Day 3 Wednesday: Caesarea, Mt. Carmel, Nazareth, Jezreel Valley and tel Megiddo – Armageddon:
Today was our first full day, and it was a great one! With a great sunrise over the Samaritan hills and sunny skies and perfect temperatures (low 70s), we departed by 7:45 for the first site of the day ...Caesarea. As a city built by Herod the Great, Caesarea served as the premier harbor into Israel. We saw the theater, hippodrome, many mosaics, the Crusader part of the city, the ancient harbor, and the aqueduct. We read from Acts 10 about Cornelius, the first gentile, along with all of his family to become believers in Jesus Christ. We recalled the stories of both Peter and Paul.
Driving out of the Sharon Plain, we ascended to the top of the Carmel Range. At a place called Muhraqa, we read from 1 Kings 18 about the story of Elijah vs. the 450 prophets of Baal. From the rooftop of this Carmelite chapel we had our first great view of the Jezreel Valley below, Nazareth in the distance, Mt. Tabor.
Next was Megiddo, located strategically guarding the main pass into the valley. This is a huge archaeological site that boasts of two dozen levels of ruins (from Early Canaanite days). We climbed the tel (ancient mound) and saw various gate structures, a storehouse, altar, and a grain silo. We left the site by climbing 180 steps down through the city’s water system.
Our last two stops were in Nazareth. First at the precipice of Nazareth where the friends and family that Jesus grew up with caused him to say a prophet is not welcome in his hometown. Here we viewed the Jezreel Valley from a different angle, seeing Mt. Tabor site of the transfiguration (Judges 4-5), the Hill of Moreh (Judges 6-7), Mt. Gilboa (1 Samuel 31). Jesus grew up in the city of Nazareth. We read from John 1 and Luke 4 and were invited to come and see Jesus in a new way! We then went to visit Nazareth Village a reenactment of 1st Century Nazareth – as it would have been when Jesus began his ministry. From here we drove to Nof Ginnosar, our kibbutz-hotel for the next two nights. We enjoyed dinner together and a wonderful night sitting and sharing on the shoreline of the Sea of Galilee under a beautiful moon, light of cities on the distant hills! It was special in so many ways and a great way to end our first day in the Holy Land.