It is a dark night. We lay in our tents on a freshwater beach on the Sea of Galilee where we bathed and washed our clothes earlier in the day. I look across the ancient waters to the golden lights of Tiberius glittering on the far hillside. Crickets are chirping, there are low Arabic voices in the background. It is lovely and peaceful. I reflect on the past few days.
We decided to rent a car to give our knees and ankles more needed recovery time. If I am the trailblazer than Jen is the road warrior as she fearlessly maneuvered us out of the busy Jerusalem streets and into the agriculture-rich Golan Heights of northern Israel. Fields of volcanic rock and multiple signs warning of active mines reminded me that, regardless of the greenery, I am far from home. That fact was also reinforced, when thinking we had approached a standard Israeli security checkpoint, we were in fact, actually crossing the border into Lebanon. Crazy! Needless to say, we turned around.
Winding our peppy, little green Mazda up and down the hills of Nazareth we agreed that Jesus must’ve been very fit. I miss being on the trail but I have been grateful for wheels as yesterday was the first day in weeks that I didn’t feel like I was walking on broken glass. The car also allows us to see many interesting sites and have adventures that would have been impossible otherwise.
We stumbled upon the Mount of the Beatitudes where Jesus preached (Blessed are they that…). It was manicured and beautiful, but the rows of tour buses and maybe the fact that it was so manicured, didn’t move us as much as other places. However, the haunting hymnal harmonies of a nun and three priests in the domed church was an unexpected pleasure
Merlon Golan is a hillside defence station that gave us a very small glimpse into the ravages of conflict. At the top of the hill, we talked with two UN peacekeepers who are positioned there (one from Ireland and one from Serbia) and they gave us a bit of history of the area. We looked down into Syria and saw a bombed out city. The trenches and shelters that we walked along were the site of fierce fighting in the 1974 Syrian war and now serves as a remembrance. Witnessing the raw pain on the faces of people moaning and praying there moved us to tears as we wondered about their stories and their lives.
Yesterday we went to Nimrod fortress (who knew Nimrod meant mighty hunter). Qal’at Nimrod (its Arabic name) is one of the largest and most impressive surviving fortresses of the middle east since the middle ages. In the 1100s when it was built it was surrounded by impregnable walls, domed archways, towers and a moat, and it controlled the important route to Damascus.
Nimrod, king of Shinar is supposedly the great grandson of Noah and, according to legend, in this place he was punished by Allah, who put a mosquito inside his head which drove him mad. The Crusaders tried to take over the fortress but were unsuccessful and it has been controlled mainly by Muslims and Sultans since medieval times. We walked through secret passageways, deep water cisterns (still containing water where we saw a turtle swimming) and of course the dungeons. We couldn’t help but shiver and speculate what atrocities had transpired in the dungeons of Nimrod.