Guided tour through western Israel

Trip Start Jan 25, 2010
Trip End Feb 02, 2010

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Flag of Israel  , Galilee,
Monday, February 1, 2010

Today started with three of us doing an easy jog/walk through Tiberius in the very early morning.  There were both runners and walkers out.  We had a great view of the sun coming up over the Sea of Galilee.

After breakfast and checking out of the hotel, everyone loaded up the bus and headed towards Nazareth.  On the way, we had a view of Cana down in a valley.  Cana is the town in Galilee where Jesus performed his first miracle by transforming water into fine wine at a wedding feast (John 2:1-11).  Cana is an excellent place for growing grapes and making wine, although today there are no wineries given the large Muslim population settled in the area.  There are other references in the Bible to Cana in John 4:46 and 21:2.

Upon our arrival in Nazareth (which is east of the Sea of Galilee), we disembarked and performed a walking tour of the city.  Today it is a modern city built on steep hillsides and built on top of the ruins of the old, small village we read about in the Bible.  In the Bible, this is the hometown of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus (Luke 1:26-33, Luke 2:1-7, Matthew 2:21-23, and Luke 2:41-52), is the location of Jesus' first recorded sermon where the people tried to push him down the steep hillside of the village (Luke 4:16-30), and is the site of a follow-up visit by Jesus (Mark 6:1-6).  We started at the site of the city well, which would have been the center of town in Biblical times.  We saw the Church of Annunciation which was built on top of the traditional ruins of Mary's house (there is no evidence to support or deny this site).  We then visited the church built on top of the traditional ruins of Joseph's shop (again, there is no evidence to support or deny this site).

From Nazareth we drove south through the Valley of Jezreel.  The Jezreel Valley is a very lush plain southwest of the Sea of Galilee.  The valley is mentioned many times in the Bible, including Joshua 17:16, Judges 6:33-37, Judges 7:1-25, I Samuel 29:1, 31:1-8, 1 Kings 4:12, 1 Kings 18:45-19:2, 2 Kings 4:8-37, 2 Kings 9:14-37, Hosea 1:4-5, and Luke 7:11-17.

Our destination through the valley was Tel Megiddo, which is to the southwest of the Sea of Galilee and is a hill of 20-26 different layers of ancient cites.  Because of its location at the opening of a pass from the Valley of Jezreel through the Carmel Ridge, it held a strategic position for the many armies that met in the Jezreel Valley during the ages.  Megiddo is mentioned first when the king there was defeated by Joshua during the conquest of Canaan (Joshua 12:7,21).  It is also mentioned in Judges 1:27, 5:19-21, 1 Kings 4:12, 9:15, 10:26, 2 Kings 9:27, 23:29-30, 2 Chronicles 35:20-24, and Revelation 16:13-16.  Note that Armageddon, as mentioned in Revelation, is a twist on the Hebrew phrase "Har Megiddo" which means "Hill of Megiddo." 

Besides touring the ruins of the Tel Megiddo, the top of the hill provided excellent vistas across the Jezreel Valley, including view a back towards Nazareth, Mount Tabor, Hill of Moreh, and Mount Gilboa.  All of these location have prominent mentions in the Bible.

From Tel Megiddo we drove through Haifa, a large, modern city on the Mediterranean Sea, and partially up Mount Carmel.  Mount Carmel, which is a range rather than a single mountain, provided excellent views of the surrounding area.  The range is mentioned throughout the Old Testament, including Song of Solomon 7:5, Isaiah 35:2, Isaiah 33:9, Amos 1:2, Nahum 1:4, and Jeremiah 46:18.  The famous story of Elijah contesting the prophets of Baal in 1 Kings 18:19-46 occurred on Mount Carmel.

We then drove south to Caesarea, which has a rich history but has Biblical significance as the seat of the Roman government during the time of Jesus and his apostles.  Built as Roman city almost from scratch, it included a temple for Herod, a hippodrome, an amphitheater, modern shops, fortifications, and a manually-built deep-sea harbor.  Because of the lack of fresh water in the area, Herod the Great had a famous aqueduct built to bring water there.  Philip preached and settled in Caesarea (Acts 6:5, 8:40, 21:8-9).  Peter preached at Cornelius's home in Caesarea, where the Holy Spirit was poured out to signal the acceptance of the Gentiles (Acts 10).  It is also the site of the often-told story of God striking down Herod Agrippa I for accepting worship by the population (Acts 12:19-24).  Paul visited the city three times (Acts 9:30, 18:22, 21:8-16).  Paul also spent two years in prison there making multiple defenses to Felix, Festus, and King Herod Agrippa II before being sent onto Rome (Acts 23:23-27:2).

Thus concludes the trip for myself and many members of the group.  This blog still requires a lot of fact-checking, expansion (in places), and general clean-up.  Please bear with me over the next week or so to get that work completed.  If you spot an error, please post a message and I will happily research and correct.
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