Staff Blogger: Gretchen Colón, Vice President of Advancement & Communications
*This blog was written by Gretchen Colón on Wednesday, Feb. 14 local time.
We began the morning with the story of the wedding at Cana. We walked down a narrow street that was lined with fresh fruit markets and saw the church that remembers the disciple Nathanael from Cana. Nathanael was only mentioned in the Gospel of John and is initially described as being skeptical about whether or not the Messiah could come from Nazareth. Today, the church stands in the busy city center of Cana, proof that despite his doubts, he believed enough to follow Jesus.
We approached the traditional site of the wedding of Cana and the Rev. Dan Drew renewed wedding vows for many of the married couples that were on the trip.
“On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine.’ And Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.’ His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’
John 2: 1-5
We headed to the hills for a hike at Tel Dan Nature Reserve. The hike was about three miles across streams and cobblestones. The air was fresh and everyone could hear the rush of the river. It was wonderful to get out of the city and experience nature. One Lakesider on the hike, Celeste Williams, shared that the sound of the water is the air bubbles hitting each other.
We arrived at a pistachio tree, which is one of the oldest in Israel and began to learn about the area.
The city of Tel Dan was first built during the Canaanite period, 2,700-2,400 B.C. We know about this site of the altar and gates from scripture 1 Kings.
“After seeking advice, the king made two golden calves. He said to the people, ‘It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem. Here are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.’ One he set up in Bethel, and the other in Dan. And this thing became a sin; the people came to worship the one at Bethel and went as far as Dan to worship the other.”
1 Kings: 12: 28-30
In 930 B.C., the city was divided after the people revolted against the heavy taxes levied by Rehoboam, the son of Solomon. Jeroboam, the leader of the revolt, established ritual centers in Bethel and Dan. He erected a golden calf in Dan and built a building to house the sacrificial high places. We stood at this very place in the woods. You could see the stone foundation and the site of the altar where they placed the golden calf.
In the nature preserve, the group saw different animals and plants on the hike, including the fire salamander commonly found in Europe. The ending point of the hike was magnificent. Here, archaeologists had uncovered an arch-shaped lintel, was one of the earliest complete arches found in the world.
Out of gratitude for land, now part of the nature preserve, that Caesar Augustus gave to Herod the Great, Herod build a temple near a cave and dedicated it to Caesar. Herod’s son, Herod Philip, inherited this area that we now call the Golan Heights, made the city of Banias his capital and renamed the area as Caesarea Philippi.
As you approach the nature preserve today, you can see the vibrant black, orange and red color of the cave. There are brooks and streams that bubble down the hills and you can hear the ripples of the water. We sat in a circle admiring the vast cave and beauty of the rock while the Rev. Dan Drew shared what happened to Jesus in this very place.
Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked them, ‘Who do people say I am?’ They replied ‘Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.’ ‘But what about you?’ he asked. ‘Who do you say I am?’ Peter answered ‘You are the Messiah.’
Mount Hermon: Backdrop of the Druze Community
We ate at one of the Druze restaurants and had their traditional meal of a flat crepe with sour yogurt on the inside. On top of the sour yogurt, there was an olive oil, thyme and sesame seed seasoning. They warm these wraps on a hot grill plate and then let you pile lettuce and cabbage mixtures inside. It was delicious.
Before leaving the community, we stopped at a market where the group purchased fresh fruit, dates and other snacks for the bus trip back.
FJ, our tour guide took us to the overlook to see the very tip of the border between Syria and Israel. The high place overlooked the United Nations Camp separating the two countries. It was a quick stop but an interesting site to see.
The fishing town of Bethsaida sits on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee. This is the place where Jesus performed some his miracles. The disciples Peter, Andrew and Phillip, and perhaps James and John, were from this town. Because the sea level has changed over the years, the village sits back off the shoreline today. We stood and overlooked the Sea of Galilee, a place of peaceful solitude that Jesus often found comfort in.
“When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick. As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, ‘This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.’ Jesus replied, ‘They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.’ ‘We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,’ they answered. ‘Bring them here to me,’ he said. And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children.”
Matthew 14: 13-21
For today, we will use the hymn as our prayer: Lord, You Have Come to the Lakeshore
Lord, you have come to the lakeshore looking neither for wealthy nor wise ones; you only asked me to follow humbly.
O Lord, with your eyes you have searched me, and while smiling have spoken my name; now my boat’s left on the shoreline behind me; by your side I will seek other seas.
You know so well my possessions; my boat carries no gold and no weapons. You will find there my nets and my labor.
You need my hands, full of caring through my labors to give others rest, and constant love keeps on loving,
You, who have fished other oceans, ever longed for by souls who are waiting, my loving friend as thus you call me.