Wednesday, March 21, 2012

3rd day of Field Study - The Golan Heights, Northern Israel

This day we were in the northern and northeastern portions of Israel, up on the Golan heights, an uplifted land above the Sea of Galilee area that belonged to Syria before the 1967 war. This land was called Bashan in the Bible, and looking out my bus window I see the 'cows of Bashan'  (Amos 4:1)
We saw hundreds of these danger signs on the Golan heights...that's because there are literally MILLIONS of undetonated landminds that were planted in this area during the previous conflicts with Syria. Believe me, none of us ventured past the barbed wire, but I felt sorry for the unsuspecting cows in those fields...instant hamburger.
We are at an ancient sight called Hazor, but before looking at the ruins, I had to look at the beautiful field and old ?crusader building in the background.
Just before we got to this sight, we stopped the bus to get our first glimpse at the snow-covered Mount Hermon. This huge mountain is part of the Anti-Lebanon mountain range, and is the major source of the water for the Jordan River and Sea of Galilee.  It has snow on its peaks all year long.
Back to Hazor, this was an absolutely immense city, a crossroads for international travel, as people coming from Aram (Damascus) would need to come through here, or even people going to Damascus from Egypt would travel through here.  This is an olive press. I guess you would put the olives in the basket, then use the rock weights to press down on them.
There are four main streams or rivers that feed and create the Jordan River. This one is the Dan stream. The water is full and rushing, as Israel has received abundant winter rains this year to end a 7 year drought. Hermana said she has never seen this much water in these streams in the 12 years she has been around Israel.
We are at the tel Dan (did I 'tell' you what a 'tel' is?? It's a mound, not a natural hill, that has layers of villages been built on it over the centuries, because back then if a city was destroyed, they would just rebuild on top of it. The tels have the shape of one of those stands an elephant puts its legs up on).  Dan was even further north than Hazor, and also on the ancient international highway routes.
This is the ancient gate to the city of Dan that has been unearthed.  It is made of mud brick. Normally, a mud brick structure would not have survived, but this one was apparently filled over with dirt when they built another larger and more elaborate gate of stone up higher, and the people covered this one over with dirt and preserved it.
Now we are at Caesarea Philippi, also called Banias. The large opening you see in the middle is a huge cave that this water used to flow out of, and where a pagan temple and sacrifices were made. This was a huge center of pagan worship to the god Pan, there was a temple to Pan, and also a temple to worship Caesar Augustus that Herol built. So all that's bad, but what's good is that Jesus came here, and it was in this area of pagan worship that Jesus asked his disciples the ultimate question "Who do men say that I am?", and then "Who do YOU say that I am?" We know that Peter answered "You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God", and Jesus said "upon this rock I will build my Church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it", etc.  This is a picture of the rock He may have been standing by when He said that.    This stream Banias is also one of the four major sources of the Jordan.
We took a long hike along the Banias stream, on our way to see some water falls.
We are up above the water falls, looking down, and hearing the thunderous sound of the crashing water. This is all water coming out of the mountains that will go to the Jordan, and end up in the Sea of Gailee.
We hiked down to the bottom of the ravine and see the river is furiously rushing, again this is the most water the locals have seen in many years.
Here's Hermana, my south African friend, sitting next to the river which is just below the Banias falls.
So we made it down to the base of the falls. If you get too close you get soaked with spray. I am taking this video while listening to Hermana sing from Psalms 29 - It was a profound moment, to see and hear this water crashing and have her singing this scripture.
The abundance of cold, fresh, pure water coming from Mount Hermon.
Here's another view of Mount Hermon at one of our stops.
Now we are on Mt. Bental, which is an extinct volcanic cone. Down below Steven and Natalie, you are looking into Syria.
This used to be a military base up here, and I am manning a gun, a true watchman on the wall:)
As you can see, you can go anywhere from here.
We saw this view into Israel from Mt. Bental as we were leaving to go back to our hotel.
I don't know how this picture got in here out of order, but this was from the tel Dan, where you see those steps going up was site of an ancient temple.


  1. May Allah give us our beloved Golan Hieghts back sooner.

  2. May Allah give us our beloved Golan Hieghts back sooner.