In order not to waste time, we headed right up to the Galilee on Sunday morning. Due to the upcoming Passover holiday, we had to go to the Galilee early in the week so that we could get a room in the hotel without having to stay a minimum number of nights (which was more than what we'd want to stay). Denyon was a little confused to wake up and see these strange, but familiar faces in his living room. We skype with them often but it's a little different face to face seeing them again after about 8 months of not seeing them in person. It only took a few minutes for him to get over his shyness and then he was ready to play. Especially with the new bag of small stuffed animals from his gramma. They were a great car toy.
We headed to the Mediterranean coast to see King Herod's city of Caesarea. I have written of this place before earlier on our blog. The city is a port city that was a man-made port. Herod reshaped the coastline and made a harbor--just because he could. He also did not like salt water so in his palace on the sea, he built in a fresh water swimming pool--right in the sea! There is an underwater dive park that you can see if you're scuba certified (something Brad aspires to do someday!). The city is also significant to Paul's imprisonment which you can read about in the book of Acts. In addition to enjoying the site, Denyon loved picking up rocks and shells and going from one side of the pier and rushing to the other side...back and forth, back and forth. He is getting very fast! Before heading out, we all enjoyed some ice cream...yum!
The drive to our hotel in Galilee from Caesarea is beautiful. We drove through valleys, grassy plains, and around mountains to the Sea of Galilee. Before heading to our hotel, we visited the seven springs near the sea and also climbed part way up the Mount of Beatitudes. Here we watched as the sun began to set and the sky was so clear. We could see all around the lake. Most notably, Brad recited the entire Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) which was so inspiring. It is amazing to hear scripture recited right where it could have possible been spoken by Jesus 2000 years ago. What a way to end the evening! Well, dinner I suppose topped it off...we had a delicious buffet dinner at our hotel (the food is amazing!).
The next day we visited the cities of Capernaum and Korazim. These are two cities where Jesus did much of his teaching and Capernaum was sort of Jesus' home away from home. Here we saw the home of Peter's mother-in-law (Mark 1). Denyon enjoyed the Korazim synagogue very much because of the vast number of rocks present.
We spent that afternoon just lounging at the hotel. We did some swimming, shopping, and playing. The water in both the pool and the Sea of Galilee was pretty chilly but we did manage to all get in...well, mom just got her feet wet. Again, we enjoyed a delicious dinner before heading off to bed. Brad and I are getting pretty good at building forts around Denyon so that he doesn't think he's missing out when it's time for him to go to bed.
Our last day in Galilee, we started at the Jordan River. We hiked back to a beautiful spot along the Jordan where the water is faster than probably most other places along the river. The water was up higher than we'd seen it before so it was a little trickier finding a good spot. We almost had a small casualty when my mom slipped on a rock crossing a small part of a side stream of the Jordan. She was quite graceful and was okay other than some bruises. It was one of the falls that looks funny but you don't want to laugh because you want to make sure the person is okay. But then, as the week went on, we kept laughing more and more...except my mom. In fact, she's probably not even laughing now as she reads this on the blog but I just couldn't keep it out of the details! Admist the fall, we enjoyed some peaceful quiet time at the Jordan River, each taking our own time to reflect on our time there.
We then headed to Bethsaida, another small village where Jesus spent much time in. Also noted for several disciple coming from there including for sure Phillip, Peter, and Andrew and possibly James and John. This town was no bigger than probably 500 people and to think five of the 12 disciples came from there and changed the world! Pretty amazing.
To end our day (other than a delicious dinner at restaurant called Spaghettim with probably over a hundred different kinds of pasta) we saw the large scale excavation site of Bet Shan. The city was one of the decapolis cities around the sea of Galilee and along a major travel route across the country. I'm sure Jesus passed by or through there many times during his many travels.
Wednesday we headed down to the Dead Sea area and enjoyed a three hour hike through Wadi Arugot. The hike in its entirety was a first for Brad and I too (we'd only been able to do part of it previously due to flash floods and early closing times). It was not quite what we expected but still gave mom and dad a clear picture of what the desert was like. This hike is among an oasis in the desert called Ein Gedi...nearly the only source of fresh water in this part of the Judean desert. We enjoyed lunch by some fresh water pools and Denyon especially enjoyed splashing in them and picking up rocks. Brad even caught a small crab!
To our disappointment (and my parents') we got to Masada only to find that it had closed three hours earlier due to the upcoming Passover holiday! What a bummer. We had no idea it would close down so early! Instead, we headed to the Dead Sea for a quick "float." It is amazing how you float effortlessly. Denyon and Brad had fun taking pictures of my parents and me.
To finish the day we stopped at Wadi Kelt. This wadi system was along the ancient path from Jericho to Jerusalem so it is a great picture of the setting of the story of the Good Samaritan. The desert is so vast!
The last three days were spent in Jerusalem. We tried to mix the days with touring and rest. We all needed a little down time and my parents loved just playing with Denyon. The unique thing about their time here was that it was right during both the Jewish holiday Passover and the Christian holiday Easter. As you can imagine the city was packed! Although crowded, there were some special ceremonies taking place of which we took part of at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (the possible location for Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection). It was so crowded but quite memorable to be there on Good Friday.
Other Jerusalem sites we visited were the Old City, the Mount of Olives, the Temple Mount, the Western Wall, Gethsemane and the Church of All Nations, Brad's school Jerusalem University College, St. Ann's Church, and the Pools of Bethesda (John 5). Because of the holiday, the old city was packed and we were reminded of what it must have been like during the last week of Jesus' life when he was here. Pretty powerful!
On Friday night, the school hosted a Last Supper Meal in true triclenium style. This means the tables were on the floor, everyone ate in a reclined position on their left side so as to eat with their right hand (although I admit I could not hold the position and had to change positions often), no utensils were used, and the cafeteria was decorated in a first century style lit by the light of oil lamps. It was so cool to experience and none of us had ever done anything like it. Even Denyon enjoyed the experience although we just took turns playing with him. He wasn't really up for reclining around a table for two and a half hours!
The last day my parents were here we just rested. We spent some time reflecting on the week, took Denyon to the park, took naps, and had a delicious dinner. It was such a great week with them and it flew by so quickly. My mom served us all by helping out with dishes and meals all week which is always so nice for me. My dad said it was great to have the rest time and naps and said he needed to do that more often. Overall, it was a very blessed week. We were so grateful that my parents could come and they say they feel the same! It was sad to see them go, but at least this time it's only a couple months before we see them again. They will be home for the summer before they head back overseas...this time not back to Japan but to their new location in Spain! That gives us another reason to travel the world! Until next time...