Today was a wild day. Wild itinerary. Wild travel. Wild weather. We covered quite a bit of ground today leaving from the Galilee this morning to head west to the Mediterranean sea then up to Jerusalem. It was hard to say goodbye to the Galilee this morning, I think there is nowhere else like it on earth, but there are a lot of exciting places still to see on our trip. The downside is the weather has not been great so it has limited some of the stops that we've made into shorter abbreviated trips. The last time I was here was in June and the weather was warm and wonderful. I got a bit spoiled then without realizing it.
Our first stop was in Nazareth, the hometown of Jesus. A village of maybe 100 families during Jesus' time, today is a city of 70,000 people. It was fascinating to drive through and see the old well from Jesus' time still in use today. Being in Israel requires an active imagination to remove the modern and visualize the landscape and place of a particular period. In Nazareth we also visited Mt. Precipice where the villagers from Nazareth tried to throw Jesus off the cliff in Luke 4. On top there is a great view of many of the mountains and Jezreel valley below.
From Nazareth we went to a strategic city in the Jezreel valley called Megiddo. Megiddo was a continually inhabited fortress for thousands of years and has been conquered 25 times. There are Canaanite, Israelite, Greek agnd roman fortifications here and it is fascinating place to explore because of its history, archaeology and strategic significance particularly during the reigns of Mkng David, Solomon and Ahab. Megiddo also overlooks the Valley of Armageddon where the writer of Revelation says the final battle between God and the forces of evil will take place.
From Megiddo we went up to Mt. Carmel where Elijah defeated the prophets of Baal in 1 Kings 18. As we drive up the mountain there was rain, hail thunder and lightning. On top of the mountain was great views of the whole norther part of Israel as far as the Mediterranean Sea. Very cool.
After Mt. Carmel we headed to the Med to Caesarea Maritima, a roman port built by King Herod during the 1st century BCE. It is one of my favorite places as it is also the site of the first Non-Jewish conversion to Christianity, a man named Cornelius. You can read about this powerful story in Acts 10. When we arrived the wind was driving HUGE waves against the palace and over the walls of the hippodrome. There was hail, snow and hard rain all mixed together and within minutes our clothes were soaked through. I posted a video of it over on my facebook page. We drove up the coast just a little to where Herod's aqueduct brought water along the coast into the port and had a chance to put our hands in the Mediterranean Sea.
From Caesarea we drove to Jerusalem. The wind and rain continued but it is always a beautiful and powerful experience driving up into the mountains where Jerusalem is. As we drove I read psalms to myself that talk about the beauty and joy of being in this Holy City. I was particularly struck this time by Psalm 125:1-2-"Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be shaken but endures forever. As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds his people, both now and forevermore." It is a moving experience to come over the mountains and see this incredible city which has been the focal point of humanity for so long.
As we entered the city we paused on the bus and our guide let us through the ritual breaking of bread and sharing a prayer as we entered the city of Jerusalemem, a custom that dates back to when Abraham met King Melchezidek here In this place.
We arrived at our hotel and I admit I fell asleep for a few hours before dinner. The travel and trying to take everything in and processing it can be quite exhausting, but in the best possible way. The hot is awesome and sits on a hill that overlooks the north part of Jerusalem and the Old City.
We are hoping for better weather tomorrow and an opportunity to head down to Masada, Qumran and the Dead Sea.