Israel (Day 2)
This was our first real full day of touring. After an amazing buffet breakfast, we were on the road at 8 am to Caesarea. Tali our tour guide used our hour drive time to review the religious and socio-political history of Israel.
A nice video helped us understand the history of Caesarea before we stepped out to the edge of the Mediterranean to see what was left of the harbor, hippodrome, amphitheater and Pilate’s lake house.
On our way to Megiddo we passed Mt. Carmel where the prophet Elijah had his showdown with the prophets of Baal. The visitor center at Megiddo is being renovated so many of the structures were temporary. A little bit of an uphill hike took us past twenty-seven layers of ancient cities until we reached the top of the tel where we had a great view of the Jezreel valley. The panoramic view from the top of the tel was awesome. On our way back we went down many flights of steps to the springs far below the surface that provided water to the fortified cities that once stood there.
Lunch at a little restaurant near Megiddo gave me my first taste of falafel. Not too bad, especially when you spice it up.
Our next stop was Nazareth. I was surprised to learn that the population of Nazareth is mostly Islamic, with a few Arabic Christians mixed in. Jews do not live in Jesus’ hometown.
The city of Nazareth was old and kind of dirty. The closer we got to the Church of the Annunciation, the more souvenir vendors lined the street. This church is amazing. Beautiful stone architecture and artwork. The grotto on the lower level, supposedly where Gabriel told Mary she would be the mother of our Lord looked liked little more than a small cave. Many tourists knelt there to pray.
Our last stop for the day was Cana, where Jesus did his first miracle of turning water into wine. The church itself and several side chambers were filled with couples renewing their wedding vows. We headed into the basement to see a twenty gallon stone jar, like the one Jesus told servants to fill with water.
Upon returning to Tiberias, we stopped in the National Diamond Center where a crack team of salesmen leached onto us until we finally found the exit and escaped.
A busy day. Each site was full of tour busses just like ours. A thriving business for sure.
Tomorrow we head to Galilee.