It was a hot one today, folks. Despite that fact, sightseeing was in full force, beginning with a short excursion from the hotel to Mount Precipice, alternately known as Mount of the Leap of the Lord. Situated slightly outside the city of Nazareth, the locals believe it is the place where Jesus escaped a crowd of ruffians that tried to push him over the edge. Though I was not familiar with the story, it is apparently mentioned in Luke 4:29-30, for those interested.
From what I presume was the summit of Mount Precipice, we had a spectacular panoramic view of everything around us, including the expansive agricultural valley to the south. Our guide for the area, Tareq, informed us of Pope Benedict XVI's mass on the mountainside, which was held in May 2009. Tareq said Pope John Paul II visited once upon a time as well.
The second stop of the day was Yardenit, a baptismal site along the Jordan River. It is not the site of Jesus' baptism by John the Baptist, but a chill place to visit nonetheless. The words of Mark 1:9-11 — which begins: "In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan" — are inscribed on the exterior walls of the site in every language imaginable. I did not shy away from dipping my feet into the Jordan River, just to have you know.
From the banks of the Jordan, we traversed more of the countryside, driving around the Sea of Galilee and coming upon Capernaum, a sight on the northern shore of the sea which holds the ruins of a 4th-century synagogue and a house claimed to be owned by St. Peter. Yair, who you might remember as our trumpet-toting tour guide (as first mentioned on Day 4), schooled us on the history of the small fishing village that Capernaum once was. Of particular note: there is evidence that the 4th-century synagogue was built upon the foundation of an earlier synagogue where Jesus taught and once healed a man. Neat stuff.
Last but not least came the Mount of Beatitudes, a hill not far from Capernaum where it is believed Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew chapters 5-7). A Roman Catholic chapel sits atop the Mount of Beatitudes, guarded by some hawkish religious Sisters.
I'm just kidding, they seemed perfectly pleasant. There are plaques/stones/something-of-that-nature leading up the path to the chapel inscribed with the eight beatitudes ("Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven," for example). All around the birds were chirping, the flowers painted the landscape, and other tour groups much like our own flocked about. Definitely a good Winnie-the-Pooh-esque thinking spot, if ever there was one.
Tomorrow we bus back toward Tel Aviv for our first big sporting activity. My alarm is set for 6:30 AM. Yikes.