In His Footsteps…Bethsaida

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Bethsaida means “house of fishing.” It is a place mentioned in the New Testament. In this fishing village, among the residents were Philip, Andrew, and Peter. (John 1:44) James and John most likely came from here. Jesus clearly knew Bethsaida well (Matthew 11:21). Early Christian travelers also knew the town located north of the Sea of Galilee. It was the scene of the feeding of the 5,000, according to Luke (9: 10-17) and of Jesus’ healing of a blind man (Mark 8:22-26). In the Old Testament, the city is mentioned. Scholars tell us this was the capital of Geshur, the hometown of Maacah, a wife of David’s youth and mother of Absalom. In later centuries, when travel became difficult, this location was actually forgotten. Now, Bethsaida has reopened its gates to visitors. Following the rediscovery of Capernaum, and more recently Korazim, Bethsaida is the last of the three towns of the “Evangelical Triangle” of Jesus’ Galilee ministry to rejoin Christian itineraries.

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Bethsaida is one of three cities in the Galilee cursed by Jesus because of the lack of faith in the people there to receive Him and His teachings.

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Carving on a rock identifies the City of Bethsaida as it is mentioned in the New Testament.

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The Fisherman’s House – This picture shows the ruins of the house – the central courtyard is on the north side – marked by the left white sign – while the kitchen is on the east side, marked by the right sign.

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Massive burned gates are evident of the destruction of the north by the Assyrians in 732 B.C., as recorded in II Kings 18:10. An Iron age city was excavated under the Roman layer, which was founded in the 10th C BC and destroyed on the 8th C BC. On the eastern side of the city the excavators reconstructed a massive gate complex. It is indicated as a red square on the digram.  The photo below shows the gate area as viewed from the inner side of the city. The design of the inner gate was based on a four-chamber layout.

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A grinding stone found on the site.

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A kitchen in one of the remains of the homes unearthed at Bethsaida. Notice the grinding stone in the foreground.

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Artist’s rendition of the Winemaker’s house

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Ruins of the Winemaker’s House – This house (2,700 square feet) included an undisturbed wine cellar with four complete Hellenistic jars.  In addition, a gold earring with the picture of an animal was found, as well as numerous examples of expensive imported vessels. A hook and some anchors were found in the house, as were three iron sickles.

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A view of the wine cellar from the eastern side. Four large wine jars were found under the roof of the cellar. In another wine cellar in area C, in a nearby house, a total of 17 jars and jugs were found. 

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A Roman period stone paved street was excavated in the residential area (“Area C”) on the northern section of the city. It is indicated on the diagram as a red square.    The north-south street passes between two residential houses – the “Winemaker’s house” on the left and other structure on the right. The view of the street is shown in the following picture, from the north side.

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A Walk Back in Time – Visitors can even walk a cobbled street from the time of Jesus and stroll along in His footsteps! 

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Artist’s rendition of the Fisherman’s House – Among the many treasures yielded by this 21-acre mound is a fisherman’s house, identified by stone net-weights, an anchor, a fishhook, and even a needle for repairing nets, which recall Bethsaida’s fishermen disciples. This house was a two-story structure, with a large courtyard on the street side, residence rooms on the north side, and a wine cellar on the east side. The house is dated from the Hellenistic period (2nd C BC) to the early Roman period (1st C AD).  The House of the Fisherman measures 4,300 square feet, and is believed to be a fisherman’s home based on the discovery of two types of lead net weights, a round lead weight of the so-called musket type, and a long, crooked needle.  Among the coins discovered in the house were two silver didrachmae of Demetrius II.

IMG_9563The kitchen in the unearthed home was rather large.

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Dr. Rami Arav, professor of religion and philosophy at UNO, re-discovered the site and identified it as Bethsaida in 1987. Since 1990, UNO has led a consortium of institutions in uncovering and studying artifacts. Their work has shed new light on the archaeology of the Bible Land and the way scholars interpret the Bible.

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A Bit-hilani is an ancient architectural type of palace. It seems to have become popular at the end of the tenth and during the ninth century BCE during the early Iron Age in northern Syria although it may have originated as early as the Bronze Age. Contemporary records call it a Hittite-style palace, probably after the Neo-Hittite kingdoms of the region. The palace had a columned portico, a long reception room, with an adjoining staircase to the roof, and a varying number of retiring rooms.

