crews made it ashore without any fatalities. But we were worn out – a hike AND a float trip all in one day. FUN!

So three big stops today. All really amazing and yet so different from the other.

And though we traveled between them for bits at a time, no moment was wasted. Ariel pointed out famous sites and landmarks along the way. Going north from Tiberias took us up over sea level finally. In fact, up in the Golan Heights Mountains, we got up to 3700 feet ABOVE sea level.

We got really close to the Syrian border a few times…close enough to see the barbed wire fences and check points. We saw two Israeli military groups out on maneuvers…just training, the same way our forces do.

Oh, and the plantations. The Jordan River offers the water the area needs to grow amazing crops. Things you might expect like dates and olives, but also bananas, mangoes, and avocadoes! Fascinating to see the way they’ve adapted their land to the needs of these mostly tropical crops.

We saw Mount Hermon, the tallest mountain in Syria at 9,100 feet tall. On a clear day, it can be seen from the Dead Sea…120 miles away!

Overall I’d say the northern part of Israel is the most inviting. Its beauty and land and history make for interesting travels…just as we had today.

Tomorrow we’ll tour some more in the area around the Sea of Galilee. Most of the sites are biblical and recognizable to most Christians. Can’t wait!

But for now…I am ready for some sleep!


Published by Shelley Linn Johnson

Lover of The Word. And words. Cultivator of curiosity about all things Christ. Lifelong learner who likes inviting others along for the journey. Recovering perfectionist who has only recently realized that rhythms are so much better than stress-inducing must-do's.

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