Moving around the Sea of Galilee is moving in an area where Jesus had much of His ministry. Tiberias was the capitol city of Herod Antipas. He built it on a cemetery and he adorned the city with pagan paintings. The city was avoided by Jesus, at one point He called Herod “that fox”. Herod controlled the area around the Sea to Bethsaida (house of fishermen). This was the area Jesus had most of His Galilean ministry. This north shore of the sea has the best fishing. The Northeast side of the Sea was controlled by Phillip. The rest was part of what is called the Decapolis, a league of 10 cities, this was the area where Jesus cast the demons into the pigs, because it was not a Jewish area.
The city where Jesus had favor was Capernaum. Current biblical historian James Fleming, explains that this is where the Centurion’s servant was healed as well as the nobleman’s son. This is the city where Peter and Mathew were called. You can see that this is a place where Jesus had “protectsia” the Hebrew word for connections. This is where Jesus healed many including Peter’s mother in law. A church has been built over the suspected site of Peter’s mother in law’s house. A church was built over the land where Jesus fed the 5000. A church was built over the land where the sermon on the mount might have been preached. A church was built over the place where Jesus cooked some fish for Peter and asked him if he loved Jesus and if so would he feed His sheep? Basically, there is a Catholic or Orthodox church built everywhere Jesus might have been. The church, no matter how beautiful, doesn’t replace looking at the countryside and the sea and realizing that this is where it all happened. These current churches replaced the original Byzantine churches that were destroyed with the Persian invasion of 630.
We took a boat ride getting a layout of the land from the boat. It started off with some national anthems for the different nationalities in our group: American, English, Canadian, Australian…They ended with the Hebrew national anthem. I felt a sense of God combined with a mournful sense of melancholy. They know God, but their lives have included some of the worst events known to man. Even as we would be leaving Israel the current terrorist attack in Mumbai would include a direct assault on an Orthodox Jewish family, with only their two year old son surviving, being swept away from his blood stained parents by a worker for the family. This has become normal, the world doesn’t even blink when terrorists kill Jews.
This is the land of Gennesaret, a fertile land. We heard of the oil press, the Hebrew word being gethsemane, remember the garden of Gethsemane. The oil press has a stone pressing down upon a series of mats and mashed olives. The first oil dripping out without pressure is your extra pure virgin oil. The analogy is Jesus in the garden of the olive press feeling the weight of what lies before Him.
Byzantine churches were structured around there ways of becoming Christians: An area for the one year learner, an area for the one year hearer, and then baptism entrance into the area of a full participant. The synagogue was a place of study. It was not a place of obligatory attendance. All Jews must visit the temple 3 times a year, though they all didn’t. We learned that the presence of the star in these old synagogues was just the use of geometrical figure. The calling of it as the Star of David did not happen until the 1800’s in Hungary. We also learned about the National Emblem of the Israeli state: it is taken from Zechariah’s vision; it is a menorah and two olive branches with the verse: “not by might, not by power, but by My Spirit”.
We were reminded of the importance of the rains for all of this area. The area is suffering from a drought and the level of the lake was very low. The first terrorist attack against Israel by El Fatah was aimed at the pumping station on the lake. God had told the Jews” Deut 11:10-11
10 For the land which you go to possess is not like the land of Egypt from which you have come, where you sowed your seed and watered it by foot, as a vegetable garden; 11 but the land which you cross over to possess is a land of hills and valleys, which drinks water from the rain of heaven,
The constant prayer for rain is part of the time between Passover and Pentecost. This is a time of semi-mourning and prayer. Only on one day during that time can a person be married. The day finished up with a trip to a diamond factory and a concert by a Christian Jew. Jews and diamonds go together. Every diamond deal ends with a good luck and blessing in Hebrew. Why? Because in their persecuted state Jews were able to easily carry diamonds and convert them into cash where ever they were fleeing to. The other point was the early guilds did not allow Jews, with the diamond guild being the exception.