Friday, July 10, 2015


I thought Jerusalem, with its complex history and many cultures, was intense and that when we went north to Galilee, the pace would be a bit more relaxed.  Ha. 

The area surrounding Galilee is full of stories that are illustrated by ruins and vistas that all call to be seen. There is no way to see everything in just a few days, and although we did manage to see an amazing number of sites, this is an area (along with Jerusalem) that we hope to return to some day for a little more in-depth sightseeing.

On the northwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee three km from Capernaum is a spot where many believe Jesus delivered his most famous sermon, the Beatitudes. On our walk from the bus to the famous hill, we passed many reminders of the Sermon:

Next to this interesting fountain and pool . . .
. . . was this scriptural passage:
. . . and this caveat:
Two stone fish and five stone loaves of bread on a stone table remind visitors that after his sermon, Jesus fed 5,000 people with two small fish and five loaves of barley bread:

The Church of the Beatitudes has an eight-sided chapel surrounded by colonnaded cloisters. The eight sides represent the eight beatitudes. Built in 1938 for a Franciscan order of nuns, it was partially financed by the Italian dictator Benito Mussolini.
The church was built near the ruins of a 4th century Byzantine church, which many believe was built on The Site of the Sermon on the Mount. Whether or not it is the actual site, the Sermon was likely delivered in this general vicinity.

Inside, simple white walls reflect the monastic vows of austerity:
Memorabilia from various papal visits are on display:

Eight very simple stained glass windows contain Latin versions of the Beatitudes:
"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God"

"Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth"
There is nothing simple about the mosaic flooring, except perhaps the muted colors:

"Blessed is she who hath good friends":
We made our way towards the Sea of Galilee, where we saw fishermen's nets hung out to dry like tattered laundry on a clothesline:

We stood at the top of what might be the "mount" where Jesus delivered his sermon. Michael told us that it is possible that Jesus stood at the bottom of the hill with the listeners seated above him, stadium-style.

I had never pictured the Sermon on the Mount taking place at the edge of the Sea of Galilee, probably because the single painting of the scene that I'm familiar with does not include any water, although I suppose that thin stripe of light blue below the mountain in the distance could be the Sea of Galilee:
Sermon on the Mount by Carl Heinrich Bloch (1877)
The original is in Fredricksborg Castle in Denmark
I was also surprised by what the Israelis deem a "mount." We would call it a "bump":
The Sermon on the Bump doesn't sound quite right.

Unfortunately, we didn't get a chance to go down to the water and see the mount from below.


The following day we went to another important site during the ministry of Jesus. On our way we passed fields with irrigation pipes that reminded me a lot of the ones used in the area where I grew up:
There were fields and fields of orange groves, reminding me a lot of the area where I live now:
I'm not quite sure what is growing in this well-cultivated field. I think it's too bushy to be lavender:
Lots of grazing cows ignored us as we drove by:
Every view of the Sea of Galilee is a breath-taker:
Here we are, at a Holy Place, where we are Welcome and must Respect Instructions. (Good thing there are pictures of those instructions.)
A poem is printed in English and German, an interesting pairing:
On our way in, we saw some furry creatures on the roof of one of the buildings:
Bob got a good close-up photo:
 A sign confirmed what Bob had already figured out. We saw these critters last year on the roofs of our lodges in the Serengeti in Tanzania:.
They are quoted in the Bible? I'll have to look up what they had to say!
The main entrance told us where we were. I had to look up "primacy" when we got home.
Primacy: (Roman Catholic Church) the jurisdiction of a bishop, as a patriarch, over other bishoprics, or the supreme jurisdiction of the pope as supreme bishop.

In other words, this is where Peter became the head of the Christian church.

