By far my favorite place to visit in Israel was Capernaum, a town on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee. It is a fishing village that held a population of about 1200 people at the time of Jesus. Archeologists have unearthed houses, shops and roads where it could easily be imagined the town’s people walking, stopping to shop or visit, carrying laundry down to the shore and fish up from the shore.
Capernaum is the home of four of the disciples: Peter, James, Andrew, and John. Matthew the tax collector also lived there. His collection station would have been about three miles from town where the road crossed from one district to another. Most importantly, Capernaum is where Jesus, the adult preacher, had taken up residence. I can imagine that going home between mission trips meant heading to Capernaum. He would have known many of the merchants, buying their wares, getting vegetables, fruits and nuts at the market.
There is a church built above a ruin that is believed to be Peter’s house where Jesus lived. It is likely there that Peter’s mother-in-law was healed as well as man lowered down through some roof tiles by his friends when they couldn’t get close to Jesus. We could see the house from the side. Had we been able to enter the church we would have had a better view, but there was a service going on when we were there.
The shore was full of large basalt rocks, suggesting volcanic activity. A large stone dock could be seen sticking up out of the water which, at the time of Jesus, would have been underwater for the most part. There the boats would have moored when not in use. With my imagination I could see the fishermen cleaning end mending their nets after a catch.
Later we ate lunch in a dining room at the Mount of the Beatitudes. We were served “Peter’s Fish”, tilapia. There are 27 kinds of fish in the Sea of Galilee but tilapia are the most plentiful.
Later that afternoon we were treated to a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee. Our captain demonstrated for us how a net would have been tossed into the sea for a catch at the time of Jesus.
We spent one more night at Pilgerhaus. On our way back to Jerusalem we would be visiting Mount Tabor, the place of the transfiguraion, another place of special interest to me. I have always been intrigued by the story of what happened there. The bible speaks of an extraordinary spiritual event but I have a tendency to recreate these stories into something quite ordinary and very human. I will share a few of my thoughts about Tabor later.