TIBERIAS – The breeze cooling the furnace-like lakeshore funnels down between hills that are redolent of history like so much else in the Holy Land. One, an extinct volcano popularised as the “Horns of Hattin,” marks the site where Saladin defeated a Crusader army in 1187. Closer again is the cliff-face where, over a thousand years before, Jews are said to have committed mass suicide rather than be taken captive by the Romans in 67 AD, 3 years before the destruction of Jerusalem and a better-known mass suicide at the Masada. Downhill is the reed-laden lakeshore along the Sea of Galilee, where Jesus Christ walked. He may well even have preached in what is a startling discovery 200m from the water’s edge at Magdala, a town thought to be the home-place of Mary Magdalene, 5km from Tiberias and around the same from Capernaum. The discovery is a synagogue dating to the first century AD, possibly destroyed during the same Jewish revolt, and uncovered during excavations for the construction of a new Catholic pilgrimage center.
JERUSALEM – In The Great Divorce, C.S. Lewis tried to allegorise about a reality which he admitted he could not imagine, but tentatively hoped to suggest. The US-Israeli relationship, to most, seems like an unbreakable bond, and any potential divorce might be regarded as unimaginable. But when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets US President Barack Obama on July 6, they will discuss a relationship that is on the rocks, despite an annual US$2billion in aid and – in keeping with the traditional parameters of the relationship – Obama’s repeated commitment to Israel’s security. Stirring things up in advance, Michael Oren,Israel’s Ambassador to the US, spent Sunday and Monday denying media reports that he told Israeli diplomats that a “tectonic rift” was emerging between the two countries.