One of the most spiritually-stirring places to visit in Israel is Caesarea Philippi. Located at the base of Mt. Hermon, it is here that the mouth of the Jordan River is located. At this place, Jesus took his Disciples to spend time with them before He left for Jerusalem to endure the Cross. His question to His disciples was, “Who do men say that I, the Son of man, am?” The answers varied. Elijah. John the Baptist. Jeremiah or another prophet. Then He asked His disciples, “But who do you say that I am? The Holy Spirit revealed to Simon Peter the truth. “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” Standing with the backdrop of an area dedicated to false gods, Jesus was declared as the Messiah. Even today, it’s the revelation of the Holy Spirit that draws us into this truth. The question still remains the same, “Who do you say that He is?”
Near Bethlehem are fields where many generations of shepherds have watched over their flocks. These fields are also the area where the Biblical story of Ruth and Boaz would have occurred. It could have been in these very fields the angel of the Lord appeared to announce the Birth of the Messiah!
In Matthew 8:28, Mark 5:1-2, and Luke 8:26-27, we read the story of Jesus and His disciples’ visit to the area of the Gadarenes. It was here the demoniac, who had been held captive by the legion of demons, was set free by the Lord. The man who had dwelt in the tombs in the caves was now made whole. In the Roman period the hot springs were renowned for their therapeutic qualities. Gadara was the second-largest bath complex in the entire Roman Empire. Gadara and its hot springs were part of the “region of the Decapolis.” Today, the area adjoins the border with Jordan and is the location of Hamat Gader. Here thousands of people visit annually to enjoy the hot springs and beautiful grounds of the park. The park spreads over 40 acres of tropical land that includes the ancient Roman Baths. It also boasts one of the largest crocodile farms in the Middle East with approximately 200 crocodiles of various species.
Gamla was an ancient Jewish city in the Golan Heights. Gamla was built on a steep hill shaped like a camel’s hump, from which it derives its name. In Aramaic, Gamla means “camel.” It is an important historical and archaeological site. It was the site of a Roman siege during the Great Revolt of the 1st Century and later became a symbol of heroism for the modern state of Israel. It is the site of one of the world’s most ancient synagogues that predates the destruction of the Second Temple. The nature reserve also contains some 700 dolmens (massive, table-shaped stone burial monuments) that date to the Neolithic time, some 4,000 years ago. It is home to a unique number of raptors, including rare species. Dozens of pairs of Griffon vultures nest in Gamla’s cliffs, the largest colony in the country. (Ezekiel 39: 17-20)
Gazing out over the Mediterranean Sea at Caesarea is a breathtaking experience, especially when the waves are pounding the shoreline. At times, the sea roars. The Bible speaks of this in several places. One of them is Psalm 98: 7. All of creation resounds with praise for our Creator. May we truly sing a new song of praise to Him Who sits on the Throne! He is worthy to be praised.
One of my favorite places to visit and pray over the land is along the Israel/Syria border in the Golan Heights. There is a spectacular overlook that allows one to scan the tops of the fruit orchards below, towards the abandoned city of Quneitra, and slightly to the north take in a breathtaking view of Mt. Hermon and the Valley of Tears, and then back to the horizon to peer deep into Syria. Quneitra is an Arabic name which means “the little bridge.” It was founded in the Ottoman era (July 27, 1299 to Oct. 29, 1923) as a way station on the caravan route to Damascus. Nestled among the trees along the borders is a compound which houses the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force Zone. (UNDOF, as it is known here.) It was along the ancient Damascus Road that still exists in part between Israel and Syria that Saul of Tarsus met the Lord, our Bridge between heaven and earth. Saul had been a watchman for himself and others searching ways to persecute and kill the early Christians. He was among those who watched as the first martyr, Stephen, was stoned. After his encounter with Jesus, he became a watchman over the Word that others would come to know the way of Salvation, to see the Light, as he had seen Him. He became a watchman over his Kingdom brothers and sisters to encourage them, edify them, and teach them. He became a watchman over the promises to Israel from the Bible and shared the Gospel passionately with his fellow Jews, as well as with Gentiles. Each time I am in the area of Quneitra, I am reminded how we, as joint heirs with Jesus, are called to be watchmen on the walls for the Kingdom and for the glory of the Lord. May we each be found faithful, watching, waiting, and expecting! Lift up your eyes, our Redemption draws nigh! Blessings from Israel.
In Israel, the rainy season is normally from late October to early May. It is unusual to see rain in June, and yet, on the morning of June 27, dark storm clouds gathered over the Galilee and Golan regions. It reminds me of life. One day things are all “sunny” and the next…well an unexpected storm moves in so quickly that we barely have time to run for cover! But then, we should remember, we already are covered. We are safe under the shelter of the Lord’s wings. We are hidden in the cleft of the Rock. Instead of only seeing the darkness and fear in the storm, may we see the beauty of His handiwork. May we know the One Who calms every storm in our life, just as He calmed the waters in this photo on that night when the disciples thought they would perish.
As you travel the land of Israel, the Bible comes to life before your eyes. The Brook of Gideon at En Harod, is among my favorite places to visit. It was in this area, somewhere in this very water source, that Gideon watched, as the Lord chose His army. (Judges 6 and 7) From 22,000 men down to 10,000 men, Gideon thought he was ready to fight. But the Lord had other plans. From the 10,000 men, God sifted 300 men to fight with Gideon again the Midianites. There is a chorus to an old Gospel song that says, “Little is much, when God is in it.” Gideon knew this to be true, as he fought with the Lord’s army to overcome the enemy. May we all know this truth today and always.
On the final approach into Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, the pilot announces, “Welcome to the Holy Land.” What sweet, beautiful words! From the first glimpse of the land and with each footstep, each mile traveled, you know you are home. There are no words to truly describe a journey through Israel. Photographs don’t do justice to what you see. Come home to Israel and experience it for yourself…it’s a journey of a lifetime.