Sunday, August 23, 2015

First Series - Israel

While this blog is primarily about biblical topics and issues, I’m going to start this blog off with a series on the land of Israel.  My wife and I were blessed with participating in a trip to Israel this past February.  The experience was so incredible that I must write about it.  We are going to visit the places where the kings and prophets of Israel walked, where Jesus changed the world, and where the disciples proclaimed the gospel.  Some of the places we’ll visit are: the Sea of Galilee, Capernaum, Bethsaida, Chorazin, Migdol (Magdala), Beit Sh’ean, the Jordan River, the Dead Sea, En Gedi, Bethlehem, Jerusalem, and more.  I am extremely excited to share this experience with you.

A quick note about the pictures on the posts. All of these were taken by my wife and myself. At one point early in the trip, she decided that I lagged behind too often getting pictures. Therefore, she took over the camera so that I could observe as much as I could. She is so good to me! (I still took some with my phone because I could not help myself.)

A note about the touring company with whom we journeyed.  They were fantastic!  The company is EDI (Experience Destination Israel) Travel, founded by tour guide Boaz Shalgi, a seventh generation Israeli.  His knowledge of the history and geography of Israel (modern and biblical) is phenomenal.  EDI took care of the details of our travel, wonderful accommodations, and entry fees.  We just showed up and drank in all of the wonder of being in the Holy Land!

The Sea of Galilee

We arrived early in the morning at the west side of the Sea of Galilee. After a short sleep, we woke up to a sunny yet hazy morning. After a filling breakfast, we piled into the tour bus and headed for our first "tour" of the trip - a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee. We boarded a modern vessel with a ancient flare to its design. Out on the lake, we listened to worship music while we took in the sights from the sea. We could see the cities of Tiberias and Migdol on the east shore of the sea. To the north, barely visible through the haze, was Mount Hermon.  

Early in boat ride, I just stood there drinking in all of the sights, impressed with the thought that we were on the sea where the disciples fished, where Jesus slept in the boat when the storm came upon the disciples, and where Jesus walked on the water. It was just so much to take in!

The Sea of Tiberias, an alias for the Sea of Galilee, is approximately 12km (7.5 miles) wide and 20km (12.4 miles) long. It is the only natural fresh water lake in the nation of Israel. The Dead Sea is larger, however it is not fresh water. According to the Israel Ministry of Environmental Protection, the Sea of Galilee provides more than 25% of the fresh water to the nation of Israel.1

During another point in the trip across the lake, the owners of the boat demonstrated the process of fishing with a net on the Sea of Galilee.  He gave it a shot, but no fish.  Being with a group of pastors, they shouted "throw on the right side of the boat" as the resurrected Jesus said to the disciples when they were fishing without catching any fish (John 21).  When the disciples cast on the right side of the boat, the nets were straining at the number of fish caught.

Following a couple of other stops around the sea, we stopped to a restaurant where one of the menu items was the "Saint Peter's Fish." The fish is served with head and tail on. The fish is a species of tilapia, is very mild, and tastes quite good. I do not know if the fish we ate was actually taken from the Sea of Galilee (I am told that the species is the same), but the experience and food were great nonetheless.

After crossing the lake from east to west, we disembarked at Tiberias. As we walked off the dock, we immediately experienced the Jesus Boat Museum. The Jesus Boat (aka The Galilee Boat) was discovered in 1986 by two fisherman near Capernaum.2 The boat was raised from the sediment and was restored over a period of years. It now rests in the Yigal Allon Center. No one knows who rode in the boat, but it is known to be from the time of Jesus and represents the boat design from that period. What a sight to see a boat from the 1st century and have a glimpse at the type of vessel Jesus may have ridden.

Here are some of the passages that recount the time that Jesus and the disciples spent around or on this lake:

  • Matt. 4:18-22 - Jesus calls Peter, Andrew, James, and John
  • Matt. 8:23-27 - Jesus calms the storm while on the lake
  • Mark 6:45-52 - Jesus walks on the water
  • John 21 - Jesus' post-resurrection appearance on the shore of the lake

1 "Sea of Galilee (Kinneret)", Israel Ministry of Environmental Protection, last updated on November 4, 2013, accessed August 23, 2015,
2 Eric H. Kline, Biblical Archaeology : A Very Short Introduction, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), 106.

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