Banias – Caesarea Philippi is the site where Jesus gave St. Peter the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven: “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven…” (Matt. 16: 18-19).*
The Sea of Galilee, also known as Lake Tiberias and Lake Kinneret, is where Jesus accomplished numerous miracles: “Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea and there was a great calm” (Matt. 8:26), “And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea” (Matt. 14:25). He also chose his first disciples on its shores.
At the southwestern end of the Lake, the Jordan River flows out southwards to the Dead Sea.
Capernaum is situated on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. Capernaum is mentioned several times in the Gospels, as the scene of many miracles and sermons: “And they went into Caperna-um; and immediately on the Sabbath he entered the synagogue and taught” (Mk. 1:21). St. Peter’s House and the ruins of an ancient synagogue are fascinating pilgrimage sites.
Tabha, not far from Capernaum, is the site of the Church of the Multiplication, famous for its incredible mosaics and the place commemorating the Miracle of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes: “Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted” (Jn. 6: 11). Also at Tabha is The Church of St Peter’s Primacy, honoring the memory of Jesus reappearing to his Disciples after his resurrection and instructing Peter to “feed my sheep”: “He said to him the third time, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, "Do you love me?" And he said to him, "Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you." Jesus said to him, "Feed my sheep” (Jn. 21: 17).
The Mount of Beatitudes is a breathtaking site overlooking the northern shores of the Sea of Galilee. This is where Jesus gave his “Sermon on the Mount” (Matt. 5). The stunning Church of Beatitudes displays beautiful windows and mosaics.
Korazim was an important Jewish town in Jesus's time. Along with Capernaum and Bethsaida, Korazim was condemned by Jesus for its lack of faith: “Woe to you, Chorazin! woe to you, Beth-saida!” (Matt. 11:21). Today, one can see the ruins of an impressive ancient synagogue at Korazim.
Bethsaida is known as the city of Philip, Andrew and Peter, three of Jesus’ disciples. It was also the place where Jesus healed the blind man: “And they came to Beth-saida. And some people brought to him a blind man, and begged him to touch him” (Mk. 8:22). Today, one can see excavations of the original city Jesus knew well.
Kursi, on the eastern side of the Sea of Galilee, is the traditional site of the Miracle of the Gaderene Swine: “And the demons begged him, "If you cast us out, send us away into the herd of swine” (Matt. 8:31). Archeologists discovered the remains of a beautiful Byzantine church and monastery.
Nof Ginossar is a Kibbutz housing the preserved remains of a boat, discovered in 1986 after sinking nearly 2000 years ago.
Magdala in Galilee was probably the origin of the surname given to Saint Mary Magdalene: “Mary called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out” (Lk. 8:2). Magdala is known today as Migdal.
Cana is famous for being the site of Jesus’ first miracle, the transformation of water into wine at a wedding feast: “This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory; and his disciples believed in him” (Jn. 2:11). In addition to the traditional pilgrimage, many Christian couples come to Cana to renew their holy matrimonial vows.
Nazareth is famous as the site of the great miracle of the Announcement of the Incarnation. Visitors to Nazareth have the privilege of visiting and praying in the Basilica of Annunciation, on the site where the Blessed Virgin Mary received the annunciation of the “incarnation of the word”: “And the angel said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God” (Lk. 1:35). St. Gabriel Church is an Orthodox Church with a fascinating architectural and historical background. Other churches in Nazareth commemorate the Holy Family and Jesus' life, for example the Church of St. Joseph and the Synagogue Church.
Precipice Mountain is where Jesus was led to be thrown off the cliff after the sermon in the Synagogue: “that they might throw him down headlong. But passing through the midst of them he went away” (Lk. 4: 29-30). The Mount is close to Nazareth and overlooks the Jezreel Valley and other Galilean sights. The ruins of the Church of Our Lady of the Fright are located near the Mount, recalling Saint Mary's fright when the mob tried to throw Jesus over the cliff.
Mount Tabor has played an important role in the history of this area since very early times. It is the site of the “transfiguration” commemorated by the Church of the Transfiguration and an adjacent monastery: “And as he was praying, the appearance of his countenance was altered, and his raiment became dazzling white. And behold, two men talked with him, Moses and Elijah” (Lk. 9: 29- 30).
Megiddo, or Armageddon, has witnessed many battles throughout history. As written in the Apocalypse of St. John the Apostle, Armageddon will be the site of the "battle on the great day of God the Almighty” (Apoc. 16:14). “And they assembled them at the place which is called in Hebrew Armageddon” (Apoc. 16:16).
Mount Carmel is famous for its connection to the life of the Prophet Elijah, also known as Elias. Here, the Prophet Elijah triumphed over the prophets of Baal: “So Ahab sent to all the people of Israel, and gathered the prophets together at Mount Carmel. And Elijah came near to all the people, and said, "How long will you go limping with two different opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him” (1 Kg. 18: 20-21). Many sites were built on the Mount to glorify the Prophet Elijah, such the Mukhraka, the Carmelite Monastery and a church – Stella Maris – in Haifa, which houses a cave associated with the prophet.
Caesarea was built by King Herod the Great on the site of an old town called "Strato's Tower." Caesarea is important in Christian history for being the place where the first gentile was converted to Christianity: “And the believers from among the circumcised who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles” (Acts 10: 45). When St. Paul fled Jerusalem, “they brought him down to Caesarea, and sent him off to Tarsus” (Acts 9:30). After sailing from Ephesus, St. Paul “landed at Caesarea, he went up and greeted the church, and then went down to Antioch” (Acts 18: 22). He was also kept in captivity there: “Festus replied that Paul was being kept at Caesarea” (Acts 25:4).
* All quotations are from the RSV-CE.
Information on the Holy Sites in Israel on our website: www.goisrael.com