There’s something about a sunrise.

This time of the year, when I am at home, sunrise comes somewhere between 7:30 and 8 in the morning. Some mornings I am in the car commuting. Some mornings I am at my desk in my office. Regardless of where I am, almost every time I see one, it brings joy to my heart. Sunrises are new beginnings, the start of a new day, of new possibilities, of new adventures, of new blessings.

This morning was no different. Even though I am halfway across the world from where I normally see a sunrise, the joy was still there. How could it not be, when you are greeted with the sight of the sun crossing the Golan Heights across the Sea of Galilee?

I can’t think of a better way to start our third day in the Land of the Lord. Today was spent exclusively in Northern Israel, as we traversed the foothills of Mt. Hermon and near the Syrian border. Our first stop was the nature preserve of Tel Dan.

It’s a beautiful area, with thick forests and waterfalls. It’s funny, but most people think that Israel is totally a desert country like Saudi Arabia. Nothing could be further from the truth. Israel has one of the most diverse geographies and climates of any country on earth, and there are plenty of sights like this one  at Tel Dan.

Tel Dan is also the site of one of the ancient “high places” of King Jeroboam, the first ruler of the divided kingdom of Israel. Jeroboam took over the 10 northern tribes after Solomon’s son Rheoboam began his regin. Jeroboam knew the people wanted to continue to travel to Jerusalem to offer sacrifices to God in the temple, so he set up a worship center for a golden calf at Dan and ordered the people to worship there. The shot below is of Dr. Crisp teaching from the site of the alter where sacrifices would have been offered.

One of the most fascinating things at Tel Dan is an archway that dates from the Canaanite period of Israel’s pre-history. Now anyone that knows anything about architecture will say, “Now wait a minute. The Romans invented archways. Not the Canaanites.” That might be what the textbooks say, but the picture below of the northern arch, which dates back to the time of Abraham and could very well have been used by the patriarch himself to enter Dan, is proof they are wrong.

From Dan we traveled down the road to the Banias, which bible readers would know better by the name of Caesarea Philippi.  Our first stop was the Banias waterfall, which is simply spectacular. Normally, since I am the one shooting the pictures I’m not in any of them, but I did ask someone to snap a shot of me in front of the waterfall, for my wife LaDonna. Here is your picture, honey.

From there we went to the site itself for another history lesson from Dr. Crisp. Caesarea Philippi (which is different from Caesarea Maritime, which we visited Monday), was the vacation resort for Jesus and His disciples, the place they came when they needed to recharge and rest.

It was also a place of pagan worship, specifically to the Roman god Pan. There are many beautiful ruins here, the shots below being one of them.

By now it was time for lunch, which was at another Druse village. Again it was falaffels, and an interesting side dish which I did not have the last time I was here. When a pita is prepared for a falaffel, the tip is cut off so that the chick peas can be stuffed in. This particular restraurant takes the pita cuttings from the previous day, soaks them in olive oil, pepper and spices and bakes them. The end up tasting a lot like a crouton, but much better.

In the afternoon, we just hit two spots. The first was a national memorial in the Valley of Tears, site of a huge tank battle fought between the Israelis and the Syrians in the Yom Kippur war of 1973. The vastly out-numbersed Israelis, through cunning, training and surely the hand of God, defeated the Syrians and won the war. The shot below is of a Soviet-made Syrian tank abandoned during the battle.

Our last stop of the day was at Mt. Bentel, which is a former Israeli defense post that has been turned into a park/museum. All the trenches and bunkers are still there, and you can see how the soldiers lived who were guarding the Syrian border. However, a cold wind was howling, and we didn’t stay very long before we headed back to the hotel.

Sadly, this was our last day in the Galilee. The bright side, though, is that tomorrow night, we will be in Jerusalem. In between, we will visit several sites, including Tel Megiddo, which was the site of Solomon’s ancient chariot palace. Can’t wait.

As always, more to come.