On Friday we did a half day field trip. We first went to Gamla. This is a beautiful site. You go way up into the mountains and then hike down a ways to a ridge that you then hike up. There sits a town built on the ridge. It was a hotbed of revolutionary/zealot ideas. It is often called the Masada of the north and that title fits it pretty well. The beginning of the first Jewish revolt began there, and it was the last place in the north to fall. It was very difficult for the Romans to get into because it is on such a natural hill.
The city of Gamla, set on a ridge. This is probably one of two cities set on a hill that people could see as the Savior used that metaphor. I think this one is slightly less visible than Hippos, but it would have been visible.
The story of the siege and of 5000 people jumping off the cliff rather than coming into Roman hands is quite striking. We talk about it as we hike up, and at the breach in the wall.
The other striking thing there is the synagogue. This is an actual synagogue during Christ’s day. The stones are the same stones that were there when he was alive. And it is a town right near the lake, and the gospel writers agree that he taught in all the synagogues of all the towns around there. So there is a very good chance that the Savior sat on those very stones and taught in that very synagogue and did miracles in that very spot. The fact that they were so looking for a political messiah may have made him wary of that place, but I think it is quite likely that he was in that synagogue. When we finished with some nice devotional time and time for thinking and writing we then let people hike all over.
The synagogue at Gamla
My class in the synagogue at Gamla, sitting on the stones we wish could talk and tell us the stories of Jesus we love to hear
I hiked a bit, but was not having the best day ever. BJ had been ready to come with us on this field trip (the others weren’t coming). But we have had some issues with his wearing flip flops on trips like this when he is not supposed to. He came in flip flops. I told him he had to change. He ran to his place and found it was locked and he didn’t have the key. He ran back and got the key (his apartment is way out there). He ran back to his apartment, but by then everyone had been on the bus for a while. I stalled for a bit, but he still wasn’t there, so we had to leave. I looked out the window but never saw him. Apparently he was trying to chase down the bus but didn’t make it. I hated leaving him, I really hated it. But what could I do? It made it so I did not have the happiest of feelings on the trip. I was quite sad for quite a while.
Jumping below the synagogue
Gamla is 1369 ft. above sea level, N 32* 54.709, E 035* 37.836 at the top of the mountain where you head down, and in the city it is 997 ft above sea level, N 32* 54.154, E 035* 44.386
After Gamla we went to Kursi, the place where the man possessed with a legion of devils is supposed to have met Christ. We toured the big Byzantine church there, and then went out to the little one that is supposed to commemorate the spot.
My piggy class at the spot built to commemorate where the man possessed with a legion of devils met Jesus
The spot without my little piggys in it
There I pointed out how the text really goes, and the spots where it might work. We saw the place we call “piggy hill,” a spot that is the most likely place for a steep place where the pigs would run into the deep and choke themselves, as the text says. It is 1.2 miles away, and very visible. The text describes the herd of swine as being a good ways off. The setting is perfect.
Piggy Hill as seen from Kursi
piggy hill from up close
Then the story goes that the people taking care of the swine run to the owners and others in the city. Hippos is 1.5 miles away from that spot. For a number of reasons that has to be the city they are talking about. So they ran there.
Some of the ruins of the city of Hippos
Then they all come and find the possessed man sitting with the Savior. People there tell them what happened. That only makes sense when you realize that the swine-herders were far enough away that they didn’t know what had happened, they just knew the swine had run into the lake. The whole story works so perfectly in that geographical location with those three spots. I am fairly convinced that this is the place it all happened. It is a wonderful story with some rich and deep symbolism about how the Savior, Jesus Christ, frees us from the devil and saves us from death and the tombs and misery and clothes us in robes of righteousness and takes care of us. I love this story, and am so happy to have gotten the real spot down so well. Great stuff.
After that we did lunch, and got ready to float the Jordan River. We went with about half of the students and rented rafts and as a family we floated down the river, almost to the Sea of Galilee (we started floating upstream for the lake). It was a beautiful, peaceful, blissful time. I loved it, and I think the whole family did. It is the best way to see what the Jordan is really like. There were a few fun mini-rapids that we enjoyed. We had some communication problem with the bus, and it took us a while to get back, but we made it and had a nice dinner and went to bed. It was a great day.
The next day we slept in. Then we took our family up to Hippos to see how well it works as a city set on a hill and as the place where the owners of the swine lived.
Watch out on hikes around the Golan, such as the one to Hippos. Better stay on the trail!
Some of the ruins of Hippos, a very visible hill from the Mt. of Beattitudes, with huge, striking buildings upon it
The family in front of an Odeon right out on the point of the city's hill, something that would have been very visible from so far away
A building in Hippos that is easy to see from all around
Then we went to Kursi and went through the devils and swine story again, this time with our kids. Then we went back and got ready for church. On the way to church we told the students our engagement story. We only got half way through it by the time we got there. Church was great. I just called on two people to bear testimonies, and then allowed anyone who wanted to bear their testimony. Kaleb was one of the people I called on. I am not sure he was thrilled about it. He didn’t know what to say at first, but I suggested he just say something he knows is true. He spent about two minutes bearing testimony of things he knew. He bore testimony of Jesus Christ, and it was a wonderful moment. I think he had an experience where he just opened his mouth and the Lord filled it. What a nice time.
The class at Jordanit
We told more of our story on the way home, and stopped at Jordanit, a popular baptismal site. It is pretty there, and we had a nice time. We barely finished the story of our engagement as we pulled into Ein Gev, and that was hurrying it at the end. But the students seem to like to hear it all. Then we came home and had a nice dinner, spent some time doing family games, and went to bed. I felt like it was a blissful, peaceful, wonderful Sabbath.
My family and class on the shores of the Sea of Galilee after church