Day 4: Sea of Galilee, Magdala, Rosh Pina

I’m here documenting for a group of Christians on pilgrimage to the holy land from Ecclesia Houston with Breaking Bread Journeys. I hope you’re enjoying my photo-journal of our experiences. After our breakfast at the Ma’agan Hotel with the breathtaking view of the southern shore of the Sea of Galilee, we took a stroll on the docks but our boat ride was canceled due to bad weather. We hope to reschedule for tomorrow morning.

We then headed to an archaeological site called Magdala, the site of at least two places in ancient Israel mentioned in the Jewish Talmud and possibly a location mentioned in the Christian New Testament. They have discovered an ancient Jewish Synagogue which would have been active during Jesus’ time. Pastor Chris told us it is almost 100% certain that Jesus would have visited this Synagogue. A church is also located at the site with a beautiful view of the lake and very impressive and inspiring murals and artwork throughout. The discovery at Magdala is said to be on par with the Dead Sea Scrolls in historical importance.

Pastor Chris led us in prayer in the basement chapel where our bare feet could walk on stones that are believed to have been at street level when Jesus visited Magdala during his public ministry. What I’m receiving in these days is that the incarnation of Jesus is the highest form of love that God could express to us, and oh how he loves us! And here we are where it all happened.

After a much-needed afternoon break at our beautiful hotel property, we enjoyed an extravagant meal at a local French Restaurant, the Auberge Shulamit, in the town of Rosh Pina on the northern side of the Sea of Galilee. The owner personally introduced us to the menu and helped serve with a very friendly staff.

Day 5: Sea of Galilee, Magdala, Rosh Pina, Mount of Beatitudes

I’m here documenting for a group of Christians on pilgrimage to the holy land from Ecclesia Houston with Breaking Bread Journeys. I hope you’re enjoying my account of our experiences. After an unbelievable breakfast at the Scots Hotel, we embarked upon a boating excursion on the Sea of Galilee where our guide David showed us how fishing nets would have been cast in the time of Jesus. Pastor Chris Seay shared with us from the account of Matthew’s Gospel describing Jesus walking on the water and Peter’s struggle with his faith to follow Jesus onto the water.

Personally, although this was my eighth visit to the Sea of Galilee, something different struck me this time. I stopped to ponder the events accounted in Matthew’s Gospel describing Peter’s struggle as our guide David explained to us how bad the storms can get on the sea there, with waves recorded as high as 12 feet. I love the metaphor that a boat, a vessel, provides us with in parallel to the journey of life. The storms of life will come, there is no question about that. The question is what is my anchor, what is my constant when I’m feeling lost and tossed about, when I’m feeling that everything around me is unstable? For me, it’s the grip of Jesus much like Peter felt when he began to sink on the water in his attempt to walk in faith.

We will all find seasons in life when we feel we’re sinking. We can either reach up with an open hand or clench our fist in bitterness and just keep sinking. When I arrived at the Magdala center with this thought on my mind, I saw again the mural there depicting this scene of Peter sinking, and the artwork captivated me in a way I had not felt it before. You will see my photo of the mural later below in the blog post. Jesus is so constant and steadfast, standing there on the water, grabbing Peter. The feelings I felt there in that sacred space will stay with me. Our time here has been extremely inspiring and there is a bond we are all feeling as we journey together, walking in spaces and places where Jesus proclaimed his radical message of love.

We then headed to an archaeological site called Magdala, the site of at least two places in ancient Israel mentioned in the Jewish Talmud and possibly a location mentioned in the Christian New Testament. They have discovered an ancient Jewish Synagogue which would have been active during Jesus’ time. Pastor Chris told us it is almost 100% certain that Jesus would have visited this Synagogue. A chapel is also located at the site with a beautiful view of the lake and very impressive and inspiring murals and artwork throughout. The discovery at Magdala is said to be on par with the Dead Sea Scrolls in historical importance.

