Dancing on the Sea of Galilee, Holy Sites, and a Jewish Mystic Peacemaker

Another great day in the Galilee. Today we went to Cana, where Jesus turned water into wine to help the host family save face. Of course, they were willing to offer us wine tasting at 9:30 in the morning. The church at the site had a large stone washing basin, and a group of Filipinos singing songs up in the chapel. Beautiful site, song, and experience.

Next we made our way to Tabgha, where the 2 fish and 5 loaves were shared among the feeding of the 5,000. This chapel is at the site of seven springs (hence Tabgha), and has Byzantine era mosaics, including the two loaves and a basket of loaves in front of the altar. We purchased ceramic cups and trays to use for communion when we get home.

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St. Peter the Rock shrine is made of the local black volcanic stone, and includes a stone in the chancel that was supposedly where Simon made his confession of faith, and Jesus changed his name to Petra – or Peter. We got to put our feet in the cool water of the Sea of Galilee for the first time. Very rocky, but refreshing. We then had a discussion in one of the little outdoor chapels on site.

Kuffar Nahum – Capernaum – or village of mercy, is the ancient city of Peter’s family. There remains the remnant of a 4th century Synagogue and the excavation of Peter’s home, which became an enlarged house church, and eventually a 5th century Byzantium octagonal church. The Catholic Church has built a chapel over the site without disturbing the stones beneath for a great view down to the heart of the site.

In the afternoon, we went on a boat ride on an enlarged replica of a fishing boat from the era of Jesus and the disciples. Our tour guide, Raedwan, got everyone on their feet dancing to Jewish and Arab songs. Even the Japanese tourists joined in.

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We had a Palestinian lunch – the too much lunch – with dozens of plates of salads and St. Peter Fish from the Sea of Galilee. We were so stuffed, one of us didn’t eat dinner. 😉

Then we went to the Chapel of the Beatitudes, an eight sided chapel that represents eight of the beatitudes, with the spire representing the ninth one. Very beautiful setting overlooking the lake, where we read the Beatitudes and sang a couple familiar spirituals.

We then took a short ride to Tsfat – or Safad– to meet with Eliyahu McLean, a Jewish Prophet in the Renewal Tradition who does work with Interfaith partners in the Abrahamic Reunion and the Jerusalem Hug projects. He walked us through the artists galleria of town, showing us a mystical Synagogue dating back to the 1600’s and in full use today. Many ancient torah scrolls were in a display overflowing with Torahs and books of commentary. Eliyahu gave us a history of Kaballah studies. We then went to his home and his rooftop Sukkah, which was in the midst of being taken apart after Sukkot. We watched the sun go down as we heard his stories of peacemaking projects through listening to interfaith partners who also have a vision for a just peace in Israel-Palestine. It was a beautiful moment, hearing the heart of one so truly committed to the vision of a shared earth – and a shared Holy Land. Eliyahu mentioned his partnership working with Elias Jabbour, and invited us to meet his Muslim partner Ibrahim Abu el Hawa when we get to Jerusalem.

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