We started off our day in Dan, in northern Israel, where we saw a very old Canaanite gate made out of mud bricks (from about 1800 BC), and another city gate. From Dan we could see the hills of Lebanon, and were able to walk through a trench that was used as a lookout point to guard the border when it was closer to where we were. If this was the only place we had gone on this trip, we probably wouldn't have guessed we were in Israel, because the trails resembled a rainforest, complete with a couple of small waterfalls.
Secondly, we went to Caesarea Philippi and sat under a fig tree as Linford spoke to us about when Peter recognized Jesus as the Messiah, and He renamed Peter, declaring that on him (Petros, the rock) He would build His Church. This was cool because we then saw an extremely old pagan place of worship that was built around a huge section of bedrock, bringing context to Peter's declaration about Jesus in the midst of a very pagan culture.
After lunch at another Druze village, we set off for the Golan Heights, on the northeastern side of the Sea of Galilee. From up there, we could see Mount Hermon, which still had snow at its top, and a few towns in Syria. It was an eye-opening experience to be able to see this part of the land, and we were able to speak with an Irish UN officer as well as an Israeli Defence Forces soldier to hear about what they are doing and a few of their perspectives on the situation over here. A special thank you goes to our bus driver Jamal for his insight and expertise today.
On the way back, we stopped at a beautiful lookout, a point from where we could see the entire Sea of Galilee. Every time we come back to a point where we can see this "sea," it is so exciting to me and always refreshing.
Numerous times, the Bible makes reference to hills and mountains, and from a southern Ontario point of view this can be hard to understand. But after being here for only a few days, phrases like "a city on a hill cannot be hidden" (Matt. 5:14) and "I look up to the mountains, where does my help come from?" (Ps. 121:1) make a lot more sense. We are learning to understand several Bible stories in their original context rather than only from our own perspectives.
To add to our variety of experiences today, we had several enjoyable conversations, experienced some confusion about which direction we were supposed to look out the bus windows, and heard many stories from one of leaders who apparently had a particularly adventurous childhood. One of the surreal parts was being able to view four countries in one day: Israel, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan. All in all, it made for an awesome 20th birthday :)