After a much-needed afternoon break at the Scots Hotel, we enjoyed an extravagant meal at a local French Restaurant, the Auberge Shulamit, in the town of Rosh Pina. The owner personally introduced us to the menu and helped serve with a very friendly staff. It was a great experience with a beautiful night view of the Sea of Galilee and all several local towns lit up along the shore.

After dinner Pastor Chris led the group in an after-hours visit to the Mount of Beatitudes where he read us the entire Sermon on the Mount at the location it is traditionally believed to have been preached by Jesus. The night sky was very clear and full of stars. It was an unforgettable evening standing there listening to our pastor read what is regarded as the most famous sermon of all time, near what would have been the spot that Jesus shared it almost 2000 years ago. I’ll share some of the beginning verses of this beautiful and timeless message here:

Blessed are the spiritually poor—the kingdom of heaven is theirs.
Blessed are those who mourn—they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek and gentle—they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness—they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful—they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are those who are pure in heart—they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers—they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness—the kingdom of heaven is theirs.

Magdala, Sea of Galilee, Villa Harte, Auberge Shulamit, Mount of Beatitudes

After breakfast we headed to an active archaeological site called Magdala, the site of at least two places in ancient Israel mentioned in the Jewish Talmud and possibly a location mentioned in the Christian New Testament. They have discovered an ancient Jewish Synagogue which would have been active during Jesus’ time. Pastor Chris told us is almost 100% certain that Jesus would have visited this Synagogue. A chapel is also located at the site with a beautiful view of the lake.

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We then embarked upon a boating excursion on the Sea of Galilee where our guide showed us how fishing was done in the time of Jesus. Pastor Chris Seay shared with us from the account of Matthew’s Gospel describing Jesus walking on the water and Peter’s struggle with his faith to follow Jesus onto the water. The sunny but hazy conditions created for some interesting light for photography.

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Next we made our way to lunch at the Villa Harte restaurant with its gorgeous overlook of The Sea of Galilee. The restaurant is situated above a small beach that has spring-fed pools at its shore. We enjoyed the beautiful scenery and were surprised to see schools of fish coming right up to the water’s edge.

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Later we enjoyed an extravagant meal at the Auberge Shulamit where the owner personally introduced us to the menu and helped serve with a very friendly staff. It was a great experience with a beautiful view of the Sea of Galilee and all several local towns lit up along the shore.

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After dinner Pastor Chris led the group in an after-hours visit to the Mount of Beatitudes where he read us the entire Sermon on the Mount at the location it is traditionally believed to have been preached by Jesus. The night sky was very clear and the moonlight was abundant. It was an unforgettable evening.

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Ecclesia with Breaking Bread Journeys: Magdala, Sea of Galilee, Mount of Beatitudes

After breakfast we headed to an active archaeological site called Magdala, the site of at least two places in ancient Israel mentioned in the Jewish Talmud and possibly a location mentioned in the Christian New Testament. They have discovered an ancient Jewish Synagogue which would have been active during Jesus’ time. Pastor Chris told us is almost 100% certain that Jesus would have visited this Synagogue. A chapel is also located at the site with a beautiful view of the lake.

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We then embarked upon a boating excursion on the Sea of Galilee where our guide showed us how fishing was done in the time of Jesus. Pastor Chris Seay shared with us from the account of Matthew’s Gospel describing Jesus walking on the water and Peter’s struggle with his faith to follow Jesus onto the water. The sunny but hazy conditions created for some interesting light for photography.

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We then made our way to lunch at the Villa Hart restaurant with its gorgeous overlook of The Sea of Galilee. The restaurant is situated above a small beach that has spring-fed pools at its shore. We enjoyed the beautiful scenery and were surprised to see schools of fish coming right up to the water’s edge.

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We then took a break back at our beautiful hotel, the Scots Hotel.

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Later we enjoyed an extravagant meal at the Auberge Shulamit.

