Archive for February 27th, 2012

Hiking in the Footsteps of Jesus

Monday, February 27th, 2012

After walking from Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth up to Capernaum, I wonder if Jesus got blisters on his feet too?

Nazareth, Cana, Capernaum, Bethsaida, are towns I walked through on my 70 km (~40 mile) stroll through the Galilee on what is known as the “Jesus Trail.”  In short, I hiked from Nazareth to Bethsaida by way of the Sea of Galilee.

The trail itself intersects several national parks, winds through fields, runs up the Horns of Hittim, down the cliffs of Arbel, and follows small paths, old gravel roads, and occasionally modern blacktop.

I don’t think I’ll ever read the New Testament quite the same.  Now when I see passages like the following I’ll envision the surroundings:

“Once more he visited Cana in Galilee, where he had turned the water into wine. And there was a certain royal official whose son lay sick at Capernaum.” (John 4:46)

“Then he went down to Capernaum, a town in Galilee, and on the Sabbath began to teach the people.” (Luke 4:31)

“As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen.” (Matt 4:18)

“When the apostles returned, they reported to Jesus what they had done. Then he took them with him and they withdrew by themselves to a town called Bethsaida.” (Luke 9:10)

“Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida.” (John 1:44)

After walking this trail I have in my mind a good first-hand idea of how far it is between those towns mentioned. 

Examine the map below and you too will be just as informed as myself; using the mere effort of your eyeballs instead of your feet, like me.

I1     The Sea of Galilee is a lake, not much larger than Cheney back home (though prettier).  In fact, the scenery surrounding the lake is gorgeous (no comparison to Cheney). 

The Arbel cliffs loom above the landscape on the Northwest side – the dominating feature of the locale.  Jesus would have been familiar with them.  The view from the top overlooking the lake is incredible.

Arbels from Bethsaida

Arbel Cliffs

After admiring the view from the top of Arbel, I followed a steep path down the cliffs.  Halfway, there are cave dwellings cut into the rock that date to before Christ.  In fact, the dwellings were used by Jewish rebels during uprisings in both the AD 30s and 60s. I think.

Many of the towns I walked through were either Arab or Bedouin (including Nazareth and Cana).  In fact, Nazareth is the largest Arab town in Israel.  In light of all the gentiles living in the area of the Galilee now, I find the following prophetic passage from Isaiah interesting:

“In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the Gentiles, by the way of the sea, along the Jordan-“ (Isaiah 9:1)

Speaking of the Jordan, I saw it too, at least the upstream side North of the lake.  It resembles the Cowskin back home.  If I didn’t know better I wouldn’t be able to tell the Cowskin from the Jordan.  Perhaps the Jordan was larger back in the day.

Sign of River Jordan

River Jordan

Supposedly half the drinking water in Israel comes from the Sea of Galilee (which is fed by both springs and melting snow from Mount Herman).  This intensive water usage has lowered the water level.  Fortunately, there has been a lot of rain this past winter (I’ll take credit for that) and so it looks pretty normal now.  I hear that several years ago there were actually islands appearing out on the lake as the water dropped.

At first I wondered why I didn’t see any fishing boats on the lake, but then someone told me fishing as been banned the last few years to let the fish repopulate.

Beside the Sea of Galilee there are shrines located every ten feet to commemorate some famous something or other and to make a buck off gullible tourists.  Most of the sites are no doubt geographically spurious. 

Halfway up the Mount of Beatitudes – where Jesus supposedly delivered his famous Sermon on the Mount – I noticed there were hills surrounding me on all sides, and began wondering how “they” knew the speech was given on THIS particular mountain??  Even if it were, I wondered why he would need to walk to the VERY top – where the chapel was – to start talking? 

After going half a mile straight up, only me and two hardy Asian tourists with their cameras made it to the tippy peak (of the hordes milling around below by the tour busses). 

Tour Busses

After reaching the pinnacle, I couldn’t for the life of me figure out how to get into the manicured grounds of the gated cathedral, though I could hear cherubic singing emanating within.  In actuality, I found the residence NEXT to the cathedral more interesting. 

Run Down HouseAnother Church

Those two structural incongruities side by side seemed a fitting picture of the “World” in all its messiness outside an unapproachable “Church” where everyone inside supposedly has it together.  Those on the outside don’t have time for such uppity-ness, and those on the inside don’t have time for the outer rabble.  Truth be told, everyone is in the same boat as equal sinners before God. 

