MIDDLE EASTERN PHOTOS/COMMENTARY, VOL. III
SYNAGOGUE AT CHORAZIN
The synagogue at Chorazin was destroyed by an earthquake in 80 C.E. (A.D.). Its stones are the black basalt stones so abundant in the area. Chorazin was located near Capernaum and Bethsaida (birthplace of Philip, Andrew, and Peter – John 1:44) along the Sea of Galilee. This area was famous for its early harvest of grain—due to its location on a steep sun-exposed hill and dark volcanic soil, which tended to warm up much quicker than the soil in the surrounding areas.
This triangle of Jewish cities were important as the center of Jesus’ ministry and miracles. They were situated in an area populated with many Gentiles. Isaiah 9:1 calls the area “Galilee of the Gentiles.” Jesus cursed all three cities: Then Jesus began to reproach the cities in which his many works were done, and which did not repent. And he said, ‘Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if in Tyre and Sidon had been done the works which were done in you, they might have repented in sackcloth and ashes. But I say to you, it will be easier for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, which has exalted yourself up to heaven, shall be brought down to Sheol; for if in Sodom had been done the works which were done in you, it would be standing to this day. But I say to you, it will be easier for the land of Sodom in the judgment day than for you.’” (Matthew 11:20-24)
Chorazin was one of numerous cities in Galilee that thrived after the destruction of the 2nd Temple in 70 C.E. (A. D.) The synagogue (in photo above) was built in the form of a basilica as a Talmudic era synagogue. Inscriptions inside the synagogue are in both Hebrew and Aramaic. A stone seat remains among the ruins. This “Chair of Moses” was where the Torah reader sat. http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Society_&_Culture/geo/Chorazin.html
REFLECTION: In this “Galilee of the Gentiles,” Jesus (a Jew) curses 3 Jewish cities because they refuse to accept new teachings and expanded concepts of Truth.
Charles Fillmore, in Unity’s Metaphysical Bible Dictionary, gives the metaphysical meaning of:
Gentile – Latin for “all nations and peoples outside of a given body.” Metaphysically, “Gentile” stands for worldly thoughts, the unregenerate state of mind in each of us.
Jew – Hebrew for “People belonging to the tribe and kingdom of Judah only, or to the Hebrew nation generally.” Metaphysically, “Jews” in their highest aspect symbolize divine ideas, or spiritual consciousness.
ON A METAPHYSICAL LEVEL, THE BIBLE IS THE STORY OF EACH INDIVIDUAL’S SOUL JOURNEY INTO HIGHER CONSCIOUSNESS.
Throughout the Bible, we find the Jews symbolizing our established religious thoughts and systems of worship. In the Bible, Jews frequently refused to listen to new teachings of Truth, even though God pleaded with them to do so. It is noteworthy that Jesus curses the three Jewish cities because they refuse his new teachings. In doing so, Jesus curses the rigidity of religious beliefs and laws found in an established tribe or synagogue. (Keep in mind that churches did not exist during the time of Jesus. The rigidity of Christian beliefs and churches would have also been included had they existed.)
Gentiles, on the other hand, symbolize our worldly thoughts. In cursing Chorazin, Capernaum, and Bathsaida, Jesus tells them that it will be better for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment. Tyre and Sidon were Canaanite (or Gentile cities), so why would they fair better on judgement day than the Jewish cities?
Tyre & Sidon – as Gentile cities, symbolize our individual worldly thoughts. These worldly thoughts do not exhibit the rigidity that religious thoughts very often do. When exposed to the truth, they are willing to consider it and admit their error thinking. Tyre & Sidon would be more willing to make changes that allow for incorporating expanded truth into their daily lives.
Israelites – Hebrew for the descendants of Jacob. Metaphysically, Israelites symbolize our individual “illumined thoughts in consciousness, which are undergoing spiritual discipline … the thoughts in us that are always endeavoring to follow the inner leading of the divine law (as contrasted with religious law). Israelites are our spiritual thoughts.
The army of Israelites “represents an aggregation of thoughts in the mind of every individual—thoughts that know Truth and strive to follow it. The army of Truth is made up of spiritual, invisible forces. So when the Bible tells stories of the Israelites conquering Canaan, it is really saying that the Israelites (our illumined thoughts) conquered the Gentile nation of Canaan (our worldly thoughts).
IN TRUTH, THE BATTLES OF THE BIBLE ARE INNER SPIRITUAL BATTLES THAT EACH OF US—REGARDLESS OF RACE OR RELIGION—MUST CONFRONT AND CONQUER FOR OUR INDIVIDUAL SOUL’S ADVANCEMENT.
