Tzefat, Beatitudes, Capernaum

More of the City of Haifa and on to Capernaum

Wednesday, October 30-

Pastor Nabors (in regular type): We check out of the hotel in Haifa.  Bittersweet.  We see that it was/is part of a massive oil refinery for the British which took oil from Iraq, building pipelines and transporting it along the Mediterranean south to Haifa.  As a result, the city began growing and attracting people from all surrounding reg ions.  German Poplars would arrive in the 1860’s and remain until WWII.  They were kicked out of the region when it was learned that several young Germans were training to be a party of Hitler’s army  The Baha’i also came to Haifa after their leader was persecuted, accused of blasphemy and executed in Persia.  His disciples continued the work, teaching the component of universality.  The Baha’i Temple here in Haifa has 19 Garden Terraces planted near the top of a mountain and going straight down to the center of the city, with the sea just beyond.  From the top, the view possesses a whimsical mystery to it and is therefore a major attraction for tourists.  On this day, we were not allowed to visit the Terraces because they were being cleaned.  The number 19 is a major one for the Baha’i and it reminds me of the conclusion of Farrakhan’s speech at the One Million Man March when he spoke about 19 for more than thirty minutes  The Baha’i live in Israel but are residents, not citizens.  They are considered to be universalists and therefore do not connect to any specific country. They are former, or reformed Shiite Muslims, according to our Israeli tour guide, Amit. 

Haifa, we are told is a very special city.  Various cultures and people live together in the same neighborhoods while respecting each other’s differences.  There is a peace here that may be related to the sheer beauty of the city with its sweeping views from the hillsides and various hilltops and mountains upon which it is built.  Galilee can be seen from here.  The Israeli Galilee ends but, in the distance, the Galilee continues beyond into the Lebanon region.  We played frisbee overlooking the Baha’i Temple. 

On leaving Haifa we are now ten kilometers from Lebanon, so close you can actually see part of the country.  The Prime Minister of the country was just deposed yesterday (resigned).  We see a base from our bus on a distant mountain top, with technology and weapons to intercept missiles.  We continue driving to the artsy city of Tzefat, an art colony and Kabbalistic center of significance in the capitalist movement in Israel.  It is an amazing and beautiful city, once again built into the mountains of the country.  There are numerous galleries on both sides of a very narrow road going through the city and dating back to the 15th century.  We arrive at a time when children are on their lunch breaks and they barrel forth from their schools, dressed in uniforms and on their way home for lunch. 

We enter an old synagogue that is an area with art galleries.  Amit begins to teach us about Kabbalah.  You must be at least 40 years old and married.  It began in the 13th century.  Some believe it began in the 2nd century after the destruction of the 2nd Temple.  We have a significant discussion about Kabbalah, the Mishnah and Talmud, deriving out of the Torah.  Saleem the 1st ruled in the 15th century at a time Jews were being persecuted.  The ruler felt this was insane since the Jews had many skills and talents they were contributing to the area.  We spend an hour and a half roaming through Tzefat, an amazing and thoroughly enjoyable day of walking up and down hundreds of steps.  As we prepare to leave Amit talks about how the Sea of Galilee is in a valley that sits upon tectonic plates.  He says it is the merging place of two continents and is called the Syrian-Rift, which I automatically change to the African-Syrian Rift.  Just because.  Because of the geographic activity there are many hot springs (seven) that combine with cold water, making it one of the best places to fish in the world.  The Sea of Galilee, where Jesus called four disciples to become fishers of men. 

Rabbi London: I always enjoy going to Tzefat. It’s a beautiful place in which the Kabbalists flourished after the expulsion from Spain in 1492 and where the Shulchan Aruch, a pre-eminent work of Jewish law was also written. Thus, Tzefat was the home of down to earth Jewish law and esoteric mysticism. Although, as Pastor Nabors wrote, it should come as no surprise since Jews believe that one should not be allowed to delve into the realms of the mystical until one is at least 40 years of age and has a family. This gives one time to grow and mature and have earthly responsibilities so as not to go on flights of fancy. Even mystics need to be grounded! Lecha Dodi for Kabbalat Shabbat was also composed in Tzefat. Tradition has it that the Kabbalists would wear white and go out into the fields to greet the beauty of Shabbat which they envisioned as a bride. Standing on the hill top of Tzefat, one can imagine the beauty of the setting sun on Friday evening as Shabbat was beginning.


After this we visit Capernaum, an amazing experience.  It is officially called “The Home of Jesus” because he spent so much time here.  Local legend shares that Jesus actually had a home in the town.  But we don’t quite buy that since we grew up with Jesus saying, “The son of man has nowhere to lay his head.”  We visit the “home” of Peter’s.  A church has been built over it and it sits not far from the Sea of Galilee.  We list Mount Beatitudes where Jesus is said to have given the Sermon on the Mount.  I had a chance to talk about the story and text in Matthew 5-7 and read the Beatitudes on the spot where Jesus is supposed to have given them 2,000 years ago.  Yes indeed, that was quite thrilling.  We visit the ancient ruins of a temple near the shore.   We have the chance to stand next to the Sea of Galilee, along the shoreline.  This is probably where Jesus called four of his disciples- Simon and Andrew, James and John.   

Rabbi London: I am moved to see Pastors Ruen and Nabors excitement about being at these historic spots for Christians. I also find the remains of the synagogue in Capernaum quite beautiful. We linger on the northern shores of the Sea of Galilee as the sun is getting lower. The water is shimmering in the late afternoon light and I feel a sense of deep gratitude to be on this journey with people from Beth Emet and my pastor friends who are adding so much to the trip because of their deep knowledge of and devotion to Christianity.

We left Capernaum driving to our next overnight stay; a resort style area run by a Kibbutz sitting on the Sea of Galilee.  Some of the group went swimming that evening.  We stayed in small resort rooms with a large center located near the water, where we had dinner and breakfast.

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