On day 2, I quickly realized just how jam packed this trip was going to be. This would not be a resting vacation in the slightest. On day 2, we went to Menza Christi, Capernaum, the Mount of Beatitudes, a viewing of the “Jesus Boat,” a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee – and all this BEFORE LUNCH (which admittedly was late – around 2:30 p.m.)
This is what actually started the day:
That is the sunrise over the Sea of Galilee as seen from the hotel dining room. Simply gorgeous. The land on the horizon is Golan Heights, a large swath of land that separates Israel from Syria.
After breakfast, the entire group group (about 150 people) boarded the buses to travel to Tabgha, where we visited the Church of Peter’s Primacy, the location at which Jesus appeared after His resurrection and called Peter to ministry. There our tour group sat for 15-20 minutes to hear Lon Solomon speak before having a few minutes to explore:
We then boarded the buses and traveled to Capernaum, the area in which Jesus resided during his three-year ministry. Fortunately, the site is now maintained by Franciscan monks and a wall of the original synagogue still stands. There we sat under a large canopy of trees to hear Lon speak again.
After spending a few minutes walking through the ruins of the synagogue, we once again hit the road, this time for the Church of the Fishes and Loaves, which was built on the site where Jesus performed the miracle of feeding 5,000 people with only two fishes and five loaves of bread. In the picture below you can see the new altar built over a large section of rock – that rock is the supposed spot where Jesus placed the food when He blessed it. Just in front of that (it may be hard to see), is a mosaic showing the basket of bread with a fish on either side. This location was under heavy construction – apparently the monastery around the original church was set on fire by two young men in 2015. But this section still remains intact – including the entire floor of the church, which is one huge mosaic.
On the buses again, we headed towards the Mount of Beatitudes and a hidden garden maintained by the Franciscan nuns who maintain the site. By this point AJ was beginning to get tired, but she soldiered on, despite this location having a lot of hills. We made it to the hidden garden’s amphitheater where Lon spoke about Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount (which took place in the vicinity). We sang a couple of songs, and then we were released to walk around the site for a few minutes before it was time to board the buses again.
It was at this time that I found out that the custom throughout much of Israel is to PAY for use of some public bathrooms. For 50 cents American, AJ earned permission to use the facilities at the Mount of Beatitudes.
At this point we traveled to see the Galilee Boat, which is a first century boat that was discovered after a long period of drought in the 1980s. Two fishermen saw a piece sticking up out of the dried mud, and after some investigation it was discovered to be a first century boat that had been buried under the sea for nearly 2000 years.
At this point it was nearing lunch time, and so our tour guides ushered us down to the docks where we boarded a large sailing boat and began sailing across the Sea of Galilee.
And this is where it got weird, folks.
Our head guide, Ezer, began describing common Jewish customs and songs, and announced he was going to teach everyone a traditional Jewish dance. Next thing I know, the deck of the boat has been cleared of all chairs, and about half the group was up and dancing to Hava Nagilah. That’s not the weird part. A few more songs played, including some modern Christian pop songs. People continued to dance and clap and have a good time. It was clear that the women were loving it, and that most of the men were not.
And then “How Great Is Our God” came on, by Chris Tomlin. For those that may not know, it is a slow song. The dancing mostly stopped at that point, but there were a few women who were still feeling it, and THAT’S when it got weird.
“How Great Is Our God” is not a slow dance song. You don’t get close to your honey and shuffle in each other’s arms to “How Great Is Our God.” And yet, I saw one woman sidle up to her husband, clearly thinking a slow dance was in order. To “How Great Is Our God.” Obviously, he wisely rebuffed her advances.
But it was at that point I thought, “I gotta get off this boat.”
Fortunately, the ride to the other shore ended soon after this, and the entire group popped into a seaside restaurant to enjoy fish caught that very morning in the Sea of Galilee. Most of the meals during our trip were at the hotels in which we stayed, while most lunches were in the towns we visited, and seating for all meals was where ever and whomever you could find a seat. On the first day for lunch we sat at a table of 8 people who were all very friendly and easy to talk to. Other days, conversation with our tablemates was a struggle. It just depended on who you opted to sit with.
From lunch we drove to the Jordan River, where the group was invited to participate in baptism. This section of the river is wider than other sections, and is kept cleaner, so it was set up for baptisms for tourists. There were easily about a thousand people there to get baptised. AJ was tired, so we hung out on the bus for a while (she took a short nap) before eventually getting out to go find a restroom for her. She paid her half a shekel to get into the bathrooms while I looked around and the tourist trap in which we stood. Yes, I think it’s cool that you can get baptised in the very same Jordan River in which Jesus was baptised by John the Baptist. But do I want to buy honorary flip flops to commemorate the occasion? Uh…..no.
After our tour group finished their various baptisms and got cleaned up, we boarded the buses for the final time and headed back to the hotel for the night. AJ was feeling good after her first day of touring, although she did mention that it was a lot more walking than she anticipated. Little did she know that as the trip progressed, the amount of walking increased!