Israel and Jordan, 2011—Day 4

Our travels today took us to upper Galilee, called the “land of Naphtali” in the Bible.  We would end up being within 1/2 mile of the Lebanon and Israel border and only hundreds of feet from the Syria and Israel border.  We passed by Hazor, a large Canaanite and Israelite city; Hazor is mentioned in the Bible with respect to the Israelite conquest of northern Canaan (Joshua 11:10-13) and in the story of Deborah and Barak (Judges 4:2).  Hazor was also a city of King Solomon (1 Kings 9:15).
Ancient Israelite Gate, Tel DanTel Dan.  Our first stop was at Tel Dan.  Tel means an unnatural hill, a layering of historical levels.  We walked through the Dan Nature Reserve, enjoying the rushing streams and quiet pools. We continued our walk to the ruins of Tel Dan, another important Canaanite and Israelite city. Ancient Dan was first excavated in 1966, exposing sections of imposing walls and gates, and a ritual site dating to the time of the events recounted in the Bible in Judges 18:27-29. The Israelite gate (Proverbs 31) was from the 18th century BC, and was discovered completely intact with an arched entry, considered one of the oldest complete arches in the world. The one item I found most interesting was a replica of a fossilized tablet found in the ruins containing an inscription of Hazael, King of Damascus, bragging about his victory over the king of Israel and the king of the House of David; this fossilized tablet dates from the second half of the ninth century BC. This is the first time that the words, “house of David” were found outside of the Bible.  Dan was our closest proximity to the Israeli/Lebanese border, and our walk through the ruins revealed bunkers and trenches left from the war.
Ruins of altars for Roman idols and gods, Caesarea Phillipi, a pagan cityCaesarea Philippi.  Our second stop was Caesarea Philippi, ruins of an ancient pagan city, and more importantly to Christians as the site where Jesus visited with his disciples and where Peter identified Jesus as the Messiah, also known as the “Great Confession” (Matthew 16:13-20). Caesarea Philippi includes the ruins of many altars where false gods were worshiped; most prominent of these are found in the Grotto of Pan.
Part of Nimrod's FortressNimrod’s Fortress.  Next, we ascended a mountaintop where we viewed the ruins of Nimrod’s Fortress.  The Fortress was about 8 acres in area and was quite impressive, with many stone spiral stairs, secret passages, pools, and towers. The “castle” is one of the largest and most impressive fortresses surviving in the Middle East since the Middle Ages. It’s difficult to remember, when in Israel, that much of the early civilization was that of the Mediterranean, i.e. land was controlled over time by numerous empires, including the Israelites, Canaanites, Mongols, and Crusaders, and then in 1947, Israel.

Mas’ada and Valley of Tears.  After a brief tour of Nimrod’s Fortress we drove through several mountain towns including Mas’ada, shelled over and over through the numerous battles between Syria and Israel; Mas’ada was a clean town, with modern shops and infrastructure, and inhabited by Druse, a religious sect some 1000 years old. We also drove through the valley of tears where hundreds of Israeli and Syrian soldiers were killed in the Yom Kipper War, on the Israeli/Syrian border. Tanks, armor, and other war debris were visible in the area.

Qazrin.  Our drive south through the Golan Heights passed by a UN peacekeeping camp and several Israeli military installations. Our final stop of the day was at a factory which made Israel’s best olive oil. The owner gave us a great lesson in olives and olive oil, treated us to a hand wash using some olive-based cleansing products he had developed, and allowed us to sample various olive oils. Of course, our final stage of the factory tour was through the gift shop. Admittedly, the products were excellent.

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