Considered as one of Judaism’s Four Holy Cities along with Jerusalem, Hebron, and Safed. Tiberias earned its reputation as the largest Jewish city in the Galilee and also an important religious hub of the Jews of Israel. This city is known for their archaeological and historical sites which make it famous for Tiberias pilgrim sites.
I have written two posts earlier about an intro as a disclaimer about this whole Middle East series (still more posts to come) was coming from a pilgrim experience. The second post is about my first lunch in Tiberias, the St. Peter’s Fish which taken from the Sea of Galilee (or Lake Kinneret). Both the fish and the lake are one of the main reasons that attract tourists both locals and foreigns.
Now, let’s jump to the holy sites I visited. Although we’re kinda racing with time, but these places were still enjoyable. Each place with its own feels.
Church of The Primacy of St. Peter
Our first stop for the pilgrim site, Church of Primacy of St. Peter. Also known as Chapel of The Primacy of St. Peter. It was just 10 minutes drive from the Villa Harte, our last stop for lunch. Mr. Dani, our local guide, made a pretty clear statement for all of us.
Gather with me first, listen to me first, focus on me first, then you can have your time. Save us a lot of time.
Well, of course, if you ever go with a group, you’ll know what happen next. They forget the deal right away. Selfies and photos came as the first priority. But it took only 5 minutes to gather everyone at this outdoor seats before Mr. Dani made his brief about this place continued with some message from our pastor. The routine for every place we visit.
Inside The Church
The church commemorates two things. First, the post-resurrection sighting of Jesus in the gospel of John when He sees the disciples fishing, he calls them over to the lakeside to have breakfast, at the same time forgiving Peter for his weakness on the night of the trial. Second, where Jesus said to Peter to go “feed my sheep”, after that miraculous catch. You can read the bible verses from John 21 for the story references.
This rock inside the church is the rock used to be the spot where Jesus have breakfast with the disciples. But there’s a dispute whether this table or the one near the Church of Multiplication. I guess that’s the thing about history, there’s always a dispute and no one can really confirm the truth. I found a lot of disputes about holy sites in this pilgrim trip.
The church once being destroyed in 1263, before the present Franciscan chapel was built on the site in 1933. This church was included in the itineraries of Popes Paul VI and John Paul II during their visits to Israel in 1964 and March 2000. Look at the signs attached just outside the entrance door and also on the door handle.
When you first enter the church, you will feel a different vibe. At least I felt a calm, silence and that overwhelming feeling of being in the place where once happened the event that changed St. Peter into a great disciple. I feel…. “Grateful”. Please mind your voice. Ssshhh….
Outside The Church
If you keep walking to the right side of the church towards the garden, there’s a stair going down to this spot where you can see the Sea of Galilee from up close. To feel the breeze and the lake right before your eyes, I feel like staying already. The blue water expands as far as your eyes can see, plus the orange hills across the lake as the horizon line, I’d say enough.
I feel…. Free…
Judging by the picture, it looks hot? Yep, it was really hot outside. Maybe wear a sunblock or jacket is better to protect your skin. I’ve got to put some effort to get in the middle of these rocks to take this picture above. Is it worth? Absolutely.
Now, this kind of photo is the one that almost every tourist coming will have. These are some of the members of the group that I travel with. They see a camera, they ask for a photo. Typical… Lol!
Five minutes drive to our second stop for this pilgrim sites hopping. The city of Capernaum or some say “Capharnaum”, The Town of Jesus. In Hebrew it is Kfar Nahum, the original name of the small town, means “Nahum’s village”. But it has nothing to do with the prophet Nahum. This place used to be a fishing village during the time of the Hasmoneans, one of Judean dynasty. It said to have a population of 1,500.
