We started the day in Cesearea which, even without it's rich history, is a beautiful area. It's known as the Beverly Hills of Israel. One of the most fascinating things we saw was an aqueduct that was built before the time of Christ to bring water into the city. The most amazing thing about this aqueduct, other than the fact that it's still standing, is that is has archways all along it to hold it up and yet no sand or cement was used between the rocks it's built from. This aqueduct was built under the reign of King Herod, and amazingly enough, went all the way to his palace that overlooks the Mediterranean Sea. You've got to give him credit, he knew how to pick a good real estate spot.
Right around the corner from King Herod's palace we saw the amphitheater that was built for the purpose of entertainment. It was pretty cool, and had there not been a hundred or so other tourists there at the same time, I might have broken into song or something. At this same location we saw the Hippodrome where they used to have chariot races. Apparently, "hippo" means something like circus and no real hippos were involved in these races, though I do think a hippo race could be quite entertaining.
Our next stop was Mt. Carmel where Elijah had a little show down with the prophets of Baal. You can read the story in 1 Kings 3:17-40 but the Reader's Digest version is that Elijah basically told all these prophets of the "god" Baal that his God was stronger so they set up a little competition which ends in the prophets of Baal being a tad bit disappointed in their "god" but the God of Elijah shows up big time and does a miracle so big that it can't be denied as "coincidence."
One of the coolest parts of the day for me was looking out over the valley that you can see from Mt. Carmel towards Mt. Tabor and as I looked at it I could imagine the story of how Deborah helped defeat Sisera as told in Judges 4 - 5. It's one of my favorite Bible stories because it's a woman, chosen by God, to lead the people into battle. (And they say women's lib is a new thing.) But, the reason it was so cool for me is that I could actually picture the battle taking place, even though I had forgotten that the army Deborah lead all met up that day on the top of Mt. Tabor until our guide reminded us of that, literally about three minutes before it came into my mind.
After we left Mt. Carmel we headed to Megiddo where it is believed that the final battle of Armegedon will take place. Well, the battle will be in a valley, but to see it we had to walk up to the old city that was built around the time of King Solomon. By now, the temperature was about 80 - 90 degrees and humid. It was actually pretty awesome to see the old city but like I said, it was hot and by the time we got to the top of the hill, I was a little ill; a rather annoying combination of heat and jet lag mixed with a body that has apparently skipped the workout center just a few too many times recently. Then, we walked down 183 steps to see how they got water into the city using an underground tunnel. We actually walked through the tunnel and out the other side (another 80 steps up!) It was at this point, I considered just lying down and waiting for the paramedics to show up, but I persevered, rehydrated at lunch and was fine the rest of the day.
Believe it or not, we fit all of this in BEFORE lunch which we had at the YMCA. I was surprised by the luncheon location but it really was pretty good.
After lunch we visited just a few more sites before we quit for the day. First we went to the Church of the Annunciation which is built over the house that is believed to be where Mary, Mother of Jesus, lived and was visited by Gabriel. It doesn't really matter to me whether it was the exact house where Mary was visited by Gabriel, or if Gabriel met her someplace else, but it was just kind of cool to see what the homes were like around the time of Christ. The ONE picture I chose for today was taken UNDER that church and shows the ruins of Nazareth from when Jesus walked the earth.
We left this church to head to a Greek Orthodox church which is over a well that Mary most likely used. The Greek Orthodox church believes that this is where the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary. Like I said, my faith does not depend on where Mary heard she was going to be the mother of Jesus. I enjoyed seeing both spots.
As we headed to the Kibbutz where we'll spend the next two nights, we stopped at "Sea Level" and looked DOWN on the Sea of Galilee. The Sea of Galilee is approximately 650 feet BELOW sea level. Our kibbutz is on the Sea of Galilee and it's a beautiful location, which I can only imagine will be much quieter than last night's stay in Tel Aviv.
Phew! No wonder I'm so tired tonight. It was a LONG day and tomorrow promises more of the same. Time to get to bed.
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