All I can say is WOW! I can’t believe we are actually here. It took a while to hit us. Our party from the United States (including my dad) arrived through customs between 10:30 and 11:30 AM (this, let the reader understand, was nearly 7 hours after we had). And as soon as we got on the bus, we were away. No matter that nearly all the tour group hadn’t slept or showered, we had to get going, hoping for naps on the bus between sites.
First up was Caesarea. Quite impressive, but let’s be real. I have Roman ruins 3 miles from our house and we have seen the Parthenon in Athens and the Coliseum (etc.) in Rome. Not that it wasn’t good, and I enjoyed reading the plaque cards that noted where the Apostle Paul stood before Agrippa and hearing the story of the Gentile inclusion in Caesarea (that’s where Peter met Cornelius). Talking to April, I figured out what was wrong: even after spending seven hours in Tel Aviv Airport, I was simply not feeling like I was in Israel.
That began to change with our second stop: Mt. Carmel. On the spot where Elijah faced off with the prophets of
Baal, there is a Carmelite (naturally) monastery. Our tour guide Ruthie gave a great theory on why she said it this was the right place – it’s the highest point on the mountain. It’s also near the river where Elijah slew the false prophets. And, there is something about holy sites that continue the work of prayer, as the monks do in their beautiful indoor and outdoor chapels. The views from the top of the monastery overlooking the Jeezreel Valley (also known as the Armagedden Valley – the end times buffs in our group loved this) were spectacular.
But, the highlight of the day was visiting Nazareth. The city itself was not what I expected at all. I pictured a little village (a la Patmos, Greece). Instead, it’s a busy and run down city. Of course, it was getting a facelift with the expectation of Pope Benedict’s visit tomorrow. We were
unable to see Mt Precipice (where they tried to throw Jesus off) due to police securing the area. This also kept us from seeing the Roman Catholic Church of the Annunciation. There is a dispute between the catholics and the orthodox. The catholics say that Gabriel appeared to Mary at her home, and built their church there. The orthodox say that Gabriel appeared to Mary by the well. Regardless of what Gabriel did, as this was the only place to get water in Nazareth, it is safe to say that Jesus and Mary walked here. Mary drew water from this well. Jesus walked around here. The well area had at one time rung out with the childhood laughter of the playful
little Jesus as he helped his mother. At this church, heaven and earth met in the young Jesus. I got a small glimpse into this today. I could have spent hours here, but as time was running short, we had to go.