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One of the “interesting” and personally disturbing discoveries among the ruins at Bethsaida is this ancient carving that features the swastika. Finds show the symbol was used centuries ago by various religions, long before it was adopted by the Nazis. The word means “It is good.”

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Remains of a Syrian Military Post until 1967

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The University of Nebraska at Omaha leads a consortium of universities in excavating Bethsaida, an important city in biblical history located on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee. Each summer, faculty and students from UNO, consortium members, and the general public travel to Bethsaida to continue excavations and archaeological study. 

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In His Footsteps…The Mount of Beatitudes

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“Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake” (Matt 5:3-11 KJV).

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As the name suggests, this is the hill upon which Jesus was said to have preached the “Sermon on the Mount”. The Mt. of Beatitudes overlooks the four-mile long Plain of Gennesaret, an area famed for its fertility. The historian Josephus said this plain was the location of “nature’s crowning achievement.”  Several times the New Testament records that Jesus was in this area including when He healed the multitudes here and faced condemnation from the Pharisees for ritual impurity (Mark 6-7). The lie of the land next to the church forms a natural amphitheater sloping down to the lake side. It is more likely that Jesus stood at the bottom of the hill.

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The mountain is topped by a Catholic chapel built in 1939 by the Franciscan Sisters with the support of the Italian ruler Mussolini.  The building was constructed by the noted architect Antonio Barluzzi.

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The centrally placed altar is highlighted by a slender arch of alabaster and onyx. Around it, the seven virtues of the Catholic faith (justice, charity, prudence, faith, fortitude, hope and temperance) are depicted by symbols in the mosaic floor. The verses and symbols that relate to the sermons are written on mosaics on the floor of the church and around the altar.

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Each of the eight sides of the church features a Beatitude in Latin in stained glass.

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Beautifully sculptured gardens reflect the events that happened in this area. Here, the Biblical account of the breaking and multiplication of the bread and fish is shared in this rock garden.

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The garden has statues, benches and signs with excerpts from the Bible.

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In front of the church, beautiful mosaics share Biblical stories and scriptures. This section shows Song of Songs 4:11 (top left), Moses and Numbers 12:3 (top right), and the stoning of Stephen (Acts 7:60).

 

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In His Footsteps…Exploring Caeserea Philippi

I love living in Israel. The Bible truly comes to life, as I walk in His footsteps. Exploring this land, His land, is such a privilege. One of the places I like to visit is Caeserea Philippi. Take this journey with me. Come…walk in His footsteps, too.

Caesarea Philippi Caesarea Philippi is located on the foothills of Mt. Hermon in the Golan Heights. The Banias Springs feeds into the Dan and Senir rivers to form the Jordan (means “the coming down of the Dan) River, that begins nearby. In the Old Testament period, this area was known as Baal Hermon and Baal Gad.

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Signs give the history of the site. This sign offers information about Pan, the half-man half-goat god of fright, (where we get the word panic from). The city known as Panias has been corrupted in the Arabic language to its modern name of Banias because there is no “P” in the Arabic alphabet.


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In the winter, when rain and melting snow feeds the springs in abundance, the Banias Springs flow swiftly. The water is icy-cold year-round.

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The springs meander through the Caesarea Philippi National Park where visitors can walk on designated paths to enjoy the beautiful scenery.

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Jesus visited the city around 29 A.D. (The event is recorded in Mark 8:27.) “Now Jesus and His disciples went out to the towns of Caesarea Philippi; and on the road He asked His disciples, saying to them, “Who do men say that I am?”, and Peter confessed Jesus as the Messiah. This is one of the important Christian events, giving the city a special religious status which intensified during the Byzantine period, Another event is associated with the city and Jesus – the miracle of the healing of the bleeding woman. A large Byzantine Basilica, dedicated to this miracle, was constructed south of the springs.

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One of the many Roman artifacts found at the site.

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The Grotto of Pan is a large cave in the mountain. This cave became the center of pagan worship. Beginning in the 3rd century B.C., sacrifices, including children, were thrown into the cave as offerings to the god Pan.

