Heading North

May 12

We travelled to the northern border where Israel meets Lebanon, to an historical site called Tel Dan. We toured ruins from the Canaanite period, including a gate that Abraham very likely walked through! Tel Dan is also the location of the head waters of the Jordan River system, which means it is lush and green. The sound of rushing water was startling in a relatively dry land. We drove on a littler farther to Caesarea Philippi, the site where Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” This conversation very likely took place in view of an array of temples and shrines to other gods. This led to an interesting conversation about monotheism, and when it began in the Israelite tradition.

We drove back toward the Nazareth area, stopping in Cana for lunch. A typical lunch includes falafel or schwarma in a pita, and a drink. Our bus driver is great at suggesting places that can serve a busload of people quickly! After lunch we went to Zippori, the sight of Roman ruins. Here you can actually see the cart and chariot ruts worn into the remains of the Roman road! There are many remarkably well preserved stone tile mosaics at this sight, including in the synagogue floor. Zippori was constructed in the first century, so there is a distinct possibility that Jesus’ father Joseph, may have worked on this site as a builder.

At the sight of the synagogue we stopped to discuss the Pharisees, and how they are portrayed in the gospels. Modern Judaism traces its origins back to the Pharisees, who preserved Judaism after the destruction of the temple, by teaching the Torah and establishing synagogues. As Derek explained to us, the Christian perspective of Pharisees in scriptures is kind of like the history of the Toronto Maples Leafs written by a Habs fan!

We had a feast for our last night at the Antique Hostel in Nazareth. The food has been so generous and flavourful. We have thoroughly enjoyed it!

Channeling our inner mountain goat

Hi everyone! My name is Jessica and my home church is Markham Chinese Mennonite Church. I am currently a second year student at York University, majoring in Social Work. A big part of the reason why I chose to attend YELLA 2018 was because I wanted to physically and mentally challenge myself to step out of my comfort zone. This is my first over-seas trip, so I’m very excited that I get to have these new experiences to listen, observe, and learn.

Today was an exciting day, as we continued with our journey on the Jesus Trail for a second day. The group was dropped off near the area where we left off on the Jesus Trail yesterday and we began climbing toward the Horns of Hattin, a major hill. The hike on the trail today was definitely tougher than yesterday, as the hills were slightly steeper and there was less shade, so it became fairly hot quite quickly. When we reached the top of the hill, we sat on the rocky steps and had a snack and water break to replenish our energy. While we sat and ate our snacks, Derek gave us a little history lesson about the different groups of people who took occupation of the land over time. After our break and hike down the hill, our tour bus took us near the top of Mt. Arbel where we had lunch. Mt. Arbel was definitely the group’s favourite part of the trail. The view that we had while the group hiked down the hill was breath-taking. We were able to see the Sea of Galilee and all of the surrounding towns and communities near it from a distance away. We were also able to see cows in the pasture, and many caves and fortresses in the mountains. Today’s hike was a big group bonding moment because despite the heat and the difficult trail that we were hiking on, everyone was very encouraging of each other and always there to give a hand to another person, if they ever needed it. To top off our adventurous day, we went to a little shop to get ice cream, before we went back to our hostel, which everyone was exceptionally happy about!

Walking in the footsteps of Jesus

Today we walked in the footsteps of Jesus along the Jesus trail.

The Jesus Trail is a 65-kilometer hiking trail in the Galilee region of Israel. It connects important sites from the life of Jesus and other historical and religious sites. It is a way  for travellers and pilgrims to experience the steps of Jesus in an authentic, adventurous and educational manner by hiking through the rugged and beautiful landscape of the Galilee in Israel.

Today we started in Cana and walked for several hours. We passed pastoral scenes, livestock and military vehicles and finished with a stroll down a Roman road.

We finished the day with a visit to Gan Hoshlosha. Some believe Gan Hashlosha is the location of the garden of Eden. It has beautiful spring fed pools shaded by lush palm trees and we took full advantage of the beautiful location and enjoyed some down time in the water.

Tomorrow we will be continuing our walk along the Jesus Trail and descending Mount Arbel (see the photo above). It will be another day of expanding our horizons and testing our limits.

 

Along the shores of the Sea of Galilee

Hello!!

My name is Emily Bauman from Elmira Mennonite Church. I’m currently working as a sculpting assistant to Timothy Schmalz which makes this day extra cool for me.

Today we went to the Sea of Galilee and toured a boat museum and various religious sights built over places where Jesus himself walked, resided, and taught. Our first stop was a museum where they showed the preserved remains of a 2000 year old boat that was discovered by two brothers when the Sea of Galilee was lower in 1986 due to a drought. It was very cool seeing what style of boat Jesus and his disciples might have travelled with. We got the amazing opportunity to have a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee hosted by a very welcoming crew. An energetic young host led us and another group in three traditional dances while we were out in the middle of the water. Next, we went to Tabgha, the site of the feeding of the five thousand. The chapel had a mosaic of the loaves and fishes in the floor at the altar, a common print on souvenirs from the Holy Land. We moved on to Capernaum. This day we expected thunderstorms but by the time we made it there it was very hot and sunny – a tribute to the fast changing forecasts and weather above the sea. Capernaum was the centre of Jesus’ ministries and life. There were ruins of a Christian church and a Jewish Synagogue dating back to the third century, on the same site as a first century synagogue where Jesus would have taught. The ruins from the town surrounding it gave a sense of the type of life other people experienced on this very holy site.

