We arrived in Ben Gurion airport which used to be named Lydia airport. The travel adventures quickly were replaced by the joy of the tour. We had a great breakfast with more vegetables than I am use to for breakfast but delicious. Our first stop was Caesarea. The weather is dry as they have been having a drought. They begin praying for rain at the Feast of Tabernacles and end praying for rain at the Passover. Herod the Great had built his capitol city here in Caesarea. He had been made king by the Romans and was not a practicing Jew therefore he needed to find a location that was not predominately Jewish. He had been educated in Rome and so he chose this location along the coast and built up the breakwaters to create a port city. He built everything needed to be considered a Roman city. He built a theater, amphitheater, a temple dedicated to Augustus Caesar and a palace built right upon a rock jetty surrounded on 3 sides by water to help him with his paranoia.
The theater is a half circular affair looking down upon a stage. An amphitheater is designed with chariot races in mind. It is a long U as seen in “Ben Hur”. Josephus had commented that the amphitheater overlooked the Mediterranean. The first amphitheater found was far from the coast; it was only when archeologists began uncovering this city that the amphitheater by the sea was discovered. The seating on the side of the ocean has fallen into the ocean. The whole area is owned by the Rothchild’s from Paris. They were called the unknown friend of the early Jewish Kibitzes in the late 1800’s because of their anonymous donations to the endeavors of the early Jewish pioneers of Zionism. All of the building followed the blueprint of the “Book of Rules” written by an author I didn’t get the name of. It was a city designed to impress a Roman with imported marble and Corinthian columns.
This is the place of Paul’s defense before Festus and King Agrippa. We assume he stood at a judgment hall just outside of Herod’s actual palace. You must realize that all of the locations given for actual events are projections, one cannot quite know for sure, yet Catholic and Orthodox churches are built on any site that has a tradition of having an event take place. We are looking at all of these structures here in Caesarea, but you must remember that the whole area was covered with dirt and the original stones had been reused to build other structures that had fallen down, and now the excavators come in and rebuild the city with the fallen down stones. In most cases they can just find the foundation remains and the building stones are not around to be used. They did find a stone here with the name of Pontus Pilate inscribed. In the 1860’s the Turks forced some Bosnian Muslims to settle here. You can still see the Mosque and the Minaret
We looked down into a pit described as a dungeon and can only imagine that Paul might have been held there while awaiting his appearance before Festus and then Agrippa and finally his trip to Rome. In a well were found many copper tablets with names written on them. This was evidence of a practice condemned by the Rabbis of the day in which the tablet was broken and thrown into the well as a curse upon the person whose name was written on the tablet. The Rabbi’s described it as “cursed tablets of condemned sorcery”. Knowing the bible connects us with the ruins, but the ruins themselves with all of their majesty projected grab our attention.
We made our way out of town stopping at the aqueduct that brought water 13 miles into the city. A second aqueduct was built along side the first in 66AD when more water was needed for the Roman troops brought into fight the Jewish rebellion at that time.
Right away you are impressed with the agriculture in the midst of a desert landscape. Deut 8:7-9
7 For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, that flow out of valleys and hills; 8 a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates , a land of olive oil and honey; 9 a land in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which you will lack nothing; a land whose stones are iron and out of whose hills you can dig copper.
The land we are looking at was very neglected during the times of stewardship of the Ottoman Empire. It was only as the Jews began to return, buying the land that had turned to marsh, which the land began to prosper again.
he wilderness and the wasteland shall be glad for them,
And the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose;
2 It shall blossom abundantly and rejoice,
Even with joy and singing.
The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it,
The excellence of Carmel and Sharon.
They shall see the glory of the LORD,
The excellency of our God.
We are viewing a rich land as we move to Mt Carmel. The place is called “Muquaka” the place of burning. This is the place where Elisha battled the prophets of Baal. On the way to the top of Carmel we hear a bit about Jewish, Arab and Druze life. Israeli Arabs have equal rights but they cannot be drafted into the military, they can only volunteer. The Druze villages are a throw back in time. The Druze religion is an off shoot of Islam. They believe in reincarnation so you can only be born into the religion, you cannot convert into it. They believe they hold secrets passed down from Jethro, Moses’ father in law, a priest of the Midianites. In the 1948 war of independence the Druze sided with the Jews.
The views from this location are incredible. We look down upon the Kishon river and the Jezreel valley. We look across the valley to the hills of Nazareth. The plains of Armageddon lie below us. It is properly called Harmagedon from Hebrew har meghiddo, "Mount of Megiddo". We went down the mountain towards Megiddo being informed that the olive trees can be over a 1000 years old and still bear fruit.
Megiddo, a place described by Napoleon as of high strategic importance. It is the intersection of three ancient highways. On top of this small hill in the valley are the remains of many different rebuilds of the city fortress. Inside the fortress only the main families lived. Archeologists have uncovered and rebuilt two gates. We have a location of an altar built with un-hewed stones. The problem of having water during times of siege was solved by digging down 100’s of feet to the water line through the hill. They then dug a tunnel parallel with the water line to the source of water at the bottom of the hill. They then hide the found spring. We traveled down and then out this tunnel marveling at the work involved without the help of modern machinery.
We then drove through the Arab town of Nazareth without stopping, then through Cana then to a high point overlooking the Sea of Galilee. We went down into Tiberius to check into our hotel home for the next 3 nights. Hotel accommodations are good; you have to pay for internet, so I chose not to. We had a buffet breakfast and dinner each day at our hotels. We had lots of fresh vegetables, fruits, cheeses and meats. We had lots of dairy products in the morning and no dairy products at night. They still manage to make some delicious desserts without mild or butter at night.