Travelling through Israel we often found ourselves near many Bible Tour Buses – mostly Christians finding holy places from the New Testament. As I have mentioned in previous posts, we are not very religious people – we identify as spiritual people who believe in the “live and let live” philosophy of life. With that said, we try to balance our review of holy places from all perspectives and religions.
From Haifa we took a 40 minute drive east to Nazareth to visit the Church of the Annunciation. The towering cupola of the Church of the Annunciation stands over the cave that is believed to have been where archangel Gabriel told the young Mary (14 years old per the New Testament) that she would become the mother of Jesus. There are a few other New Testament attractions in Nazareth, but beware – because of the number of tour buses and the narrow streets it takes quite a while to get in and out of. Parking at the entrance of the old city and walking in is highly recommended.
After dropping our friend Tristan at a Nazareth hostel we continued east towards the Sea of Galilee where we settled in to our Airbnb, (prices for accommodations at the Sea of Galilee are quite steep – we found Airbnb was a much more economical option).
Our first order of business was to hike Mount Arbel which is a stunning mountain overlooking the Sea of Galilee. Its cliffs are seen for miles around with good views of the Golan Heights, and even of Mount Hermon.
The national park from which the hikes start also includes remnants of an ancient community that once inhabited this mountain top. The area was populated at the Persian (6th century BC) and Greek periods (5th – 4th century BC), and reached its peak at the Roman (509 – 27 BC) and Byzantine periods (395 – 1453 AD). At the peak times most of the villages around the Arbel cliffs were heavily expanded, and the roads and public structures were erected.
There are ancient ruins of a synagogue, and hikes down the cliff-face that reveal an amazing cave fortress. Please note that some of the hikes include some exposed areas that require some climbing and a bit of athleticism. For those wanting a longer hike this national park also has an entry point to the 65 km Jesus Trail taking pilgrims from Nazareth to Capernaum.
The remainder of our time at the Sea of Galilee we spent visiting the recommended biblical sites: Tabgha – believed by Christians to be the place of the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes , Ginosar – where during a drought a frame of a fishing boat was revealed dating back to 100-70 AD; and Capernaum where Christians believe that Jesus lived and performed many of his miracles.
I must say that outside of the Mount Arbel hike, I found the Sea of Galilee to be over priced and not worth a lengthy visit. The sights were interesting and I am glad that we went, but perhaps would have been more interesting during warmer weather when we could have also enjoyed the plentiful wineries and the sandy beaches.