This location was very exciting for me. As I mentioned earlier I work with Timothy Schmalz. His bronze sculpture, The Homeless Jesus, was recently installed at the entrance gates to this park. I helped him make this new addition of the statue, so seeing it in this location was special. I had the chance to talk to two guys that were working there and they were kind enough to let me go behind the fence to see it close up and get a few pictures.

After that, we drove to the Mount of the Beatitudes. There is another chapel built on this site and Derek gathered us all on the hill in a beautiful garden below the chapel and shared about the cultural and biblical history of the Sermon on the Mount and the beatitudes that aren’t often talked about or understood in the English translation. Our final stop was Magdala. This site celebrated women disciples of Jesus, as it was the home of Mary Magdalene. The chapel here had pillars with the names of six women who followed Jesus that are often not mentioned in the church. In the excavation of this archaeological site, a carved stone representing the temple in Jerusalem was recently discovered, in excellent condition, in the ruins of the local synagogue.

On our way home, the group stopped at a grocery store to pick up snacks. Going into the grocery store was something that many of us reflected was a very exciting experience whenever we’re in a new place. The day was more humid than is often expected so by the time we finally made it back to the Hostel for 6:30 the whole group was happy to relax, eat supper and settle down for the night. All in all we had a great day where we were able to see more of where we know Jesus held his ministry and wade in the sea that Jesus walked on.

Days of Elijah

Hi! I am Leah Bauman from St. Jacobs Mennonite Church. Today the YELLA group headed out to Caesarea and Mt. Carmel (half an hour earlier than our usual start time, which caused a few *bad moods*). Our trip to Mount Carmel, which is the site of the story of Elijah and the prophets of Ba’al in 1 Kings 18, was postponed due to thunderstorms, although our leaders insisted the rain and storms would create a biblically accurate experience on the mountain. On our way to Caesarea, our bus driver took us to a spot in the city of Haifa that overlooked the Mediterranean Sea, which was a stunning place for pictures. Haifa is Israel’s third largest city, and has a major port. We stopped at the mall for lunch, in order to ride out the rainy weather. In the afternoon, the skies cleared up a little more so we continued on our way to the ruins at Caesarea. Caesarea was constructed under King Herod, as an attempt to impress Caesar. It had an elaborate palace, built out into the Mediterranean Sea, as well as an amphitheatre and a hippodrome. In the Byzantine era, more structures were added, including baths with intricately tiled floors. Later, Crusaders built a fortress on the site. We began our tour in a reconstructed amphitheatre that directly faced in the direction of Rome, Italy across the Mediterranean. Looking across at the huge sea was a very humbling experience for me. It felt like a reminder of how big the world is, and how much of the world there is to see. The next part of the afternoon reminded us all about the importance of being a kid. We drove a short distance to a sandy beach on the Mediterranean Sea. Some of us enjoyed climbing up on the old Roman aqueduct, that carried water 17 km from the mountains to Caesarea, while others collected shells, built sandcastles and jumped in the waves.
All of us surely felt the salt on our faces and hair as we took a bus ride to Mount Carmel. Derek led us in a short reflection on the mountain overlooking the Jezreel Valley about the Elijah story and a few of us jammed out to Days of Elijah on the way back to the hostel.

A Day in 1st Century Nazareth

Feature pictureNazareth Village – An Introduction

Nazareth Village (NV) is small peaceful haven nestled in the busy life of the city. NV was a vision that came to fruition through Dr. Nakhle Bishara, who bought a piece of land that was untouched for about 140 years. That in itself was a miracle because everywhere around this piece of land was built up, and yet this area was completely untouched. NV started as a hospital and expanded into an archaeological project which transformed into the Nazareth Village we saw today, a Nursing school and a YMCA. Dr. Nakhle Bishara bought this land in the idea of turning ancient “dead stones” into living stones that educated the public about the Nazareth Jesus knew. NV had a large outdoor area of vineyards, olive tree gardens (400 year old olive tree), grape presses, olive presses, living the authentic 1st century life – eating the foods, using the same methods and tools etc.

Donkey (2)

Feel free to browse around their website:  Nazareth Village

Here are two personal perspectives of our day from Dan and Fiona:

Hello! I am Dan Willms from Niagara On The Lake, and Niagara United Mennonite Church. Today after going on the tour of Nazareth Village, I was able to participate in a very cool experience. I got to dress up in 1st century clothing along with 6 other group members and help out in the Village. We got to wear a rob (which was actually quite cool in the hot sun), a head covering, belt and authentic leather sandals. Our task was to help clean up the village and to role play as people from that time as visitors to the village walked around. We mainly cleaned up brush, and branches which we brought to a central location where they would be burned later. This was not a hard task but there were a lot of brush. We did this for a few hours until lunch rolled around. We had an authentic lunch which included, pita bread, hummus, apples, date honey, lentil soup, Za’tar, olives, and cabbage salad. After a delicious meal it was back to the fields. In the afternoon it was much hotter, our robe and head covering really helped with that. We continued to work and interact with the tourists (I must be in a few photo albums from people all over the world now) until it was time to go home.

