Monday, May 14, 2012

Travel to Israel: The Sea of Galilee

Overlooking the Sea of Galilee.
It's a large lake not a sea but the Lake of Galilee just doesn't have the same ring or cache as the Sea of Galilee. When travel was on foot or ass-back, it must have looked like a sea to those who lived around it. No wonder pilgrims concentrate only on its northwest shores and surrounding villages.

One thing is true, it is indelibly identified with Jesus from gathering its fishermen to be fishers of men and walking on water to the delivering the Beatitudes and reappearing after the Crucifiction. Christians flock here to walk in his footsteps. Although walking "over" his footsteps is more accurate, it's near enough to inspire the devout. As our Jewish guide remarked, it's more important to walk in the spirit of the man than worship where he might have walked.

Tip: You will do some walking here but it's not bad. Uneven surfaces abound so don't walk and gawk.

Church of the Beatitudes.
Church of the Beatitudes
Early morning fog shrouded the sea/lake as we drove up into the hills above it to the Church of the Beatitudes which commemorates the Sermon on the Mount. No one knows if this is "that" mount; it was the one Arab villagers, under pain of death, pointed out to Crusaders. Many suspect it was chosen for its beauty and view. It is an idyllic spot to contemplate that memorable message. 

An easy drive for us, it was an all day - 11 1/2 hours - effort for Jesus to reach it by foot from his home in Nazareth.
Mary Magdalene as depicted at the Church of the Beatitudes.
Nearby is Magdala, home of Mary Magdalene.

Inside the Church of the Beatitudes.
The view is beautiful - you can see the whole Capernaum area - and the atmosphere is peaceful. The octagonal-shaped church is a small gem.

As you walk toward it from the parking lot, the path is lined with rectangular markers bearing the Beatitudes.

Just before you reach the church there's a spot where groups often gather.

Few, however, take the time to look underfoot at the beautiful mosaic of Christ's life.

Most memorable of all, the heart-felt hymns - "How Great Thou Art" and "Amazing Grace" - sung by a Korean group of pilgrims inside the church. 

Statue of St. Peter.
Capernaum, Town of Jesus and Peter
Nearby is Capernaum, which calls itself the Town of Jesus. This is one site that can be verified as much as any can. The Apostle Peter lived here, supposedly with his mother-in-law. He was known for his miraculous cures and when the structure was unearthed, graffiti on the wall read, "Peter Save Us".

Inside the church built over the house of Peter.

Looking down into the house from the church above.

Today what's left of the house can be seen from below and within the modern church built over it.

Looking at what remains of Peter's house from ground level.

Steps up to the church.
Tip: There are 21 steps to the inside of the church and 7 steps down to the center of the circular building to look down into Peter's house.

Remains of the White Synagogue.
Adjacent are the ruins of the late 4th century AD White Synagogue that was built on top of the synagogue from the time of Jesus and Peter.
And below the White Synagogue, the synagogue around which Peter and possibly Jesus walked.

At the time of Christ, Capernaum was an important area, an economic hub and crossroads. If you had a message to get out, this is where you came.


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