THE PROMISED LAND IS THAT STATE OF ENLIGHTENMENT THAT INDICATES VICTORY IN OUR INDIVIDUAL BATTLE OF MEGIDDO. AS REVEALED IN THE HEBREW MEANING OF MEGIDDO, WINNING THE BATTLE LEADS US INTO A “PLACE OF GREAT ABUNDANCE, A MOST FORTUNATE PLACE.” (More on Megiddo in Vol. II of these photos)
THIS BATTLE & ITS VICTORY IS INDICATIVE OF A GOD OF ABSOLUTE LOVE … INDICATIVE OF A PROMISED LAND FILLED WITH THOSE WHO ARE ENLIGHTENED, NOT SIMPLY JEWS, MUSLIMS, AND/OR CHRISTIANS!
RUINS AT CAPERNAUM
Jesus made his home in Capernaum after John the Baptist’s arrest. “Now when Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum.” Matthew 4:12-13
Capernaum became the center of Jesus’ ministry. It is located beside the Sea of Galilee seen in the background of the photo above.
SYNAGOGUE AT CAPERNAUM
Jesus often taught in the synagogues throughout Galilee. The black stones mark the wall of the synagogue at Capernaum in which Jesus taught. The white stones mark the synagogue built over the one Jesus knew.
THE SYNAGOGUE BUILT OVER THE ONE JESUS KNEW
The synagogue in Capernaum was located next to the house of Peter. Jesus spent much time in the home of Peter, where on one occasion, he healed Peter’s mother-in-law. (Matthew 8:14-16, Mark 1:29-31)
1990 – THE ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITE OF PETER’S HOUSE
FLOOR PLAN OF PETER’S HOUSE
1993 – THE ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITE FOR PETER’S HOUSE
Archaeological and restoration work on Peter’s house revealed much progress between 1990 and 1993.
The remains of Peter’s home by the Sea of Galilee reveal wealth. Instead of the poor fishermen we have assumed Jesus’ disciples were, Peter and likely the others who fished had grown wealthy through the lucrative fishing industry along the Sea of Galilee. Capernaum was located on a major trade route and its residents would have prospered by the international fish trade.
MOSAIC FLOOR IN PETER’S HOUSE
The mosaic floor in Peter’s house is located in front of an upright long brick fireplace, thought to have been the cooking area. Note the size of the home. Mosaic floors are found only in the ruins of wealthy homes, synagogues, mosques, churches, Herod’s citadel at Masada, and other large building sites.
Mosaic floor in Peter’s house Mosaic floor in Herod’s citadel at Masada
The more research being done, the more evidence being found to verify that Jesus knew wealth on an everyday basis. His maternal great-uncle, Joseph of Arimathea, took care of Mary after her husband Joseph’s death. Joseph of Arimathea was one of the most weathy men in the ancient world. He owned tin mines in Great Britain and a large shipping fleet. He was at home in the courts of Rome as well as in Jerusalem.
Jesus was born into a royal family … his father, Joseph, was a direct descendant of King David as evidenced in the genealogy found in Matthew 1 … “and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born.” Again, “Joseph, of the house of David…” (Luke 1:26) Throughout the gospels, the people call to Jesus: “Jesus, Son of David ….” Luke 18:38 is one example.
“After sending away the crowds, he [Jesus] got into the boat and went to the region of Magadan (Magdala).” (Matthew 15:39) The wealthy town of Magdala on the Sea of Galilee was only a short distance from Capernaum. Archaeologists have discovered the ruins of a small synagogue there, where Jesus would have taught. During the 1st century, Magdala was famous for its skill in fish processing. In fact, the name of the village found in the Talmud is Migdal Nunaiya, meaning “Tower of Fish.” Magdala was also a center for boat building.
Thus, the circumstantial evidence that even before Jesus embarked on his ministry, Mary of Magdala’s family was friends with Joseph of Arimathea, who owned a fleet of ships, and Peter, who was a wealthy fisherman, is strong.
Several wealthy women traveled with Jesus and his disciples. “And the women who were healed of diseases and unclean spirits, Mary who is called of Magdala, from whom seven demons went out, and Joanna, the wife of Chuza the steward of Herod, and Susanna, and many others, who ministered to them of their wealth.” Luke 8:2-3
Another indication that Jesus was daily with the wealthy is the large room in which he and his disciples celebrated the Passover meal in Jerusalem. “The teacher asks you, ‘Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ He will show you a large room upstairs, already furnished.” (Luke 22:11-12) Jesus had already made plans for the Passover Meal.
