Northern Israel and the Golan Heights

Today would be the first time William and I had visited the most northern part of Israel, the Golan Heights. Here Israel is bordered to the north by Lebanon and to the east by Syria. So after a hardy breakfast at the hotel in Tiberias we all loaded up on “the big Red Bus” and headed North.

This was the most comfortable ride, equipped with wifi so we could connect with family and mostly via Whats App to share photos and comments with the other people on our tour.

It was amazing to see how well our driver Moshe could maneuver this huge bus in the tightest of spots. Not only was he an amazing driver but also an integral part of our tour of the Holy Land.

Moshe which means Moses

Entering the Tel Dan Nature Reserve was like stepping into a lush shaded forest with bubbling streams. It is here, at the base of Mount Hermon where the headwaters to the Jordan River begins

Headwaters of the Jordan River

Along our walk in the Reserve we would see a Fig Tree and also identified the mustard seed.

Fig tree
mustard seeds picked from a low growing bush

Instead of obeying God, here in Dan, Jeroboam led Israel astray and it is here where he built the sacrificial alter and placed the Golden Calf for pagan worship.

The sacrificial alter at Tel Dan

It is important for us to remember that while listening to Dr. Reichman tell us about Jeroboam, the First King of Northern Israel, we heard a loud siren. We would stand in silence for two minutes along with Israel in commemoration of the Holocaust to honor the six million Jews killed by the Nazis during World War Two.

As we continued around the Tel we saw the Canaanite’s 4000 year old gate to the city. It is the earliest archway in the World and it is here where Abraham would have entered the city. This was most impressive to me just to realize that I was standing here in front of the gate. This is why I have said that a trip to Israel will change your life. Seeing these sites literally brings the Bible to life.

The Abraham Gate – still under excavation
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Sylvia and Buddy will never forget standing here at the Abraham Gate.

Just a bit further along the Tel we came upon another excavated city probably built during the Canaanite period of Ancient Dan. One of the fascinating finds here was a fossilized tablet. Carved onto it was an inscription boasting of a victory over the king of Israel and the House of David. I remember on my first tour to Israel our tour guide Lon Solomon always said, “The more they dig, the more they prove the Bible”.

Ancient City of Dan
The pathway to the left led to the city gate. This is where the tablet was found with the words “House of David”
Sylvia is sitting in the spot where the Kings would be seated in the Market Place just in front of the city Gate.
This support stone held the poles for the tents that would protect the King from the sun as he sat at the Market Place

Also at the foot of Mount Hermon and just a few miles from Tel Dan is Caesarea Philippi. This ancient city was famed for its worship to the false god of Pan. This was a place dominated by immoral activities and pagan worship. There is a huge spring here which came out of the cave and it also is a main tributary to the Jordan River. The biblical importance of Caesarea Philippi is that it was here that Jesus asked Peter, “Who do you say I am?” Peter’s response was “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.” Here Jesus told Peter, “Now I say to you Peter (which means rock) and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it”

Caesarea Philippi

The views along the Golan Heights were breathtaking.

Snow peaked Mount Hermon – Israel’s only ski mountain

Along our drive on the Golan Heights we would stop at a Druze Village for lunch. You might ask what is a Druze Village? Druze are a unique religious and ethnic group living mostly in Northern Israel. They are neither Muslim nor Christian.  They are fiercely loyal and equal citizens of Israel and the Israeli Druze serve mandatory service in the Israeli military. 

After lunch we viewed a movie of the Yom Kippur War. Yom Kippur – the Day of Atonement – is the holiest day of the year in Judaism.  During this war in 1973, although massively outnumbered, the Israeli forces managed to hold their positions and on the fourth day of the battle the Syrians withdrew. William immediately caught sight of this tank and although probable I’m not sure if it was actually in that war or not.

Later we would stop along our drive of the Golan Heights to view Syria. You can barely see the small white road separating Syria and Israel. It was here that Buddy led our group in prayer for the both countries.

On the opposite side where we were standing viewing Syria we could also see the towers where Israeli Intelligence protects their borders. The guide told us that if Syria even sneezes the intelligence group here responds with gesundheit.

Israeli eyes on Syria

I didn’t really understand why our next stop would be Gamla Nature Reserve but it didn’t take long for me to understand that this was where Josephus, a first-century Jewish general would convince his troops to kill themselves rather than be captured by the Romans. He then would be the last to fall on his sword but instead he threw in his lot with the Roman legions that destroyed his homeland. I think Dr. Reichman took us here so we could also understand better what happens at Masada later on our tour.

The water in the background is the Sea of Galilee
In this pic you can see the fort held by Josephus and his troops

Gamla Nature Reserve was a beautiful park full of flora, fauna, and birds. But most of all it is a home to Israels’s largest nesting colony of raptors. Over the past few years, only 60 pairs of the Griffon Vultures have been observed breeding in Israel. It is import to note that this bird was mentioned in the Bible 28 times due to its great strength and size.

Descending the Golan Heights we made one more stop at Kursi, on the east side of the Sea of Galilee. This is where Jesus went across the Sea of Galilee and when He arrived in Kursi he met the man with unclean spirits who had been chained and lived in the caves on the mountain. Jesus cast the unclean spirits out of him and put them in a great herd of pigs. The pigs then jumped into the sea and drowned. Here Sylvia and Buddy are standing at the edge of the cliff where the pigs were driven into the sea.

Perhaps you have noticed that are days are packed full. We typically leave our hotels at 8 AM and are on the go until 6PM. There is so much to see! But before calling it an end to this day William and I snapped this picture at our Hotel which faced the Sea of Galilee.

Tomorrow we will continue our journey around the Sea of Galilee. We thought we would see the same sites we saw on our first visit to Israel but so far we are seeing so much more than before. I think it is because we have such a smaller tour group – 34 vs 150 people on the tour. Tomorrow will bring my biggest surprise so stay tuned for my next post.

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Sylviahinson. says:

    This is so outstanding You brought it back to life for me.


  2. Edith Propst says:

    You never disappoint, Rosa! Photos and commentary are truly wonderful!


  3. Judi says:

    Love it. This helped so much to refresh my memory. With so many places we toured, it is hard to remember what went on there just by looking at my pictures.!


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