I write to you at 665 feet below sea level, on the western shores of the Sea of Galilee. A long-craved for cup of coffee in my hands, our team has landed at a lavish resort complete with a sandy beach, bike trail around the Sea, and...hammocks. A man could get used to this.
After an early start from Jerusalem, our first port of call was...actually a port of call. Caesarea (Maritima) is on the Mediterranean coast between Tel Aviv and Haifa. Being the despot engineer that he was, Herod the Great commissioned an artificial harbour here, constructing between 22 and 9 BC. Once finished, the harbour was told to accommodate 300 ships. I had not previously made the connection between this port town and the events in Acts, wherein Paul would have arrived and departed from Caesarea. I had also forgotten that Paul was imprisoned here for a time.
As despotic and as despicable a politician as Herod was...he certainly understood real estate. This location is unparalleled in terms of luxury and aesectic value with the Mediterranean Sea glowing just off the end of the palace.
We also briefly visited Mt Carmel, where the Prophet Elijah had
his challenge against the prophets of Ba'al. The mountain sits high above everything else in the area, and as such affords unparalleled views to the hills and valleys in the distance. We got our first of many glimpses at Mt Tabor with its distinctive, rounded shape.
Megiddo was next on the agenda. Brian told us about the initial excavations here by the University of Chicago, wherein tennis courts and permanent housing were built for the supervising professors! For those uninitiated, this standard of comfort is hardly afforded most while on digs! The MB age gate was particularly interesting, and had perfectly preserved orthostats at the base of the walls. (If you don't know or care about the significance of orthostats, you can be entirely forgiven.) There was also a circular altar with stairs present at the Iron Age site, which indicates a non-Jewish type of worship since these types of altars were forbidden in the Old Testament.
Our day wrapped up with a quick visit to Sepphoris, the remains of which date to the 2nd Temple Period and later. This is the place where the Jewish oral tradition of the Mishnah was compiled and written in the 2nd
century AD. Due to its proximity to Nazareth (which is just over the ridge), Brian has a theory that Joseph (Jesus' earthy father) might have commuted from Nazareth to Sepphoris as a construction worker of sorts to help rebuild the site.
Then...we landed at the resort, had dinner, and splashed around in the Sea of Galilee. Not too shabby.
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