It’s impossible not to have expectations on a Holy Land Trip, but itinararies are made months in advance, verified at the last possible moment, and things don’t always work out. This morning at the beautiful Ron Beach Hotel on the Sea of Galilee I had set my heart on sharing sunrise with the travelers. I told them to get up about a half hour before dawn and join me on the lakeside–and a few actually did it! And we were greeted with clouds on the eastern horizon! We watched for a time, hoping for a miracle, all the while marveling at the birds making their way from north to south as they have each day for thousands of years. Jesus saw them when he lived here, and now we were seeing them too. It was an amazing point of contact and gave us an appreciation of the creation connection that was surely present in his sunrise meditations. “Consider the birds of the air…:” he said to his disciples, and this is what he was remembering!
A couple hours later, dressed and fed, we boarded the bus for a ride to the Tiberius docks to catch our boat for the scheduled trip on the lake–just as Jesus had done–but it didn’t work out. We were bumped from the schedule! Only our guide’s quick planning brought a solution. We rode the bus to the “Jesus Boat” visitors center at the Ginnosar kibbutz and were treated to a video about the recent discovery of a first century boat, and then a view of the actual boat. And then we got our ride on the Sea! And it was better than it would have been. The sun was out and the wind had ceased, and our voyage was spectacular, full of song and dance and beautiful views. Again we saw what Jesus saw!
We had four more stops to make as the day continued and for a time it seemed like we were in charge again. The Mount of the Beatitudes was wonderful and a solemn setting for our service of Holy Communion with an emphasis on “Blessed are the poor in spirit” and “Blessed are the meek.” All ate and were satisfied, just like the folks Jesus had fed on the hillside, as commemorated at Tagba, where we paused to see the iconic mosaic of the loaves and the fishes, following our stop at Capernaum, the hometown of Jesus.
After lunch it seemed as though we were back on track again as we sped through the fertile valley of Hula on our way to Banias in Caesarea Phillippi. It was a long drive and we were looking forward to seeing the headwaters of the Jordan and the ruins of the Pan temple. Our guide had been telling the story of Peter’s confession there and we were ready to walk and hit the restrooms–or maybe it was the other way around. But the entrance was chained and we were turned away, full bladders and all. Again, our driver and guide consulted and a new plan was hatched. A quick stop at rest stop calmed us, and we proceeded north through the Golan Heights to the Syrian border. We saw the Jordan raging under a bridge, white water and all; snow had fallen and remained in the fields with the white slopes of Mt. Hermon in the background. On a hill overlooking the Syrian border we saw Syrian villages, the demarcation line and the UN peacekeeping camp. What a treat! A vivid reminder of the 1967 war. None of us had expected this–and we returned to the Ron Beach rejoicing. We’d gotten some lemons, but the lemonade was delicious!
Tomorrow we drive to Jerusalem and there’s rain in the forecast. The way it’s been going I expect sunshine!