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
Sea of Galilee. Israel