We went to the far north of Israel this morning, an area I have not explored on any of my earlier trips. We visited Banias, where one of the springs that feeds the Jordan River gushes and I mean gushes out of the earth. Gurgling blue-green water threatened to jump over the banks of its many streams.

2013-02-12-holy-land-7---photo-1.jpgBanias is also the location of the 1st century Roman city, Ceasarea Phillipi, where Jesus said to Peter, “On this rock I build my church.” Of course, I have always understood this as Jesus speaking metaphorically, as in You, Peter (petros = rock in Greek) are the rock upon which I build my church. But if you could see the rockface of the mountain at Banias which is connected to a huge rocky mountain range with life-giving springs rushing out of the ground [imagine the first picture on top of the second], you would see that if Jesus said this to Peter on this rock, Peter would have nothing to fear in building the future church!

At the northernmost point of Israel is Mt. Hermon, a craggy snow-covered peak and shrouded in fog today, where there is a ski resort. You really feel you are at the outer edges of the world here. Maybe because you can see both Lebanon and Syria from the road we were on. This area, also known as the Golan Heights, has always been contested and fought over from the beginning of time. It is now considered annexed and occupied by Israel after the 1967 war. We were told that a majority of Israelis are ready to return the land to Syria. Golan is one of the largest tank training areas for the Israeli army and we passed many soldiers and tanks on the way. While Damascus and the Arab spring are only 40 kms away, everything was very quiet in this beautiful, rugged, border area.