Spying Out the Land

Tuesday, March 13, 2001 Reported by Dave Jones


We departed from our seaside hotel right at 8:00am, because we knew we would be covering a lot of ground as we headed for the Galilee.

Soon we were sitting in the 2000-year old theater at Caesarea Maritima, just up the coast from Netanya. There we learned from our guide, Mony, that this was the main seaport for Roman-controlled Israel from the time of Herod until A.D. 643 when the Arabs conquered it. It once had a population of 200,000. Herod named it after the emperor Augustus Caesar. It was also important as a focal point in the Jewish revolt in A.D. 66. In the theater
...Simon Peter was summoned to Caesarea when he received the vision in Joppa of the sheet let down from heaven with all the various living creatures and the command of God, "Rise and eat." So Peter went to Caesarea to preach to the Roman centurion Cornelius, who opened his life to the Gospel along with his household and, as Peter prayed for them, and there received the Holy Spirit. excavations
 

Excavations of Herod's Palace at Caesarea

I was impressed by the fact that here Paul was imprisoned around A.D. 40, giving his defense to Agrippa and Festus. After being held prisoner he was dispatched by ship to Rome. The steps down to the Harbor can still be seen, though the area that had been a harbor is now covered by grass. (Acts 26 - 27:2).} harbor steps
We drove through the Carmel mountains to Tel Megiddo. Mony did a great job explaining how the many layers of ruins tell the story of the various civilizations which occupied this hill. I was fascinated with the history of this fortified city, dating back to Thutmose III of Egypt, through King Solomon, King Omri, and King Ahab. Especially fascinating was the water system, built with the tunnel from the spring outside the wall, bringing water within the wall. Megiddo
...Nazareth was a real surprise for me, to see such a modern, thriving city where I had expected to find a small, sleepy, rather primitive town with evidence of Jesus' boyhood and early manhood. Of special interest was the explanation given down in the cave under the Church of Annunciation about how people lived at the time of Jesus' birth, most often in caves, with animals and fodder occupying part of the living space. Such information blows away our conceptions of the traditional story of Joseph and Mary not finding "room for them in the inn" (Luke 2). The possibility that the word for "inn" might refer to a cave dwelling had never before occurred to me. Nazareth cave home
The erection of a huge church building at the site, supposedly, of the angel Gabriel's announcement to seems to express the strong emphasis of the Roman Catholic Church on Mary, whereas the house of Joseph a mere 400 meters away is hardly a place of great attraction or importance.

Another surprise for me here was to learn that more than 40% of the population of Nazareth are Arab Israelis, and that the Muslims are demanding that a mosque be constructed very close by the Church of the Annunciation. Here seems to be another point of contention between Jewish Israelis and Palestinian Muslims.

Church of the                  Annunciation
ZIPPORI (or Sepphoris) was a totally new place for me, and a very fascinating site, the capital of Galilee from 30 - 70 AD and quite possibly a place where Joseph and Jesus may have worked in STONE rather than WOOD! (Another mind blower!) Only 4 miles from Jerusalem, this city was Hellenized in the 1st Century and was a mixture of pagan and Christian culture in later years.
...The outstanding exhibit, of course, was the beautiful mosaic of what has become known as "the Mona Lisa of Galilee", the face of the woman, crafted to honor Dionysius, the wine god, and composed of over one million separate pieces of colored rock, all natural. I was amused as Mony told us that most male observers say she is looking directly at them! I was also intrigued by the mosaics showing evidence of Egyptian influence with depictions of flora and fauna taken from the Nile River at flood tide. Mona Lisa of
         the Galilee
...How my mind has expanded! And this is just the first full day of our tour! What further surprises await us?

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