Sunday, March 8, 2015

I Walked Today Where Jesus Walked - Part 4

Arden bought several items from the hotel gift shop, including a beautiful Jerusalem Cross necklace. She accidentally broke her sunglasses while trying something on and the shop owner took them for a day and had them repaired. He was a really nice man named David.

Our third day in Israel began with a spectacular sunrise over the Sea of Galilee.

That morning we had to have our luggage packed and ready by the time we went to breakfast. The bellboys were coming by each room to pick up our bags (from the hallway) and take them down to the bus. At the end of day three we were headed to our second hotel in Jerusalem.

We headed West out of town for Mount Carmel, the sight of the Elijah Church and Monastery of Mount Carmel. It is believed that the prophet Elijah sometimes resided on this mountain and that it was here that he challenged the prophets of Baal to a contest to see which deity could burn a sacrifice.

'According to the Bible in 1 Kings 18, the challenge was to see which deity could light a sacrifice by fire. After the prophets of Baal had failed to achieve this, Elijah had water poured on his sacrifice to saturate the altar and then he prayed; fire fell and consumed the sacrifice, wood, stones, soil, and water which prompted the Israelite witnesses to proclaim, "The LORD, He is God! The LORD, He is God!". In the account, Elijah announced the end to a long drought; clouds gathered, the sky turned black, and it rained heavily."

(The prophet Elijah)

The roof of the monastery was an observation deck that overlooked the Jazreel Valley. Today we would be driving down the West side of that valley on our way to Megiddo, the city known as Armageddon.

If you look closely at the left center part of the picture you will see a V shape. Those are runways and taxiways of an Israeli Defense Forces air base. All the hangers are underground.

We drove to Megiddo and had lunch in the restaurant on site before going out to explore the ruins. Archaeologists date Megiddo back to 7000 BC. Their excavations have uncovered 26 different layers, one on top of the other. It was finally abandoned around 556 BC.

The people of Megiddo had a water supply that was in a cave outside the city. The spring had plenty of fresh water but it was difficult to get to and was vulnerable to outside attack. In a feat of engineering that seems far beyond their capabilities, a 30 meter-deep shaft was chiseled into the bedrock and then a 70 meter tunnel was chiseled horizontally to the spring. It is obvious from the markings on the rock (still visible today) that the men carving out the tunnel started on each end simultaneously and met in the middle. The floor of the tunnel is below the water level so the water flowed from the spring into the tunnel, making it fully accessible from inside the city walls. The cave was then sealed from the outside to protect it from enemy attack.

Modern engineers have built stairs down into the shaft and a walkway through the tunnel so that visitors can traverse the entire thing and see how these ancient people got their water. The spring is still active and there is still water inside the tunnel.

At the end of the tunnel the cave has been re-opened so you can exit up another, shorter stairway. The water in the pool around the spring is clear and cold.

Looking back through the tunnel one cannot help but wonder how it was that men accomplished such a feat so long ago, with no modern architectural or mining skills.

We finally made it back to daylight and headed for the bus. This time we were going West, all the way to the Mediterranean Sea and the city of Ceasarea. There were a lot of mosques and minarets dotting the countryside.

The city was built as a sea port by King Herod beginning in 22 BC and was known as Ceasarea Maratima. Herod also had a palace there and I'm sure he spent plenty of time looking out over the blue green waters of the Mediterranean. A large, fresh water swimming pool was constructed beside the sea. The ruins of the palace, the pool and the harbor are still there today and the area has been turned into a national park.

Ceasarea served as an administrative center of Judaea Province of the Roman Empire. Later the city would serve as the capital of the Byzantine Palaestina Prima province until it was conquered by the Muslims in the 7th century. It would stay in Muslim hands until the Crusaders took control of it and converted the mosque into the Church of St. Peter. The Crusaders built high walls and a moat around their portion of the city (just North of these ruins). Some of the walls and moats are still standing today.

You can see the outline of Herod's swimming pool in the rocks on the shore. Just North of the area is the hippodrome (horse track) and to the South is the theater.

The acoustics in the theater aren't bad. This Asian tour group began to sing a well known Christian song in their own language but for the life of me I can't remember what it was now. (The gentleman in the center with the blue plaid shirt and sunglasses had an excellent singing voice. We applauded when they were finished. That's Keith, our official photographer, in the foreground taking their picture.

We got back on the bus and headed a few miles North to a beach where the ruins of the Roman aqueduct are still standing. Ceasarea had a fresh water supply because of Roman ingenuity.

With that we piled back onto the bus for our trip to Jerusalem. We passed the Tel Aviv airport - something that I vaguely remembered from a few days ago. (I was so tired that afternoon that I really only have fleeting memories of getting on the bus.)

We got to the Dan Jerusalem Hotel around 5:30pm and checked in. Dinner was at 7pm.

It was nice to have a little time to unwind. The trip so far had been wonderful and memorable but we had seen so many things in such a short time it was difficult to take it all in. But now we were in Jerusalem - the heart of it all. I was anxiously awaiting tomorrow....!

To be continued...

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