Day 8 Something Fishy in Galilee

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Day 8 started with the realization that the Road Scholars were finally leaving the completely under-whelming hotel in Jerusalem with an intention to bunk the ancient City of Nazareth.

First stop was Capernaum, located on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee. It was interesting as the Road Scholar Bus grew close, the arid desert gave way to crops and fields of green. Capernaum is the town that Jesus adopted as his hometown after he left Nazareth. Located along the Roman road of Via Maris, Capernaum was on the main trade route between Damascus and Egypt. Hence, it was an important commercial stop on that trade route, and the largest number of workers were the fishermen that the early Christians were noted as being.  


The Magic Sea (Freshwater Lake of Galilee)!

The town is cited in all four gospels where it was reported to have been the hometown of the tax collector Matthew, and located not far from Bethsaida, the hometown of the apostles Simon Peter, Andrew, James and John. Some believe that Jesus may have owned a home in the town, but it is more likely that he stayed in the house of one of his followers here, you know, one of those friends that simply won’t leave!  This is certainly the place that he started his peculiar take on religion and recruited his followers.


"No not Akilah and the Bee!

But Udi and the Sea!"

Because of its location and many visitors, knowledge of Jesus extended far and wide by means of the traders who passed through Capernaum. His fame spread and many came to know Him through the people who took accounts of him back to their home ports. However, the relationship between Jesus and Capernaum did not end well. According to the “Good Book” (Matthew 11:23), Jesus cursed Capernaum, saying "you will be thrown down to Hades!" because of their lack of faith in him as the Messiah. Mike and Bone figured they weren’t buying what he was selling! 

Capernaum and its ruins were first discovered in 1838 by American explorer Edward Robinson. Numerous archaeological excavations have taken place since the 1900’s. Most recently, excavations have uncovered the remains of a synagogue and several residential complexes, one of which is believed to be the home of the Apostle Peter.


It was a Beatitude Day!

The first stop in Capernaum, was the Church of the Beatitudes. The Beatitudes are the “rap” of antiquity attributed to Jesus that provides the framework for his world view. It is interesting how little of these “rappings” are followed in modern Christianity! They are: 1. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.  2. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.  3. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the Earth.  4. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.7. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. 8. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.  9. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the Sons of God.  10. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.  11.Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. 13. Blessed are the Wolverines, for they shall win the Big 10 ( or 14).

There are differences in the numbers and the interpretation of beatitudes based on the flavor (Orthodox, Coptic, Catholic) of Christianity. For example, the 14th Beatitude is highly disputed in the Diocese of Shithole in Columbus. Learning about this religious stuff made Mike and Bone a little nauseous so they walked outside into a simple beautiful day!  Next Udi the Foodie led the Boys and the rest of the Road Scholars down to the ancient ruins of Capernaum!


The Ancient Roman City of Capernaum!

"So is this the House of Peter that Jesus Built his Church On"?!

The first place Udi took the Road Scholars was the supposed site of the home of Peter the fisherman, Jesus's buddy!

Beneath the foundations of this octagonal Byzantine martyrium church at Capernaum, archaeologists have speculated that this simple first-century A.D. home that may have been the house of Peter, the home of Jesus in Capernaum.

Although slightly larger than most, the house was simple, with coarse walls and a roof of earth and straw. Like most early Roman-period houses, it consisted of a few small rooms clustered around two open courtyards. Despite later proving to be one of the most exciting Biblical archaeology discoveries, the house appeared quite ordinary. According to the excavators, however, it is what happened to the house after the middle of the first century A.D. that marked it as exceptional and most likely the house of Peter, the home of Jesus in Capernaum.

Their evidence is based on that in the years immediately following Jesus’ death, the function of the house changed dramatically. The house’s main room was completely plastered over from floor to ceiling, very rare for houses of the day. At about the same time, the house’s pottery, which had previously been household cooking pots and bowls, now consisted entirely of large storage jars and oil lamps. Such radical alterations indicate that the house no longer functioned as a residence but instead had become a place for communal gatherings, possibly even the first Christian gatherings, a key factor in how Christianity began. As with many Biblical archaeology discoveries, often the small details most convincingly tie ancient material remains to Biblical events and characters.

