Sabbatical 2017

Sabbatical 2017
Arc de Triumph

Monday, May 23, 2016

Israel 2016, Day 17

I didn't fall off a mountain today...again. 

After a great night in Nazareth, before leaving town, we went to the Church of the Annunciation. This is a catholic church built on the location where some think Mary was told, by Gabriel, she would have a baby who would be the Son of God (Luke 1).
Nazareth is a fairly typical Mideast town.
Fresh grape leaves in an open air market on the sidewalk!
Just inside the main entrance to the Church of the Annunciation
Said to be the grotto where Mary encountered Gabriel
The church
What holy and sacred place would be complete without a gift shop?
A group of Indian sojourners
Inside the church
We left Nazareth for Zippora (Sepphoras). The city was built by Herod Antipas in 4 BC, just prior to his building of Tiberias. It was a pagan city at first, but as more Jews moved there, it gradually became a center for Jewish thought and teaching.

When the town's people heard of the uprising against the Romans in Jerusalem just prior to 70 AD, Zippora stayed out of the fray. As such, when Jerusalem was sacked and nearly completely destroyed, Zippora remained untouched.

The Sanhedrin moved there and Zippora became an influential city with a reputation for teaching and serious dedication to higher thinking. This was where the Mishna was first compiled into a written collection of comments and insights to the Scriptures. 

Zippora maintained its status for quite some time and was heavily fortified by the Crusaders. It situated over the Horan Valley opposite of the Nazareth Ridge. 
The Horan Valley intersects with the Jezreel Valley from the north.
That rise in the middle of the photo is the ancient site of Cana, where Jesus did His first miracle.
Looking across the valley to Nazareth
The city was large and lavishly built. Here's a Roman roadway that shows the ruts formed by the heavy traffic of numerous chariots rolling over them.
Our next stop was the cliffs of Arbel, just outside of Tiberias on the Sea of Galilee. These towering cliffs offer a spectacular view of the region below. 
The Sea of Galilee. Those are the Golan Heights on the horizon.
I just can't resist a tree on the top of  a hill!
Ian and Esther
Dr. G, Doug and Anne
Dr G with Terry
Aaron and Jen, a great couple!
Jason, a truly fine photographer/videographer/student of the Bible
After enjoying the view and speculating on whether or not Jesus taught from this mountain, we headed down. 

The walk up was steep and long but we're sort-of getting used to that. You put one foot in front of another, regardless of how your calves are screaming, breathe harder, keep moving and you get to the top. 

Prior to starting the climb, Dr. G gave us two options of coming back down. One was to take the path up, back down to the bus. The other was to climb down the side of the cliff! There are a series of narrow ledges, cables sunk into the side of the cliff to hold on to and ladder rungs for the extra steep places. He cautioned us that it was a tough climb down. But assured us that he hasn't lost anyone...yet.  His final words were, "If you're afraid of heights, this is not for you."

Well, I'm not afraid of heights. I do, however,  try my best to avoid falling! In any event, the whole group decided to take the climb. Here's what it looked like. 
OK...not too bad here. This could be a piece of cake!
Hmmm...we're pretty high up, though
Actually a bit higher than I thought
It's starting to get steep!
By this point, I'm hoping that steel structure is the entrance to a cable car!
Maybe I can just stay up here for the rest of my life...that wold work for me.
Why do those guys look so small??
This is a prime example of...
A group of people who have somehow lost their minds and convinced themselves this was a good idea
 Well, we all made it down. I must confess, I was not the first one down. The big surprise was when we got to the bottom of the sheer cliff face, we were only about a quarter of the way to the bottom of the hill where the bus was. We still had a very steep path to take down the side of the mountain. I stopped for a moment to look up to where we started.

There was little climbing the rest of the way but the path down was exceptionally hard on the knees. I've learned to bend my knees when going down's far easier on the knee. But that only causes your quads to start screaming. Deciding ibuprofen was better to ease the pain of the quads than needing surgery for the knees, I bent my legs and grunted the rest of the way.   
The path down
Arbel's caves from about half way down. There's a great story about how Herod became king linked to these caves. Remind me to tell it once my leg transplants are complete. 
Yup! That's the whole deal!!
We had lunch in Tiberias where we met up with Mike, Linda and her brand new cast! She was warmly welcomed!  We were all praying she would be able to complete the trip. God is gracious and good!

Our last stop of the day was at Magdela, thought to be the home of Mary of Magdelene. 

A rather large synagogue from the first century
One of many mikvahs that were excavated

A new and very modern Catholic church has been built n the site

The grounds around the new church are beautifully landscaped.
The sanctuary of the new church has the pulpit.
Looking toward the cliffs of Arbel

We'll be in this area for three nights. I'm looking forward to resting this evening. 

This trip has been spiritually rewarding but physically demanding. Today has been as strenuous as anything I've done for quite a few years. Still, I'm warmed by the presence of new friends, buoyed by the many comments and prayers I've received from back home, edified by being, for a short time, a follower instead of a leader and, most of all, eager to see my church family and my bride. 


  1. Once again, thanks so much for taking us along on your trip!

  2. John, maybe we should look into getting you and the pastors an ark as your pulpit. It could double as a baptismal.