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.
The Sea of Galilee
Our first stop of the day was Tiberias, located on the shores of Galilee.The 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. During 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.
There 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. 😂😂As we all hopped in, I told everyone to pose for a cute selfie of our swim in the sea.And 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.) 😂😂
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.He 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.The Church of Beatitudes is a Roman Catholic church, surrounded by a beautiful flower garden, and inspiring religious quotes. The terrace of the church led out to a beautiful garden, where church groups were gathering to read the good word. They also sold snacks to the visitors at the church, and apparently tickets to a free gun show as well. 😉
Close to the Mount of Beatitudes is Capernaum, a fishing village where Jesus lived, and later collected His disciples: Peter, Andrew, James, and John.
Here are ruins of the House of Peter.This village also became the local of His public ministry. Here is a 4th century synagogue, one of the oldest in the world. According 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 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.In 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. 😮
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.
For a fantastic viewpoint over Syria and the ceasefire line, head to the top of Mount Bental.
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.Looking through telescopes, from this old army watchtower, visitors can gaze upon Syrian villages, and see the line that literally divides these two countries. The 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.
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. Just look at this ruined church, that was once a beautiful place of worship. We 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.
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.Cost: 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. 🙂