I saw the sign that no bus allowed beyond a portal which directs to a parking lot spacious enough for a bus. But it’s still quite a distance to walk to reach the entrance gate. This is the first time I would know that my guide and my bus driver are bad-ass. Lol! Because tomorrow is sabbath day, they have this holy day where basically most of the places will be closed. Holy day, holiday… Got it? Hahaha…
Because tomorrow is sabbath day, they have this holy day where basically most of the places will be closed. Holy day, holiday… Got it? Hahaha… Anyway, because of that, this place is going to close earlier than usual. At 3 or 4 p.m. if I’m not mistaken. So… I guess Mr. Dani don’t want to disappoint us, he wants to get as many places as we could for today. Tomorrow has its own itinerary.
Seeing that sign, our driver Mr. Abraham stops for a while. Then they both had a quick chat in their language. Before finally Mr. Dani waving his arm pointing forward and there goes Mr. Abraham pressing the gas pedal with his feet. Woosshhh… Just like that, we stop right at the entrance gate. They ignore the sign and the portal. Hahaha! What a duo! I admire these two bad-ass.
We got off the bus, kinda in a hurry with a little bit of running. Mr. Dani told us to hurry up, he proceeds to the ticket counter. Apparently, they have made it a conserved national park. They tried to maintain this site’s ruins, as it is stated as among the oldest synagogues in the world.
Ten minutes into the brief, where I can tell Mr. Dani was really in a hurry since they are closing right away after we’re done. We almost didn’t make it, though. But thanks to Mr. Dani, he managed to talk to the guy who’s in charge. After the short-session, we’re allowed to have our free time. So I wander around to take some photos.
This synagogue is built between 4th or 5th century according to the story. Consists of four parts: the praying hall, the western patio, a southern balustrade and a small room at the northwest of the building. It is believed that many events happened in this synagogue which is cited in the new testament gospel of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John.
It was the place where Jesus healed a man who possessed by an unclean spirit (see Luke 4:31-36), which is afterward He healed Simon Peter’s mother-in-law. Also, the place where He healed the servant of a Roman commander (Luke 7) and the famous healing event of the paralyzed man lowered through the roof with the help of his friends while Jesus was teaching in the synagogue (Luke 5).
Being in this place, between these ruins, I took my private time to say my prayer. I’m trying to re-create how those things happened in this synagogue. I feel inspired by all the blocks of calcareous stones. The feeling was surreal.
Ruins of The Town
Looking further just east of the synagogue we can see the ruins of the ancient town. That ancient feels, though. Amazing how they built the layout, the houses, and the road. There are several places that actually can be seen here, such as the Octagonal Church and House of Peter.
But I did not have the chance to take a look and take a photo due to the time. Mr. Dani asked us to leave very soon to catch another place, they have warned us to leave anyway. They’re closing the gate.
The Church of Multiplication “Tabgha”
About 5 minutes drive, then we’re arriving at Tabgha. All of our itinerary today goes along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, so they’re pretty close one to another. Now this site, the Church of Multiplication of loaves and fishes. A Roman Catholic church.
This is the place where the stone (under the church altar) Jesus used to bless the 5 loaves of bread and 2 fishes to feed the 5,000 men that follow them (Mark 6). That famous miracle still one of the craziest things to hear. Do you ever see what 5,000 crowds of men are, add it with women and children? Try to feed them, how many food do you have to prepare. I can understand how it is a miracle. Because it’s impossible.
How It Feels Inside
Once I passed the small souvenir shop right before the entrance of the church, there I can see the mosaic tile art as the church floor with the bread and fish drawn on it. They said that it was a popular form of art in the Byzantine era. Nice art!
Once we get inside, the pastor takes the lead and started to have a short brief about the message before finally ask us to have a private time to pray. There are quite a lot of tourists praying inside the church by the time we arrived.
We spent quite some time praying in this church. In fact, most people are. Guess they can really feel praying in this church brings a different sensation. Personally , I love how I felt sitting on one of those benches and have my private moment.
I feel… Blessed
Just as its name, this church where a lot of people pray for blessings and multiplication in their lives, for their families. I saw couples praying together, families holding hands and pray. That feeling was awesome.
