The next day we drove to the Golan Heights. The mountains above Galilee are so beautiful and green that the Israelis sing songs about them. Aran even taught me one, in Hebrew!
Our first stop was an impressive reconstructed synagogue at a place called Umm El Kanatir. Aran, who loves archeological details, explained the cutting-edge technology that had guided its rebuilding.
The excavators, he told us, had found an entire synagogue, collapsed after an earthquake long-ago. But no one had reused the rocks, so all the pieces were still on site. To learn what the building had looked like in its prime, they’d buried a microchip inside each rock that they unearthed.
When all the rocks were found, archeologists had used a computer program to digitally piece the rocks together, like a three-dimensional puzzle. Once they had a digital blueprint, they’d been able to reassembled the actual synagogue, and now we were standing inside it.
The final product was impressive. Rows of towering basalt pillars lined the walls, delicate carvings adorned window and door frames, and an elaborate arch, covered with ornate reliefs, marked the place where the Torah scroll would have been kept.
We filmed some beautiful shots inside the synagogue, and also noticed that the Umm El Kanatir grounds were covered with lush plants and dotted with ruined stone houses, a great filming location for us, if we needed an extra site later.
A rainstorm chased us out for part of the day, which was frustrating, but it was really a gift in disguise. Because we’d been rained out, we got permission to visit our location for the following day, and got ahead on some indoor scenes. And since the next day was a long one, those extra scenes kept us on schedule.
The location we visited was Katzrin, an ancient village with houses like the ones in Jesus’ time. One house was fully rebuilt, thankfully with a roof, and we filmed inside as the rain rushed past the windows.
We were glad to see what the house was like, because the next day’s reenactment scene had more actors than any other scene on our trip.
We were filming the healing of the paralytic, and we had invited fifteen people to ensure a properly crowded atmosphere. It was easier to plan now that we’d seen the house. So the rain was a good thing, even if we hadn’t been too grateful when we were sprinting to our car covering our cameras.
That night, as we got ready for our reenactment at Katzrin, Aran sat down at the dining room table. “There is something you should know,” he said.
Tensions were rising, since the US embassy was moving to Jerusalem on Sunday. The bombing threat was so high, now, that the government had closed down the schools, and instructed its citizens to open their bomb shelters.
I learned that bomb shelters are required by building code in Israel, so every house has one. Ruthie, the kind hostess at our guesthouse, told us her shelter was under the stairs, if we needed it.
We didn’t really talk about it much. Everyone was so focused on the filming that we just pushed everything else out of the way. “No time for fear now.” Said Amir. “We have work to do.” It was what we were all thinking. We could have stayed home, but bombs could find us at home, or at work. And we were finally on schedule – one skipped day of filming, and we’d never catch up in time.
I didn’t give much energy to worrying about bombs – it didn’t seem like it would do any good, and I was stretched to the limit with directing and a few other hats. But I spared one moment to take it all in and realized that, oddly, I wasn’t afraid at all.
I’m sure the adrenaline had something to do with that, but there was more. I had seen God do so many impossible things by then that there was no doubt left in my mind. I was supposed to be there, in Israel, on that day. Yes, it was dangerous, but an adventure always is. We were meant to be there. And this was an adventure that none of us would forget.