Sea of Galilee and surrounding area

Trip Start Sep 05, 2005
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Trip End Nov 30, 2005


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Saturday, October 22, 2005

Before I get into what we did today, I need to talk a little about some of the people we've been seeing. There are all different kinds of Jews, and I really don't understand a lot about any of them. At one extreme they don't look any different than us, but on the other, the Hassidim Jews (the ultra orthodox ones) wear all black and have the tassels and big furry hats and the extremely long side burns. The long side burn thing is because God told them not to shave the sides of their faces (our guide thought that was to distinguish them from the pagans who cut themselves as part of their sacrifices). Some Jews interpret that as cultural and they shave that part of their hair, some say you just can't shave it, but you can cut it, while some say you can't shave or cut it, and those are the ones with the really long curly sideburns. Some of the ultra orthodox Jews don't even recognize the state of Israel because they say there will only be an earthly kingdom when the Messiah comes.

Tiberius
The first night (the night of the 21st) we stayed in Tiberius. It was built by Herod Antipas, the man who ruled over Jesus' trail in Jerusalem. We had a very nice hotel that was only a couple of minutes walk from the Sea of Galilee. We defiantly had a good view of the sea from our hotel room. I stayed with Bekah the whole trip. One night a bunch of us went down to swim, although I just put my feet in. It was fun.

Sea of Galilee
We got on a boat like they would have used in the time of Jesus and sailed from Tiberius to Capernaum which was really cool. It was funny because they played our national anthem and raised our flag when we were out on the water. Just as a side note, there was tons of U.S.A stuff in Israel. There were shirts and buttons and hats. It was a little unnerving, and I didn't know quite how to take that. Anyway, the boat ride was fun. We took pictures and looked at the water. Again, I was amazed at how small it was. It reminded me of Table Rock Lake at home as far as the size goes. You could easily see across it. On the other side we could see Jordon and the mountains there. We read the passage about Jesus walking on water while we were out there which was cool. So many things happened on that lake. I just sat there and pictured all those different events taking place. Something I thought was interesting being on that boat was that in order for Peter to walk out to Jesus on the water, he would have had to almost jump out of the boat. There would have been no stepping down and testing it before he put his full weight on the water.
Right after the boat ride we went to a little museum where they have what is called the "Jesus boat". It is a wooden, fisherman's boat that is about 2000 years old. It was found by some amateur archeologists about 15 years ago in the mud on the shore. They had to use all sorts of things to preserve the wood once it hit the air, but it's really cool because it is 1000 years older than the oldest boat they had previously (a Viking boat somewhere in Scandinavia). Since there were not many trees back then, the builders of this boat had to use 14 different species of tree to build it. There is really no way to know if it's actually a boat Jesus rode it, but it's from that time period, so that makes it cool.
Israel gets 20% of its water from the Sea of Galilee (which is 700 ft below sea level by the way), so we saw one of the plants that pumps the water. We also drove by Magdela which is like 2 minutes away from the sea (that's where Mary Magdalene was from, also we stopped there later in the day and that's where several of the souvenirs I got for people are from).

Church of Multiplication of Fish and Loaves
Several of the holy sites from the New Testament have a church built over them. It was neat to see the churches, but I thought it was more interesting to see the landscape around the churches. This one was built over the spot where traditionally Jesus fed the five thousand.
Outside in the courtyard we saw an olive press. First they squished the olives with a big round stone (that's what Jesus would have been referring to when he talking about tying a mill stone around your neck). Then they took all of the olive mush, put it in baskets, and stacked the baskets on top of each other. The oil that came out simply from the weight of the baskets is called extra virgin olive oil, and the more weight you have to apply to the top of the baskets to produce oil, the lower quality of oil you get. They used this oil for all sorts of stuff. First, it was used for lighting lamps, but it was also used as soap, perfume, and for anointment. When the lady poured perfume on Jesus, it was probably scented olive oil.
The artist who did the mosaics for this church was an Egyptian, and consequently, there is a lot of Egyptian scenery in the church. There is even a Nile-o-meter (a device used by the rulers of Egypt to measure the Nile floods and adjust the taxes accordingly). The most famous mosaic is a little one of fish and loaves (imagine that). When we got there, there were a bunch of Chinese people sitting and singing around it. They were pretty into it, so that was interesting to see. The church that is there today was built in 1982, but some of the mosaics (the ones I mentioned) are from the Byzantine times.
Something that our guide mentioned that was interesting was the possible symbolism in the times Jesus fed the people. The first time, there were 12 baskets left over representing the 12 tribes of Israel. The second time, there were 7 baskets left over representing the 7 nations or the rest of the world. Later Jesus declares himself to be the bread of life.

Capernaum
The word Capernaum means "the village of Nahum" although they don't know if it was named after the prophet Nahum or if it was just named after some rich guy who owned the city named Nahum. When John the Baptist was arrested, Jesus left Nazareth and came to Capernaum. Our guide suggested that it was because after the authorities arrested John, the next person on the list would have been Jesus, and Jesus had a lot left to do before he got himself arrested. Capernaum was on the boarder not only of the tribes of Zebulon and Naphtali but also on the boarder of the territory controlled by Antipas and Phillip, so it was a good place for someone looking to lay low for a while. Also, it was on the Via Maris, so that's how the news of Jesus got spread so quickly. Travelers going along the road would take news of him to where ever they were going. Another advantage was it's proximity to the Sea of Galilee. Whenever people would get too stirred up, Jesus would cross over to the other side of the sea and let them calm down a little.
The whole area around the Sea of Galilee is volcanic, so all the natural stone there is black. The synagogue that was found in Capernaum however was white so it was all of imported stone. It is from the 3rd century A.D., but most synagogues were built on the site of a previous synagogue, so it's likely that this one stands on top of the one from Jesus' time. There were several typical Jewish designs in the decorations (the star of David, flowers, the cup that held the wine) and one that was atypical - the arc of the covenant on a cart instead of being carried. It would have been considered idolatrous to put an image of anything living on the synagogue. The whole thing had two stories originally, but now you can only see the ruins of the first.
Matthew, the tax collector, was from here. Tito told us some interesting stuff about taxes back then. Once a year, they were required to pay a temple tax in addition to the taxes imposed by the Romans. You had to pay with the kind of shekel that was minted in Tyre, so that's why there were so many money changers in the temple - people would come with their own money then exchange it for the right kind. The tax was a shekel each, so when Jesus told Peter to go get the coin out of the fish's mouth, he got a shekel (which is equal to 4 drachmas). Tito is a collector of ancient coins, and he passed around a shekel for us to see. The people at that time were really fed up with Roman taxes and their cruelty, so when the people asked Jesus if they should pay taxes to Caesar, they were really wanting to know if he was the Messiah that they had been looking for. If he was going to declare himself king, he would say no, don't pay taxes to Caesar, I am king. Jesus didn't say what they expected, and Tito says that's why he thinks a lot of Jews didn't believe in Jesus. Coming from a Jew, I thought that was interesting.
Also in Capernaum we saw what is supposed to be the house of Peter's mother in law. Whether we actually saw the house or not, I don't know, but we saw some a lot like it. They were pretty small with just a courtyard and a bedroom. There was no roof built on them because it was always warm here, so they just had branches on the roof to shade from the sun. When the man was lowered through the roof to get to Jesus, it was probably a roof made of branches. Peter's mother in law probably had malaria. First of all, it was a miracle for Jesus to heal her, so it wasn't any ordinary fever that would go away on its own. Second, mosquitoes and malaria were a huge problem here during that time, so it would not have been uncommon.
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