From the top of the Arbel Cliffs, I could see three days of walking. Looking back to the southwest, I saw the twin volcanic remnants known as the “Horns of Hattin,” over which I’d clambered yesterday; behind them, Cana at the far end of the ridge I’d hiked the day before that. Below the Horns, I could make out the grand drive that led into the Druze shrine, Nevi Shu’eib; and I could see the slow arc of the narrow Arbel Valley, leading to the village of Moshav Arbel, where I’d stayed last nigh. And now, I could look down more than 1,000 feet (from over 150 meters above sea-level to 150 meters below sea-level) and see the long curve of the Sea of Galilee, stretching north to Capernaum, where I would finish my day.
Yes, that was my view–shared with varying degrees of attention by three bus-loads of…do I have to say other tourists? One is, I suppose, still a tourist even if the tour is on foot. A guide was giving a short lesson in Jewish mysticism to several American teens: “According to the Kabala, the world is like an onion–in what way, do you think?” A tentative voice: “It smells…?” “No, no,” the guide countered, “Because it has many layers.” Personally, I think each view has something to it.
I descended the cliff in the midst of a few dozen Canadian teens, one of whom at least pretended to be interested in knowing that my father’s parents were born in Wetaskewin, Alberta. What we all really had in common was thankfulness that someone had installed handholds through the steeper portions. Once down, and on through the day, I found my view of the cliff almost as inspiring as my view from the cliff. All day long, I could look back and say to myself, “I was there, and now I am here.”
In the late 20th century, archeologists at Capernaum found what may be the remains of our faith’s oldest church building — perhaps from the late 1st century. Because ancient fishing gear was also found there, the site has been known as “St. Peter’s House.” Additions appear to have been built on or over the house in the 4th and 5the centuries, and then, in 1990, a church shaped quite a bit like a UFO was built over all previous layers. The modern sanctuary has a glass square in the middle that looks down onto the remnants that once may have housed worshippers who knew Jesus himself. Some complain about modern architecture built over ancient sites. But perhaps it is the church’s way of drawing inspiration from the past, while still striving to live in the present — a way of saying, “We were there — and now we are here.”