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Niches carved in the side of the mountainside and next to the cave held the statues of idols and gods. The pagan activity continued until the middle of the Byzantine period, around the 5th century, and then they were abandoned.

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Along the walk from the Banias Springs to the waterfall is the base of a Roman bridge. This was once a section of the ancient Roman road that led to Damascus.

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A little further to the west of the national park is an entrance to the Banias waterfall. A short hike down steps leads to the breathtaking sight of the waterfall that gushes from the side of the large rocks.

 

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Bet Shean

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 Bet Shean

Located at the intersection of the Jezreel and Jordan valleys, about a half hour’s drive from the southern end of the Sea of Galilee is a major Biblical city, Bet Shean.  It is one of the most ancient cities in the country.  Excavations show it was first settled in the Chalcolithic Period (some 5,000 to 6,000 years ago).  The city has had many conquerors, including the Philistines who fastened King Saul’s body to the wall of Bet Shean after the famous battle on Mount Gilboa (I Samuel 31: 8-11). The city became part of the kingdoms of David and Solomon and was eventually destroyed in a fire. The city was rebuilt as a Hellenistic city about 2,300 years ago and was renamed  Scythopolis (City of the Scythes.) In the succeeding Roman period, Bet Shean spread south, reaching the peak of its greatness in the 5th century when it had 30,000 to 40,000 inhabitants. The magnificence of the city was destroyed by an earthquake on Jan. 18, 749. At its peak, the city extended over an area of some 370 acres, and you can still see the remains of the wall that surrounded it. In addition, several impressive buildings have been uncovered in the national park, including a theater (still used for events and shows), a public bath-house (the largest found to date in Israel), two magnificent colonnaded streets, a Roman temple, a decorative fountain building, and a large basilica marking the center of the city.

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Dominus Flevit

Dominus Flevit

Located on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, Dominus Flevit (The Lord Wept) commemorates the Lord’s weeping over Jerusalem, as recorded in Luke 19. The Bible says that as Jesus gazed across the Kidron Valley into the Temple, He warned that destruction would come upon His city. He shared that the city would be ravaged. He saw ahead to a time when every stone of the majestic Temple would be thrown down until not one stone would be left upon another. He saw the current and the future condition of Jerualem and He wept. The beautiful chapel that sits on Byzantine ruins was built by the Franciscans in 1955. It was designed by architect Antonio Barluzzi. His other works include The Church of All Nations in Gethsemane, The Church of the Transfiguration on Mt. Tabor, The Church of Visitation in Ein Karem, The Church of the Angels in the Shepherds Fields of Bethlehem, and The Church at Mt. Carmel.

 

 

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Dor

Ancient Anchors at Tel Dor

Tel Dor – Tel Dor is an archaeological site located on Israel’s Mediterranean coast, south of Haifa. The town itself was founded in the Middle Bronze Age, around 2000 B.C.), and ends in the Crusader period. The port dominated the fortunes of the town throughout its 3,000-odd year history. Dor was an ancient royal city of the Canaanites. (Joshua 12:23) whose ruler was an ally of Jabin king of Hazor against  Joshua, (Joshua 11:1,2). In the 12th century, the town appears to have been taken by the Tjekker, and was ruled by them at least as late as the early 11th century B.C. It appears to have been within the territory of the tribe of Asher, though allotted to Manasseh, (Joshua 17:11; Judges 1:27). It was one of Solomon’s commissariat districts ( Judges 1:27; 1 Kings 4:11).