THE FRANCISCAN GARDEN AT CAPERNAUM
The Franciscans are in charge of caring for Capernaum.
Historically, Mary of Magdala has been given a black name. Contrary to statements often made by the church, she was not the woman caught engaging in the act of adultery in Jerusalem. (John 8:3) Mary of Magdala was traveling with Jesus playing a major role in his ministry. The seven demons that went out of her are listed in the Gospel of Mary as: “darkness, craving, ignorance, lethal jealousy, enslavement to the body, intoxicated wisdom, and guileful wisdom.” Note that these demons are qualities that all of us must overcome as we embark on the pathway to gaining the “mind that was in Christ Jesus.” That these seven demons went out of Mary of Magdala indicates that she had achieved Christed (or Higher) consciousness. Following Jesus’ ascension, Mary of Magdala becomes the teacher of the disciples. That Mary of Magdala understood Jesus’ teachings far better than his other disciples is confirmed in The Gospel of Philip. The Gospel of Mary reveals that Peter was jealous of Mary’s higher position in the eyes of Jesus. (For more on “Mary of Magdala As Seen Through The Ancient Texts” see this title in the left column on the home page of this website.)
WALKING THE STREETS OF CANA
John 2:1-11 tells the story of Jesus changing water into wine at a wedding feast in the ancient village of Cana (Khirbet Kana). In John 4:46-54 relates the story of Jesus returning to Cana where a Roman official sought his help in healing his son in Capernaum. Jesus performed a distant healing on the boy and instructed his father: “Go, your son is healed. And the man believed the word that Jesus said to him and went away.” One of Jesus’ disciples, Nathanael, was from Cana (John 21:2)
CANA – SIDE ENTRANCE TO THE CHURCH
FRANCISCAN CHURCH IN CANA
Palestinian Christian girls entering the church for choir practice with one of the Nuns.
This church is believed by the Franciscans to be the site of the wedding feast at which Jesus transformed the water into wine.
INSIDE THE FRANCISCAN CHURCH IN CANA
The orange colored jug is typical of the type water jugs used during the days of Jesus.
BY THE SEA OF GALILEE
FLOWERS AT TABGHA – IN JANUARY
CHURCH OF THE MULTIPLICATION OF THE
LOAVES & FISHES – AT TABGHA
Tabgha is thought to be the site on which Jesus fed the 5000. Tabgha—an Arabic corruption of the Greek name “Heptapegon” meaning Seven Springs—is located in a fertile valley on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee. It is watered by 7 springs. Tabgha is close to Capernaum and would be a place in which Jesus spent a great deal of time. He often selected a site close to the Sea of Galilee on which to teach the crowds because water conducts sound and he could be heard even with large crowds.
During the 5th century, a large monastery and a church decorated with exquisite mosaic floors were built at Tabgha. The stone thought to be the one on which Jesus placed the bread became an altar. The church/monastery was destroyed in the 7th century. After archaeological excavations in the 1980s, the church was restored to its Byzantine form and incorporating portions of the original mosaics. A mosaic depicting a basket of bread flanked by two fish is displayed in front of the altar. The church is famous for its mosaics, unique among the Byzantine churches in the Middle East. It now belongs to the Order of the Benedictines.
POSTCARD – MOSAIC AND STONE ALTAR
CHURCH OF THE MULTIPLICATION OF THE LOAVES & FISHES
WINDOW IN THE CHURCH OVERLOOKING ONE OF THE RED FLOWERING TREES
STATUE AT TABGHA COMMEMORATING JESUS’ STATEMENT TO PETER,
“ON THIS ROCK I WILL BUILD MY CHURCH.”
AT TABGHA, “BY THE SEA” LITERALLY MEANS BY THE SEA!
TABGHA BY THE SEA OF GALILEE
I collected tiny bullinidae shells here just outside the water.
RECENT RUSSIAN JEWISH IMMIGRANTS TO ISRAEL
Both are professional musicians playing for tourists’ contributions near the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves & Fishes. Jewish immigrants to Israel frequently use their professional skills in this way as means of gaining recognition and getting established in their field.
MOUNT OF BEATITUDES
BESIDE THE SEA OF GALILEE
IN MAY IN JANUARY
Jesus is believed to have preached his Sermon on the Mount (found in Matthew 5) on this site. While speaking, he most likely stood in a boat anchored close to the shore, the water acting as a conductor for his voice to be heard by the crowd. The mountainside rises approximately 700 feet above the Sea of Galilee, forming a natural amphitheater.
