REFLECTIONS ON ISRAEL || getting agrippa on a peace of schnitzel with dan
[January 2nd, 2011]
The air was clear the morning of the 2nd. The view of the Sea of Galilee met us with a “good morning” as we walked out the door of our small seaside villas on the southern shore. I skipped breakfast to grab some uncrowded wifi in the lobby, hoping to text with Jen, or skype, before she went to bed back home. Others had the same idea. Not so much maybe to text or skype, though. New Years Day back home meant lots of college football bowl game scores to get updates on. It was kind of interesting how we all wanted to know the score even while immersed in Israel. I admit it. I did, too. But it helped me get a better grip on why people from other countries mutter under their breath, “Crazy Americans!”
Dad shared from 1st Peter as though Peter standing beside the sea. It was a bit surreal to me at that moment I recall. Here was a man whom I had heard teach from the Scriptures countless times. Familiarity normally breeds contempt, but in my case it had bred desire to have recorded every wise word that this rabbi named “Dad” had ever taught us, both for my sake and for the sake of my kids and for the sake of the “church” at large to whom he had given so much of his life. It was also a bit surreal to think of this not-so-long-ago lame man who could not walk standing beside the Sea on which His Savior walked teaching the teachings of this Savior who had given him a second chance after a run-in with a ’98 Expedition.
A jeep ride awaited as we drove up the eastern side of the Sea past the Golan Heights across the upper stream of the Jordan River onto the Chorazin Heights. Following an overcrowded bathroom stop near the Lebanon border, we were on board of jeeps that held six to eight passengers each. The air was brisk. We were offroad after a mile’s journey from our pick-up spot. Heavy rain left behind a muddy, bumpy path down the hillside, past the apricot and pomegranate trees, and into the Hula Valley. It once was a vast lake, drained for settlement and farming. The colors, even in early January, were a stunning green and yellow. The caravan made it back to the upper stream of the Jordan River. We crossed together. and began our ascent up the Golan Heights.
During the ascent, there was a history-lesson stop upon a small plateau that looked back northwestward across the Jordan over the Hula Valley. We took in the panoramic landscape as we heard of the pandemic aggression of this region, particularly during the 6 Day War of 1967. Some evangelicals of that late-1960s period I am sure got their panties in a wad as they analyzed the border aggression through the lens of so-called Biblical, apocalyptic literature (we would soon run into Tim LaHaye – a post for another day). The Israelites weren’t as concerned about eschatology as they were another exile. The battle that followed was so short and decisive that some of the Jews must have thought back to the underdog, miraculous victories of Joshua when they first entered this land. Our guide told us of the impending ego-boost. The saying became, “Let’s go take Syria, and then we will decide what to do after lunch.” The war less than a decade later deflated that pride somewhat, but the Israelite military continues to stand strong.
We finished the climb of the Golan Heights (near the border with Syria), driving by several looming reminders (land mines sign) of past conflict on these cowboy hills. The bus waited for us at a gas station / ice cream shop. Some indulged.
We loaded the bus and headed over to a better viewpoint of Mt. Hermon, the highest mountain in Israel. From that vantage point, we not only saw the mountain to the north, but we also looked east beyond a UN border-patrol base there to keep the peace between Israeli and Syrian troops. Damascus was barely in view in the backdrop. I could only think of Paul / Saul. Where was he in this area when the Son blinded him (much like the noonday sun was blinding us)?
Lunch was in a small village up the road and included a schnitzel pita and a magnum ice cream bar. We then drove on to Caesarea Philippi. The beauty of this natural setting and the mystique of the ruins of Agrippa the Second’s palace captivated us all. Lan Leavell shared about the story (Matthew 16) when Jesus asked His followers, “Who do you say that I am?” In the midst of the diversity of this people from the time of Jesus, the home of many religious expressions including the cult of Pan, Jesus asked His followers to weigh in on who these diverse people said that He was. Then He asked them to declare their personal views among the many views of that city at the time. It made that foundational story come alive more than it already was to me. We walked along the gorgeous nature walk that led us through the woods to the ruins of Agrippa’s palace. They were amazing. The construction of that day left some of the men who had construction backgrounds in awe. I took a picture of one of the keystones that held together multiple arches that 2000 years later held up the ceiling under which we were standing.
The day was nearing its end. We bused over for a final stop at Tel Dan. It was the home of the earliest known Biblical artifact – the gate through which Abraham actually entered when he came to Dan (Genesis 14). Dan was also connected to the story of Ruth, and it was the home of the altar that Jeroboam defiled (1st Kings 12). It was actually quite staggering to look upon the gateway through which Abraham had walked some 4000 years ago.
That night, we escaped away to Tiberias, on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee, and ate at the highly-recommended “Decks” restaurant. It was quickly evident why it was so highly recommended. The food and service was excellent. The setting beside the sea majestic. Amazing memory with my dad and brother and several other folks who have meant the world to our family. I was grateful. It was a special way to close out such a special day. Not to mention an opportunity not to eat more schnitzel. No offense to you schnitzel, but we were having lunch together with you everyday. A little steak and fish and sweet potatoes and mushrooms and fresh salad and bread was a welcome break from what would continue to be the lunch staple of the entire trip.
We went to bed knowing that tomorrow we would sail the Sea of Galilee. It was what I had looked forward to the most as we prepared for the trip. And we would soon be out on the water…