Part 2 In The Footsteps of Jesus in Galilee May 2008
After our emotional visit to the Garden of Gethsemane [see Part 1], we returned to the hotel just in time to see our taxi arrive, and were whisked on a hair-raising ride for the hundred miles or so, up to Tiberias on the Sea of Galilee. We headed toward Jericho and then turned left, this time following the course of the Jordan River.
Almost two hours later, most of which time I spent praying with my eyes screwed tightly shut, the taxi driver screeched to a halt outside our hotel, the Rimonim Galei Kinnereth, a Spa hotel on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. As I struggled unceremoniously out of the taxi, the suffocating heat took my breath away. It was a relief to find such wonderful air conditioning when I entered the lobby of the hotel.
The Hotel Galei Kinnereth, 1 Eleazer Kaplan Street, Tiberias
It really is beautiful here. The scenery is stunning. I’ve dreamt of this moment for a long time, but I’m not dreaming now. I’m really here. I cannot even begin to tell you how I feel at this moment. It truly is a dream come true.
The Sea of Galilee changes colour throughout the day. At sunrise it is a dark-blue shade.
Early morning on the Sea of Galilee
In the afternoon, the water turns to the most beautiful colour turquoise.
The view from our balcony on the Sea of Galilee
And in the evening, it takes on a gorgeous green hue.
Late afternoon at the Marina on the Sea of Galilee
I have never seen such a beautiful place in my whole life and it’s even better ‘in the flesh’ than in my day/night dreams.
I woke around 5am the next morning, just in time to watch the sun rising over the Sea of Galilee. The first shades of dawn were beginning to etch themselves across the darkened sky, and the mountains on the opposite shore were swathed in a light mist.
Dawn breaking over the Sea of Galilee
We spent a relaxing day, either sitting in the shade on the terrace or strolling along the shores of the lake.
The terrace of our hotel
The next morning, I awoke just before sunrise and was again party to another amazing show of stunning multi-hued scenery. I sat and watched for a while, entranced, and then felt myself slip quietly into meditation. I have enjoyed these early mornings since arriving in the Holy Land, both in Jerusalem and here at Galilee. My connection to the Divine seems more easily attainable at this early hour and in such a stunning setting. I enjoyed a couple of hours in seclusion and then woke Julie, as we planned an early start.
Our guide for the day picked us up at 8am and we drove to Nazareth.
We spent a short time visiting the Church of the Annunciation which is built over the cave where the young Mary is said to have lived. It is also the traditional setting for the visit of the angel Gabriel, who broke the glad tidings to Mary concerning the forthcoming birth of her son, Jesus.
Outer Facade of the Church of the Annunciation at Nazareth
Veranda around the courtyard at the Church
Interior of the Church built over the cave
Following our visit to Nazareth, we returned to the lakeside to Ginnosar, on the north western shore of the Sea of Galilee.
Heading back towards the Sea of Galilee, with Mount Arbel in the distance
Ginnosar on the Sea of Galilee
Here we visited a museum and saw a 2000 year old fishing boat, known as the “Jesus” boat. It was salvaged from the seabed in 1986, carefully cleaned and preserved, and is now kept in a controlled environment in the museum.
The ‘Jesus Boat’ in the museum at Ginnosar
After stopping at the museum shop to buy gifts for our families, we strolled outside. The scene that met my eyes was immediately familiar and I felt a sense of deja-vu. Once, in meditation, I had sat atop a high cliff and had seen the northernmost end of a lake. I was looking at that same scene, close up, now!
The Northernmost end of the Sea of Galilee
From Ginnosar, we drove up the winding road on the Mount of the Beatitudes until we reached the Church at the top. The scenery is superb, with lush tropical plants and trees in abundance, and a wonderful view of the Sea of Galilee. Again, I experienced a strong sense that I’d been here before.
Standing on the Mount of the Beatitudes, looking down over the Sea of Galilee
The Church of the Beatitudes
The Altar inside the Church
Beautiful Gardens at the Church
Next stop – Tabgha. The Church of the Multiplication of Loaves and Fishes.
The Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes at Tabgha
What a lovely spiritual place! Two violinists stood outside playing a haunting melody and setting the scene for our visit here. Inside the church the atmosphere was serene and tranquil, and I dropped down onto a wooden pew and lost myself in thought. Two icons, one of Jesus and one of Mary, stood in the front of the church with several candles lit before them.
Interior of the Church of the Multiplication
Virgin Mary Icon
The vibrations in that beautiful little place are purely spiritual and I wish I could have lingered there. This is another of those places for my return visit list.
Next, on to Capernaum, the home of Jesus and his disciples for much of his ministry. Capernaum lies at the head of the lake and again the scenery is stunning.
Me, in Capernaum [photo by Julie]
Standing in Capernaum, looking out across the Sea of Galilee
May Peace Prevail on Earth
Statue of St Peter – “Upon This Rock I Will Build My Church”
Capernaum is a town in ruins, now in the process of being rebuilt. The fourth century synagogue, built on the site of the ancient synagogue where Jesus preached, is being renovated using the original stones. The stone here is a dark-coloured basalt, whereas Jerusalem stone is very much lighter.
Rebuilding the Synagogue with the original stones
As I stood on the shore, I looked across the lake to my right and there was the cliff – the very one that I had sat on in meditation! There was no mistaking it. I had seen myself turn into a dove and fly upwards. I am told that this is Mount Arbel and that it lies next to the Valley of the Doves!
Mount Arbel and the Valley of the Doves, viewed from Capernaum
On our way back to Tiberias we stopped briefly to see the ruins of Magdala, now disappointingly surrounded by a high metal fence.
The ruins of the ancient port of Magdala on the Sea of Galilee
When Galilee was flooded, much of Magdala was buried beneath the waves and is no longer visible, although I have read that there are plans to excavate the site. As I turned to my right, there was Mount Arbel towering high above old Magdala!
Mount Arbel, Galilee
We had a wonderful evening, enjoying magnificent views and a glass of wine on the terrace, followed by dinner. The hotel was packed and tables were also laid outdoors in this awesome setting. A young couple sang romantic songs as the sun set over the Sea of Galilee. It was the perfect end to a perfect day.
Today, we head back to Tel Aviv on the Mediterranean coast, to board our flight home to the UK. I have had the most amazing time in the Holy Land. To walk in the footsteps of Jesus has been a magical experience and one that I shall never forget.
One day I will return to the Holy Land to pick up the pieces and write the story. But that’s for another time…