Well, after settling in to the second semester, we recently enjoyed a four-day getaway to one of our favorite places in the country--the Galilee. This time, it was more beautiful than ever with vibrant colors of wildflowers, bright green grass, and magnificent blue skies. It was absolutely amazing!
We spent Friday driving to the region via a different route that took us through the Gilboa mountain range. Along the way, we stopped at the Beit Alfa Synagogue which has the oldest and most well-preserved floor mosaic in the country. It was beautiful. We drove up and along the mountain range, and upon reaching the top, there was an old military watch tower that you could climb and see for miles towards the Jezreel Valley, the Carmel Mountain range, and even to beautiful Mt. Hermon (which is snow-capped this time of year). This mountain range is where the biblical story of the battle between Saul and Johnathon took place. We enjoyed some hiking while on the mountain as well.
We then left the Gilboa mountain range and drove around and to the top of Mt. Tabor on our way to our hotel on the Sea of Galilee. Traditionally, Mt. Tabor is where the transfiguration story of Jesus is located, although many scholars (and the up and coming scholar--Brad Gray) believe this actually took place on Mt. Hermon. Still, the view was amazing and we were coming down just as the sun was setting. We arrived at our hotel to enjoy a nice room and an amazing buffet dinner.
Saturday we spent the day in the northernmost part of Galilee. We began our day at Tel Dan which has the largest Solomonic style gate in Israel and also a city gate from the time of the Canaanite period--almost 4000 years old and it still stands to its original height of seven meters! The ancient site is only part of the attraction as the whole place is a beautiful nature reserve. We enjoyed the beautiful hikes and Denyon loved it too. Anytime we'd get him out of the backpack he loved hiking along, with his main interests being picking up rocks. The Dan Spring is one of the main sources that flows into the Jordan River, and with the recent rains, it was flowing abundantly. There is even a natural kids wading pool (that was absolutely freezing!) that Denyon loved splashing in! He just loves any kind of water.
From Dan we went to the Banias Falls and the ancient city of Caesarea Philippi. The falls were amazing and were extremely powerful. Just standing on the lookout you could feel the cool mist from the water bursting forth. It was great. We enjoyed some great hiking again and the weather couldn't have been better. And again, Denyon enjoyed picking up rocks and throwing them into the Banias Spring. It's definitely one of his favorite pasttimes.
Once again, as every night, we enjoyed a delicious buffet dinner. The food is so great at the hotel where we always stay so it's always a highlight.
Sunday, we spent the day at a place called Hamat Gader. It's a small family park with the main attraction being natural hot springs. We spent the morning letting Denyon enjoy his way through a children's petting zoo with turtles, bunnies, a fawn, a goat, and his favorite--little chicks. We even got a picture of him kissing one of the chicks! It was so sweet and brought back memories of how each year my dad would hatch chicks for his classroom and we'd get to have them at home with us. They're so cute!
The place also had an extensive alligator farm in which Denyon walked through repeatedly saying, "Chomp! Chomp!" He loved it. He also saw an ostrich, baboons, kangaroos, and racoons. And to top it off we saw a parrot show where we saw the birds ride tricycles, roller skate, and even ride a bike on a tightrope! It was great and it enthralled us all.
After eating lunch, we spent a couple hours enjoying the hot springs. The water felt great and wasn't too warm for Denyon. There was one small pool that was shallow enough that Denyon could stand in. It had low benches all around the water so he liked to sit on those and look for little rocks. In the same pool, were mini waterfalls that you could sit under which Brad and I particularly enjoyed. It was a relaxing and very enjoyable day!
Monday, we spent the majority of our day at Gamla. This city is located on the north eastern side of the Sea of Galilee and was home to the group known as the zealots. It has one of the most ancient synagogues in the country. We first hiked back to the Gamla Waterfall which is the highest fall in Israel. It was beautiful and neither of us had seen it before. After lunch, we explored the ancient site and pushed our way through the overgrown path. We were literally walking through beautiful flowers even though we were on the path. The place was just bursting with life and it was great. I will admit I had a bit of a headache after the hike due to the pollen that was stirred up and probably all over our clothes. Although beautiful, it didn't due much for my allergies! Denyon even had his first taste of how flowers do not taste good...he thought he'd try one and see!
The last place we visited was the site of Kursi. This is traditionally the site of Jesus' miracle of the demoniac and the pigs drowning in the sea. Today, stands beautiful remains of a church from about the 4th-5th century A.D. It was a small site but definitely worth seeing. And Denyon had one more opportunity before his long slumber in the car back to Jerusalem to pick up rocks.
Overall, I think it was one of, if not our favorite, trip. The weather was beautiful and the scenery even better. We just had such an enjoyable time as a family and really cherished this amazing opportunity to just go to Galilee for the weekend. It's hard to believe that our time here is soon coming to a close. We had enjoyed our time here so much and are so grateful to have had another amazing mini-vacation!
Until next time, Shalom!
Brad, Shallon, and Denyon