I have had many good days in my 52 years, and some great ones. But today was one of the very few days in my life that I would call "perfect". Everything was awesome from start to finish!
After a very sound and restorative night's sleep, I got up at 6 AM and went down to breakfast. Our morning and evening meals are prepaid here at the hotel, and have been delicious. We were heading out at 8 AM, so I went for a quick walk by the Sea of Galilee after breakfast, and then all 21 of us loaded up in the vans and headed out.
We actually stopped about a half mile down the road where there was a public beach and took several pictures of the water and boats, then off we went for our first stop of the day, the Biblical city of Dan.
The traffic was so much better than yesterday - no close calls, and we made great time! On our way to Dan, we drove past Migdal (NT Magdala, home of Mary Magdalene), the Mount of the Beatitudes, and Qurzin, called Chorazin by Jesus.
The Israelite city of Dan sits near the headwaters of the Jordan River at the base of Mount Hermon, the tallest peak in the Holy Land (you could see some snow at the top). The trails we hiked were lush, green, and incredibly beautiful. Dr. Shipp calls it "the jungle of the Jordan." The water was so clear and clean I even took a sip from it! At this stop we saw the "high place" built by King Jeriboam II, one of the few OT sites that can be identified with 100% certainty. Then we came to the ruins of Dan itself - very impressive, massively fortified gates with the "bema seat" just inside where the Elders would sit in judgment. About 100 yards away was the Canaanite ruin known as Laish, which the Danites conquered in the Book of Joshua.
After that, we drove 5 minutes up the road to Baniass, where the ruins of a magnificent Greco-Roman temple to the god Pan were built around a gorgeous natural grotto. There was also a huge Byzantine Era church there, with some of its original mosaic tile floor still intact. Across the street we saw the remains of Caesarea Philippi, a palace built by one of Herod the Great's sons. It was somewhere near here that Jesus told Simon "Thou art Peter, and on this rock I will build my church." We ate lunch here at Baniass also, at a lovely little Lebanese restaurant with a balcony right over Hermon Brook.
Our last stop was at the ruins of Tel Hazor. This city was occupied by the Canaanites, then the Egyptians, and finally by the Israelites. The huge gates built by Solomon were still quite visible, as were the earlier mud brick buildings of the Egyptians. I climbed all the way down into the ancient water tunnel dug during the time of King Ahab. One thing that made this spot extra neat was the fact that we had it entirely to ourselves the whole time.
All the historic parks were closing early for Shabat, so at that point we called it a day. On the way to Tiberias we stopped at a coffee shop called Cafe Aroma that Mark and Randy both love. It says something about this place that I, the original coffee hater, ordered and finished one if their signature coffees.
After that we drove back to Tiberias, and I was still full of energy when we got here. I went out with Mark and three of the ladies on our team and we went shopping for souvenirs and a few small sundries we needed. After that it was back to the hotel for another delicious meal, and now a chance to sit here, update all you good folks, and get some rest. Tomorrow: Capernaum, the home town of Peter, Andrew, James, and John, and Bethsaida. I'll be walking where Jesus walked, taught, and healed. I never thought I would have a chance to do something like this. What a narvelous, perfect day!