Mountain Top Experiences

Mountains have always played a significant role in the events of the Old and New Testament - from Mount Sinai, where God handed to Moses the law and commandments on two tablets of stone and until the anticipated return of the Lord whose feet shall touch the Mount of Olives above the Garden of Gethsemane. There are, in fact, so many mountain top events recorded in Scripture that all cannot be covered in one blog. Sufficient for us to look at the mountains that EO guests are most likely to see and visit as they enjoy one of the many HL itineraries. 


Mount Nebo, for those on a Jordan extension, is the mountain where Moses looked across the Jordan River into the promised land grasping only by faith all that would unfold in this land God had led them to over 40 years in the wilderness. All that would unfold through prophet, priest and King and lead to the birth of the Messiah, even Jesus, in Bethlehem. A long road ahead but the first step right there.

Then there are two mountains that are split by a valley and facing each other - Mount Gerazim and Mount Ebal in Nablus (ancient Sheckem) in todays West Bank - the mount of blessings and the mount of curses, where Joshua gathered the people of Israel and with six tribes on the one mountain and six tribes on the other mountain he read the blessings and curses recorded by Moses. (Homework: which mountain is which ? - Deut. 11:29). Those pilgrims choosing the Samaria itinerary will stand between these two mountains and reflect on the many blessings that come when following the Way, the Truth and the Life.


Mount Carmel, meaning the vineyard of the Lord, runs from Haifa down towards Caesarea Marítima. Yet another mountain range filled with a rich history from Naboth’s fruitful vineyard coveted by King Ahab and Queen Jezebel to Elijah’s cave where he witnessed the earthquake, wind, fire but found God in “the still small voice of calm” and culminating in his challenge to the 450 prophets of Baal to honor the God who answered by fire consuming the offering on the altar - and to forsake all false gods. Part of the ancient aqueduct that brought life supporting water to Caesarea from this mountain range can still be seen today.


On to Mount Tabor, traditional site of the Transfiguration of Jesus, where the disciples Peter, James and John witnessed Jesus in brilliant light conversing with Moses and Elijah and on that summit shrouded by a cloud heard a Voice proclaiming, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, hear him.” Our Catholic groups celebrate the Mass on top of Mount Tabor in the beautiful Franciscan monastery with magnificent views of the Jesreel Valley below and opposite, Jesus’ home town of Nazareth. Mount Tabor also played an important role as a citadel in Crusader times.

Suffice to conclude this brief blog with the most significant mount of all - Mount Zion, home of King David, site of the holy city of Jerusalem, and, of course, the Temple. EO pilgrims will recite again the psalms of ascent, (Psalms 120-134) that pilgrims attending the main feasts at the Temple in Jerusalem sang as the pressed onward and upward to Mount Zion and at the end of their journey beheld the city that filled them with awe. Jerusalem an amazing city not built on a river or a harbor but thrives on a mountain top. However, John in the Revelation, sees the New Jerusalem beside a crystal sea. Jerusalem home to the three great religions of the world, Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

EO pilgrims visiting the Holy Land will undoubtedly have their own mountain top experiences as they travel across this awesome land and visit several or all of these mountains that have hosted the great events of our faith.


Dr. Lee van Rensburg

Hospitality Staff

Sea of Galilee. Israel

"Twelve Square Miles of Clay"

With just a 12 mile piece of clay.

Gene McDaniel’s has a catchy little song about what God can do for man, ”with just 100 lbs of clay.” It reminds me of what God could do for us all through the life of Jesus “with just 12 square miles of clay” – to be exact - the area of Jesus’ ministry on the plains of Gennesaret on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee.  In this very small piece of land, the majority of Jesus’ ministry unfolded.  Some estimates are 85%.  This without social media, news coverage, tablets or texting and with very limited communication available (walking and word of mouth), and yet, what unfolded on this piece of land, nonetheless, forever changed the world.

Sea of Galilee.jpg

The number of events and places in these few square miles is remarkable and includes part of the route from Nazareth through the valley of the winds (or doves) passing below the cliffs of Mount Arbel on the way to Capernaum; Magdala, home of Mary Magdalene; Bethsaida, home of the fishermen James and John; Tabgha, the site of the feeding of the multitude with the five loaves and two fish; the town of Korazim; the Mount of Beatitudes; the resurrection breakfast beach and many other significant places.  It is in this relatively small geographic area that the disciples were called, many healings took place, troubling spirits cast out, memorable parables taught, the revered law correctly interpreted, hypocrisy and shallow religiosity exposed, and where the Lord sought strength and solace from the calm of the Galilean hills above.


Magdala, meaning a watch tower, is a fishing village that was the home of Mary Magdalene and has an outstanding excavation of a synagogue where it seems certain that Jesus attended and taught.  Our EO visitors often return claiming this to be the highlight of their touring day in the Galilee, rivaling even the “Jesus boat” ride.

Capernaum, known as the “town of Jesus”, is where the Lord set up his headquarters at the home of Peter’s mother-in-law. The site of yet another ancient synagogue and a clear example of kataluma = how families added rooms around a common courtyard giving insight into Jesus’ words, “In my Fathers house many kataluma - rooms” (sometimes translated with the misleading word mansions).

The Chapel on the hill of the Mount of Beatitudes is octagonal – one side for each of the eight Beatitudes.  The prescription for happiness is set in large tablets leading to the Chapel and the Beatitudes themselves are followed by well known leaders, like Elias Chacour, as a trustworthy daily guide leading to a blessed and rewarding spiritual life.

Mount Arbel, though below sea level, still towers over the plains of Gennesaret with a magnificent view of the area of Jesus’ ministry and the northern vista of the Sea of Galilee.  Another highlight of our EO Guests is to walk part of the pathway below glancing up at the caves so filled with history, the path Jesus used on his way from Nazareth to Capernaum.

So much to see and so much inspiration abounds in just “12 square miles of clay.”  Truly amazing.


Dr. Lee van Rensburg

EO Hospitality Staff

Tiberius, Sea of Galilee.