Many Different Heights…

Hello friends . . . grace and peace,

this flower is called "crown of thorns" and served as a foreshadowing of our return to Jerusalem tomorrow

this flower is called “crown of thorns” and served as a foreshadowing of our return to Jerusalem tomorrow

Friday’s journey included a political reminder earlier in the day and ended with a powerful spiritual confirmation later.

near the closed border between Israel and Lebanon

near the closed border between Israel and Lebanon

looking south from the Golan Heights

looking south from the Golan Heights

We left the guest house in Nazareth at 7:30 a.m. and headed as far north as the Israeli border permitted. It took us to the borders of Lebanon and Syria, two countries without diplomatic relations with Israel. Our path would include the Golan Heights, which was Syrian property until taken over by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War. It remains Israel-occupied land.

the head of the Jordan River at Caesarea Philippi

the head of the Jordan River at Caesarea Philippi

Fr. Richard Schaal and Fr. Ralph Osborne stoop down to collect water for future baptisms from the beginning of The Jordan River

Fr. Richard Schaal and Fr. Ralph Osborne stoop down to collect water for future baptisms from the beginning of The Jordan River

Our first stop was at Caesarea Philippi at the base of Mt. Hermon and the site of one of the largest springs feeding the Jordan River. As a result, the area is more fertile than most of the Israel we had seen so far.

the place where Jesus invited his disciples to identify him as the Son of the LIVING God took place at an ancient temple to many other gods of that time, both Greek, and Roman

the place where Jesus invited his disciples to identify him as the Son of the LIVING God took place at an ancient temple to many other gods of that time, both Greek, and Roman

all the niches you see in the rock face were dedicated to various gods of the time

all the niches you see in the rock face were dedicated to various gods of the time

Near the springs at Banias, we toured the Temple of Pan, and the remains of an ancient city founded sometime after the conquest by Alexander the Great and inhabited until 1967.

The Golan Heights

The Golan Heights

the border between Syria and Israeli occupied Syrian lands

the border between Syria and Israeli occupied Syrian lands

so many wonderful people in this world that we've never heard of before

so many wonderful people in this world that we’ve never heard of before

Michele and Jon Whitford sharing some shrak (Bedouin bread) filled with chocolate spread . . . they are too cute!

Michele and Jon Whitford sharing some shrak (Bedouin bread) filled with chocolate spread . . . they are too cute!

Driving from there through the Golan Heights, we were told that minefields that had been placed during the 1967 war had to be cleared by using cows. We stopped to look into Syria from a distance, always under the watchful eye of Israeli security. Bishara, our guide, said anyone with an Israel stamp on his passport would not be allowed to enter either Lebanon or Syria. We weren’t thinking of going there anyway. We were instructed to never take pictures of any Israeli security facilities.  We also stopped at a wonderful fruit and vegetable market inhabited by the beautiful Druze people.

it's called St. Peter's fish by the locals but it's actually Tilapia . . . it was delicious!

it’s called St. Peter’s fish by the locals but it’s actually Tilapia . . . it was delicious!

We left the Golan Heights and drove south and back to the Sea of Galilee, stopping for lunch at the same place we had eaten the day before. That set us up for our afternoon visit to Mount Tabor.

a Byzantine icon of Jesus' transfiguration

a Byzantine icon of Jesus’ transfiguration

the first eucharist, where divine and human come together, and we become what we receive . . . the Body of Christ

the first eucharist, where divine and human come together, and we become what we receive . . . the Body of Christ

This is where Jesus brought disciples Peter, James and John to be witnesses to his Transfiguration (see Matthew 17:1-13). We were gifted with a beautiful meditation by Fr. Kamal, who first explained why the transfiguration was necessary – certainly leaving no doubt among the disciples that he was the Son of God – then said that the encounter of the human with the divine is our transfiguration. His example was Eucharist where he said we become what we receive, the body and blood of Christ.  Fr. Kamal’s paraphrase of Luke 9:28-35: “This is my son. Listen to Him.”

The Church of the Transfiguration

The Church of the Transfiguration

inside the transfiguration church

inside the transfiguration church

we packed into little mini-busses to get up to Mount Tabor

we packed into little mini-busses to get up to Mount Tabor

The Church of the Transfiguration is the centerpiece of the site, located 500 meters above the valley. To get there, we parked our bus at the foot of the hill, and were driven – rapidly – up the twisting road that included a series of hairpin curves – in smaller vans. We then drove back for our final night in Nazareth.

a cloudy and misty view from the top of Mount Tabor, site of the transfiguration of Jesus

a cloudy and misty view from the top of Mount Tabor, site of the transfiguration of Jesus

Saturday will take us to Jericho, the Judean wilderness, the Mount of Temptation, and Bethany before return to Jerusalem, which will be our headquarters for the final week of our pilgrimage. As we return there, we continue to ask everyone to

“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem…” – Psalm 122:6

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