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Updated: Wed, 22 Jan 2014 04:42:18 GMT | By The Associated Press, cbc.ca

Stephen Harper heads to Sea of Galilee, Hula Valley



Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Laureen Harper are accompanied by three nuns as they visit the ancient church of the beatitudes in Israel on Wednesday, January 22, 2014. While in the Middle East Harper is visiting Israel, the West Bank, and Jordan. Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press

Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Laureen Harper are accompanied by three nuns as they visit the ancient church of the beatitudes in Israel on Wednesday, January 22, 2014. While in the Middle East Harper is visiting Israel, the West Bank, and Jordan. Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press

Prime Minister Stephen Harper will be 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 helicopter to take in the splendours of one of the country's most popular and picturesque tourist areas.

After a helicopter carrying Harper and his wife, Laureen, landed at an airport just north of the Sea of Galilee, they were ushered into a waiting SUV and taken to a tour of ancient ruins and to a synagogue.

The chopper had travelled about 150 kilometres and was accompanied by a second helicopter carrying the media entourage 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.

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