Once again, we left our hotel early, heading north to the Mount of Beatitudes, believed to be where Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount. The modern church was built between 1936 and 1938 near the site of the fourth-century Byzantine ruins. The floor plan is octagonal, the eight sides representing the eight Beatitudes. It is built on top of a 4th Century AD Byzantine Church. Nearby is the Beatitudes Monastery, both set in gorgeous gardens overlooking the Sea of Galilee.
Continuing in a northwards direction to Tabgha we visited the Church of the Multiplication of Loaves and Fish. Just in front of the altar is a mosaic of two fish either side of a basket containing four loaves of bread, however under the altar is a limestone rock which is considered the exact location that the miracle took place. As with many ancient buildings throughout the Middle East, the floors are covered in a myriad of detailed mosaics, mostly depicting local wetland wildlife.
Our next stop was Capernaum where Jesus studied and preached. Once more we found several layers of civilisation building on top of each other and churches/synagogues next to each other. As you enter the gates of Capernaum there is a statue to your left. It depicts Jesus as a homeless person, sleeping on a park bench. His face and hands are obscured, hidden under a blanket, however his crucifixion wounds on his feet reveal his identity. Inside the modern church the central floor area is covered in glass so that you can see the 4th and 5th Century dwellings below, including the house of Peter. Just 20 metres away are the ruins of a synagogue; in between are the ruins of many houses, built in the local bluestone rock.
Back on the highway we crossed the Jordan River before beginning our climb up to the Golan Heights in the far north-east of the country. Along the way we saw many military stations, most were abandoned however a few were still in use in this fairly volatile section of Israel. Large tracts of land lay wasted as they are still covered in landmines. Signs are posted every few metres along the fence line warning of the danger. Apparently cows often wander in to these areas; as no-one can go in after them, they have to be coaxed back out to the safe farmland with water! From our view point we could see across Israel, the UN Demarcation Zone and into Syria. The history of this area is extremely complex and borders are still under dispute. Needless to say, no-one should go anywhere near the tall grey wall that marks the boundary of Israel and the DMZ unless they want to be considered hostile and shot!
Nevertheless the views are stunning and well worth the extra travel to reach this part of Israel. Returning to the Sea of Galilee, we finished our day with a peaceful cruise of about 45 minutes.