We left at around 10.00 a.m. and drove east around the southern tip of the Sea of Galilee towards En Gev. We stopped at a small picnic place with access to the lake shore. It was beautiful. Two fishing boats were out on the lake, flocks of birds took off and landed, the reeds swayed in the light breeze and the water lapped the shoreline. It did seem almost biblical. We paddled and picked up shells.
Then we continued north towards Bethsaida, stopping next at the National Park which had a walking and water trail through the reeds and trees. We opted for the walking route as the water trail involved swimming in places. The peace and quiet was heavenly and we saw a variety of birds, butterflies and dragonflies, as well as a range of flora, including mimosa and eucalyptus.
A short distance on from there and we had rounded the head of the lake and crossed several tributaries which feed in from the north. Now we entered the River Jirdan Nationsl Park and the ruins of the old town of Bethsaida. This is one of the largest tels in Israel and is mentioned in the O.T. as Zer in the territory of Geshur. Bethsaida means ‘the house of the fisherman’. According to the N.T. Jesus performed some of his miracles here including the feeding of the multitude and the healing of the blind man. From the Bethsaida shore he was seen walking on the water. Peter, Andrew and Phillip were all from Bethsaida. Ultimately Jesus condemned the city, ‘Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida!
The site is fascinating and as we walked up the road, leading to the massive gateway into the city, you couldn’t help but wonder if Christ had walked here 2,000 years ago. The site was deserted and very atmospheric. The gateway is impressive as are the fisherman’s house and the winemaker’s house.
The only thing to give one pause was the large sign that hung on the fence warning of land mines. This place was held by Syrian troops in the 1967 conflict and there is still evidence of trenches, tunnels and bomb shells.
Still the birds and the butterflies fluttered around, putting on a colourful display for us.
A short drive down a paved track brought us to The River Jordan Park, clearly a very popular destination in the season, but now deserted. Picnic tables, camp sites, children’s play grounds, signs for kayaks all testified to a fun place in the summer. Now it was quiet. We decided to try to walk down to the Jordan, so parked under some trees. On the path ahead of us 3 mammals with long tails vanished into the reeds. We approached quietly and rounding a bend were rewarded with a wonderful view of mongooses (we had to check this out with the warden as we left).
We walked down through tunnels of reeds and eventually found the River Jordan sparkling in the afternoon sunshine.
Back in the car we headed for Capernaum which had been our goal all day. We stopped first at the Capernaum Nationsl Park, which seemed remarkably deserted. This gave us stunning views over the lake and an encounter with a large herd(?) of rock hydrates which really are the most delightful creatures.
On the waterfront there were herons and egrets. Cloud was building and the sun was shining through in rays. One half expected a large hand or finger to break through!
We walked to a beautiful Greek Orthodox Church where a group of Romanians had arrived to look around. We managed to sneak in ahead of them and then sit by the lake for a while. We wanted to find Simon- Peter’s house which is said to be here. Someone pointed us to a space ship like building a couple of fields away. No chance of walking to it thanks to high fences, so we drove. There must have been 20 coaches in the car park.
We parked and paid our 5 shekel entrance fee each and walked up into the space ship which hovers over the supposed house. It is run by the Franciscans who seem to have ruined what should be a charming set of foundations incorporated not a Byzantine church, also now ruined. The space ship is a circular church with a glass roof at its centre over Peter’s house. I suppose it is to stop people pinching bits of it, but it looks awful and removes any atmosphere. Better is the synagogue built on the foundations of the one that Jesus probably preached in, but again the sheer number of visitors does not help the atmosphere. But who am I to criticise, I am part of the problem!
Finally we drove up the Mount of the Beattitudes to a another church, quite simple inside and with stunning views over the Sea of Galilee. Night was falling fast so we decided to head back to Kinneret. When we stopped so that Chrsirine could take a picture of the hills a man with a French accent and halitosis asked for lift into Tiberius. We were happy to oblige, unaware at that point of his bad breath. Poor Mike sitting next to him suffered all the way down to the town!
Tomorrow rain is forecast so we shall make decisions about what we do once we know the weather situation. Nazareth beckons, but also repels, filled as it will be with pilgrims eager to look at ‘supposedly’ sites. Has to be done though, I suppose!