And here comes the second part of our northern trip, in which we went from the Sea of Galilee back to Jerusalem (check out the first part here).
From Capernaum to Tiberias is a very short route, but it’s wonderful: you travel along the Sea of Galilee, on a scenic road between the water and the hills that surround the lake. Tiberias used to be a lovely holiday destination, but right now the city, its building and its past beauty are in ruin. The time seems to have stopped to the 70´s when the houses and hotels were first built: everything looks abandoned and desolate. We arrived on the evening of Shavuot, a Jewish holiday: almost the entire city was closed and in the street we just met few other tourists. But we tried to take advantage of our time there and did a couple of thing: we took a nice walk along the lake and enjoyed the evening while visiting the remains of the castles and of the mosques of the city. We are used to the light Jerusalem’s stones, but in Tiberias the original buildings were all built with black stones in contrast with the white cement. The city descends towards the lake on a hill-side and we were staying in a hotel a bit far from the lake front, which is not worth it: going back we would have booked a lake-view hotel or maybe used one of the camping areas south of the city.
The next morning we left early and headed south along the lake and in about an hour we got to Bet She’an, one of the many national parks of Israel. The archaeological remains are impressive and the excavations have revealed 18 successive ancient towns. The visit takes between 2 and 3 hours, especially if you reach the top of the hill from where you get the complete view of the site and of the area around it. The remains are similar to Caesarea
, which we had visited a couple of months before, but although Caesarea has a great location on the Mediterranean Sea, Bet She’an is less exploited and still keeps its original un-artificial characteristic. Bet She’an National Park
8am – 5pm (or 8am – 4pm) entrance 55 NIS adults/45 NIS kids
After the hard visit under a burning sun, we still had many things to see, so we took a little detour from the main road and went to Bet Alpha. This is a small kibbutz at the slopes of the Gilboa Mountains. The kibbutz, founded in 1922,is in itself quite nice, with little houses, some of them abandoned, horses, a Japanese garden and with the incredible remains of the mosaic floor of a sixth-century synagogue.
entrance 22 NIS adult/10 NIS kids
From there we jumped back in the car and headed south on the Route 90. This road, built by the Israeli government, stretches from Metula, in the north of Israel, until Eilat, on the Red Sea. The central section of the highway passes in the West Bank, through the Jordan River Valley and along the Dead Sea. This area, the one we drove through, is beautiful with the landscape changing from green to yellow and with small Palestinian cultivated fields. The view (and the scent) is interrupted by a horrible Israeli dump of the French company Veolia, set right before the settlement of Yafit. Unluckily we could not enter certain zones, since our rented car insurance didn’t allow us to leave the Israeli controlled territories and visit the ones under the Palestinian Authority, indicated by red signs.
The last thing we visited along our way was the Baptism Site, the place where Jesus was supposedly baptized in the Jordan River. To enter the site, 5 minutes before the Jericho Junction, you have to undergo some minor controls since you actually enter a military zone and get to the border with Jordan. You drive on a tiny street surrounded by minefields and with the remains of two churches, that have for sure seen many battles given the many bullets holes. The actual site is a sort of pond where pilgrims revive the event by immersing their selves in the brown stream of water that is now the Jordan River.
From there, tired but satisfied from our short trip, we headed back to Jerusalem for a good shower and a refreshing sleep in our bed.