|Bomb shelter beneath the kibbutz doctor's office|
After saying goodbye to the Kibbutz Gonen, we began driving through the Golan Heights, an area made famous by its annexation into Israel following the 1967 war. Prior to that time, this area was part of Syria, and its ultimate fate remains a contentious issue. We then took a slight detour to visit the Druze town of Buqaata. The Druze are a minority group that practice a largely mysterious religion; even within their own community, only a select few are allowed to read the sect’s holy books. The Druze in Israel enjoy a position unique among Israeli Arabs; because they have no nationalistic aspirations, they are allowed to work in sensitive positions and have volunteered to be a part of the nationwide program of compulsory military service. Those who live in the Golan Heights have the option to be Israeli citizens, but many have declined to become such in anticipation of a time at which the Golan Heights in which they live will be returned to Syria.
|A Druze woman in traditional religious attire|
Crossing the famous Jordan River proved somewhat anticlimactic; even at a very high stage due to the recent rains, it seemed to us native Minnesotans as little more than a small stream. We stopped for lunch in the town of Kazerin, and then journeyed to the shores of the Sea of Galilee. At over 200 feet below sea level, this body of water is the world’s lowest fresh-water lake. Although the north of Israel is known as The Galilee, the sea itself is instead known as Kinneret, based on the Hebrew word for violin in reference to its shape. We visited the old city of Capharnaum, the site which the Bible says Jesus moved to in order to begin his ministry. Here we had another lecture by Amir concerning the birth of Christianity. The archeological site is home to the ruins of very simple dwellings that date from the first century as well as the remains of an ornate fourth-century synagogue. According to Catholic doctrine, one simple foundation was once the home of Peter in which Jesus stayed. The remains of a Byzantine church are on top of the old foundation, and a modern Catholic church has been built high above that, allowing access to the ruins beneath.
|Ruins of the synagogue (left) and simple homes (center, right)|
|The Sea of Galilee|
|Baptism at the River Jordan|
|Capitalism at work?|