Highlights of Caesarea Philippi
Banias is one of the best places in Israel to hike and the shade of the rich vegetation protects the visitor from the sun and makes its trails a pleasure to use all year around. There are several trails of varying length suitable for both families and the more sporty visitor, in addition to rich archaeological remnants from various time periods. The waterfall and rivers have a welcome cooling effect on even the hottest summer day and gives new meaning to the metaphoric use of “spring” and “living water” (running water, in Hebrew) in the Bible.
Background Information on Caesarea Philipi
The Banias in the northeastern tip of Israel is associated with pagan worship, has great, natural beauty, historical as well as Christian religious significance. Located in the northern part of the Galilee, also called the Panhandle, it is one of the three water sources which form the Jordan River.
Philip, son of King Herod, received this area including the Golan, Haran, Bashan and the Hula Valley. In 2 BCE Philip built the capital of his small kingdom at Banias, also known as Panias, and renamed it ” Caesarea Philippi”.
Banias is linked with the cult of the God Pan, that centered around the spring at the foot of the cliff of Banias, and the grotto from which the waters of the spring emerged, an ideal location for worshipping the God Pan. Around the spring a temple and ceremonial courtyards were built dedicated to Pan. From Greek mythology we know this was the goatherd’s god. Wild places, mountains, forests and springs were his home. He played the pipe, melodies as sweet as the nightingale’s songs. On the sound of his flute , traditions tells us, goats began to dance. A tomb of holy goats has been found. Pagan activities in Banias ceased around the 6th century AD.
When Jesus came to Banias two important events occured. One is the story of Jesus questioning his disciples regarding his identity. “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God”. And then he gave Peter the keys of the kingdom of heaven ( Matthew16:13-20).
The other event reported by Matthew is about a woman, who was cured by Jesus. Out of gratitude she put up a statue of Jesus. St. Willibald, an English traveler of the year 954, describes the Christian inhabitants of Banias and their church, wherein are kept the remnants of the ancient statue of Jesus.
In summary, Banias is a site with natural beauty, rich history and with a religious significance.
Banias is an exiting blend of history, lush nature and is a direct connection point to the life of Jesus. This is the place where he asked the apostle Peter who he believed him to be. Banias is a place where learned Jews gathered, where Herod, Romans, Druze and Greek pagans left their imprint, and all crowned by the highest waterfall in Israel. The water of Banias is the origin of the Jordan river, so vital to life in this mostly dry country, and what was once a bustling inhabited area is today dominated by greenery and peaceful nature.
Author: Ruth Goldberg, licensed Israeli tour guide.
Travelujah Tips on Caesarea Philippi
Open every day. Admission fees. Good facilities for visitors. Not wheelchair accessible.
Do not miss the elevated pedestrian walking trail that goes by the Banias waterfalls situated on the southern side of Road 99.
Nearby Places of Interest
The Golan Heights, the Sea of Galilee, Tel Dan, Horshat Tal