I could not sleep last night—I was too pumped up about what I was going to do today!
Shalom! What a day. When my alarm went off at 7 a.m. I could barely move. I had jet lag. Well not really jet lag, more like jet power. I could not sleep last night—too pumped up about what I was going to do today, I think.
We set out from Tel Aviv making our way on the Via Maris (coast road) to the walled city of Caesarea, on the beautiful Mediterranean Sea. Founded by King Herod and named for Augustus Caesar, it is one of Israel’s major architectural sights.
(Ruins at Caesarea)
In 22 BC, Herod began to build an amazing and elaborate city complete with a palace—built right into the sea. Thousands of years ago, the palace was built on reclaimed land! There was a theatre where entertainment and cultural events were viewed, an amphitheater which was really a hippodrome, where horse and chariot races were held and gladiator activities were watched by as many as 15,000.
(Seating at hippodrome)
Caesarea is an important sight for Christians for it is here that Paul set sail for his journeys in the Mediterranean and here that he was held for two years before he was taken to trial in Rome. Pontius Pilate stayed in the palace, too.
(The altar at the opening of the ancient grotto believed to be the home of Mary at the Basilica of the Assumption in Nazareth)
A short drive away and we were in Megiddo, the site of biblical Armageddon. It was here that many decisive battles were fought. I looked around and I said to myself: I can’t believe I am standing in the place where the Messiah is supposed to return at the end of the world. Wow! Really heady stuff!
(Kibbutz with new construction right behind Megiddo)
I stood in the middle of ruins of a round altar believed to have been built over 5,000 years ago. Our guide, Tsion (pronounced Tee on) told us that the ongoing excavation has shown that 26 different civilizations lived here!
(Our guide, Tsion Ben David leading us into the ruins at Megiddo)
Later today we wound our way to Nazareth, where Jesus spent his childhood. Today it is home mainly to Arabs who are Israeli citizens. It’s also the home of the largest church in the Middle East—the Basilica of the Annunciation, a beautiful church with stunning stained glass windows. Many different Catholic communities from all over the world have donated mosaics which hang in the church and the surrounding courtyard.
The Basilica houses a small cave dwelling or grotto, believed to be the home of Mary. It is here that the Angel Gabriel came to Mary and told her that she would bear a son and call him Jesus (the Annunciation).
Today is also the third day of Hanukkah, a great time to be in Israel. Holiday prayers are said before dinner each night and a candle is lit on the menorah. But it is a sad time in Israel—for there is a raging fire in the North that has killed over 40 people. We were supposed to visit Mt. Carmel today but the entire area is closed. Smoke can be seen for miles. My thoughts and prayers go out to the friends and families of those who lost their lives yesterday.