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Bruchim Habaim

Bruchim Habaim

Military bases are located throughout the country of Israel. Much of the Golan Heights is used for military training. While on a recent prayer journey with other intercessors to pray along the Jordanian, Syrian, and Lebanese borders, we stopped by one of the military bases in the Golan Heights to pray for the military. Upon arrival at the base, another intercessor and I got out of the car to greet the guard and ask his permission to stand at the entrance while we prayed. He asked us what we were going to pray? We told the young man that our prayers would be for the Israeli Defense Forces to know that the Mighty One of Israel is the One Who watches over them and that He is with Israel. He granted us permission to stand over to the side of the entrance gate while we prayed. We moved toward the large sign, pictured above, that reads in Hebrew, “Bruchim Habaim.” In English, this means, “Blessed are those who come.” The other intercessor and I prayed several prayers, including that the Jewish people soon will cry out to the Messiah, “Baruch haba b’Shem Adonai.” (“Blessed is He Who comes in the Name of the Lord,” as recorded in Psalm 118: 26. It is recorded in Matthew 23:39 that Jesus told Jerusalem they would not see Him again until they cry out these words.) When the other intercessor and I finished our prayers and turned to walk back to the car, we were surprised to find the soldier had moved over next to us! It was very obvious that he was drawn to us, as we prayed. We thanked him for allowing us to be there. Immediately, he shook all over, as if he were shaken from slumber and moved back to his post. When we got back in the car, we all laughed at how this young soldier was so drawn to the prayers and didn’t seem to realize that he had left his post. Then it occurred to me that there was another side to what we had just witnessed. While it is good to be in the presence of the Lord, we can’t drop our guard to the task He has given us to do. There are times when we rest. There are times when we must stand guard. We must remain alert watchmen on the walls. Thank you for praying for the Peace of Jerusalem. Together, may we bless our Messiah’s coming, as we cry out, “Barach haba b’Shem Adonai.”

 

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THE VALLEY OF ELAH

THE VALLEY OF ELAH FROM ATOP AZEKAH

From this view atop Azekah, Goliath watched as the young shepherd boy David approached the brook in the valley and choose five smooth stones. As he descended the hilltop with the goal to annihilate David and further intimidate the Israelites, Goliath steadily breathed vile threats and curses at David and the Israelites. All the while, David moved forward toward the giant. With confidence in the Mighty God of Israel, David stood alone to face Golaith. The giant continued to hurl threats and insults at the youth. David was determined to stand firm in his faith that God would deliver him from the hands of the enemy. With a quick hurl of one of the stones from his well-proven slingshot, the stone embedded between the giant’s eyes. The giant fell to his death. The stone delivered the blow of death that was the manifestation of David’s faith. May our faith be strengthened today to know the Mighty One of Israel fights for us and will deliver our enemies into our hands!

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Chattering Cranes….

Chattering Cranes

Isaiah 38:14 speaks of “chattering like a crane.” During this time of year, countless cranes migrate through Israel as they make their way from Scandinavia to Africa. The noise of the cranes fills the air, as they seek the warm air currents that lift them higher in the morning skies. Jeremiah 8:7 also speaks on the crane that knows the times of migration. Our Lord’s creation speaks of Him. It all tells of His glory. Even when we can’t audibly voice our heart cries, we can call out, just like the “chattering of the crane,” and He hears us. When things heat up on this earth, may we soar with Him in the heavenlies! May we also be spiritually in tune with the times and seasons.

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Rich in history…rich in beauty

Mt. Gilboa

Mount Gilboa lies along the lower Galilee’s gateway between the Jezreel Valley and the Jordan Valley. The ridge, which rises to about 1700 feet, was the site where King Saul and his three sons, Jonathan, Abinadav, and Malkishua, died after a battle with the Philistines (I Samuel 31: 2-7). There are several other Biblical sites in this area: Gideon’s chose and assembled his soldiers at Ein Harod and nearby was the home of Ahab and Jezebel. During the period of the Judges, the Midianites invaded the Valley of Harod from the neat and camped between the Hill of Moreh and Mount Gilboa. Also located in this area is Beit Shean, one of the country’s most significant Biblical man-made mountains were Roman-Byzantine ruins.  After Saul’s death, David, a loyal Israelite to his king, returned to the site after the battle and cursed the mountain: “Ye mountains of Gilboa, let there be no dew nor rain upon you, neither fields of choice fruits; for there the shield of the mighty was vilely cast away, the shield of Saul, not anointed with oil.” II Samuel 1:21. For many years, the mountain was bare. It was only recently the Jewish National Fund planted forests on the hillsides. Today it is one of the prettiest areas in the land. In the springtime, following the winter rains, there are thousands attracted to the area to see the blankets of blooms from wildflowers, including the rare Gilboa Iris. It grows only on this mountain range and has a vibrant purple color.

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