This is my third trip to Israel. (I still cannot believe I am saying that!) You would think that seeing the same sites would get a little boring, wouldn’t you? After all, how many times can you look at the same set of stones with wonder and awe? That’s the catch. Here in the land of Israel it’s not always the same set of stones.
Take Tel Dan, for instance. Yesterday we traveled far north into the Golan Heights. There, I was able to take paths that took me to parts I didn’t have time for in previous visits. This time I was able to see a 150-year-old flour mill, a tranquil garden dubbed ‘The Garden of Eden’, and Winnie the Pooh’s Tree. Wait, what? Yes, I said Pooh Bears Tree. It’s an old, hallowed out tree that looks like Pooh could pop out at any moment.
But seeing new parts of a site already visited is not the only thing eliciting excitement in multiple visits to the Land. When we journeyed up to Jeroboam’s High Place, there were new areas being excavated. When we rounded the trail to the Canaanite Gate, it was obvious they had been hard at work unearthing more of the gate from Abraham’s time.
This is the gate they believe Abraham came to rescue his nephew lot. And we were there. I was there for the second time and was priveleged to see the progress they made; to see stones long buried and forgotten see the light of day for the first time in over 5,000 years.
When I think about the age of nearly everything here in the Land, it blows my mind!
We ate our bagged lunch at the park’s picnic tables, then ventured to Banais Springs. Here is where Caesarea Philippi is located. When tour groups come here, they show us the temples to the false gods, but there is so much more to the place than that!
Now, I understand there is very limited time. And during this trip I learned how challenging it is to get a group of people to move from one place to another. It’s not any one person’s fault, it’s just that each of us has our own likes, our own preferences. So what might interest one person, might not interest another. When interested, we humans want to linger. When not, we are ready to move on. Then there’s bathroom breaks, and rest breaks, but we won’t go there. It’s just the nature of having more than one or two people vacationing together.
So, the tour companies, with limited time, want to pack in as much as possible, so you feel you’ve gotten your money’s worth. I do understand it, but it’s not the trip I enjoy taking. It limits you to certain geographical areas. Tel Dan and Banais Springs are about an hour’s drive north of Lake Kinneret/Sea of Galilee. So when they do venture there, most of the time is spent traveling. But both places have so much to offer.
What I didn’t realize is that Banais Springs has even more to offer than Tel Dan (in variety of sites). It is not only a nature reserve with waterfalls and springs, but an archeological site with King Agrippa II’s palace, Nimrod’s Fortress, and more.
Two of us took the purple path (which just happens to be my favorite color). It led us under a Roman bridge, past an old water-powered flour mill, through Agrippa’s palace, past a Cardo, and finally to a building that has had many uses over the millenia. This is just one of the paths. There are three others with their own offerings, not including Nimrod’s fortress. So you see, you could spend an entire day just at Banais Springs to gain a whole history of the area, as well as enjoy the lush beauty of nature there.
So, while one might wonder why I would want to return to see the same sites again next year, I can only say that things change, and things stay the same. And God has something new to show us, and teach us each year that we venture into His special Land.
And today we return to the place my heart longs to be – Jerusalem!