Day Two of Holy Land Adventure
Today was the first day we actually went out to any sites. In other words, today we SAW Israel! We saw with our eyes, but not with eyes only. In fact, it feels obscene to try and put into words what we “saw” today. Not unlike the prophets in the Old Testament, we “saw” with our eyes, our ears, and even our hands, mouths, and feet. I write this blog with the full awareness that I run the risk of causing you to do the very thing this trip has helped me undo: imagine the scenes in your minds in a way that can never actually feel like they do in real life. Nonetheless, if you will indulge me, I will share.
First, a word about the city streets and countryside. As I said in last blog, the interstates are very similar to what is in the US. City streets and country roads are somewhat different. The roads are narrow in the city, and cars park wherever they can find space. The city buildings all look the same, with minor variations. Buildings are tan and often have a mud-red roof. Building after building, and home after home, paint the area from a palate drawn right from the earth on which they stand. The apartments in the city look like something from America’s past. Many of the buildings are run down, and clothes hang on lines that stretch across from building to building. In the countryside, villages sit with houses crammed on top of one another. These villages are often all Muslim, Jew, Christian, or some variant of them. In the mixed villages there were Mosques often sitting right across from Churches or Synagogues, and vice-versa. Unlike Americans who sprawl out all over the best land we can find with nice houses and big lawns, the people here save the flat land for orchards, gardens, and fields, and build their homes on hillsides in dense villages. One final note about the general scenery, it is so different being in a place under the threat of constant violence. Soldiers walk around the city streets with M-16s hanging on their sides. Jets fly over the Jezreel and greater Rift Valley, from a secret airport no less, at timed intervals just to scope out the land for danger.
The first site we went to was Caeserea (Maritime, not to be confused with Caeserea Phillipi). It is here where Herod the Great built a palace, a temple to honor Caesar Augstus, a theater, aqua ducts, and the hippodrome (for chariot racing). This was an amaing site! the theater has been reconstructed on top of the remains that were found; but the hippodrome, remnants of Herod’s palace, and some remains were there as they were discovered. The bonus was, that all of this sat on the Meditteranean, which is way more beautiful than I have ever been told! The water is so blue and beautiful. This place is way to breathtaking to describe. I ill post photos to my Facebook or Twitter ASAP.
Next, we visited Mt. Carmel. Carmel is actually the name for a range of mountains. There is a church, however, built on the site where tradition says Elijah called own fire from heaven. On top of this church, there is an astounding view of the Jezreely Valley. The valley is beautiful, and sought after because it offers flat plains between the mountains all along the trade route that runs up the Mediterranean shoreline. In fact, I never realized until now why this area has been fought over for centuries, by various groups, including the USA (who fights on behalf of Israel due to mutual benefits). Israel connects the Western world with the Eastern world (the Orient). Religion has played a vital role since each conquering people brought their own god(s) and claimed superiority over another. Seeing the land from above gives a whole new perspective of where Jesus went, and how far he went to get there. Again, look for coming pictures.
From Mr. Carmel we went to Megiddo. Megiddo is a very small piece of land, but very important. It has been conquered and rebuilt at leat 25 times by dfferent groups! The site was a pristine archaelogical excavation site where the different stratas were visible as each group rebuilt Megiddo on top of the old conquered one. Archaelogist found a 3,000 year old altar there, which faced Carmel, and where animals and humans were sacrificed to gods. I have a photo I will post when I can. I LOVED this site. So rich with history, and so unlike the big field we are taught to believe is there where many of earth’s armies will fight. Instead, this little hill has been the scene of many an apocalypse. For, the group that controls Megiddo, controls the plains I just mentioned. In other words, have Megiddo, and you have the entire trade route at your disposal.
Finally, we went to Nazareth. Nazareth was small town of a few hundred when Jesus lived there. Now near 20,000 people live there. Here we visited the Church of the Annuncition, built on the alleged ruins of Mary’s, the mother of Jesus, home. It is a beautiful church, filled with elaborate iconagraphy. In the back of the church there is a spring flowing in that is supposed to come from the well Mary used. They have it tapped, so you can anoint yourself with its holy water. From there we went to Nazreth Baptist where the pastor shared the history of the church and its role in his own salvation. Then Dr. McConnell delivered a message from Luke about discipleship. It was like our Sunday church service.
Then we drove into Tiberias to our hotel that sits on the Sea of Galilee. We had an AMAZING meal, and now settling down to rest before crossing the sea in the morning to visit our next sites. Stay tuned!