Caesarea – Megiddo – Mt. Carmel
I fell asleep somewhere over the Hudson River, and woke up somewhere over Turkey. Opening the airplane window shade to let in the bright sunlight, I looked out and saw a rather fierce landscape below.
In a short while we were flying over the Mediterranean, and then over Israel itself. My first impression was something along the lines of, “wow, it’s pretty green down there”. I wasn’t expecting that at all. Clearly I had a lot to learn about Israel.
We made it through customs very quickly, and met our wonderful tour guide, Kenny, or as he seems to be prefer being called, “Uncle Kenny”. Kenny was born in Louisiana, and at some point in his adult life decided to emmigrate to Israel. He’s been here for 40 years, and has practically no American accent left at all. He jokingly advised us that his American vocabulary has not changed since the Nixon administration, setting the stage for what is proving to be a very entertaining tour experience.
Our first stop was the site of the ancient city of Caesarea, which is located right on the coast of the Mediterranean. There is a beautiful Roman amphitheater there, as well as the ruins of King Herod’s palace. It was a clear, sunny day with a perfect bright blue sky, and I had to pinch myself a few times to make sure that I was actually here.
What impressed me the most about what I could still make out of the palace was the custom built private swimming pool that Herod had made. Talk about your 1st century luxury.
We also saw a replica of what I believe is the only existing archealogical evidence of Pontius Pilate’s existence (the original stone bearing the inscription with Pilate’s name on it is residing at the museum in Jerusalem):
In the distance is the Crusader-era fortress city:
Nearby were the ruins of an ancient Roman aquaduct.
From Caesarea we moved on to the site of the ancient city of Megiddo, where we had our first lunch in Israel. On the menu was fresh falafel with all the fixins.
The ruins at Megiddo were impressive, but more so to me was the view of the valley below, site of *the* final conflict, the Battle of Armageddon.
We took the “back door” out of Megiddo, walking down through the ancient tunnel that once flowed with water.
Next we headed north to Mt. Carmel, traditional site of the prophet Elijah’s sparring with the pagan priests of Baal. (1 Kings, Chapter 18)
The site was amazing once again because of the tremendous view that was available from the rooftop of the Carmelite monastary. From there we could see for miles and miles in all directions. By this time the sun was almost beginning to set, and you could actually see its reflection on the Mediterranean Sea many miles to the west.
After leaving Mt. Carmel we boarded our tour bus and headed for the Sea of Galilee. Specifically, our base for the next few days would be the ancient city of Tiberias, on the western shore.