Saturday, May 28, 2011

Caesarea Philippi and the Golan Heights

After visiting Tel Dan, we had one more stop at Caesarea Philippi, or as it is currently known, Banias. It is located at the foot of Mount Hermon and is the main source of the Jordan River. In Old Testament times it was known as Baal Gad. It was later called Panias after the Greek God Pan that was worshiped there.

It is located on a terrace 1500 ft. above the valley below.



The main stream, fed from springs, that turns into the Jordon River. Although this was a cultic center, it must have been a beautiful city.


Kenny was explaining to us about the cave in the background which is called the Gates of Hell.


He also told us that tradition holds that Jesus came to Caesarea Philippi with his disciples when He needed to escape the crowds (since this was not a Jewish area) and spend time teaching His disciples.

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets. He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. Matthew 16:13-18

Some scholars point out that it is telling that Jesus chose to have this conversation with His disciples surrounded by the idols with the “Gates of Hell” as the backdrop. Peter’s confession, You are the Christ, the Son of the living God, pointed out the stark contrast of the so-called gods made of stone and Jesus.

Some believe that the site of Jesus’ transfiguration is Mount Hermon instead of the traditional Mt. Tabor, since it was shortly after Peter’s confession that the event occurred. Mt. Tabor was populated and a Hasmonean fortress stood on its summit. Mt. Hermon stood just 14 miles away from Caesarea Philippi. It is Israel’s highest mountain and was considered to be a holy mountain. In fact, the Hebrew word for “Hermon” can be translated as “the mountain set apart.” Peter recalls how “we heard this voice which came from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain.” 2 Peter 1:18.  Interesting…





These were the niches carved out of the stone in which the idols were placed.



This was a capital from the temple built for Zeus.








Again, here are the headwaters for the Jordan River.




Moving on in our yellow bus to the Golan Heights…



The buildings at the top of the hill are Nimrod’s Fortress, named after Nimrod, a mighty hunter before the Lord. The pictures were being shot as we were driving past. It was built in 1229 AD in the shadow of Mt. Hermon overlooking the Hula Valley either by the Muslims trying to defend themselves against the Crusaders, or the Crusaders trying to defend themselves against the Muslims.




All of the following pictures were taken as we were driving along the Golan Heights. We learned from Kenny that we were actually driving along the “Road to Damascus” where Paul experienced his conversion.

From 1948 to 1967 Syria used the Golan Heights to shell villages in the Hula Valley and snipe at fishermen on the Sea of Galilee. At the Khartoum Summit after the six day war the Arabs said “No peace with Israel. No recognition of Israel. No negotiations with Israel.”  Their feelings haven’t changed. The day after we traveled through the area (Nakbah Day, a day commemorating the protests of Israel becoming a nation)  there was a border uprising. However, I never for one moment felt unsafe.






This is a United Nations Disengagement Observation Force Post in the demilitarized zone.



The buildings you see on the horizon in the pictures are Al-Qunaytirah, or El Kuneitra, an abandoned town in the UN-monitored demilitarized zone between Israel and Syria.  It was an important regional hub and administrative center in southwestern Syria until the Six-Day War of June 1967, when it was occupied by Israeli military. When the Israelis withdrew in 1974, they systematically stripped and destroyed the town. The Syrians decided not to resettle it, preferring to let its ruined state serve as a reminder of the Israeli occupation. Syria refused to rebuild the city and actively discourages resettlement in the area.

Just north of Kuneitra is the Valley of Tears. This is the site of one of the fiercest tank battles of the Yom Kippur War when the vastly outnumbered (around eight to one) 7th Armoured Brigade and later reinforcements succeeded against all odds in blocking the main advance of the attacking Syrian forces into Israel.



More pictures of the UN on the Syrian border…







The towers and antennae you see in the picture below are part of Israel’s monitoring post on Mt. Avital where the army keeps a close watch on the Syrian border. Mt. Avital is also called “the eyes of the nation” by some.


Although I didn’t take this picture, we saw them all along the road.


This man is a Druze. They are monotheistic, but believe that God has revealed Himself in successive incarnations, the last being Al-Hakim, the sixth Fatimid Caliph of Egypt. They follow the Bible and venerate men from its pages, especially Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses. He was giving samples of his apples in hopes that we would buy a box. I tried a sample and it was delicious. However, the wind was howling and we were freezing so we were anxious to get back on the bus.


This is a parting shot of the Israeli defense.


We were ready to get back to Tiberius for dinner and bed.


One final thought…God says in Genesis 12:3 talking about the Jews, I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse.

An Israeli commentator expounded on this verse: “One need not be a Jew or Christian or even believe in God to appreciate that this verse is as accurate a prediction as humanity has ever been given by the ancient world. The Jewish people have suffered longer and more horribly than any other living people. But they are still around. Its historic enemies are all gone. Those that cursed the Jews were indeed cursed.

And those who blessed the Jews were indeed blessed. The most blessed country for over 200 years has been the United States. It has also been the most blessed place Jews have ever lived in. Is this a coincidence? Many of us think not.

Those who curse the Jews still seem to be cursed. The most benighted civilization today is the Arab world. One could make a plausible case that the Arab world’s preoccupation with Jew-hatred and destroying Israel is a decisive factor in its failure to progress. The day the Arab world makes peace with the existence of the tiny Jewish state in its midst, the Arab world will begin its ascent. (We know, of course, that this will never happen.)

The converse is what worries tens of millions of Americans — the day America abandons Israel, America will begin its descent.”

America, choose well your leaders.

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