If you came by a group, you can have your prayer time together first outside the church. It really goes quite once you are inside. Everybody with their own personal prayer. You can also drop some offering / donation at one of the offering boxes. As it is in every holy site you are visiting in Israel.
The Attack to The Church
On June 2015, just about a month before we here. There was an attack committed by Jewish extremists. Hebrew graffiti, with the words “the false gods will be eliminated” and a fire destroyed much of the Benedictine monastery attached to the church. That’s why I can see some construction work. They said they are fixing something broken. Turns out it was an attack by the extremists.
This is adding the long list of history of Jewish right-wing attacks on the Christian site. The Israeli government labeled this as “terrorism” act and arrested 4 Israeli Jews (age 18 to 24). The suspects are reportedly associated with the Jewish extremist, ultra-nationalist “Hilltop Youth”. God… I hate vandals.
Church of the Beatitudes
Another 5 minutes drive and here we are at the Church of The Beatitudes. A beautiful church designed by Italian architect Antonio Barluzzi. Also partly financed by an Italian dictator Benito Mussolini. This beautiful place commemorates the famous sermon on the mount from Matthew 5, where Jesus preach about beatitudes.
Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven. (Matthew 5:3)
Blessed are those who mourn: for they will be comforted. (5:4)
Blessed are the meek: for they will inherit the earth. (5:5)
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness: for they will be filled. (5:6)
Blessed are the merciful: for they will be shown mercy. (5:7)
Blessed are the pure in heart: for they will see God. (5:8)
Blessed are the peacemakers: for they will be called children of God. (5:9)
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (5:10)
That famous sermon above has become the fundamental teachings of Jesus. The exact site of where the sermon happened is unknown, but pilgrims commemorate the event at the church. A Byzantine church was erected nearby in the 4th century, and it was used until the 7th century. Its ruins have been discovered downhill from the present church.
The Church of The Beatitudes built with octagonal shaped building in 1938. The eight sides of the light and airy church represent the eight beatitudes and these are also shown in Latin in the upper windows. The centrally placed altar is surmounted by a slender arch of alabaster and onyx. Around it, the seven virtues (justice, charity, prudence, faith, fortitude, hope, and temperance) are drawn by symbols in the mosaic floor.
Amazing View Outside From The Church Complex
This church has a beautiful surrounding. The Mount of Beatitudes is one of the most beautiful places in Holy Land. You can see the northwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee and the Golan Heights across the lake. Such a peaceful and amazing view I had here.
You can explore the church surrounding. To the left side of the church is this beautiful garden with the view of that Sea of Galilee. Lots of tourists going their way to the garden to have a better view of the landscape. Lovely scene for real.
To the upper side across the church entrance, there’s a building named Domus Galilee (House of Galilee). A Christian center used for meetings, studies, and retreats. The building is relatively new, just open in 2000.
Being here is one of the most beautiful holy sites I have experienced. Not just because of the view, but how neat and clean this place is. That feeling to be present at the place where Jesus preach the famous beatitudes and set the great commission to His disciples to make disciples of all nations. I am grateful for this experience.
Almost 1 hour having our moment at this church until the sister told us they’re closing. The sister was really nice and friendly. I candid one shot while she’s sitting and watch over the visitors praying inside. Such an original moment.
You can buy some gifts or wine at the souvenir shop at the entrance. But they’re quite pricey, though. I only bought some refreshments, orange juice, and fruits. It’s very hot, any ice will do.
Last Church Before The Lake
This is the last church we visited that day. We took a short 10 minutes break for toilet before we made our final move today to enjoy the Sea of Galilee. Mr. Dani has made a booking for a boat sail the lake this late afternoon. Which is the best part of the day.
That’s why I’m saving it for the next post. The best feeling ever. If you want to know how sailing in the middle of the Sea of Galilee feels like, please support us by sharing this post, like and follow our social media, and gives a comment below. Good to know that people read our blog! Until next post, bye…
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Here’s a map for my itinerary in Galilee :