After giving up trying to enter the church, I began the long descent down, trying to get into the mood of The Sermon on the Mount, what some have labeled Jesus’ Magna Carta, thinking what it would have been like to sit here and listen to Him teach.  Then I spied a naked bearded hobo-looking man at the waters edge taking his monthly bath.  This ruined the historic atmosphere, to say the least.

On my lengthy trek on the Jesus Trail, I passed by many touristy places.  Each one has an entrance fee, and all you usually see for your coin is the inside of some boring church edifice. 

For instance, somebody in the 4th century decided a certain house in Capernaum had been Peter’s, so built a church over it.  Then a millennium or two later the Muslim’s decided to build a mosque over that.  Now the original house is encrusted in so many layers of religiostic baubles I decided to pass by and save my shekels for cans of Coca-cola instead.

In Cana, I saw a sign advertising water just like the water Jesus used to make wine.  My backpack was already too heavy, or I would have bought some in a heartbeat. 

Special Cana Water

But a different miracle happened in Cana, of sorts.  I was walking by a scrumptious smelling bakery when the proprietor (an Arab man) spied me and began enticing me into his store with warm entreaties, in the persistant manner they are wont to do in the Middle East.  Usually I desist, but the chocolate filled croissants inside were calling my name, so I succumbed. 

After entering, he asked me where I was from and what I was doing.  I told him.  Then behold, amazement upon amazement, he began to fill a bag with pastries, even chocolate ones – giving them to me and refusing any payment!  Whatta guy.  Whatta Cana.  I’ve never in all my born days seen such generosity.  He bid me adieu, and off I went a very grateful camper.  May a blessing come to that man and his extended family and progeny to the tenth generation.

Cana Today

On the outskirts of Cana I met two Arab men returning home from work (one of them from a chicken factory).  We began talking about the Jesus trail, and they told me they were both Muslims, though they believed in Yeshuah (Jesus) as a good prophet.  I mentioned to them Yeshuah himself had said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me.” 

One of them didn’t speak good English so his friend was translating and after I finished the first bit (about Jesus being the way, the truth, and the life) the non English-speaker got his dander up and didn’t want me to continue, but his friend was curious what else Yeshuah said so bid me resume, and I added that bit about no one being able to come to the Father except through Yeshuah.  Then they both insisted they don’t believe in God having a Father or Mother or brothers or sisters or nothing no-how.  I humbly pointed out that’s just what Yeshuah himself said and they could take it for what it was worth.  Anyways, they were pleasant chaps, and we split ways on cordial terms.

At Bethsaida there were ruins of an old fisherman’s house dating from the time of Christ.  Maybe Peter lived there one night?  There were also ruins of an ancient arch that pre-dated Jewish influence with the engraving of a pagan diety upon it.

Later, hitch-hiking back to Nazareth I was riding with an Israeli guy and told him in passing I had visited Bethsaida that morning.  “Oh!  Did you see the arch with the pagan god engraved on it?”  Yes, I noticed it was there, why?  He pulled up his shirtsleeve and displayed to me a large tattood arm with the image of that god! 

He explained, “It’s the same one on the arch at Bethsaida: the pagan god Hadad.”

“Why did you do that,” I asked. 

“Well, some people are Christians and worship Yeshua, and others are Muslims and follow Mohammad – me, I’m a pagan.  So I wanted a pagan symbol tattooed on me.” 

To say most Israeli’s are secular would be correct.

Scenery

Galilee is beautiful.  Here are some pics from my hike.

On Top of Horns of Hittim

Open Fields

Wild FlowersFar Off Mountains

Arbel

Rainbow

Cave Opening

Animals

Ancient Caves

Sea of Galilee

Cliff Dwellings

Ancient Cliff Dwellings

Cave Dwellings

Inside Cave Dwellings

Shoes

I’d like to give a shout out to my Roclite shoes.  They have done good service so far in my travels.

RoclitesRoclites in Stream

(weird observation: I’ve been wearing rubber boots for two months whilst working with cattle on the Kibbutz, and they have made bald patches on my legs, which you can see in those two pictures above)

Camping

I slept outside in a tent three nights in the Galilee.  Each night was a different adventure.

Night 1 in a Field North of Nazareth

Night 2

Cooking in the Tent Vestibule

Night 3

Night 3 Next to Sea of Galilee

One night I stayed at a bread and breakfast with a room to myself, it was nicer accommodations than my tent.  I tried not junking it up too much.

Bed and BreakfastGear

Closing

Guess I’ll close this post with a picture of myself in the arch of some unidentified ruins.

Nick in Arch

It was fun.  It was adventuresome.  I learned some things.