After a mostly—and happily—uneventful flight from various Australian cities via Dubai and Amman, the 12 people in this year’s Bethsaida team from Australia arrived safely at Hakuk Balev (also spelt Huqoq) late Saturday afternoon. We checked into our rooms, enjoyed the opportunity for a shower, and gathered for dinner at 7.00pm. It was an early night all round, with the blessing of a real bed deeply appreciated after the 18 hours or so of air travel, plus varying amounts of land travel before and after the flights.
Hakuk is located in the hills to the west of the Sea of Galilee. It is about 5km inland from the main north-south road along the western side of the lake, and about 10 minutes north of our usual location at Ginosar. It offers wonderful views of the lake, as well as Tiberias and the Horns of Hattim.
Sunday was spent touring some selected sites in the northern area of Israel. Our driver (Fahim) and guide (Ghattas Zaher ) are both Christians from Nazareth, and we soon identified many common friends with both of these gentlemen. Fahim was also the person who picked us up from the Jordan Valley Border Crossing when we came through to Israel from Jordan, and they will both be with us for our program in Nazareth next Saturday and in Haifa the following day. Ghattas is the father of Linda, who works at the Sabeel office in Nazareth, so another special connection there.
After a visit to Chorazin, we headed north to Banias where we explored the site for a couple of hours. After doing the usual visit to the Cave of Pan, we walked down Banias Stream (one of the four sources of the Jordan) to Banias Falls. The walk took about 90 minutes as detoured via the palace of Agrippa II, bought cherries and pita from the Druze man near the old flour mill, and made our way across the grassy hilltops in the far north of Israel.
After a picnic lunch at Banias Falls we headed back to the Sea of Galilee where we visited the quiet prayer gardens at Mt Beatitudes, the Church of the Primacy at Tabgha, and the beautiful Greek Orthodox Church at Capernaum. Sadly, the Benedictine monastery at Tabhga was closed so we did not get to see the Byzantine mosaic of the loaves and fishes. We also missed the Franciscan area at Capernaum as we arrived just a few minutes after their shiny new gate was locked for the day. We shall go back there on our way to Haifa next Sunday.
By the end of dinner all of the volunteers for this middle session of the 2014 season at Bethsaida had arrived, so our new community is beginning to take place. It was another fairly early night for people, but already we are beginning to feel very much at home in the quiet setting of Hakuk and in this beautiful corner of a very special place.
A few photos relating to each day’s program, including today, will be posted on my Facebook page.