Our second day trip to explore North Israel started with a visit to Capernaum, an ancient fishing village next to the sea of Galilee. It has two excavated ancient synagogues and was the home town of some of Jesus' apostles, and the centre of Jesus' activities in Galilee during that time. Next stop was the Mount of Beatitudes, a hill where Jesus delivered the 'Sermon on the Mount':
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.
Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
If you can get past the coach loads of people, it is a lovely peaceful place with a Roman Catholic chapel and a view looking down onto the sea of Galilee. After that we stopped at Banias Nature Reserve to see Banias Falls, the biggest waterfall in Israel. It would have been a nice place to have a bit more time to do some hiking and see the ruins and maybe some of the wildlife, but it was a good stop to see some of Israel's nature. We had lunch at a basic street side cafe. I had a sort of thin pizza bread folded into a wrap with a tomato and curd. After lunch we did a wine tasting at a boutique winery called Odem Mountain Winery. Obviously Israel was known for wine in the bible times, but not now. I never see Israeli wine... but there are a number of small vineyards who are working on establishing vineyards and Israeli wine now. It was really good and not something I was expecting on this trip!
Our final stop was Israel Occupied Golan Heights. Most people probably know about it, but I didn't. We visited Mount Bental which is in the middle of the Golan Heights. It was beautiful, fascinating, sad and scary. It has panoramic views across Galilee and the plains of Syria. Mount Hermon opposite was covered in snow which I was surprised at given how warm Israel was. It has a cafe and a metal sculpture garden by Dutch artist Joop de Jong. It is also the site of the battle fought between Israel and Syria for the Golan Heights. There are old army bunkers that are open to the public. Mount Bental overlooks a Syrian rebel camp and Israeli army camp where rockets are still occasionally thrown now (I think there was one a week after we visited!). There are UN Peace Keepers there constantly monitoring what is going on, and who were happy to answer the many questions our group had. Also, randomly, apparently Chuck Norris was there about half an hour before us!
Another interesting day in this beautiful, fascinating, conflicted country!
In case you're interested, we did this tour with Abraham Tours. It was by far one of the more reasonably priced tours that we looked at (and it was well organised and run!)