Friday, July 13, 2012

Holy Land: Galilee Lake and Jordan River

May 27:  We went today to Ginnosar, a village in the Sea (Lake) of Galilee.  Around the towns of this lake Jesus did much of his public ministry and on this lake he calmed a storm and walked on the water.

We rode a boat for two hours to get a panoramic view of the lake and its towns and we were shown one way in which the ancient Galileans tried to catch fish using a net.  A crew member cast the net 3 times but caught no fish.  The Israeli government is regulating the fishing on the lake because of dwindling catch of tilapia and small fish that end up as sardines.  It is a good thing I drank Bonamine because at a certain point the motor was turned off so we can pray and meditate on the relevant gospel stories.  I was also sucking a lollipop.  The boat ride on the lake helps one understand better the gospel stories of Jesus' ministry.
We also went to a small museum run by a kibbutz in which there is a display of a 2,000 yr old fishing boat that was found in the lake in 1986.  It is called the "Jesus boat" even though no one can be sure that this was the boat Jesus and his disciples used.  The museum also relates the amazing way in which they took the boat out of the water without breaking it, because the wood was very soft from such long immersion in water and mud.  Exposure to air would also dry the wood and make it crumble into dust.

In the afternoon we had Pentecost Sunday Mass at the chapel of the Mt St Gabriel hotel.  The priest was an Arab Israeli who belonged to the diocese of Jerusalem.  He said that his nephew in the U.S. married a Filipina.
May 28:  In the afternoon, we arrived safely at the Maagan Holiday Village by the southern end of the Sea of Galilee where it meets the Jordan River.  This is where we had the best rooms for the whole trip.  It has a swimming pool, a mini-zoo, and water sports facilities for the lake, where you can also swim.

This morning we went to the other side of the Jordan River, which continues down to the Dead Sea.  We went to Yardenit, a facility where some Christian groups hold baptisms.  I saw people in white robes being immersed in the water.

We recalled Jesus' own baptism in the Jordan in the presence of John the Baptist, and afterwards Jesus went to the Judean wilderness to pray, fast and be tested for 40 days before beginning his ministry.

We sat by the river, while Glenn read some gospel texts and helped us meditate and sing songs. At a certain point, he invited us to come near the river by twos, get some water for blessing on the head, and say a blessing for each other.

It was very touching to see Pol and Nena bless each other and embrace.  I prayed that Deeda and I could grow old together like them.  I saw people breaking down in tears when they blessed each other and I too wept quietly especially since I have heard of the difficulties some of us have undergone.

Winnie Monsod called me and offered to bless me.  She can be very sweet.  She did it also for others who were "alone" on the trip.  I could see that she was also in near tears.  After the blessing, Winnie asked me to put my hand in the water and pray for a blessing on Deeda, Sophie and Dennis.  This was one of our best experiences in the trip.
The rest of the day was so hot (34 degrees).  By the time we reached Maagan, we were wilted.

Before Maagan, we went to the house of Peter (or his mother-in-law) in Capernaum, another lakeside town, and the gospels suggest that this was like Jesus' second home while he did his ministry around the lake.  Some ruins of the early church building on the site can be seen and a modern church, like a flying saucer, has been built above the ruins.
We then went to the ruins of Bethsaida, the hometown of 4 disciples mentioned in John’s gospel, and where Jesus preached unsuccessfully because he expressed frustration about it in the gospels.

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