JERUSALEM – Prime Minister Stephen Harper is being treated to some of the marvels of Israel today, including the Hula Valley and the Sea of Galilee.
Harper, fresh off his hero’s welcome by Israeli worshippers at the Western Wall, flew north in a military Black Hawk helicopter to take in the splendours of one of the country’s most popular and picturesque tourist areas.
After the helicopter landed at airport just north of the Sea of Galilee, the Harpers were taken by SUV to begin a tour of ancient ruins and to a synagogue.
The first stop was Capernaum, a village on the shore of the Sea of Galilee believed to date back at least 3,000 years.
According to the Bible, Capernaum was chosen by Jesus to be the centre of his public ministry in Galilee after leaving Nazareth.
Harper and his wife toured the ruins of the first synagogue where evangelists believe Jesus went on the Sabbath. They then wandered to the shore of the sea.
On the helicopter flight, the Harpers were accompanied by Yuval Steinitz, Israel’s minister of strategic affairs.
A second helicopter followed behind, carrying the media entourage covering Harper and Rafi Barak, Israel’s new ambassador to Canada.
The Sea of Galilee attracts Christian pilgrims since the New Testament describes Jesus performing miracles on its shores. The Mount of Beatitudes on the Sea of Galilee’s north shore marks the site where Jesus is believed to have given his famous “Sermon on the Mount.”
Harper will later head to the Hula Valley where he’ll visit a bird sanctuary soon to be renamed in his honour.
The Canadian Jewish community had raised about $5.7 million on Dec. 1 to help refurbish the sanctuary in northern Israel.
Barak told The Canadian Press then that the Israeli government views the wetlands preserve as ”our symbolic way to say thanks” to Harper for the public support he’s offered their country over the years.
Harper will end the day in Tel Aviv, where he’ll receive an honorary doctorate from the University of Tel Aviv. Harper then travels to Amman, Jordan, where he’ll meet with the King of Jordan and visit a Syrian refugee camp.
Harper is on his inaugural visit to the Middle East. He’s received an exceptionally warm welcome from Israeli officials, and everyday Israelis too, thanks to his full-throated support of the Jewish state.