Friday, November 25, 2011

From Bet Shean through Upper Galilee

The "cardo" (main street) of
Bet Shean
Well, today started early, but that isn't as big a deal when your sleep cycle is still adjusting (or in my case completely whacked).  We had breakfast and were on the road by 7:15 am to head to Bet Shean, my favorite excavation in Israel due to its size and scope.  This city of the Decapolis looks as if it should have been in Italy or Asia Minor, but it was in the middle of Galilee--small wonder that it was sometimes called "Galilee of the Gentiles."  The Roman architecture and order reminds you that this was occupied territory in Jesus' time and that pagan religion and culture competed with Jewish devotion to God in the land.

Leaving these magnificently restored ruins, we headed north, all the way up to Tel Dan--the remains of the ancient city that was the northernmost referent for the land--as in "from Dan to Beersheba."  We did it backwards, but arrival in Dan meant seeing this ancient city from the period of Joshua and Judges.  Dan is a reminder of the failures of the people of Israel, from the tribe of Dan's failure to possess its inheritance, to their idolatry as they conquered this city, to Jereboam's introduction of idolatry as he divided the Israelite kingdom from the Temple.  But from a city that turned to paganism we went a few miles to a pagan city where the Lord Jesus took Simon Peter's confession and turned it into marching orders.  Caesarea Philippi was only a few miles from Dan, and in front of the Temples of Augustus, Pan, and Zeus, Jesus told his disciples that the offensive strategy of the church would overtake the gates of Hades itself--significant in that Pan was one of those who was linked with the guardians of the underworld.  What a contrast!

Nathan (and all of us) paid attention to the little red
triangle signs on the Golan Heights that said, "Danger-
Mines!"  Not something you see on tour every day.
We had some non-biblical experiences as well, from our visit to a Druze village for lunch (what incredible Druze pita and falafel--the schnitzel was good, too), to exploring a Syrian bunker on the Golan Heights, to a visit to an olive oil factory and some sampling!  All in all a great day as Shabbat (Sabbath) begins this evening.  Our only "Black Friday" experiences were in buying some products at the Olive Oil factory, but we were there in a private tour, so we had no crowds!

Today we are also helping John and Judy Bigelow celebrate 50 years of wedded bliss.  You can wish them a Happy Anniversary when they get back!  We did tonight at dinner!

John and Judy Bigelow on their 50th wedding anniversary,
Tomorrow we continue exploring Galilee, with an emphasis on sites of Jesus' ministry in the region.