Breakfast was at 7am, outside by the Sea of Galilee. The high school kids were eating inside so we got the veranda. It was cloudy so that we couldn't see the other shore.
We packed our gear and piled into the bus at 8am. We drove past Galilee and the Mount of the Beattitudes one more time. Next we drove past the Arbel cliffs, which are riddled with caves. Zealots lived in those caves for many years. Excavators found kosher kitchens and schools in the caves.
Before long we passed Mt. Tabor, one of the traditional sites of the Transfiguration. The Church of the Transfiguration was another of those built by Father Barlucci. He used alabaster for the dome and carefully oriented the windows so sunlight falls on Jesus' face on Transfiguration Sunday.
As we drove on through the Valley of Esdraelon, Tom reminded us that Deborah the prophetess had camped on Mt. Tabor and Sisera the Canaanite general had camped in the valley with his many iron chariots. Deborah waited until the spring rains came and then sent her 10,000 soldiers down on the Canaanite horde. They became mired in the mud and the Israelites won a great victory. British General Allenby used similar tactics to rout the Turks during World War I.
On the far side of the valley we arrive at Tel Megiddo which we are told is nearly 7000 years old. It has been destroyed and rebuilt 25 times. Archeologists found 17 holy structures built on top of each other. Thutmose III wrote about his victory here. The tribe of Manasseh conquered Megiddo. Ahab fortified it and built new city gates and stables for 450 horses and brought the spring water into a cistern within the city walls. It was abandoned in the 4th century B.C.
We watched an informative video, and viewed a detailed model of the site. Then we hiked up to the top of the tell and read some of the Bible passages regarding Megiddo (Armageddon comes from Har Megiddo, the mountain of Megiddo) from Judges, II Chronicles and Revelation.
As we walked through the iron age gate we saw that it had a 2 story gatehouse. They have excavated Ahab's palace, a grain silo, stables and the water cistern. The cistern has 183 steps to the bottom.
Back on the bus we passed ancient Yokneam, a tel much like Megiddo, but largely unexcavated. We then drove up into the Carmel mountains, to the Carmelite monastery. From there we could see the entire valley. This is supposed to be the site where Elijah challenged the prophets of Baal.
Back on the bus we drove through Daliyat El Karmel, a druse village. Tom told us the druse wear full baggy trousers, have large handsome mustaches, and have unusual and somewhat secretive religious beliefs. The road lead eventually to Haifa and the shore of the Mediterranean. We stopped for lunch and enjoyed the cool breeze coming off the Sea.
We passed an aqueduct first built by Romans for Caesarea, our next destination. Much of the ancient city has been covered by sand dunes, which was the secular capital in Jesus' day. Archaeologists have been working here for many years, uncovering two theaters, a hippodrome, extensive shopping mall, a Roman palace and several baths. Herod created a port here so up to 24 ships could anchor for the winter. We walked along the beach, stopping to view the remains of marble floors and Byzantine mosaics. We also got our feet wet in the Mediterranean.
Paul left on his missionary journeys from this port and was imprisoned in Herod's palace in an area that has been excavated here. Tom pointed out the stone steps that seafarers would have used to get down to their boat in the Caesarea Harbor.
We saw a public fountain of the Roman period, remains of an octagon shaped church on top of Herod's pagan temple, and next door a Crusader church. We exited through the Crusader gateway. It was built to withstand a serious attack with five gates and a wooden bridge crossing a moat. Open spaces allowed defenders to shower arrows, boiling oil and other things down on attackers.
We had one last stop, the Roman aqueduct, and then we pointed the bus towards Tel Aviv. We threaded our way through rush hour traffic to the Sun Hotel in Bat Yam where we had a nice dinner and a very short night.
In order to make our 6am flight, we had to be on the bus by 2am. We made the bus on time, passed through security and were soon winging our way home. We made our Alitalia flight connection in Milan with a few minutes to spare but found out later in Chicago our luggage wasn't as successful. But the luggage arrived intact within just a couple more days, drawing our great adventure to its conclusion.
Despite such minor inconveniences it was a very fulfilling pilgrimage, showing us the Biblical panorama and helping enlarge our Biblical understanding. The End.
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