January 13, 2015
Just in case you wondered, it takes over nine hours to fly from Newark to Tel Aviv. To pass the time, I read, slept, watched a movie and talked with people. I got fed twice, which was great! I don’t know what the thing was that they fed me at breakfast, though. It looked like food, so I ate it, but I truly do NOT know what it was. I asked the flight attendant for decaf coffee, and she told me that I wouldn’t want it. She said, “It’s ugly! No one has ever finished a cup of it.” So, I stuck with juice and water.
After we landed, all the Pilgrims in our group collected our bags and gathered together before getting on a private bus going to the area of Galilee.
First, though, we stopped at a restaurant called “Sahara,” just south of Mt. Tabor, which is also known as the Mount of the Transfiguration. At the Sahara, we were treated to fresh fruits and vegetables grown in the fertile valleys of the area. It was wonderful, and the people were very nice. I got the chance to meet some of the people in our group that I didn’t know before.
After lunch, our big bus parked at the foot of Mt. Tabor, and our group got into lots of little vans that took us to the summit. Only little vans and cars can negotiate the narrow, winding road to the top. Traditionally, Mt. Tabor is the location that the Christian community commemorates the event when the apostles had a vision of Jesus talking with Moses and the prophet Isaiah, when a bright cloud came over them and a voice out of the cloud said “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”
Mt. Tabor is located in Lower Gaillee at the eastern end of the Jezreel Valley, 11 miles west of the Sea of Galilee.
Between 1919 until 1924 an impressive Roman Catholic church of the Franciscan order named “Church of the Transfiguration” was built on the peak of Mount Tabor. The church was built on the ruins of a Byzantine church from the fifth or sixth century and a Crusader church from the 12th century,
The church was built from three naves (vaults). In the two bell towers on either side of the entrance to the building, there are two chapels. The northern chapel (on the left) is dedicated to Moses and it contains (above the doorway) a painting of him getting the stone tablets on Mount Sinai, and the southern chapel (on the right) is dedicated to the prophet Elijah and contains (above the doorway) a painting of him in his confrontation with prophets from a competing religion (Ba’all) prophets, which tradition says happened on Mt. Carmel.
On the upper part of the church, above the altar, there is a mosaic of the Transfiguration.
Our group of pilgrims was very lucky to have the chance to have a communion service in the chapel of Moses. My new friend, Barry (The Rev. Barry Beisner, bishop of Northern California), presided at the service.
After we all got back down the mountain and back on the bus, we went to a little town called Tabgha, located on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee. The name means “seven springs” and is traditionally associated with the Gospel story of the multiplication of loaves and fishes (…you remember, two fish and five loaves were multiplied enough to feed 5000 people…I would have preferred 5000 doggy snacks, myself!). We will get to see that site in a couple of days, but on this day we arrived there to settle into the guest house where we will be staying for three nights.
Our Pilgrim group met together to share more about each other before going to dinner at the guest house. There was yummy eggplant, humus, veggies and potatoes…at least, that’s what Rachel ate. But there was lamb and chicken for us meat eating doggies!
After dinner, we went into the chapel and said the prayer service of Compline, the last prayer service before bedtime. Before and after our service, our friend from England, Dominic, played recordings of a beautiful monastic choir. We just sat quietly and listened. It was a wonderful first day, and I was so tired that when I went to bed, I went right to sleep!
It took a while to load the pictures on the slow internet here. There’s wifi On The bus, though, as well as at The Pilgrim House. I am loading the pictures in moments in between stops and at breaks. I don’t mind – I want you see all the places I am! I just wish I could show you Israel in Smell-a-Vision, the way I’m experiencing it. I smell oranges and lemon trees, spices of cardamon and cinnamon, dry dust in the ruins and fresh water on the breezes blowing across the waters of the Sea of Galilee, where the Pilgrim House is very near it’s western shore.
I can’t wait to share Nazareth and Cana with you – those are tomorrow!
Here’s to barking at squirrels!