I had the opportunity to spend Thanksgiving break in Israel. This was not a mission trip, outreach trip, or anything else other than a sightseeing tour. But, it ended up being more than just sightseeing. I spent almost a week with 16 other people who were in some way or another associated with my high school, Providence Christian Academy. The trip was led by two of the most influential men in my life to this point who mentored me throughout high school and continue to speak into my life today. The next few posts will catalog the trip the best I can. There is no way I can write down everything we did, saw, or experienced, because I could probably start an entirely new blog of just pictures, videos, and stories from the trip. However, I will do my best to show as many pictures and videos and keep the narration to a minimum. I hope you enjoy these glimpses into Israel and, whether you have been 100 times or never step foot in the land where Christianity was born, it helps the Bible come alive in a new way for you. Enjoy.
We started our first full day in Israel driving up the coast to our final destination the Lake of Galilee, but we made a few stops along the way. First was Caesarea Maritime (Caesarea on the Sea). This was a port built by Herod the Great. It is said this was the most Roman city in all of Israel during its time. Herod wanted this place to be a home away from home for any Roman citizen. When you walked into Caesarea Maritime, Herod wanted you to feel like you were in Rome. He did a pretty good job of it.
This place has Biblical significance as well. Here there was a palace that was built for Herod. Herod did not always stay there however. During the times he was away the governor of Israel would reside here. During the time of Jesus that governor was Pontius Pilate. Why is this important? Many people like to dismiss the Bible as a mythological story book with some good moral teaching that was collected from various teachers, put together, and popularized by Constantine under the banner of Christianity and has little to no weight in the historical realm because it mentions people in history we have no record or account of. A discovery at Caesarea Maritime has changed that. They found a stone that had been engraved with Pontius Pilate’s name.
After Caesarea Maritime we moved to Mt. Carmel. This is an important place in Biblical history for many stories, but one in particular we chose to focus on when we climbed to the top: Elijah. In this story, found in 1 Kings 18, Elijah is dealing with King Ahab and the prophets of Ba’al. Two alters are built–one for Ba’al and one for the God of Israel. The prophets dance around, chanting, cutting themselves, and praying for Ba’al to light their altar and burn their sacrifice. Of course, nothing happens. Elijah, on the other hand, drenches his altar and offering in water, prays to God, and the altar is engulfed with fire. Mt. Carmel was also the site where Elijah’s servant ran to look for rain when Elijah said it would rain after a three year drought.
Our next stop was to travel down the mountain to the Valley of Megiddo. The name might sound familiar, but you probably know the event that will take place there better: Armageddon. The word “armageddon” is believed to be a word made up of two Hebrew words “har megeddon,” meaning “mountain of Megiddo.” The area around this mountain was a nexus of trade in the ancient world, but Christians believe this is the site where the end–or beginning depending on your view–of the world is set to take place. While Revelation 16 says nothing more than it is the place where the kings of the earth will gather during the end times, it is still mentioned in Scripture and holds some sort of significance otherwise John, under the direction of the Holy Spirit, would have neglected to pen this location.
We continued north towards Galilee and made a stop where Jesus performed his first miracle: Cana. John records this miracle in which Jesus turned water into wine at a wedding in Cana. Like many sites relating to the life of Jesus, we do not know the exact spot, but if we look at what archeological excavations have unearth and what tradition has held for thousands of years we can get a pretty good idea of the area and sometimes a more specific spot. Many of these spots have churches built on top of them. So when you visit a site you really are not walking where Jesus walked, rather, you are walking on top of where Jesus walked. Because Jerusalem and the surrounding area was destroyed and changed hands so many times, the conquerors could only build up. Today you have to dig down through centuries of civilizations to get down to what is left of the towns Jesus visited. The church in Cana is built on top of an old house of a wealthy man, possibly the place Jesus turned water into wine.
We finished the last leg of our drive to the city of Tiberias on the east side of the Lake of Galilee. Tiberias was built by Herod Antipas, son of Herod the Great. The city is said to have been founded in 20 CE, so it would have been a city Jesus would have been familiar with growing up in Galilee. We arrived at our hotel just as it was dark, which is 5PM in Israel. We had a little time to kill before dinner so the younger ones in our group–college-age and under–decided to take a walk along the boardwalk along the sea. It was good to walk around somewhere at our own pace and not be herded like cattle from one place to another.
Dinner was kosher with fresh fish from the Lake of Galilee. We held our daily debrief in a small conference room and turned in for the night. Our next day would begin our journey to follow the footsteps of where Jesus walked for the majority of his life. Galilee definitely had some secrets to divulge.