Monday, November 28, 2011

Galilee to Jerusalem

Going through Solomon's gate in Megiddo

We left our kibbutz by the sea in Galilee this morning for our travels through the central part of Israel, along the coast, and then up to Jerusalem.  Our first stop today was very un-touristy, even though it is a national park—Harod Spring is where Gideon tested his volunteer army by seeing how they drank water to determine who and how many men God would allow him to use in the battle against the Midianites—found in the book of Judges.  There was no big build up or hype, just a spring between the places where the Bible says the armies were encamped.  Still pretty cool to see.

In the waterworks tunnel built in the time of Ahab, Megiddo
Our next site certainly did have a lot of hype—when you visit Megiddo and look out on the valley it borders, you can’t help but think apocalyptically.  Twenty five civilizations came and went, and were gone a long time before the excavations began here, but what a treasure trove of history was found here.  The city was vital to Egypt, to Solomon, to Ahab, and others—each made their mark.  Ahab’s water system is a marvel of engineering, and Solomon’s stables are impressive.  But looking out on the Valley of Armageddon one cannot help but be sobered by the predictions that invoke it regarding the great battle at the end of the age.
Our next stop was the site of another battle—this one between Elijah and the prophets of Baal.  Mt. Carmel provides a vista from which you can see much of the land of Israel, but it also reminds us of the challenges faced when our vision fails to see anyone else who stands with us in standing for the Lord.  Elijah was alone in his contest, but he was not really alone—and later chapters reveal that there were still 700 who had not bowed the knee to Baal. 
Lunch was found on the way down Mt. Carmel at another Druze restaurant—it was a falafel feast—schnitzel for the timid and taste challenged!   I cannot get enough of falafel, hummus, tahaina, and the Middle Eastern salads and olives.
Bill likes falafel!
Onward we traveled to Herod the Great’s capital of Caesarea Maritima.  This city was the seat of Roman power in Judea, and was one of Herod’s many marvels of construction—he built cities that he named after his benefactors, but it was really all about him.  They were magnificent, though.  The site was later a Byzantine city and a Crusader fortress.  But I like Caesarea because it is the home of the Gentile inclusion in the church—the conversion of Cornelius marked the full reception of Gentiles as Gentiles into the New Covenant people!
Our last stop before arriving in Jerusalem was the Elah Valley, where David fought Goliath.  It’s a farm field today, and certainly has nothing to mark it as significant.  But Israel learned, at least momentarily in that story, that there was a God in Israel who did great things and could be counted on.  May we not forget the lesson they forgot! 
Our group in an arch of the Herodian aquaduct, bringing
water 6 miles via gravity flow to Caesarea

In the Crusader gatehouse, Caesarea
Our hotel in Jerusalem is a short walk from Jaffa Gate to the Old City, and many took advantage of that closeness tonight.  We have great days ahead here in Jerusalem!