Today, Saturday, is the Sabbath here in Israel. That means no work. The entire hotel and restaurant industry honors the Jewish laws, which means no pushing buttons for electricity. No burning of fuels or energy of any kind. No watching television. No cooking. The school and work week start on Sunday, and go for five and a half days, letting out on Friday afternoon. Banks and government offices all close at 1PM on Friday. Television plays cooking shows on Friday afternoon because all housewives are home cooking all day in preparation for the Sabbath, when no work of any kind is allowed.
This is the way of Jewish law. Eating today will be interesting. I’m not sure how they are going to accomplish it, but they have done it this way for thousands of years. We asked our tour guide why, and she said, “you just don’t question Jewish law.”
As Jesus grows, and begins to preach to people in the Nazareth, the place of his birth, he begins to challenge the high Jewish priests, which is met with extreme conflict. He decides to move on to Capernaum, a small fishing village less than a day’s donkey ride away. Here, he stayed with Simon Peter, one of the disciples, who lived with his mother-in-law, and preached the Gospel to this fishing village of 1500 where it became the center of his public ministry.
The ruins of simple houses remain, showing the lifestyle of the families of fishermen who earned their living from the catch from the Sea of Galilee. Jesus had come here to comfort the poor, the needy, the struggling and downtrodden, and here, miracles were performed of healing the sick and paralyzed, including St. Peter’s own mother-in-law.
Behind the ruins, a modern church has been built over the remains of St. Peter’s house.
Across from St. Peter’s house are the remains of one of the oldest synagogues in the world, built during the time of Christ, and funded by a Roman Centurion. Rome would change from a pagan society to eventually embrace Christianity in a big way.
In 1894, this entire property was eventually purchased and is now protected by the Italian Franciscan order, who built a fence around to protect this sacred site from vandals, and planted palm and eucalyptus trees to provide a small oasis for pilgrims.
We travel next to the beautiful mountains of the Golan Heights to see what is left of Cesarea Philippi, an ancient Roman city at the base of Mt. Herman with its shrines dedicated to the Greek god Pan. The short name of for this place became Panias, after the god, which eventually became Banias over time. It was easier for the Arabs to say because they cannot Pronounce the letter P.
It was here that Jesus asked his closest disciples who they thought he was. Saint Peter made his confession saying, Jesus, you are the Messiah and the “Son of the living God”. Christ in turn said to him, “you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven.” It happened right here…in this ancient city of Banias.