Dan, Grace

tomb

Hi there! My name if Fiona Mo, I’m from Markham Chinese Mennonite Church and I’m one of the faith leaders for Yella 2018! Being at the Nazareth Village was quite an incredible experience, and I’m sure I could go on and on about everything that we saw and experienced, but I’ll just give you highlights! The first thing that made this experience so memorable was the idea of ancient or “dead” stones becoming “living” stones. Nazareth Village is in the middle of Nazareth surrounding by buildings and busy streets, yet once you get into the village, you are completely transported back into the 1st century. One of the purposes of NV is to show people from all over the world the “The Nazareth that Jesus knew”. Those who work at Nazareth Village were adamant on keeping the authenticity of 1st century life, so everything from the tools that we were using, to the buildings were all done exactly the way people used to do it in that time. Having had a few days going around to different sites in Nazareth, I’ve been having a bit of a hard time connecting what I was seeing in the city to the stories in the Bible, and Nazareth Village really helped with bridging that gap. Two other specific things that I found impressive was: 1) They still had functional olive presses and 1st century grape press (aka feet) carved into the bedrock. 2) How amazing our group was today. We had participants from digging trenches with pick-axes to clearing garbage all over the property to handing pulling tall grass for the animals to eat. What started as a very rainy day soon because one that was very hot with the sun beating down on us. I was so impressed at how positive everyone stayed in the group and it really brought into perspective the life that Jesus knew in Nazareth. All in all, Nazareth Village was looking glass into what the 1st century was like and it truly brought many perspectives of the stories I’ve heard growing up, to life.

grape press

jocelyn-tina-and-farmer.jpg

 

 

We’re Alive!!

Hello everyone!! My name is Adriaena ‘Andy’ Jones, my home church is Wanner Mennonite Church in Cambridge, Ontario. I spent two years at The University of Guelph studying history and took the last year off to travel and see new parts of the world.

Similar to most of my recent trips our plane was delayed for 2 hours due to the wind storm. In those 2 hours we were in the airplane and feeling it move from the wind. I constantly looked out the window to verify that we hadn’t, in fact, taken off since it felt exactly like turbulence in the air. We were finally cleared for take off and made the 10 hour flight to Tel Aviv. We landed, all very tired from our lack of sleep but all very exited by the fact that we were “finally in Israel!” For many of us this has been something in the far future so now that it has finally happening we were all overjoyed. While driving from Tel Aviv to our Hostel in Nazareth we all tried very hard to stay awake  Some of my fellows travelers managed to stay awake while I might have had a small nap.

Our bus dropped us off at Mary’s Well and we made the hike through the winding streets of Nazareth to our Hostel. Sitting in our beds after the long day of travel was glorious, making the long day we had all worth it. After settling in all of us walked up to the balcony at the hostel and looked out over the city in awe. The houses all packed on top of each other with mountains in the distance. While enjoying the view and the company we heard the Muslim call to prayer and several different church bells. The first of many signs we will witness of the different cultures, religions and backgrounds within the country.

Smiles

Day two was an early morning and a full day. We started off at Megiddo National Park or also known as Armageddon, our first Tel. A Tel is an artificial mound formed by layers of civilization. We watched a quick video giving us a brief history of the settlement which had been demolished and rebuilt 25 times. The settlement thrived during the Bronze Age around 4000 BCE. While walking around we got to see a semblance of what was there, while seeing where archaeologists had worked and disrupted the historical aspects of the area. The park also reconstructed some aspects of the structures showing more of what it would have looked like. They even put in metal horses and a chariot to give us a visual of what life could have been like. To exit we had to walk down 187 steps into what was the water system, walk through the tunnel and than back up 77 steps to find our way out.

Beit Shean

Next we drove to Beit She’an National Park where we saw Roman and Byzantine ruins. The area was another Tel but wasn’t as visible to the lack to digging to see the different layers. The settlement was first built in 5000 BCE . The Roman ruins were both on top of the Tel and below it.

Mount Precipice

The last destination that we went to was Mt. Precipice, the place where it was suspected that a crowd threatened to throw Jesus off the cliff. The hill also looked over the Jezreel valley, the most fertile land in Israel. Even though we had drove though the valley many times it still surprised me how green the fields and landscape looked from above. While looking out over the valley our leader Derek Suderman read to us Luke 4:16-30. The passage talked about Jesus almost being throw off a cliff due to what he said in the synagogue. It was overwhelming to hear the passage in the same spot where it occurred.

mount precipice 2

A big reason I wanted to come on this trip was so I could see the bible in a new light. Today was the beginning and I am so excited to continue to have the bible come to life with each new place I see.