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Dan in Dan

, Caesarea Philippi, the Mount of the Beatitudes, and the Golan Heights (and Sandy was there, too)

108 °F
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Today we were on the road by 8am and off to the “Mount of Beatitudes,” the traditional location believed to be where Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount. The site is owned and maintained by nuns in a convent. They not only do not want you to talk in their chapel (understandable), but you are not to talk on the grounds, either (rather extreme, in my opinion). Church_of_the_Beatitudes.jpg
The special message the Moody staff member had for us was from Matt 7, that the way of the Christian is not easy. I guess the nuns want to press home that point with their “no talking” rule.

From there we went to the ancient city of Dan. We got to see why the tribe of Dan decided to leave their allocated portion on the Mediterranean (it was crawling with Philistines), and move to the northern territory called Dan. This area contains the springs that form the 3 tributaries that combine to form the Jordan River. With the good rain Israel had last winter, the rivers were overflowing their beds and leaking into the unpaved ground behind the river’s adjacent paved sitting areas. The vegetation was lush and the shade felt wonderful!
You’ve heard the saying, “from Dan to Beersheba.” Dan was the northernmost city of ancient Israel, and Beersheba the southernmost.

When Lot and his family were captured as booty by some kings who conquered the Sodom area, Abraham gave chase with his "trained men." Abraham chased the aggressor kings all the way to Damascus before he caught them, beat them, and took the booty back. But as Abraham rushed north, he went by the city of Dan (then Laish). (Gen 14) We saw the gate from the layer associated with Abraham's time. That gate is an arch, which astonished archaeologists. They thought arches were invented by the Romans. I guess not; Caananite cities in Abraham’s time had them!
Arched_Gate_in_Dan.jpg The gate entrance has been left filled in with mud, but you can see the stones that form the gate in the wall.

When the tribe of Dan came north to conquer their new territory, they took the town of Laish there and renamed it Dan. It is one of the many cities that have been destroyed and rebuilt many times. Remember the account in Judges, where a man had some idols made and hired a wandering Levite to become his family’s priest to the idols? And then the men of Dan, as they went north to conquer their new territory, passed by the man’s house and stole the idols. They convinced the Levite to come with them and he would be the priest of an entire tribe instead of just a family. That priest’s name was Jonathan, son of Gershom, son of Moses (Judges 18:30). I had wondered what happened to Moses’ kids. The only offspring I’ve found for Moses so far didn’t turn out so well.

When the kingdom of Israel divided (due to taxes and foolishness), Jereboam took the northern 10 tribes and then realized he had a problem. According to God’s law, the people were required to go to the temple in Jerusalem 3 times a year, and if his people did that, they might kill him and return to the Jerusalem king. So he made 2 golden calves and set one in Bethel and the other in Dan and told his people that it was too hard for them to go to Jerusalem, so they needed to use the gods he had set up. And they said, “Okay.” We saw the foundation of the altar Jeroboam had built for his golden calf. That altar was enormous! They didn’t want to rebuild the entire altar, so they had the foundation stones, and then completed the outline, including the altar horns, with a steel frame so you could see its size and shape.

After the ruins of Dan we went to another northern city, Caesarea Philippi (called by the Greeks, Paneus, after the god Pan, and by the Arabs, Banias). It was amazing!! There is a river there, another of the 3 sources of the Jordan, that was rushing along. At the time of Jesus, the river issued forth from a cave in the side of a cliff, and this cave was referred to as the Gates of Hades (or Hell). The area of the river and cave had been built up earlier by the Greeks as temples and shrines to Pan (who had a bad temper and terrified people – thus the word panic), Pan and the Nymphs (from which we get the word nymphomaniac – you can imagine what went on in that temple), Augustus Caesar, Zeus, Nemesis, the Dancing Goats and others. It was a veritable shopping mall of pagan gods. And then Jesus and his disciples come and Jesus asks them, “Who do you think I am? (Matt 16)” Peter states Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the Living God, and Jesus replies that … the Gates of Hell (or Hades) won’t stand against “this rock.” Regardless of who or what you think the rock was, it was eye-opening to know that the Gates of Hades, a reference to the underworld of Greco-Roman mythology, were just up the path a little ways from where they were talking. A few centuries later, there was a massive earthquake that cracked the floor of the river’s cave and the river escaped through the crack. Since then, the river comes up through the earth like a normal spring and the cave is just a hole in the rock wall. The cave is to the left in the photo. The well-shaped arch is the grotto carved for Pan.

Next was lunch at a Syrian Druze restaurant. When Israel captured the Golan Heights, it also got the Syrian Druze people living in them. It seems something about the Druze religion (started as part of Islam, now mostly secret) has its adherents be loyal to whomever their government is. So they are quietly loyal to Israel, though they have pro-Arab posters. They are afraid that if the Golan Heights are ever returned to Syria and they have been openly pro-Israeli, they will be killed – a real concern given the Syrian government’s recent treatment of their own people. The people there were very nice to us and had good food. I’ve never had “french fried pita” before – they were handing out samples. It was pretty good, kind of like a french fry.

We went up to a park in the Golan Heights that commemorates the many Israelis and Syrians that died in the 6 day war when, in self-defense, Israel took the Golan Heights from Syria. The area around the peak of the Golan Heights is called the Valley of Tears for the many men on both sides that died there. The importance of the Golan Heights to Israel is that one of their most productive agricultural areas is at the foot of the Golan Heights and when the Heights were in the control of Syria, the Israeli farmers were under nearly continuous artillery and mortar fire from guns positioned on the Golan Heights. Until Israel took the Heights from Syria, the farmers and their families lived in underground bunkers and generally only came out at night. Israel was unable/unwilling to take military action against the Heights until the Syrians invaded Israel in the 1967 war and drove to within a few miles of Jerusalem before they were pushed back. Once the Israeli army got the upper hand, they pushed the Syrian army back to the original border and then took the Golan Heights as well. One of the guides was a retired Israeli tank commander who spoke to us about the horror of war, whether winning or losing and the “scratches on the soul” caused when soldiers have to kill in the line of duty. He explained that Israel does not want to fight with anyone, but if they are forced to fight, they will do whatever is necessary to protect their land. The park featured a memorial made up of a couple tanks (1 Israeli and 1 Syrian), some tank gun barrels raised to the sky, and a memorial sculpture commemorating the multiple engagements fought on the Golan Heights.

At this point, hot and tired (it got up to 110F today), we headed back to the hotel for supper, a Moody staff talent show, and packing. The talent show was good; they had a young woman comedienne and a former magician.

Posted by dasafish 11:45 Archived in Israel

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