For instance, the excavators found that during the ensuing centuries, the plastered room from the original house had been renovated and converted into the central hall of a rudimentary church. The room’s old stone walls were buttressed by a newly built two-story arch that, in turn, supported a new stone roof. The room was even replastered and painted over with floral and geometric designs of various colors. The building’s key role in understanding how Christianity began was confirmed by more than a hundred graffiti scratched into the church’s walls. Most of the inscriptions say things like “Lord Jesus Christ help thy servant” or “Christ have mercy.” They are written in Greek, Syriac or Hebrew and are sometimes accompanied by etchings of small crosses or, in one case, a boat. The excavators claim that the name of Peter is mentioned in several graffiti, although many scholars now dispute these readings.

This simple church building, helpful in determining how Christianity began, survived for more than 300 years before it was finally replaced in the fifth century by a well-built octagonal martyrium church by the Byzantine (Eastern Romans). Octagonal martyria were built to commemorate an important site, such as the original house of Peter that once stood here. The inner sanctum of the octagonal building was built directly above the remains of the very room of the first-century house that had formed the central hall of the earlier church.  Next, Udi took the Team down to the Sea of Galilee!


"The Sea Shore is Pretty!"

The Sea of Galilee (also called Lake Tiberias) ain’t a sea at all and is a plain old fashioned freshwater lake. Interestingly, it is the lowest freshwater lake on Earth and the second-lowest lake in the world (after the Dead Sea.) The lake is fed partly by underground springs, but its main source is the Jordan River, which flows through it from north to south and exits the lake at the Degania Dam.

The lake or “Sea” is situated in northeast Israel, between the Golan Heights and the Galilee region, in the Jordan Rift Valley, the valley caused by the separation of the African and Arabian plates. Consequently, the area is subject to earthquakes, and in the past, volcanic activity. This is evident from the abundant basalt and other igneous rocks that define the geology of Galilee. Israel has strategically gained a two mile boundary around the entire Sea to both control all the fresh water (no sharing) and as a defensive perimeter for itself. Mike and Bone thought it was pretty weird to realize that those hills on the horizon was the Golan Height in Syria!

Talking to Udi, in the past. the Galilee did get cold in the winter and had even seen snow. So Jesus could have really walked on the Water on the Sea of Galilee!  However it was probably walking on the ice playing hockey with a group of Canadians!


Udi, and the Road Warriors!

Udi the Foodie found this would be a good time to photograph the motley crue of Road Scholars. Beth Young, the person that Udi left on the Mount of Olives is the women on all black at the very far left was from Dallas and was there with her friends Betsy and Karen. Carl and Susan (who is the identical twin of Elaine Bettis on Seinfeld), Mark Jacobs a retired physician from Boston and his wife Janet. Cherie Oto and her Mom lived in Seattle, but they lived most of their life in Detroit (Taylor and Troy), where her Mom worked for 35 years for Ford Motor! Carol McIntyre a 72 year old Canadian teacher from Vancouver and her niece Clare McIntyre from Chicago. Bart and Sarah led a small group from Bellamy Washington. Bill Hupka a 83 year old retired Silicon Valley exec, and the interesting case of 80 year old Scott Muller (kneeling next to Udi), whom was super nice, and unfortunately suffering the early symptoms of Alzheimer’s . As the trip progressed "where's Scott" became a familiar refrain and become Mike and Bones responsibility! After the picture, everyone got back on the Bus for a tour of just how wonderful communism is!


Seeing Red !! Kibbutzing Around at Degania Bet!

The next stop was the Degania Bet Kibbutz. where the Road Scholars was presented the history of the kibbutz movement in Israel and learn about the early settlers. A member of a kibbutz is called a kibbutznik. A Kibbutznik met Udi and the Road Scholars and gave the mob a tour of Degania Bet.

A kibbutz (from the Hebrew word kvutza, meaning “group.”) is a communal group that share everything, traditionally based on agriculture. Degania Bet, established in 1909 is first kibbutz. The  idea of this "perfect group" started in the 1850’s, when throughout Europe there was of a lot of social unrest that spawned many movements, one was Zionism, another was socialism. Many of the founders of Israel were in fact self-proclaimed “communist,” a term that the Russian Bolshevik’s morphed into a pejorative! Kibbutzim began as utopian communities, combining socialism and Zionism into a perfect stew of communalism.