Mt. of Beatitudes – looking toward the ancient cities of Capernaum and Magdala on the Sea of Galilee.
MT. OF BEATITUDES – MAY
IRON GATE TO THE FRANCISCAN CHURCH
MT. OF BEATITUDES
CHURCH OF THE BEATITUDES
The octagonal shape of the church symbolizes the eight beatitudes. This church was commissioned by Benito Mussolini. It is cared for by the Franciscans.
ALTAR - THE CHURCH OF THE BEATITUDES
The mosaic floor around the altar contains symbolic representations of the 7 virtues: charity, justice, prudence, hope, faith, temperance, and fortitude.
TIME FOR REFLECTION
THE CHURCH OF THE BEATITUDES
1. Blessed are the humble, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
2. Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
3. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
4. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.
5. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall have mercy.
6. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
7. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
8. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the
Kingdom of heaven.
KIBBUTZ NOF GINNOSAR
LOCATED BY THE SEA OF GALILEE
ADMINISTRATION BUILDING AT THE KIBBUTZ
Kibbutz = Hebrew translating “communal settlement.” The 1st kibbutzim was created approximately 40 years before the founding of the Israeli state in 1948 by a group of Jewish pioneers mainly from East Europe. Today (1993) some 270 kibbutz are scattered throughout Israel, accounting for 2.5% of the Jewish population.
The meals were delicious at the kibbutz … with freshly grown vegetables and fruits and grains made into a variety of breads.
DORMITORY AT KIBBUTZ NOF GINNOSAR
THE KIBBUTZ IS LOCATED ON THE SEA OF GALILEE
(In the background, just beyond the trees)
POINSETTA TREE ON THE KIBBUTZ
Hebrew for “House of Bread”
Arabic for “House of Meat”
Bethlehem is located about five miles south of Jerusalem. Just to the north of Bethlehem is the traditional site of the tomb of Rachel, a profoundly sacred place for the Jewish people. “As it came to pass, as her soul was departing and she was dying, she called the child’s name “Bar-kebai” (the son of my sorrow); but his father called him Benjamin (the son of my right hand). And Rachel died, and was buried on the way to Ephrath, which is Bethlehem. And Jacob set up a pillar upon the grave of Rachel; that is the pillar of Rachel’s grave to this day.” Genesis 35:18-20
Bethlehem was the family home of King David and where he was anointed King by the Prophet Samuel. “And the Lord said to Samuel…. Fill your horn with oil, and come; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite; for I have found for myself a king among his sons…. And he sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, with beautiful eyes, and very handsome. And the Lord said to Samuel, arise, anoint him; for this is he. Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward.” I Samuel 16:1-13
The gospels state that Jesus was born in Bethlehem in fulfillment of a prophecy made by Micah: “And you, Bethlehem Ephratah, though you are little among the thousands of towns of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth a ruler to govern Israel; whose goings forth have been predicted from of old, from eternity.” Micah 5:2
---Harper’s Bible Dictionary
SHEPHERD’S FIELD – BETHLEHEM
Although archaeologists cannot dig and find proof that this is the field where the angels appeared to the shepherds, announcing the birth of Jesus … it is within the Bethlehem area. Shepherds often herded their flocks into one of the large rock caves in the vicinity for protection during the night, standing guard over them at the mouth of the
Stone Cave in Shepherd’s Field – Bethlehem Wall of the cave in Shepherd’s Field
THE CHURCH OF THE NATIVITY – BETHLEHEM
PAINTING IN SHEPHERD’S FIELD CHAPEL
PAINTING IN SHEPHERD’S FIELD CHAPEL
PAINTING IN SHEPHERD’S FIELD CHAPEL
JUDEAN DESERT TRAVELING TOWARD THE DEAD SEA
THE DEAD SEA
The Dead Sea is the saltiest and most mineral-laden water in the world. Nothing can live in it; yet, it is the largest natural spa on the planet. Swimmers cannot sink; instead, they can read a newspaper while the water holds them afloat. Located 1,373 feet below sea level, it is the lowest point on the planet. Less than an hour’s drive from Jerusalem, the Dead Sea is also the Sea of Peace---joining Israel and Jordan.
Mineral and salt deposits to be found along the Dead Sea.
A gazelle wandering along the shores of the Dead Sea.
