I finally have good wi-fi access, so I hope to fix up this blog and I hope I can remember everything and can keep it all straight.
Today we started with a boat ride on the sea of Galilee. The captain and crew raised the American flag and played the Star Spangled Banner for us as we left the dock. We toured for about an hour with our guide pointing out several things, including the coast of Lebanon and the Valley of the Dove, the traditional home of Mary Magdalene. He said the valley is also known as the salt highway as it leads between the Dead Sea and the Sea of Galilee, with salt was needed to dry the fish caught in the sea. He also explained how the word salary was developed from the practice of the fisherman being paid in salt, or "sal" ary. For those who wanted, the crew sold t-shirts with "I sailed on the Sea of Galilee" on them as well as polished rocks from the sea. At the end, we went to a museum that housed a first-century boat, one like what Jesus and his disciples would have used.
Then we went to the Mount of the Beattitudes, where Father Bob said the daily mass. From there we headed to Peter's Primacy, where I waded into the Sea and stood on a rock. The "beach" is very rocky, so I was glad for my Keen sandals.
Lunch was with some Lebanese and Palestinian Christians, who served Peter's fish from the Sea of Galilee (they said it was Tilapia and traditionally served with head and tail on with all of the bones, but I opted for filleted).
Then we traveled to Capernaum, a coastal city of fisherman, well preserved from the 1st century with 4th century additions. We saw St. Peter's home, now under a modern church that has a glass floor. This town is located at the end of the Valley of the Doves. The town has one of the oldest synagogues ever found with evidence from 300 bc. We were very surprised at how large this town in ruins was. We saw decorations with menorahs and Stars of David, so wondrous to see such ancient evidence before our eyes.
As we left the Sea of Galilee area and headed inland to Jerusalem, we saw the greenery turn to desert with many shacks and lean-tos in the valleys of dusty hills. These hills were grazed by goats and the people looked very poor.
As we entered the town proper, we saw high-rises and Greek Orthodox churches, the Domes and minarets, evidence of a mixing of cultures. Our hotel is actual a papal principality. Since it is really a part of the Vatican, even the Israeli guards must leave their weapons at the door. And they said the food would not be Kosher or have Halal meat, since were as if in a separate country. We are in the Notre Dame hotel, which has a special room with elaborate mosaics for the pope when he visits. It looks like a castle on the outside.
One side note, Shafiq warned us that people know him in Jerusalem, his home town and try to feed off him. They will approach us to say that Shafiq sent us, his cousins, to take you on a tour or to sell you these souvenirs, etc. He said he sends no one and not to fall for it.