I made it. I completed the Jesus Trail – walking from Nazareth to Capernaum. I met some wonderful people, ate some great food, stayed in some lovely guesthouses and hostels and went beyond my comfort zone. Especially today. These are the cliffs of Arbel. This morning I climbed up one side and climbed down the face of these cliffs. Yep. You’re looking at ’em.
I’m so glad I could do this hike down the front face. Practically, it meant I didn’t have to go back and retrace my steps, adding an additional mile to an already long hike. But more importantly, I would have missed one of the greatest moments of my trip.
These cliffs were made famous because of the numerous caves set into the rocks. Throughout the ages, outcasts and rebels have lived – and died – in them. The Jewish historian Josephus tells the story of Hasmonen rebels who holed away in these caves only to perish mercilessly by a particularly diabolical Herod the Great. Herod lowered his soldiers down the cliffs in baskets from which they hurled fire into the caves. The rebels either burned to death or were executed when they emerged from the fire.
Gruesome huh? I had read that story earlier in the week and shuddered thinking about falling to my own death.
But today was kind of miraculous – though I’m not sure anyone but me will see it that way. I have been hiking for days and, with the exception of my new Canadian chum who hiked the first day with me, I hadn’t seen any other hikers. Today had rain in the forecast and not a soul to be seen, until I started picking my way down the mountain, when suddenly two hikers appeared behind me. “Where did you come from?” I asked, squeezing into rock to let them go past.
“We are rangers,” one answered.
As in forestry rangers, as in trail managers. While they offered to help me down, I didn’t need them to. It was enough to know that up in front of me – within yelling distance – were two Israeli rangers, It was enough to know that on the one section where I had worried; on a trail where I had seen not one soul in four days, suddenly two rangers appear.
I don’t know, coincidence? Pretty amazing one if that’s the case. I saw it as a sign of God’s grace and provision. And answered prayer.
The rest of the hike to Capernaum was downhill – literally. That was a great thing. I arrived there 4 hours later. I looked back over my shoulder and see both the Cliffs of Arabel and the Horns of Hittain.
More to come on that tomorrow. For tonight, thank you for praying. They mattered.