Miracles and Mountains
Today began with an Israeli buffet breakfast, with salads, rolls, yogurt, strong coffee and fruit. We were on the road at 8 am, starting with a drive by Magdala – the city of Mary Magdalene. We traveled further north around the Sea of Galilee to Taghba, to the Church of the Multiplication – where Jesus fed the five thousand with five loaves and two fish. An old Byzantine Church from the 5th Century was discovered some 80 years ago, with lovely mosaics in the floor depicting the fish and loaves. A lovely church, organ music playing, and a beautiful site.
We then traveled southeast to Tel Megiddo (“tel” meaning mount or mound) where some 25 civilizations have inhabited over the past 7000 years. Each layer (20 layers) were built on top of another, and the rich history from the Egyptians to the Israelis to the current day are wrapped up in this wonderful location. For history buffs, this is a great place to visit. To envision the people who lived there, the fortresses they built and the inventions that they created are wonderful to see. One of the most incredible is an aqueduct system built so the water could be attained from inside the fortress by going down a tunnel to a pool built to gather the water from the springs. We traveled down a couple hundred steps to get to the base, and were amazed at how this system was created some 3000 years ago!
Tel Megiddo is the location mentioned in Revelation 16 where the last great battle on earth will occur – the great battle where all soldiers will be killed and the valley will be filled with their blood – Armageddon comes from the Hebrew word for Tel Megiddo (Har Megiddo). The valley is HUGE – and to envision this area from the Tel was quite moving.
On the road we passed by Mount Tabor where Jesus was transfigured on the mountaintop before Peter, James and John, and was joined by Moses and Elijah. The mountain is quite tall – I imagine the other disciples said, “Too high of a climb for us, we’ll stay down here and wait for you!” There is a monastery on the top of the mountain that looks out over the valley.
We then headed to Mount Carmel, where the prophet Elijah faced off against the prophets of Baal (450 of them) and won! Read 1 Kings 19 for that story (how do you like that, PC ordering us around from Israel). The site from Mount Carmel was incredible – from the Mediterranean Sea to the Sea of Galilee, even to the land of Jordan. The weather was perfect for that!
We then stopped for lunch and had our first Falafel – pita bread with (yes I admit that I ate it) ground chick peas, deep fried, with vegetables and sauce on top – delicious! What a great lunch. We sat outside on a patio and enjoyed the warm breezes.
Our final stop of the day was Nazareth – the little town where Jesus was raised. A town of some 400 in Jesus’ day, it has now become a bustling city – we spent a good amount of time on the streets of the town during rush hour! The YMCA in Nazareth has taken over about 6 acres in the middle of town and created a 1st Century village as it was in Jesus’ day. They had found some remnants in that area of a wine press and fields that could be from that time. There were actors and animals, a synagogue they figure to be the size of one in Jesus’ day (remember how the people listened to Jesus in the synagogue and were so moved by his words, they were ready to pitch him off a cliff?), a watchtower, a house, a carpenters shop and other things. I had to laugh (remember we were at the YMCA) when the guide said, “Let’s go see the Village People.” I was expecting men in a police outfit, Indian headgear, a construction worker, etc. – wrong village people! Our guide, Rani, married a girl from Texas – he was a great guide and did a wonderful job!
Speaking of guides, our guide, Micah, is wonderful. He has been leading tours for 25 years, and is very knowledgeable, but not speaking over our heads. Just as wonderful is our driver, Elijah (Eli) – who has taken that bus in places I would be scared to take a Smart Car. They have led us to see wonderful things the past couple of days, and we look forward to more to come.
On the way back home to our hotel, we passed the city of Cana, where Jesus turned water into wine. We could visualize where Jesus walked from Nazareth to Cana to the Sea of Galilee. We came back to the hotel to another good meal, and a time of sharing and prayer to end our day.
Tomorrow we leave the northern part of Israel and head to Bethlehem, then on the Jerusalem, which will be home base for the rest of our trip. We miss you all, and we lift you all in our prayers. More pictures will be posted later – I have over 700 to choose from, so give me time!