Israel Day 9: A Windy Day with Carmelites, Elijah, and Caesarea

We packed up last night so we could make a quick departure from our hotel this morning. Our first stop was a set of ruins just above the valley known as Armageddon. The tel at Megiddo contains 25 different strata, indicating how many different civilizations have been at this site. This location is located on a very important ancient trade route across the Mediterranean, known as the Via Maris. As different world powers came and went, this area was prime territory for conflict.

We watched a short film about the site and then were going to climb to the top of the tel to see it. Unfortunately, the rains and winds picked up strongly and we had to turn back. So the closest we came to seeing the ruins was to look at the film and the model of the ancient city in the visitors center.

One particularly interesting part of this city. The Canaanites built walls around the city to protect it from seiges. However, their water supply was outside of the walls, which would make it impossible to get water during a siege. So their solution was to make a fairly sophisticated tunnel from inside the city down to the nearby spring. This would allow the city to get water without having to exit the safety of the walls. We were supposed to tour this tunnel, but because of the rain we had to turn back.

From near the top of the tel, you could see the valley below. Armageddon is the place where the final battle between good and bad will take place.

This is a model of what the city would have looked like:

Our next stop was the top of Mount Carmel. Along the way we drove through Haifa. This is a beautiful city at the base of the mountain. It is Israel’s third largest city.

Mount Carmel is famous for being where the Carmelite order started from in the 13th century. But it is also famous for being the place where Elijah challenges the Canaanite prophets of Baal. In 1 Kings 18, Elijah proposes a challenge: both he and the prophets of Baal would set up a sacrifice and see who can set it aflame. For good measure, Elijah pours water over the altar sacrifice to the God of the Israelites to emphasize that it is not likely to burn. After the prophets of Baal fail to induce their god (Baal), Elijah calls on God who consumes the sacrifice with fire. Then Elijah kills all of the prophets of Baal.

We had mass in a small side-chapel of the monastery.

There is a cave on Mount Carmel where Elijah resides for a while. Today, there is a church built over that cave located within the Carmelite monastery. This monastery was built and destroyed several times. The current church is quite beautiful and the altar is located directly over the cave of Elijah. I went into the cave and touched the walls and floor. I love seeing these places I’ve read about and imagining what it was like back in the time of Elijah.

The dome of the church is really beautiful, too.

Here’s Elijah’s cave:

From outside of the monastery, the view out to the sea is wonderful. Today is pretty overcast and very windy, but it was still a nice view.

Our last stop of this trip was the ancient town of Caesarea. This is where the Apostle Paul was held in house arrest before being sent to Rome for his execution.

This city was a man-made port city and was the Roman capital of Judea during Jesus’ time. It was an important trade port. Herod the Great began construction of this town around 25 B.C. and named it Caesarea in honor of Caesar Augustus. It was destroyed by the Romans and rebuilt by the Crusaders, before being totally destroyed by the Ottomans.

A few years ago, a wealthy man funded the excavation of the ancient city to remove the many feet of sand that had buried it. In addition to the palace of Herod, there is also a hippodrome and a large 4000 person amphitheater.

This amphitheater is the place where Paul professes that Jesus is the messiah and pleads his case since he is under arrest. The amphitheater has been brought back to life and is used for concerts today.

The seas were very rough and windy, and it rained very hard today. In fact the winds were so strong that you had to lean into them to move. Our tour guide said that this is very unusual weather. It did make for some beautiful waves!

Just outside Caesarea is an aqueduct that was built to carry fresh water from several miles away into Caesarea.  It is actually two separate aqueducts – one from Roman times and one added later right along side.

We arrived at our hotel in the late afternoon and checked in for a very short night. We have to be at the airport around 2:30AM to check in for our flight home. We are staying in Netanya at The Seasons hotel. We’re up on the 12th floor and the winds are really powerful up here. I stood out on the balcony and took in the views before sunset. This is the last daylight view of Israel that I will have.

I hope to return some time – hopefully soon. I was pretty excited about this trip, but it has far exceeded my expectations. I came as a pilgrimage. I was also hoping to learn some new things to help my scripture understanding and see some neat things. But God had more great things in store for me as I encountered Him in several places. My heart was touched and I come away with a deeper faith.

In a few days, I’ll write a final installment about this pilgrimage.

Until then,

May the Peace of our God draw you to know Him, love Him, and serve Him.

– Deacon Matt

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