BESIDE THE DEAD SEA
Overlooking the Dead Sea from Masada Rock
The Dead Sea ground level view at Masada
MASADA is the site of the most symbolic and dramatic act in Jewish history---where Jewish rebels chose mass suicide rather than submit to Roman capture.
In 40 B.C.E., King Herod fled from Jerusalem to Masada with his family. Later he fortified and furnished the citadel as a refuge. Most of the Herodian buildings and fortifications date between 37-31 B.C.E. The Roman garrison was probably stationed here from 6-66 B.C.E. At the outbreak of the Jewish War, a band of Zealots captured Masada. Masada became a place of refuge for all those Jews in danger of capture by the Romans. After the fall of Jerusalem in 70 C.E., Masada remained the only point of Jewish resistance. The rebels burned their belongings and committed suicide rather than be captured.
THE MASADA ROCK
Masada is located on a flat rock on the edge of the Judean Desert and the Dead Sea valley. This rock stands at a height of 440 feet above the Dead Sea. It is isolated from its surroundings by deep gorges on all sides, forming a natural fortification and the perfect location for a fortress.
FORTRESS ON TOP OF MASADA ROCK
One side of Masada Rock as viewed from the cable car.
King Herod had an intricate water supply system constructed on Masada consisting of a drainage system to carry rainwater from two nearby wadis to a group of cisterns within the rock. Herod enclosed Masada by a double wall with the inner space divided into at least 70 rooms, 30 towers, and 4 gates.
The oldest known synagogue in the world is on Masada. It was used during the time of the 2nd Temple in Jerusalem.
SYNAGOGUE ON MASADA
This photo reveals the outer and inner chambers separating men and women.
BYZANTINE CHURCH ON MASADA OVERLOOKING THE DEAD SEA
During the Byzantine Period, the ruins of Masada served as a retreat for monks. They built a small Byzantine Church. Masada was also inhabited during the Crusader Period.
The church floors had been covered with mosaic, as evidenced by a small, beautiful section that remains. Ruins of the monks’ mosaic workshop stand nearby, still containing a number of the long, thin stones used in creating mosaic.
MOSAIC FLOOR – MASADA
STEAM BATH – MASADA
LOCATED IN THE DESERT BESIDE THE DEAD SEA
More than 2,000 years ago, a dedicated group of religious visionaries, the Essenes—or Sons of Light—left the opulent life of Jerusalem and sequestered themselves in the desert stronghold of Qumran. Their goal: To live a purer, more spiritual way of life. For the Essenes, every act was a form of spiritual discipline. They are responsible for the transcription of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The message found within these scrolls is often reflected in the teachings of Jesus.
ESSENES’ MEETING & DINING HALL
The Essenes living within the Qumran Community (others lived in the cities) ate the evening meal together in this dining hall. Afterwards they studied the Old Testament books from 8 PM to 12 midnight on a daily basis. The Essenes were taught to “wrestle” with the Holy Texts, not simply accept what the religious authorities taught. Study, for the Essenes, was of paramount importance because it remakes each individual from the inside out.
Dr. Edmond Bordeaux Szekely discovered and translated four volumes of THE ESSENE GOSPEL OF PEACE. These books were hidden in the Secret Archives of the Vatican. Another book by Szekely is entitled: THE ESSENE JESUS: A REVALUATION FROM THE DEAD SEA SCROLLS. Szekely also records his discovery process in his book THE DISCOVERY OF THE ESSENE GOSPEL OF PEACE.
The Essenes were attuned to the angelic kingdom and worked in cooperation with them. They grew their food in this desert environment. A fairly modern day example of gardening in cooperation with the angels took place in the beginning days of Findhorn Gardens in Scotland. You may participate with angels and nature through a daily meditation book THE ESSENE BOOK OF DAYS 2009.
The Essenes used the mineral rich Dead Sea to develop techniques of natural healing. They also possessed an intricate fresh water supply system consisting of cisterns and aqueducts.
PART OF THE FRESH WATER SUPPLY SYSTEM AT QUMRAN
ONE OF THE LIMESTONE CAVES IN WHICH THE DEAD SEA SCROLLS WERE FOUND
BY SHEPHERDS SEARCHING FOR A LOST GOAT.
Researchers and hypnotherapists are collecting much information that indicates the Essenes were a deeply spiritual group that had as one of its major goals to prepare an environment into which Jesus could incarnate and find understanding assistance in accomplishing his mission on Earth. Their metaphysical knowledge far exceeded that of the average person then and at present.
THE END OF MIDDLE EASTERN PHOTOS/COMMENTARY, VOL. III