Today began our actual trip exploration of our pilgrimage. Highlights of this day include Caesarea Maritima, Mount Carmel, Mount Periscope, and Nazareth.
Our hotel is right on the “Sea of Galilee”—Nof Ginosar
Caesarea Maratima our tour began in the theater of Caesarea. The ruins today are a bit of a misnomer, as the original structures are long gone. However, they have reconstructed the first two levels of the theater to their best ability. It is a massive area and is still used today for concerts and shows. Amazingly, the original theater had even more levels than its reconstruction. Nearby we toured the foundation of the palace at Caesarea Maritima. Herod the Great, Pontius Pilate, and other governors and rulers spent time in this palace as either a vacation home or permanent residence. Today very little remains from Jesus’ time. However, if I understood correctly, the mosaics down the cliff and near the sea are 2000 years old. Despite the grandeur of what was the palace, it was not the most impressive structure of the city. The amphitheater overlooks the sea. Over 20,000 viewers could sit and watch the competitions which took place. Later, Christians would later meet their persecution as martyrs in the same place. Sadly, the heavy winds and rains have caused the walkway to close while they plow sand and wait for the water to evaporate. We were still able to visit the harbor upon which Caesarea was founded. Herod implements the newest and best of Roman technology in his construction of the world’s first fully man made port. Using volcanic ash, the Romans created a special cement which hardened when it made contact with water. The breakwaters pictured here were constructed with that technology. This port was active well past Jesus’ time. The Crusaders held it in the 11th and 12th centuries and built fortifications and gates for protection. Interestingly, the moats they built around the port were not filled with water. However, as if any additional evidence was needed to share how much rain they have had recently, the moats actually held water. Andre, our tour guide, said it was the first time he had ever actually seen water there. By the 17th or 18th century the port was a Muslim village, and today it is a national park. Restaurants and shops fill the stone structures today.
Mount Carmel was our second stop of the day. Here we’re the bus to the active Franciscan monastery and viewed the surrounding area from the 1500 foot overlook. Mount Carmel is attributed to where the Prophet Elijah challenged the prophets of Baal. That contest ends with rain falling on the land to end the drought. Interestingly enough, it was raining as we ascended the stairs and subsided by the time we reached the overlook. As the clouds and fog rolled out, the amazing scenery revealed the Jezreel Valley, the Mediterranean coast, and rolling mountains all around.
Mount Precipice overlooks Nazareth. Tradition says this is the cliff to which the Nazarenes drove Jesus out of town (Luke 4.16). This overlook raises up 1300 feet. From here we could see Mount Tabor and many other biblical towns (which I cannot recall right now…) The valley below (opposite Nazareth) was highly contested land from antiquity to modernity. Megiddo (from which “Armageddon” gets its namesake) is in this valley.
Nazareth, Jesus’ childhood home, began as a small village of a dozen or more extended families and their dwellings. Today, because of the significant Christian population (largest in Israel), it is a bustling city of over 100,000 residents. There are two churches which claim to be the site of the annunciation. One is the Greek Orthodox, which is built over the only natural spring in the area. Referring to a non canonical gospel, they claim this is where the Angle Gabriela first came to Mary. The other, A Roman Catholic Church, houses the ruins of Mary’s home. Truly, the ancient structures here are likely the home of Jesus and his family.
Today was an incredible experience. We visited areas in which the Scriptures speak directly, and to see the interweaving of history and modern life was incredible.
EVAN—My most enlightening experience was actually the aqueducts which brought water to Caesarea Maritima. Many of the other structures and run is we viewed were either attributed to or reconstructions of tradition. The aqueducts, however, are much the same as they were more than 2000 years ago. For me, this tied the past to present and into tomorrow.
HILLARY— My favorite part was at the Harbor in Caesarea Maritima. We walked up and saw a moat. The moat had water and our tour guide said that was the first time he had seen that (it has been raining a lot this year). Originally when the moat was built it was not meant to have water and I thought that was super interesting. I also loved being in the theater, when it was originally built, it could fit up to 10,000 people.