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After dinner Pastor Chris led the group in an after-hours visit to the Mount of Beatitudes where he read us the entire Sermon on the Mount at the location it is traditionally believed to have been preached by Jesus. It was an unforgettable evening.

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Ecclesia with Breaking Bread Journeys: Chefs for Peace, Tunnel Tour, Razzouk Tattoos

Part 2 of Day 6…

As I explained in my last post, Day 6 was packed full of experiences and tours within tours. A definite highlight of our week was meeting up with Chefs for Peace, a non-profit, non-political organization founded in Jerusalem in 2001 by a group of Jewish, Christian and Muslim chefs committed to exploring cultural identity, diversity and peaceful coexistence through food. Chefs for Peace realizes food— its preparation, sharing, and enjoyment— is a powerful means of creating a bond with others and revealing that which is valued by all three faiths: food, family and friends.

We met the chefs at the Damascus Gate along with the founder of Chefs for Peace, the Armenian, Jerusalem-born chef Kevork Alemian. They then took us on a tour of the old city to buy the ingredients they would be using to prepare our lunch! And the real treat was that they would be inviting us to learn how to cook with them!

Here’s the group as we first met…

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After shopping for some fresh Tahini in the Muslim Quarter, the chefs took us for an appetizer at a restaurant known for their falafel and hummus. They explained to us the different styles of making hummus and how to eat the various appetizers served…

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We then took a slight detour to meet the owner of a famous photography print dealer, Eli Kahvedjian, The pictures he sells are part of a collection of about 3,000 photographs taken by his late father Elia Kahvedjian, a refugee of the Armenian genocide and one of the greatest photographers in Jerusalem at the beginning of the 20th century. The pictures, which had been hidden away since 1947, were rediscovered by the family 28 years ago and serve to help researchers and aficionados of Jerusalem probe its past. For a fascinating article on the importance of the photographs, you can read this article.

Several of us bought his book, Jerusalem Through My Father’s Eyes, which is a rare collector’s item. He was kind enough to inscribe the books for us. I felt honored to take his portrait.

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We then continued our culinary tour of the Old City. This time we were treated to some crepe-like sweets of which I am embarrassed to admit I do not remember the name. I was so busy just keeping up with the many stops of their very diverse tour!

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The chefs then took us to a spice vendor and to the vegetable and fruit market where they selected more ingredients for our lunch…

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We then arrived at Bulghourji, an Armenian restaurant in the Old City where we would prepare our lunch alongside the chefs and enjoy an unforgettable meal.

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Founder of Chefs for Peace, Kevork Alemian was kind enough to offer me a beer…

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And here’s what we came up with! Easily among the top 10 meals I’ve ever enjoyed… I’m not a culinary photographer, but I tried my best…

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Next, our tour with Breaking Bread Journeys took us through the tunnels revealing archaeological finds deep underneath the Old City. The Tunnel Tour is in such high demand that you must book it two months in advance. We learned that the much of the city was raised from a small valley centuries ago by arched supports, and it is under these arches that many of the tunnels were excavated. We saw the ancient gates to Solomon’s Temple, and learned that one stone of the temple’s western retaining wall weighs an estimated 570 tons.

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My next photo reveals the 570 ton stone… the heaviest stone in the region. There is only one stone heavier in all of Egypt (think of the Pyramids, etc.) …

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Jewish women praying at the point deemed to be closest the the ancient ‘holy of holies’ part of the temple …

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The approximately 1700 foot (518 meter) tunnel starts at the Western Wall Plaza in the south of the Old City and ends near the Lion’s Gate in the north of the Old City.

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We ended the night with a visit from Palestinian Christian Wassim Razzouk, whose family has been in the tattoo business in the Old City for over 700 years. It has been a longstanding practice for Christian pilgrims visiting Jerusalem to get the Jerusalem Cross tattooed as a commemoration of their pilgrimage. Several of the members in our group did just that. To read more about the fascinating history of the Razzouk family business, you can read an article here.

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