Tuesday, January 19, 2010

To Israel with Temple Beth Zion and Westminster Presbyterian Church Part 3

Tuesday January 19, 2010

Today was a long but wonderful day!

We began by visiting the museum at Kibbutz Ginosar where we viewed the conserved remains of a 2000+ year old boat that was found in the Sea of Galilee (Kineret) just off the shore of the kibbutz. I remember reading about the efforts to excavate and conserve it. It was a thrill for me but even more of a thrill for our resident archeologists, M and G!

We went from viewing the 2000 year old boat to boarding a decades old boat for a quick ride on the Kinneret. While the wind was blowing and it was a bit choppy it was an incredible ride. Tom read the New Testament passages about Jesus calming the sea and walking on water and followed with a brief discussion of the passage. I couldn't help but compare and contrast it to the story of Jonah.

While on the boat I saw this sign. Normally when we see the word חגורת - belt in the Bible, it refers to a belt with which one "girds one's loins". It fascinated me that here it was used as part of the term for a life preserver. Perhaps if there is a need for a life preserver, one does need to find the courage to actually use it.

Soon we were back on shore and boarding the bus to head to Kfar Nahum, known more commonly in English as Capernum.

Capernum has always fascinated me. In the 3rd - 4th centuries it was a truly integrated city housing healthy Jewish and Christian communities. It had an ancient church and an ancient synagogue. And yes, the synagogue has "donation plaques"! The names of some of the donors are chiseled into the pillars of the synagogue. Even more amazing is that some of the names are non-Jews which shows just how close the communities must have been.

From Capernum we headed south to Tiberias and a quick visit to the grave of the Rambam, Rabbi Moses ben Maimon, commonly known as Maimonides. This coming Pesach will mark his 875th birthday and I felt we had to go to see his grave.

After lunch in Tiberias we went to an overlook of Nazareth and Mount Tabor. Most people are familiar with Nazareth but not Mount Tabor. In the Book of Judges, Mount Tabor is the place where Deborah and Barak defeated the armies of Jabin and his general Sissera. If you have never read Judges chapters 4 and 5. It is a powerful story indeed.

Mount Megido - Har Megido - Armageddon stands at the intersection of the three major trade routes of the ancient fertile crescent. 27 times was the city built and 27 times it was destroyed as armies vied for control of the trade routes for nearly 2 millennia. The site has been named a World Heritage Site and it is a designation that is richly deserved. With its history, is it any wonder that Armageddon had become synonymous with the great battle at the end of time?

Exhausted after a long day, we began the 2 hour ride to Jerusalem.

Jerusalem is where I feel most at home and most connected in Israel. Most groups like to enter the city and head up to Mt. Scopus or the Mount of Olives to mark the occasion of entering the city. I prefer to go to the Haas Promenade to the south of Jerusalem. It would have been from that direction that Abraham would have first seen Mount Moriah with Isaac as they headed toward the climax of Abraham's test - would he or would he not sacrifice his son. The story is an affirmation of Mount Moriah and Jerusalem as a place of positive change and peace. What better place from which to enter the holy city? I can think of none.

Tomorrow we will tour East Jerusalem and the Old City inside the ancient walls. We will finish our tour at the Kotel, the Western Wall. Custom is to place prayers in the wall. I am on a special mission to do that tomorrow on behalf of a special family. I cannot even begin to imagine what it will feel like to put a prayer in the wall in memory of M. S., z''l (of blessed memory).

Shalom from Jerusalem!

Rabbi Harry Rosenfeld

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