We began with a lovely breakfast at Kibbutz nof Ginosar, then boarded the bus to begin our trek. We started by climbing (via the bus) to Mount Arbel and stopped for a few minutes at the Arbel Synagogue, one of the earliest ones every found. It was an active synagogue in a large community during Jesus' lifetime, and one that he no doubt visited on at least one of his many trips from Nazareth to Capernaum. We discovered this place when we were on our sabbatical and stayed near here, so we would come down here for devotions and just to poke around the excavation. It was good to come back here as it brought back lots of memories.
We then went on to the peak at Mount Arbel and the amazing vista it provides of nearly the whole of the Sea of Galilee and especially the area where Jesus practiced most of his ministry. On our way back to the bus we met a couple of guys who had just left Moshav Arbel and who were also walking the Jesus Trail, Rev. William Hild from Sarasota Florida (fellow archeolog and Holy Land Addict) and a friend whose name we didn't get. There were so many things Bill and I had in common. They had stayed the night with Bennie & Carmel at the guest houses Peggy and I stayed at a few years ago (in the same cottage even); he was on a sabbatical from his church (I took one in 2010); he collects artifacts (my collection keeps growing, too); we both worked on the dig at Bethsaida (although a few years apart); and we both travel to the Holy Land as often as we can so we can share the power and story of Jesus in a different way. (By the way, we also discovered that Bill had stayed in the very same room as Kathy & Steve at Ginosar.) The similarities were fun and amazing. It's always great to meet someone passionate about the same things. We could have stood there and talked all morning, but we both had journeys to continue, so we shared a couple of pictures and we went on our way.
We started our trail hike in the Valley of the Doves just below Moshav Arbel where the trail descends into the valley via the blue path (which parallels the Jesus trail in many places.) This part of the Jesus Trail is an alternative to the path down from the peak of Arbel that hugs the cliffs and goes past many of the caves that were dwellings and escapes for those getting away from the Romans. This path is a bit scary with narrow paths and shear drop offs that are not for the faint of heart. I chose to use the alternative path mostly because it's the one that would have been the common path for those traveling to/from the Sea of Galilee to places west toward Nazareth and Cana.
As we descended on the trail we immediately came to a fork in the road which had no markings, so after a few minutes of walking on the left fork, we decided to turn back and take the other. Only after a few feet on the other path did we discover the markings we needed to continue down the path.
(Okay, so this isn't the whole story. Our Guide, Micah, led us down the left path and when it continued to go west and up along a fence row that had no gates and led us into a field of pomegranate trees, I decided to turn around. Micah, went on and found a makeshift gate which he unwired and called us to join him. I told him we were going back to the other path which I believed was the right one. He argued with me that he "found" us a way to go and we should follow him. I simply told him we would see him at the bottom and I turned our group toward the other path. For the rest of the morning, Micah tried to convince me and everyone else that he had found a better, easier path, which none of us believed. Once again, the Jesus Trail Guide Book that I took with me didn't let us down and led us to the right path.)
The Valley of the Doves was as amazing as expected. The path was rocky at times and littered with cow patties as it was a regular grazing spot, but offered plenty of respite points where the trees grew into little cave-like groves where we could all gather for some shade and a water break. The sun was very hot and while we got some breeze at times, it was only sporadic so getting into some shade was important when we could find it. On either side of us were Mount Arbel and Mount Nitai. These prominent cliffs stood at attention all along the way, forming a perfect funnel that would lead us to they end of the valley and the town of Magdala. While walking through here we couldn't help but think of the times Jesus and his disciples had passed by the same way, looking also for the shade of an oak where they could sit and talk more about the day, the ministry, the miracles that had taken place. We picked up a few pieces of broken pottery and kept searching for some lost coins, but we didn't find any. We do know that the stones on the path could tell stories of what they had heard and seen.
Magdala is a thriving village a few hundred yards away from the Sea of Galilee. It's ancient origins are mentioned in the scriptures, but the first century town Jesus had visited and from where Mary Magdalene was from, had never been found...that is until recently. Down near the edge of the sea a new hotel was being built and as they dug the foundations, voila, a synagogue was discovered and soon after the town of Magdala (from before, during and after Jesus' time) was found. Ongoing excavation is taking place around the site and a new church has just opened that is built over the foundation of a church established soon after the resurrection.
It is beautiful Church, with a chancel/Altar view that surpasses any I have ever seen. This picture doesn't even begin to show it's beauty. Just outside the window is a reflection pool that makes it seem that the boat is floating on water. I'm afraid if this were the view in our church, no one would ever listen to anything that was said!
The afternoon at Ginosar was a welcome time of quiet. After returning after our long walk, we decided to take a walk along the shore of the sea (and maybe find a cool drink). Instead, we found Karlene and Richard doing the same thing, so I showed them a quiet spot in the shade behind the museum where we sat and talked for over an hour while watching the birds at the shore and the wind surfers on the sea. It was a restful afternoon and we needed it.
Our evening after dinner was spent chatting about the days experiences and planning the next day's adventures. It was another great day on the Jesus Trail.