Zvi picked us up in Tel Aviv on Thursday March 8 for a two day tour of northern Israel. First stop was Caesarea which we visited a few weeks ago with our airbnb host, see the blog “A day with Guy . . .” so we will not reiterate but instead show pictures of us there with our friends. The only thing that we missed with Guy was the Hadrianic aqueduct built by King Herod in the first century to bring water from various springs to this area.
From Caesarea we traveled to Tel Megiddo stopping for an hour in the cute little town of Zicron Yaakov which is one of the first “modern” settlements in Israel. Located upon Mount Carmel, with magnificent views across the Coastal Plain to the Mediterranean, (which we could not see due to the haze) the town was founded in 1882 by 100 Jewish pioneers, returning to their Biblical homeland from Romania. Today, the town is a big tourist center – its quaint main shopping street is lined with cafes which sit alongside historic buildings. The town is also famous for the Carmel Winery, one of Israel’s top vineyards. We walked up and down the central pedestrian only street and enjoyed some tasty gelato.
We then continued on to Tel Megiddo which is an ancient city whose remains form a Tel (archaeological mound) situated in the lower Galilee region. This city once dominated a critical pass through the Carmel Mountains on the Via Maris which was the main route between Egypt and Mesopotamia. Megiddo is thought to have seen more battles than any other site on earth. It is now known for its historical, geographical and theological importance especially under its Greek name Armageddon which is where Christians believe will be the final battle between Jesus Christ and the kings of the earth as told in the book of Revelations. Excavation has uncovered 26 layers of settlements and this is now a UNESCO world heritage site.
After viewing the excavations we left the site by way of a 30 meter deep, 70 meter long Iron Age tunnel which was originally built to enable a safe passage for the inhabitants to access their spring water supply at the base of the rise. It was an eerie and somewhat frightening experience for those of us afraid of heights, spiders, centipedes and snakes. Said frightened people ran the length of the tunnel while the rest of us ambled and enjoyed.
Zvi picked us up at the tunnels exit and we drove onto Capernaum which is a fishing village located on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee. This village is significant to Christians as it is mentioned in the Bible as Jesus “own city”. He went to live in Capernaum after leaving Nazareth, meeting many of his disciples here and also performing many miracles in this area. We visited the church and house of Peter where now stands a modern hexagonal Franciscan church over the spot thought to have been Peter’s house. There is a glass floor so that you can still see the ancient original church below.
Adjacent to Peter’s house is The Ancient Synagogue where Jesus is thought to have often preached and performed many miracles. The original synagogue was destroyed and later replaced in approximately 200AD.
We then moved on to the Mount of the Beatitudes believed to be the setting for Jesus’ most famous discourse, the Sermon on the Mount. This is supposed to be one of the most beautifully serene places in the Holy Land with an enchanting view of the northern part of the lake looking across to the cliffs of the Golan Heights. Unfortunately this was one of the haziest days that we have encountered, reminiscent of San Francisco during the Sonoma fires, and we can hardly see the lake. The eight beatitudes are inscribed in stones as we walked up to the eight sided church designed by Italian architect Antonio Barluzzi. The beatitudes are very inspiring and Sandy was especially moved by the second beatitude “Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted”. Her thoughts went out to our niece Bonny and her four young children who are now mourning the loss of their husband and dad, Will. May your faith sustain you and give you the strength you need to move on.
Our final stop of the day took us to our accommodations at the Scots Hotel in Tiberias which was a 19th century Scottish Hospital and is now owned by the Church of Scotland and opened as a hotel in 2004. The founder was Dr. David Watt Torrance, a young Scottish doctor who believed his mission was to heal the people of the Holy Land. It cost him two wives and four children who succumbed to harsh living conditions. He died in 1923 and is buried on the site alongside his family members. His son who joined his father in 1921 continued to run the hospital until his retirement in 1953. The present day hotel is a nice mix of new and old.