Sunday June 16th. What happens in Tzfat, stays in Tzfat.

18 Jun

Despite being pooped after a long Shabbat, our group was excited to start our day fresh. Without any toilet paper left, we began our day shorthanded but eager for the long day that awaited us.

We boarded the bus and began our voyage to visit many of the holy sites in which Jesus Christ visited. On our first stop, we visited Mount of Beatitudes. I was alarmed when I heard that the church on the mountain was built in the year 1938. After being in this country for almost a month already, the buildings we have visited at historical sites were at least one thousand years old. Here we were facing a structure that is a mere 75 years old. I soon learned that the Mount of Beatitudes is holy for its location and not for what is built on top of the mountain. That is because Jesus came to this mountain to deliver his famous Sermon on the Mount. He spoke to his followers who could miraculously hear him from the bottom of the hill. This amazing hill overlooked the Sea of Galilee, where Jesus performed his miracle of walking on water. Here is a fun fact that you cannot find under a Snapple bottle cap; 60% of miracles performed by Jesus took place in the area of the Sea of Galilee. To make sure they did not miss any of the action, his disciples became fisherman stationed at the Sea of Galilee. In Jesus’ sermon, Jesus reveals the eight beatitudes which are teachings to his followers. Like Jesus’ followers, our group was read the eight beatitudes by our very own Jesus, Sarah Sullivan. 

Listening to the teachings atop the mountain that they were originally preached created a surreal experience for all in the group, no matter what religious background. We entered the church that the Pope John Paul II had visited in 2000, so we knew it had to be a good one. The eight windows above our heads surrounding the dome ceiling each represented one of the beatitudes Jesus preached. The church was elaborate and visually pleasing. We then took one of our famous reenactments of yet another moment in the life of Jesus in front of the church with a nun who was thrilled to be in our picture.Image

 

As we continued our voyage, we found ourselves on a very important road. The road we were driving on once connected Asia, Africa and Europe. For this reason, Jesus decided to come to what is now Northern Israel. He preached his beliefs and wished to have his views spread across the World. He wanted every one to get a hold of his teachings and this was the best place for him to succeed in doing so.

The next stop was Capernaum which was another site to which Jesus came and performed miracles. Here it is believed Jesus came in order to heal and did so. It is also believed that he spoke in the synagogue in which we walked inside of. This site is also especially holy because Saint Peter lived here and we were able to see his home which was converted into a church many years ago. The synagogue and church being meters away from each other really put into perspective how similar the religions are. Jesus spoke at this synagogue as a Jew, which is the reason why there stands a church where Saint Peter’s home once stood. The two religions may be in very different places now, but Capernaum allowed our group to realize the strong connection between the two.

We then made our way to a city named Katzrin, the only city Israel has control over in the Golan (it’s complex, don’t ask). There we went to a winery, which was famous in Israel. This winery was the first one in Israel to produce wine that was not made for Kiddush. The wine actually tasted good and could be had on many different occasions unlike the wines in Israel in the past. We entered a room which had a beautiful place setting for each one of us. In front of us was a wine glass and we knew what we were getting ourselves into. We impatiently listened to the woman at the winery give her spiel about each wine before she finally poured us a glass. Everyone drank the glass of wine and asked one another for their opinion. This is the last of what I remember from that day…

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Just kidding. The winery was very responsible and gave us small glasses of three different types of wines so we were able to walk straight out the door we came in from.

After a much needed lunch, we started our drive towards the site where John baptized Jesus in the Jordan River. We were all very excited to watch one of our own, Elijah, get baptized in this holy water. Our group crowded around the river as we anticipated the arrival of Elijah. Then he came out of nowhere. And there he was, dressed in a flowing white gown with the sun gleaming off of him in a way that blinded us all. It was truly an amazing sight and we were all excited to witness him getting baptized. He made his way towards the water and in a quick moment, he was being dunked under water. He quickly came back up to the loud clapping of the group who cheered him on as if he had just won a tennis match. We all shared the same jubilation Elijah had at that moment, as we knew how special this was to him.Image

Our day ended in a very relaxing way for some (looking at you Lucrezia) and with hard work for most members of our group including myself. We kayaked in the Jordan River with two to a kayak and I was given the pleasure of pulling Lucrezia a mile in the river. She tells me that the scenes were beautiful all along the river with the sun peaking through the many trees along the route to create a very relaxing feel. Again, this is from her. I could not tell if this ride was relaxing or not, I was busy trying to avoid running into branches and fellow kayakers. The group docked their boats off to the side of the river and had a great time swinging from a rope landing into the water. We made our way back to the base after we had finished and finally boarded the bus to conclude our long and exhausting day.

We are off to Tel Aviv where we will enjoy the last few days we have with each other and with this beautiful country we all have grown to love so much.

Shalom,

Matt Horowitz

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