Almost a lie-in this morning as we didn’t have to get the bus until 8:30. Breakfast was a fairly simple affair; cold meats and cheese, one type of cereal, a watered down fruit cordial and lukewarm coffee. Still, it was welcome!
Our first stop was ‘Jesus town’: Capernaum. Having fallen into disuse some 1000 years ago it was not until the 19th century that archaeologists started taking an interest in the scattered ruins. In 1894 the Franciscans purchased part of the site and uncovered the remains of a 4th century synagogue and a 5th century octagonal church. It was only in 1968 that intensive work began during which ‘Peter’s House’ (or that of his mother-in-law!) was discovered. Jesus’ primary ministry was centred around the NW shore of Lake Galilee and we know he stayed here often – and taught in the Synagogue, the remains of which can still be seen, in part, today. John: 6:59 ‘These things he said while teaching in the synagogue of Capharnum’ (as read to the group by Ian Chappell)
A short drive east brought us to the Orthodox Capernaum, standing on its own, although distinguished by its red domes, near to the Bet Alpha national park – from where we were going to catch our boat for a trip across the Syrian Sea to Nof Ginossar.
It was at Ginossar that two local fishermen, after the severe drought of 1968 came across some metal nails in the mud. Digging deeper they found formed wood and realised that they had stumbled on something special. Experts were called in and it was quickly realised that the find was of a 2000 year old boat. Was it a fishing boat like Simon, Andrew, James and John would have used? Was it a boat lost in the battle of Migdal? Nobody knew, or cared, what was known was that, with the water table rising, the race was on to retrieve and conserve this spectacular find.
It took 10 days to stabilise and secure the boat so that it could be moved and a further 9 years before the timber had been stabilised enough to be exposed to the atmosphere without crumbling to dust. A further year’s work made it available for public display, where it remains in its own gallery in the kibbutz Nof Ginossar.
Lunch meant a short drive into Tiberias where, after overcoming the intricacies of Israeli cash machines, we split up to get a lunch of our choice. Brian has been taking many marvellous photos during our trip and he shared the secret of perspective by which you can make objects in the foreground appear much bigger than they actually are. I have included an example in the photos for today. That us certainly not a litre of beer. Nosireebob!
Back on the bus after lunch we visited Tabgha – the Church of the Heptapegon (seven springs) – better known as the Church of the Multiplication of loaves and fishes. There has been a church on thus site since AD350 and it is the home of, possibly, the most famous mosaic in the world…
The trip from Tabgha to our next stop, Mensa Christi/Peter’s Primacy, takes all of 30 seconds – but they are 30 seconds of air conditioned bliss; which does nothing to explain how we very nearly set off without Ian and Helen! Fortunately someone was counting….
Although there is no record of a church here before the 9th century Egeria, the blogging nun, mentioned, in AD383, steps cut into the bedrock ‘upon which Our Lord has stood’. These steps can still be seen today. The church commemorates Jesus appearing, post resurrection, to some of the disciples and cooking them breakfast hence Mensa Christi: Christ’s Table. The site also commemorates ‘You are Peter and upon this rock will I build my church’. A statue of the commissioning stands in a shaded area just outside the church but I suspect it has more significance for us Romans than for some other denominations 😉
Mensa Christi is right on the shore and provides the perfect opportunity to try and emulate Jesus walking on the water. Sadly, we were all more Peter than JC and we were glad we’d stayed in the shallows!
A short walk along the road brought us to Sower’s Bay where we climbed part way up the hill to a small cave where, if you use your imagination, it is possible to imagine Jesus retreating to in order to get away from the crowds and pray.
And then it was back on the bus for the journey back up to the top of the Mount of Beatitudes to visit the Barluzzi church on the site ….. Except for a small, and intrepid* group who decided to walk up the hill via the footpath. The coach won.
The Church of the Beatitudes is extremely beautiful. Constructed in 1937 the interior is symbolically octagonal – one side for each of the beatitudes (“blessed are the..”). The centrally placed altar is surmounted by an archway of alabaster and onyx and mosaics in the floor represent the 7 Christian virtues mentioned by Jesus.
The evening was to be one of relaxation and personal reflection and devotion in the bar. We have learned that, if you never give groups time off, they usually rebel round about the time you get to Nazareth – which is on the itinerary for tomorrow 🙂
* stupid and foolhardy
Update: tonight’s meal was a ‘dieter’s choice’ by which I mean I didn’t eat a great deal of it! Something cous-cousy, something tasteless pretending to be meat and some salad, followed by fresh fruit. Thank goodness for the soup, the Lebsnese pitta bread and the cheese pastry (which was, for some reason, served three quarters of the way through the meal!). The Goldstar beer was nice, though – cheers, Mr Jolly 🙂