Travel in Israel: Golan Heights and the Sea of Galilee

How to Visit Golan Heights and Galilee 

When considering how to visit attractions near to Nazareth, there are three options to consider: bus, tour, or rental car.

Now buses are not well-linked, so try to avoid that if possible. As well, I only found one tour company leaving from Nazareth to visit these sites. The tour was 70 USD, and it was already fully booked. Instead a group of us chose to rent a car, and drive to the exact same places that the tour would be stopping on their route.

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our cute little ride compared to the massive tour bus 🙂

The Sea of Galilee

Tiberias

Our first stop of the day was Tiberias, located on the shores of Galilee.15122862_10105966519329317_6566007007566594457_oThe Sea of Galilee is a freshwater lake, cited to be the place where Jesus performed many miracles. The sea is where Jesus walked on water, to both reveal His divinity, and to bring that divinity closer to His disciples. DSC_6951During our visit to Tiberias, we passed by the Monastery of the Apostles, then onto the shores of Galilee. The beach was rocky, but the sea was refreshing.
DSC_6879There were many small fish nibbling at our feet, and also a cute group of old Russians. I think, because of their hearing, they were shouting at each other as if they were located on opposite sides of the sea, and not a few feet from one another. 😂😂DSC_6884As we all hopped in, I told everyone to pose for a cute selfie of our swim in the sea.2016-11-15 14.49.58And of course, being very matures boys that I was traveling with, they made sure to make the best appearance. (What a surprise to see this only AFTER I was reviewing my pictures.) 😂😂2016-11-15 14.55.09

Mount of Beatitudes 

From Tiberias we drove 15 minutes to the Mount of Beatitudes. It was from here that Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount.DSC_6915DSC_6904He was approached by villagers to be healed of their diseases, and in response, He gave this sermon, preaching eight blessings, known as the Beatitudes. The purpose of the sermon was to inspire humility, charity, and brotherly love. It’s through these virtues the people would be granted salvation.DSC_6898The Church of Beatitudes is a Roman Catholic church, surrounded by a beautiful flower garden, and inspiring religious quotes. DSC_6902DSC_6907DSC_6903The terrace of the church led out to a beautiful garden, where church groups were gathering to read the good word. DSC_6893 DSC_6901They also sold snacks to the visitors at the church, and apparently tickets to a free gun show as well. 😉
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Capernaum

Close to the Mount of Beatitudes is Capernaum, a fishing village where Jesus lived, and later collected His disciples: Peter, Andrew, James, and John.

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statue of Peter

Here are ruins of the House of Peter.DSC_6920DSC_6922This village also became the local of His public ministry. Here is a 4th century synagogue, one of the oldest in the world.DSC_6926 DSC_6935According to Christian beliefs, it was in this synagogue, that Jesus healed a servant, and also gave his sermon on the bread of life.

Overall, these are just a few of the miraculous stops along a pilgrimage route known as the Jesus Trail. Others include, Taghba, where Jesus multiplied loaves of bread and baskets of fish, and Cana, where Jesus turned water into wine.

From there, we moved on to visit a few of the non-religious sites surrounding Nazareth, including an area called Golan Heights.

Golan Heights

Golan Heights

Golan Heights is a region in northern Israel, which has been the scene of ongoing tension and military conflict. It was originally Syrian territory, but after the violent Arab-Israeli War of 1948, it became a demilitarized zone.DSC_6956DSC_6963In 1967, after years of tension between the Israelis and Arab nations, Israel launched of series of attacks on Egypt, in what would be known as the Six-Day-War. As a result, Israel seized control of the Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza Strip. This was short-lived, as in 1973, Egypt and Syria launched a counter attack on Israel, in order to regain the Golan Heights. The war was called the Yom Kippur War, since they attacked on the holiest day in Judaism, hoping the Jewish people would be observing this religious holiday, and the military would be understaffed. The bloody battle site of this war became known as the Valley of Tears, since although the Israelis were far outnumbered, they defeated the rebel forces at the cost of massive casualties.

As a result a ceasefire line (a.k.a. Purple Line) was drawn along the border Syria and Israel, which is supposedly a place of peace. The line can even be seen on Google Maps. We may have gotten a little too close. 😮

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blue dot of our rental car

Additionally, the area of Golan Heights is currently being used as training grounds for the Israeli army, and is monitored by The United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF). They supervise a buffer zone near the ceasefire line, and intervene when necessary.DSC_6969

Mount Bental 

For a fantastic viewpoint over Syria and the ceasefire line, head to the top of Mount Bental.

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that dark border surrounding the road is the ceasefire line
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this agricultural plot was once the Valley of Tears

Here, UNDOF officers and visitors alike are able to view activities at the border and into Syria, from old army bunkers established by the military.DSC_6985DSC_6976Looking through telescopes, from this old army watchtower, visitors can gaze upon Syrian villages, and see the line that literally divides these two countries.DSC_6991DSC_6986 DSC_6995DSC_6989The place is set up like a tourist attraction, with a cute coffee shop at the hilltop, and lots of tourists snapping shots of these incredible views.DSC_6974

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this old man-made me try his honey dipped with apples 🙂
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I should be holding a sign saying, “Mom, I swear I’m okay.” 😂

On the way back to Nazareth we drove by many Syrian villages, which were abandoned during the violent wars. It was devastating to see these ruins and the negative impact of this conflict.DSC_7033DSC_7032 Just look at this ruined church, that was once a beautiful place of worship. 15042112_10105964405799847_349201649321457943_oDSC_7021DSC_7030We also passed by a few Druze villages, which are inhabited by an ethnic minority, practicing their own religion and speaking a unique dialect. These villagers are known to be fiercely loyal to Israel though, and serve in the military forces as well.

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the pink swirls in the sky were left from Israeli fighter jets
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nightfall in Golan Heights

We ended the day with a bottle of wine atop Mount Precipice, a vantage point overlooking the city of Nazareth.  After such a long day, and few glugs of vino, I was ready to hit the hay.DSC_7044Cost: The rental car was 70 USD, divided between the five of us. With fuel and insurance, that came out to 30 USD each, which is quite cheap money compared to the tour. Additionally, unlike a tour, we were also able to go at our own pace, and had the freedom to make additional roadside stops for pictures. I highly recommend the DIY route! 🙂

Anyway, I just arrived in the country of Jordan today. Stay tuned to hear all about it. Until then. 🙂

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4 thoughts on “Travel in Israel: Golan Heights and the Sea of Galilee

    1. Yes, we found Hertz through an internet search, and then the hostel called the company to reserve a car. The nice thing about Israel is that it is so small. It is easy to drive from Jerusalem up to Nazareth in less than 3 hours. If you want to see a lot of the country in a short time, renting a car seems like a good option.

      Liked by 1 person

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