Today, we left Akko, the port city that was known as Ptolemais in Bible times, and headed south, through Haifa, to the ancient city of Caesarea Maritima where Herod the Great had a palace (and where the only archaeological evidence of the existence of Pontius Pilate may be found). There are some remarkably well preserved ruins there, including part of the hippodrome and most of the theatre. What is even more remarkable about this place is that it was only uncovered in the 1950s; a farmer was tilling his ground, and got stuck on something. When he uncovered what it was, it began an archaeological dig that revealed some amazing pieces of the puzzle that is the history of the Holy Land
From there we visited Meggido, a strategic battle site in the history of this land, and one which John was probably envisioning when he depicted the battle of Armageddon in the book of the Revelation. From the top of this hill, you can see a long way; we walked uphill a long way, too! And we descended all 183 stairs to an ancient aqueduct that ensured the fort was not cut off from needful fresh water. Then, we climbed another 80 stairs to get back to ground level. A pretty fair workout for us all.
From Megiddo we went on to Nazareth. What we picture in our mind’s eye as a little hick village in the middle of nowhere is now a bustling city of some 75,000 inhabitants, virtually all Arabic in race; there are some Christians – perhaps 20 percent, but almost everyone else is Muslim. We visited the first-century depiction of Nazareth Village, a project begun by the YMCA that is now its own foundation. The folks who put this on are not kitschy about it at all, but there is a sense of authenticity about this ‘museum’.
We then visited the Mount of the Beatitudes, where pilgrims remember the time Jesus spoke the Beatitudes, recorded in Matthew 5. We have no way of knowing if it was the actual place where he spoke the words, but it is a place where that is remembered. From there, we watched the sun set over the Sea of Galilee.
Tonight, we are staying at a kibbutz on the south shore of the lake. A serene place indeed!
(Tried to post this last night, without success. This morning, the sky is clear, there’s a gentle breeze, and the roosters across the road are crowing with great vigour!)