Galilee, Upper Galilee, and the Golan Heights

It has been an adjustment to have church on Saturdays now instead of Sundays. At first, I thought I wouldn’t like it, but I’ve totally changed my mind. Its pretty great to have a “day off” after the Sabbath before heading back into the work week. So, we have been really loving having Sundays all to ourselves while we live here!

For our first weekend adventure, we decided to head to the Sea of Galilee, two hours northeast of Tel Aviv. We headed out right after sacrament meeting so we could maximize our time there. Brian found the cutest cabins on a farm, called Vered Hagalil (Hagalil means “the Galilee”) that we checked into and let the girls run around their “backyard” and play on their hammock for a bit. Then, back to the car for a quick drive over to Capernaum, “The Town of Jesus”. Jesus had been rejected in his own Nazareth and came to reside here in this fishing village on the northern side of the Sea of Galilee. He only lived here for about one year, but it is where He began His mission and chose 5 of His disciples (11 were from Galilee and only Judas Iscariot was not). Needless to say, it is an extremely important part of His life and where most of the chapters in the New Testament are based.


All thats left of the village of Capernaum is some ruins, and it appears much smaller than it would have been in Jesus’s time. In fact, there were about 15 fishing villages off of the Sea of Galilee back then, but the only city that has flourished is Tiberias since then. Below is our first up-close look at the sea, which we realized is actually a huge lake :). It is shaped like a harp, so the locals call it Lake Kinneret (translates to harp).


We didn’t realize they only take cash upon entry and we left all of ours back at the hotel. We were so sad to miss this special place and started to walk away, but the guy at the front office stopped us and told us to just go on in with no charge. It was such a nice gesture and we were so grateful. After seeing Capernaum, we wanted to somehow put our toes in the water. So we drove around and found a pretty trail that led along the water and stopped at a beach area. We all got to to touch the water where so many of Jesus’s miracles were performed and the girls then loved playing in it and collecting little shells for a while.

This is one of the cabins we stayed in. The farm village that it is in was huge and so peaceful. The girls loved running around and playing outside and then rinsing off in the jacuzzi inside! Vered Hagalil sat right north of the Mt. of Beatitudes, so we ventured out to explore all over that area.

It was seriously so peaceful up there. This was right beyond where we stayed and overlooking the Sea of Galilee. They had these beautiful and strange-looking white plants all over the hill as well as a Carmelite monastery. It was so quiet and peaceful- we could totally understand why Jesus would come up here to relax or to gather his thoughts and then deliver such powerful sermons.


After Brian and I walked around for a long time, we came upon this area that had a ton of what appeared to be cow bones. They were really old! We knew the girls would totally get a kick out of seeing these huge bones, so we decided to get them up early the next morning to join us on our walk.


The only people we could wrangle out of bed at 6:30 am were Lauren and Tessa! I’m so glad they came along (even Tessa still in her pajamas!) and they were so excited to find the bones we told them about the night before. We went on a really long walk all over the hillsides and then back up to our cabins to eat breakfast altogether.


After leaving Galilee, we drove up to the Golan Heights to make a stop at the famous Nimrod’s Fortress on Mt. Hermon. The fortress is a medieval castle that overlooks all of the Golan Heights and was built with the purpose of guarding a major access route to Damascus against armies coming from the west. It was huge and had a ton of different view points as well as things to explore inside.


Its always amazing to learn about history that you don’t know much about and to discover places that are so old- built in 1229! The area is under Israeli occupation since 1967, together with the Golan Heights, but the international community sees it as Syrian territory. And when you’re this close to Syria…you might as well get a better look!


We drove over to Mt. Bental, which has great panoramic views of the Golan and even Syria. It is also the sight of a battle fought during Israel’s war for the Golan. There are bunkers open to visitors at the very top where you can see really far in all directions…it was kind of cool to be able to look right into Syria!


Just beyond this farmland below is Syria.


Last stop for the weekend was Lake Hula, where an estimated 500 million birds migrate from all over Europe, Africa and Asia. The birds stop over for about a month before they head to their final warm destinations for the winter. We didn’t see a ton of different birds (I think we probably just missed the high season), but we rented a golf cart and some binoculars and tried our hardest to see as much wildlife as we could.


Tessa was definitely the most excited bird watcher. They have you take identification pamphlets so you can figure out exactly what you’re seeing and she loved flipping through and matching the birds with their name and picture.


Our first road trip in Israel included a lot of driving and seeing things we’ve read about in the scriptures our whole lives. Can’t wait to see more and more of this amazing country!