Day 4: Megiddo, Caesarea, Zichron Ya'acov

Trip Start May 14, 2008
Trip End Jun 17, 2008

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Monday, May 19, 2008

Over this past weekend, walking around Tel Aviv, we noticed all the dents and scratches on the cars, as well as the sharing of roads with bikes and scooters. We are so thankful that we heeded Douglas' advice (a TripAdvisor) and used our feet and taxis to get around and only now, as we are leaving Tel Aviv, start our car rental. We're also glad that we got Eldan's excess waiver so that we don't have to be concerned about any scratches or dents that our rental might receive. However, now that we have driven a bit in Israel I have to say that despite all the warnings, Israeli drivers are actually more considerate than South Floridians!

As we drive out of Tel Aviv, we realize how compact the city actually is and how quickly the tight streets and low rise buildings of the city give way to high rise apartment complexes along the broad flower and tree lined boulevard of Route 2. Harvey is our designated driver and I'm the navigator. Our primary tools are the "Israel Touring Atlas and Easy Guide" from A Carta Atlas as well as a large folding map of Israel. As we drive north, we are surprised at how quickly we pass the towns on the map, and are reminded how small Israel actually is. In just over an hour, we arrive at Megiddo.

And it was here in Megiddo that Tuesday's intention becomes realized: "Keep Perspective. All things are transient". Archaeological excavations at Megiddo have uncovered 25 strata of different civilizations on this tell (mound). The first strata are in the 4th millennium BC. Can you believe they go back over 6,000 years? My personal experience is my frame of time reference, and is measured in seconds, minutes, hours, weeks, months, years, decades. One hundred years, one thousand years, six thousand years - they all seem off the scale! I can't wrap my mind around that; there is no way I can really grasp anything that old! More later on this...
The real attraction for us is the water tunnel. Engineers dug a shaft (180 steps down) and a 65 yard long horizontal tunnel under the city wall to reach a spring, which was outside the city walls. We walked the steps down and through the tunnel marveling at the engineering feat, noticing the chisel marks used to make the tunnel OVER 2,000 YEARS AGO. In the book, "The Source" by James Michener, the process of digging the tunnel is explained. Now we are here, at just such a tunnel. We time our walk down after a tour group and we have the shaft and tunnel to ourselves. Quiet. Smell the dampness. Feel the cool temperature. It must have been very dark then. Calmly, I touch the walls of the tunnel and am transported back to when women walked with empty jugs into the shaft to the spring and then back again, with water filled jugs. An engineering marvel. We decide to walk back the entire route rather than take the normal exit. As we are getting ready to exit, a tour group is arriving. The tour leader stops and asks us about our impressions. I had not realized how excited I am until I start talking and describing what it is like to be down in the tunnel. Some of the members of the tour caught the enthusiasm and start a conversation. Then one member whines "can we get out of the sun? It is hot as hell here." As their group descends only this one person continues to complain about the steps, the darkness etc. All the others are happy to be here. If that had not happened I would not have appreciated how wonderful all the others were. I would have not given the group another thought. So maybe we need a contrast to appreciate the good in people.

As we are making our way back to the entrance of the site, we pass two soldiers and we say "hi" and strike up a conversation. They are part of the United Nations peacekeeping force; they had been stationed in Lebanon and now are in Jerusalem. I am struck that they represent the many soldiers who have passed this land over the millennia. Our human history is one wave of soldiers and civilizations after another. All organic traces of the people are gone. Even the rocks and stones have changed. Visiting Megiddo gives tangible, concrete visualization that all things are transient.

Tip: we purchased a national park pass at the entrance to Megiddo. There wasn't any sign about this, but thanks to our TripAdvisor friends, we knew to ask!

And now on to Caesarea, the ancient port city. Here there are remains of Roman, Byzantine and Crusader ruins. The governor's palace has elaborate mosaics and its own personal bath. One can imagine how luxurious it was in its time! Yet, the governor and his glorious home are gone. Seeing such ancient sites really does help to put things in perspective! I should point out that the public baths were fancy enough for the rest of us.

We arrive at Caesarea about 4 PM (the closing time is 6 PM), and are disappointed to learn that the movie overview is not operating today and that we had missed the last English tour that was at 2:30 PM. We return to the entrance to see if we can come back tomorrow and a different attendant tells us that there is no problem staying until 9:00 because the restaurants stay open. She also gives us a much better brochure and map. I'm a visual person and the movie presentations really help me to visualize this type of place. My advice would be to check hours of operation and tour times before your day at Caesarea. When we walk up to the Time Tower it is also closed. We tag along with two tour groups in the amphitheater and listen to two different talks and perspectives! We also follow the map given to us at the entrance, check our Fodors guide and read the plaques within the site. After seeing the site, the afternoon sun is making its way toward sunset. We find the Port Café recommended by Mabat on our TripAdvisor forum. With a pleasing light dinner on our table, we watch the sun set on the Mediterranean. Sunrise, sunset. Sunrise, sunset. Sunrise, sunset. In rotation, day in, day out, as it has for millennia.

We drive to Zichron Ya'acov and our bed and breakfast, Villa Carmel (click here for link in Trip Advisor). It's in the Giv'at Eden quarter, an area of new villas, only a few minutes by car from the main pedestrian street of Zichron. Ariela shows us to our room, which is very comfortable, clean, and with a nice size bathroom. We have access to a living room with comfortable chairs and television, as well as an outdoor patio with a table and chairs, overlooking a cheery garden with flowers and trees. Ariela is warm and welcoming and we immediately feel like we made the right choice for our stay in Zichron. Gabby, Ariela's husband comes over to help us with the password for WIFI internet access. He is a software developer (like Harvey) so they are happy to get into the techie junk. The problem turns out to be that the WiFi signal is not strong enough. To prove that they are right we all go to their kitchen to connect to the internet. Once that is accomplished we forget about the computers because we end up talking, exchanging ideas and experiences, laughing, drinking wine and having fun. They teach us how to eat watermelon seeds. One of their daughters joins us and Harvey is convinced that she should meet his friend Avi. And before we know it, it is time to put our heads on our pillows and call it a night!

Click here for today's photos!
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