Sunday, February 23, 2014

Blogging from the Holy Land, Day 3

The morning of Day 3 took us to Caesarea Martime on the Mediterranean.  Not only was it sunny and warm with just the right amount of breeze, but we were standing pretty close to where Paul might have set sail for his journeys!

Caesarea Martime was one of Herod's palaces.  And because it wasn't luxurious and expansive enough, he wanted a freshwater pool at his house.  Thus the nine miles of aquaducts constructed for the sole purpose of transporting fresh water to Caesar's house for his pool.  There was also a theater and a hippodrome.

Our next stop was Tel Megiddo.  A tel is a city mound.  In ancient times, when one group would conquer another and damage their infrastructure, the damaged part would be knocked down and something new built on top.  Such is the case with Tel Megiddo.  Specifically, it's made up of 26 different layers of construction and reconstruction.  It's also the site from which we get the name Armageddon, where John tells us that the final battle for earth will take place.  

Why?  Tel Meggido is pretty significant.  It sits above the Jezreel Valley, the largest valley in Israel, and it's on the Via Maris, the route that connects Europe, Africa, and Asia.  So people want it, even though, honestly, it's not that impressively massive or high when compared with other high places around.

You want to hear something crazy?  Backstory:  we know that there were chariots and horses at some point at Tel Megiddo because there are horse troughs and stables.  This is what they've uncovered:
So baby Jesus in a nice wooden crib-esque manger?  Probably not.  In a stone horse trough?  More likely.  Wood wasn't plentiful but stone was.  They wouldn't have wasted their wood on feeding animals when stone was ubiquitous.  Look!  He'd fit just right!

We also walked through the waterworks.  The water supply was outside the city gates, so they needed a way to get water into the city when they were under siege.  Hence, water works!

After lunch we went to Nazareth to visit the Church of the Annunciation, commemorating Gabriel's visit to Mary to tell her that she would be mother to the Messiah.  It was a beautiful church and its eclectic style reminded me of Gaudi.  We entered on the first floor and were able to go down one half flight of stairs to a grotto connected to the caves upon which the church was built.  The grotto recalls Mary's visit from Gabriel.
On the top floor a mass was being held in English, so many of us stayed to hear the end of the priest's sermon.  We didn't catch much, but we did hear the priest say that Mary's response to the angel was not one of resignation, but one of "Bring it on!" (He didn't make that up.  He explained his word study that helped him reach that conclusion.  It was great! Then we went outside the church to see the caves over which the church was built.  And then snacks!
Here are the caves. Nazareth had a population of 150 people.  Small!

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