Tiberius on the Galilee

Tiberius on the Galilee
Vol: 119 Issue: 30 Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The city of Tiberius was founded around 20 AD by King Herod Antipas, son of Herod the Great. The city was named after the Roman Emperor Tiberius and was the capital of the Galilee region under Agrippa II.

After the fall of Jerusalem, Tiberius became home to the Jewish Sanhedrin until the final Jewish revolt against the Byzantine Empire in 614. It changed hands dozens of times since then, but was the principle city of the Galilee at the time of Christ.

Jesus performed many miracles near Tiberius, which is situated more than six hundred feet below sea level along the shores of the Sea of Galilee.  

Today, Tiberius is a city of about 41,000, almost exclusively Jewish, and is one of Israel’s most popular resort cities.  Every day that we were there, the Promenade was packed with vacationing Israeli families.

Gayle took this picture from the promenade, with her back to the sea (actually a freshwater lake).  Note the Micky D’s restaurant , where one can order a Big New Yorker or Big Texan burger (without cheese, of course.)

We were originally scheduled to stay at the Ron Beach Hotel about a mile further up the shore, but for reasons never adequately explained, our bus was redirected to Ceasar’s at the last minute.  Our rooms were clean and adequate, although they had clearly seen better days. 

Our view, however, was spectacular. (I took this picture on my iPhone from the hotel window – this is what that little marina looks like up close and at night. )   

Note: I posted the pictures at full resolution, so they may take awhile to download on a slow connection. 

We were assigned to Red Bus A. Most of the folks on our bus were early to late middle aged, from all walks of life, but with a surprisingly strong representation by former military and active and retired law enforcement.

There were 36 of us on the bus, and counting in my head mentally, there were about ten former military and at least four active or former police, counting myself in both groups.  The one thing we didn’t need to worry about was security.

One of our number (for we all became very close during the ten days) was a special-forces-turned-civilian contractor named Mike.  Mike looked like he had been the model for one of the characters in the video game, Medal of Honor, a role-playing first person shooter about covert operations in Afghanistan.

On his own initiative, Mike immediately positioned himself at the rear of our little troupe, where he stayed throughout the tour, making sure that nobody was left behind. 

By the time we had moved on to Jerusalem a few days later, our positions were set; Mike was positioned at the rear, I was on one flank and between us, we were able to relay positions from front to back rather efficiently.

I liked Mike immediately – he was a rare combination of warrior instinct and a servant’s heart – if somebody needed something, Mike was always there first.

The first place that we visited was Tel Megiddo, the ancient city overlooking the Valley of Armageddon. The street you are looking at was laid more than five thousand years ago.

This stone structure is actually a pagan altar upon which human bones were found during the excavation.  It is believed to be an altar constructed to the god Molech (Leviticus 18:21) upon which children were sacrificed as an expression of devotion. Note the stone steps that lead to the top of the altar. 

The Lord instructed Joshua and the children of Israel to drive out the worshippers of Molech, including those in Megiddo, but instead, they made them subjects, demanding tribute from them instead. 

“And ye shall make no league with the inhabitants of this land; ye shall throw down their altars: but ye have not obeyed my voice: why have ye done this?”

Because of that, the Lord passed the following judgment, one that continues to shape the course of events in the Middle East to this very day.

“Wherefore I also said, I will not drive them out from before you; but they shall be as thorns in your sides, and their gods shall be a snare unto you.” (Judges 2:2-3)

It was at Megiddo, overlooking the Valley of Armageddon, that the couple that hosted our trip, Bob and Traci Burleson, (pictured here among the ruins of Megiddo) celebrated their forty-third wedding anniversary.  (Bob joked that it was quite symbolic.)

But our next stop, under the circumstances, was even more symbolic – Cana of Galilee, where Jesus turned water into wine at a wedding.  We bought Bob and Traci a bottle of wedding wine from the site but somehow, it ended up coming home with us.

Outside the Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth is a tiny mosque; here in this picture you can see the mosque with the buildings of the church behind them. Nazareth is today an Arab city, located inside the Palestinian Authority. Note the verse from the Koran published just above the mosque.  It speaks volumes about the much-vaunted Islamic ‘tolerance’ of other religions in areas under Islamic control.  

It was in Nazareth that Luke’s story, as recorded in Luke 4:21-30, took place.  Jesus had just been rejected by his hometown crowd, and Luke relates that they . . .

“rose up, and thrust Him out of the city, and led Him unto the brow of the hill whereon their city was built, that they might cast Him down headlong. But He passing through the midst of them went his way.”  (Luke 4:29-30)

Interestingly, this story is often used by skeptics to deny the accuracy of the Apostle Luke, saying there is no cliff face in Nazareth that matched Luke’s description.  Except maybe this one

My friend Joe had the nerve to go out on it – it made my knees knock, so I took this picture  from here. In the distance one can see the mountains of Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. Below is the valley of Armageddon.  