As in all places in the Holy Land, a Church is built on THE spot where the event occurred:
I loved this humble little Franciscan church, built in 1933 on the site of a 4th century church. The rock wall at the base of the picture below is part of the original church:
The sign next to the window below is Latin for "Primacy Chapel of St. Peter."
The church is built around an outcropping of rock known as Mensa Christi, or "Christ's Table."
Many believe that the resurrected Christ appeared to his apostles for the third time on this rock. The story is told in the very last chapter of the Gospels. Seven of the apostles were out on the Sea of Galilee, having had an unsuccessful night of fishing, when a stranger on the shore called out to them and told them to cast their nets on the other side of the boat. The haul was so huge that they couldn't get the net onto the boat and had to drag it behind them in the water. (Hmmm, sounds like a previous event discussed in Luke 5.) Peter, realizing who was on the shore, jumped out of the boat in his typical exuberant fashion and swam to shore to meet Jesus. Jesus had already started a charcoal fire to cook a breakfast of bread and fish for the men. After their breakfast, Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved him. Each time Peter responded in the affirmative, Jesus told Peter to "feed my lambs" or "feed my sheep." (I always wondered why Jesus asked the question three times, but I had an epiphany that the only other time a charcoal fire is mentioned in the Gospels is three chapters earlier in John 18 when Peter was warming himself at Caiaphas's palace and denied knowing Jesus three times. With the two parallels of fire and a three-time vow, the Gospel writer seems to be making a point that Peter was redeeming himself for his previous actions and was fully forgiven.)
This rock competes with three others (one at the nearby Church of the Multiplication and one at the Mensa Christi Church in Nazareth) for the honor of being THE rock, but it doesn't really matter which is the True Rock. The visual image touches the heart.

I'm guessing that this fire-like stained glass must represent the fire Jesus built to cook the fish:
I can relate to this way of honoring important events much more than I can to the bling that is Bethlehem.

The beautiful bronze relief on the front doors shows Jesus and Peter in the top half and the two Popes who have visited this church on the bottom half:

The same doors seen from the inside:
The outline of a fish is scratched into the concrete at the base of the stairs:
As a side note, we had several meals at our hotels that included fish from the Sea of Galilee, known as "St. Peter's fish" (aka tilapia):
It appears to be a very common dish in Israel. According to Wikipedia, in 2005, 270 tons of tilapia were caught in the Sea of Galilee.
A good reminder:

The gray stone church is just a few yards from the shore of the Sea of Galilee:
Bob wandered out to get a "Peter view" of the scene:
Chris and Stan stood by, ready to rescue him if needed:
Some of us didn't have water shoes and so tried wading in barefoot, but we quickly learned that it wasn't what we are used to in Southern California:
There is a thick border on the shore line of seashells. I guess this is the reason this body of water isn't called "Galilee Lake," even though it is less than half the size of Utah Lake and a third the size of Lake Tahoe:
Underneath the horizontal branches of a tree that looks like it witnessed the original event, there is a modern-looking statue of Jesus delivering the charge to Peter to "feed my sheep."
It captures the moment when Jesus passes his shepherd's crook to Peter:


From Tabgha our bus took us to an overlook at the top of Mount Arbel. At 600 feet above sea level, I wouldn't call this a "Mount," but what do I know? 

Michael told us that there are thousands of miles of hiking trails in Israel. There is even one 600-mile-long trail that winds its way from the Gulf of Aqaba in the south to Dan in the north, carefully skirting the West Bank settlements and the Golan Heights. National Geographic rates it as one of the world's best hikes.   Michael also mentioned that Israel has a very sophisticated GPS system called Waze, and that everyone in Israel uses it. Google bought it for $1.2 billion two years ago. He said it includes traffic reports and makes navigation easy for foreigners, which makes me think maybe we would be okay on our own in a rental car on a return trip someday.
Mount Arbel is part of the "Jesus Trail," a 40-mile hiking trail in Galilee connecting important sites from the life of Jesus:
I don't know if the well-groomed trail we were on from the parking lot to the top is part of the Jesus Trail, but it was beautiful:

From the top we had a view of Mount Hermon in the Golan Heights, Mount Nitai, Tiberias . . .

. . . and most of the Sea of Galilee:
Just in case you didn't notice:

The summit was a good place for a history and geography lesson:


  1. Hmmm. Learned a lot. Nice post.

  2. You got some great shots inside the churches. None of my Church of the Beatitudes inside shots turned out.

  3. I liked the beatitude stained glass windows in the octagonal church--their simplicity is appealing. I also loved the blue tiles in that floor as well. Nice to see the Sea of Galilee through your eyes.