I am truly in full-on study mode now, with my written licensing exam in exactly a month. So my next post after this will likely be Part 3 of my series about the exams, in which I will tell you how I’ve been going about studying/preparing for the exam.
But first, I need to address the last Israel Mystery Photo. As I predicted, it was easier and many of you recognized it or figured it out. And those who did not get it right at least made logical guesses. I hope that this mystery photo is also something many of you will figure out!
Mt. Arbel is a highly recognizable mountain rising above the northwest corner of the Kinneret valley. Its northwestern face is a particularly sheer cliff. Thus, Mark‘s guess was not so far off. He thought it was a photo of the Manara Cliffs that rise above the Hula Valley, in Israel’s far north. But both the Hula Valley and the Kinneret Valley are a portion of the larger rift valley that runs the entire length of Israel from top to bottom (north to south). This is a giant gash in the Earth that formed when two tectonic plates split along the longest faultline in the world: the approximately 6000 km (3700 mile) long Syrian-African Rift.
Both sides of this rift valley, in Israel and in Jordan, are lined with cliffs, and it is this same rift that actually accounts for why the Dead Sea and Lake Kinneret exist. And of course, seeing the Kinnerret below the mountains was what led Sharone to make her guess. So she was also making a logical guess.
Rising almost 400 meters above the surrounding area, Arbel is one of the best spots to get a view of the Kinneret, Golan Heights and most of the Galil / Galilee. You can get a virtually 360-degree view of the region, and can also spot some of the significant sites throughout the area.
But Arbel is also well known for its antiquities. Firstly there is a beautiful Byzantine-era synagogue that was in use for over 300 years. It’s white limestone structure stood out against the black basalt stones of the houses in the surrounding village (a similar situation to the synagogue in Capernaum), and though largely typical of Galilee-style synagogues, there are a few unique aspects as well.
Still, the most famous and exciting part of a visit to Mt. Arbel is a visit to the caves halfway down its cliff face. A visit to them is not for the weak or faint of heart, but well worth it for the adventurous history lover. The circular trail that brings you to them takes approximately 3 hours, parts of which take you along a narrow path running along the cliff face. Parts require you to make use of ropes or hand/foot holds. But the thrill is worth the effort, and the story connected to them is pretty dramatic too!
Under King Herod, in the year 37 BCE, a group of Jewish Zealots from the Galilee moved into the caves, using them as a launching ground for a small scale rebellion against the Romans. Emperor Marc Antony sent Herod to clean things up, but Herod was faced with the difficult task of figuring out how to reach these rebels. The famous Roman Jewish historian Josephus Flavius describes the hideout:
Now these caves were in the precipices of craggy mountains, and could not be come at from any side, since they had only some winding pathways, very narrow, by which they got up to them; but the rock that lay on their front had beneath it valleys of a vast depth, and of an almost perpendicular declivity; insomuch that the king was doubtful for a long time what to do, by reason of a kind of impossibility there was of attacking the place. – Josephus – Wars of the Jews, Book 1, Chapter 16:4
So he hit upon a dangerous and daring plan. Jospehus continues and explains that Herod had his soldiers lowered down from the top of the mountain (the area where you might first get your panoramic view) in chests or cages, from which they were able to make their attacks. Of course, the rebellious Jews’ end was a tragic one. The soldiers slaughtered men, women and children, even burning some of them alive.
So Arbel is a great spot for a visit with so many different things to offer. A great view, a beautiful ancient synagogue, a challenging hike and a dramatic and tragic story.
Now if you have guesses on the current Mystery Photo, please leave your comments below. They will remain hidden until I post the next one.