It was a revolutionary idea of a voluntary society in which people live in accordance with a specific social contract, based on egalitarian and communal principles in a social and economic framework.

The main characteristics of Kibbutz life were established in adherence to collectivism in property alongside a cooperative character in the spheres of education, culture and social life. With this came the understanding that the Kibbutz member is part of a unit that is larger then just his own family. This includes the controversial idea that children are not the parents responsibility, but the Kibbuzt's. It the day, children would not live with parents but in communal buildings.


The Main Hall of Degania Bet

A Commentary on Collectivism!

As he gave the tour, he recounted the history of founding the Kibbutz. By one of the founders Yosef Baratz, who wrote a book about his experiences.

In 1909 Ottoman Palestine was a harsh environment. The Galilee was swampy, the Judaean Mountains rocky, and the south of the country, the Negev, was a desert. To make things more challenging, most of the settlers had no prior farming experience. The sanitary conditions were also poor. Malaria, typhus and cholera were rampant. Bedouins would raid farms and settled areas. Sabotage of irrigation canals and burning of crops were also common. Living collectively was simply the most logical way to be secure in an unwelcoming land. On top of safety considerations, establishing a farm was a capital-intensive project; collectively, the founders of the kibbutzim had the resources to establish something lasting, while independently they did not.

Finally, the land had been purchased by the greater Jewish community. From around the world, Jews dropped coins into Jewish National Fund "Blue Boxes" for land purchases in Palestine. In 1909, Baratz, nine other men, and two women established themselves at the southern end of the Sea of Galilee near the Arab village of Umm Juni/Juniya. These teenagers had hitherto worked as day laborers converting wetlands for human development, as masons, or as hands at the older Jewish settlements. Their dream was now to work for themselves, building up the land. They called their community "Kvutzat Degania" (lit. "collective of wheat" or "community of cereal grains"), now Degania Det.

Kibbutzim heyday was in the 20th century. Today, it is on the decline. Walking around Degania Bet, the buildings reminded one of a lower middle class existence, not really that wonderful. Most people do not all have the same level of motivation, hence some work harder than others and want those rewards for themselves and having others raise your kids, well lets just say most people did not like that.

The Kibbuztnik took the Road Scholars in for a Kibbutz lunch, which was, well enough to explain why the Kibbutz movement was in the decline! While Mike and Bone ate their lunch they were able to connect the dots on one thing. Burned out hippie Bernie Sanders grew up on a Kibbutz, it explained his extreme socialist tendencies. Thankfully after lunch the tour was over and everyone headed to the Road Scholar Bus headed back out into the dusty desert that afternoon to check out Jesus's boyhood home, Nazareth! Where supposedly the Archangel Gabriel informed Mary that she would conceive a virgin baby. Or at least that's the story she got her Husband to believe! 


"Mary, do you really expect me to believe this story!" Joseph

Nazareth today is a large Palestinian Town in the West Bank and was similar to Bethlehem in not being a really lovely place. As The Bus emptied out, Mike and Bone learned about this latest Christian Shrine.


The Church of the Annunciation or "The Church of You Gotta Be Kiddin'!"

 The Church of the Annunciation is a Catholic Church, where according to the Catholics appeared to Mary and said “hey your having God’s kid!.” But even here history is murky, because according to the Greek Orthodox Church Gabriel talked to Mary while she was drawing water from a local spring in Nazareth, and the Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation was erected at that alternate site.

Of course all of this goes back to Saint Helena (again), Emperor Constantine’s Mom at the same time she founded the rest of the Jesus sites in the area.

The Supposed Site of Mary's Home

There was such a lack of credulity in the site with Helena, the Orthodox views and the Catholic views that Mike and Bone though all of it nonsense. As the tour drew to a close the Boys headed back to the Bus. En route Bone decided to buy a little souvenir minora for his desk at Bonacello. Soon the Road Scholars were checking in at a very nice hotel in Nazareth, where it was apparent they were in the Palestinian Authority vs. Israel. all luggage had to go through a scanner before going into the Hotel! Welcome to the Arab Middle East! The Road Scholars finally had a good meal compared to the slop-buffet in Jerusalem and real beds to sleep in. Mike and Bone celebrated by having a few beers before hitting the soft normal sized beds!!!