We are standing on a sheer cliff face within walking distance of the old city of Nazareth. This is the place that skeptics say does not exist.  Obviously they’ve never been there. 

Nothing cures a skeptic like a good dose of Israel.

Assessment:

It is important to understand that the tour was separate from Glenn Beck, although Beck recommended the tour company itself.

Our tour guide, George, (pictured, foreground)was not a Mormon, but a Greek Orthodox Christian.  Glenn Beck made no unscheduled appearances, and as near as I could see, did not interact with anyone that was not part of his staff.

Our first five days in the Galilee were devoted to touring the region, including almost all of the sites we visited during the Omega Letter Standing With Israel Tour in 2008.  We toured Capernaum, the place where Jesus healed the servant of the centurion. 

We stood in the synagogue from which Jesus was banished after healing the man sick of a palsy on the Sabbath.  We walked past the gates of the city were a certain tax collector named Matthew was called to follow Jesus.

We saw the house where Jesus cured the Apostle Peter’s mother-in-law.  It was from Capernaum that Jesus departed to the other side of the lake aboard a ship. It was aboard that ship that Jesus calmed the raging seas.

Across the sea was where Jesus cast out the demons into a herd of swine, who thereupon ran to the edge of a cliff and plunged into the sea.  One thing we saw on this trip that I don’t recall from last time was the Valley of the Doves

The ancient road from Nazareth down to the Sea of Galilee led through the Valley of the Doves. This is that exact road upon which Jesus walked two thousand years ago.  Beside it runs a stream where weary travelers would pause to refresh themselves along the way. 

We visited the baptismal site at Yardinet where tradition (not fact) says that John the Baptist baptized Jesus in the Jordan.  The place where Jesus was actually baptized is in Jordan, but the Yardinet site is at the headwaters of the Jordan. 

While at Yardinet, I was blessed with the opportunity to baptize several of the Christians who attended the tour.  My greatest blessing was the opportunity to baptize Mike.

(Poor Mike.  Years at a keyboard left me somewhat unskilled with a pen.  I had to rewrite his certificate after messing it up.)

It occurred to me while there that Mike’s baptism put me ‘over the top’ so to speak, where I can say now that I have baptized more people in the Jordan River than in any other body of water in the world.

I was also blessed to baptize Marilyn,  Lin, and Sue

That night while back at the hotel, I was sitting in the hotel lounge going over some pictures on my iPad when a couple of Israeli teenagers stopped to look at it.  They got very excited and wanted to play with it, show me their facebook pages, etc.

Before I knew it I was sitting with about six teenagers, probably ranging from 14 to 17, all of them chattering excitedly.  They were SUCH fun!  One of them was particularly affectionate, kept rubbing my shoulders, and patting me on the back, calling me “Jack-man” and “the Jackster.”

He managed to convey to me that he liked the sound of my voice, and that it reminded him of National Geographic. LOL.  Soon after, a couple of the parents came by to make sure the kids weren’t bothering me, and then they joined in for a round of questions and answers and just talking in general.

I learned they all lived in Beersheba and were in Tiberius for a few days’ holiday, and were heading back home the next day.  

The following night as I sat at the same table, the reality of Israel hit me between the eyes as I read that Beersheba, together with Ashdod and Askelon, were the main targets of shelling from the Gaza Strip.

One Israeli was reportedly killed when a rocket scored a direct hit on his car in Beersheba as he raced towards his home.  

I thought of the kids I had just met, and of their parents.  It could have been one of their fathers, I thought.

THIS was the reason that, despite the LDS deception, it was all worth it. We came to Israel, not as Christian pilgrims, but as Americans to demonstrate that when it comes to Israel, Barack Obama does not speak for us.

We were there to show the Israelis that they do not stand alone and that they can count on us.  The original purpose of the rally was to demonstrate our solidarity with the Israeli people against their enemies massed all around them and to assure them that their enemies were our enemies.

But it wasn’t the rallies that stood out – at least, not for any of the folks I came to know on that bus. What stood out was the way that ordinary Israelis interacted with ordinary Americans in ordinary ways.

Everywhere we went, ordinary Israelis sought us out, no doubt seeking to compare us to the hype that the visit engendered. Nobody who met us went away unchanged and everybody we met changed us in some small, and sometimes, in some very big ways.

As I said in yesterday’s brief, there were some very definite blessings, even if they weren’t the ones I had been expecting.

Tomorrow: The Road to Jerusalem!

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