9:08 pm

So much for getting done early.  I was so exhausted by the end of the day I wondered if I’d make it to dinner.  But, alas, dinner didn’t elude me.  It never does.

We are a very punctual group (which is a very positive thing).  We got out of the hotel (Ramada in Netanya) on time.  We drove up the coast to Caesarea.  It is a very humid day here in Israel.  Very humid.  But, as we went from site to site, there was a steady breeze which mitigated the heat.  So yes, it was a warm (hot) day, but as long as you kept a water bottle on the ready you were fine.  Well, if you were from the desert you were fine.

Caesarea is such a big site it does take a couple of hours to explore.  We visited the theater (they were setting up for some big show on the stage – which sort of ruins the impact of the old Roman theater.  Then we saw the movie about Caesarea and headed down to the palace built by King Herod.  The striking feature of this palace is the FRESH WATER swimming pool which is surrounded by the Mediterranean.  It is/was amazing.  Oh that Herod.

We saw the prison where perhaps Paul was placed while awaiting to be sent to his trial in Rome.  We say the area where Agrippa may have displayed his pride and was judged (killed) by God.  So much happened regarding our faith – and it’s spread from a purely Jewish religion – in Caesarea.

Back on the bus and up the road a bit, we stopped at the aqueduct.  Can’t have a city without water – and the Romans brought water from 5-10 miles away for Caesarea.  It is an impressive engineering feat.

Back on the bus and up the coast some more to Mt. Carmel.  To watch the Carmel mountains gradually rise from the coast plain is really interesting for me.  At the base the spring provides water for Caesarea.  But the ridge keeps climbing – about 1800’ – and ends up in the area known as “the vineyard” – Carmel.  We took out the map (Benny’s first use of the map….ever).  But that’s an important IGM thing – that 10’ map helps so much for us to understand the land.  We did some map stuff and review the fascinating story of Elijah’s encounter with Baal.

Lunch came next.  Same place as the last couple of years.  I enjoy it.  I chose falafel.  It was good – and messy.  The tahini gets everywhere (when I eat it).  It was crowded there (notice the theme).  There was a HUGE group of Nigerians there – and I told them one of my best friends was Nigerian.  So they took my picture.

After lunch we headed off to Megiddo.  It’s an amazing site.  Large, but amazing.  They are remodeling the visitor’s center this  year – so we had outhouses (really nice ones) and we were off to the site.  Walked by a bar mitzvah – strange place for one of those (according to Benny).  Then through the site.  There were several large groups, but Benny navigates them all carefully and it wasn’t too bad.

We read the account from Revelation 16 about the future battle in the valley below.  Then walked through the stables and grainery and water system.  I was, admittedly, a bit nervous approaching the water tunnel.  There was a large group heading down in front of us – and a lingering large group behind us.  A sandwich in that tunnel down there underground would not be considered a pleasant experience by me at all.  But as we got going that big group in front of us had moved quickly through the tunnel and I was fine (no claustrophobia today).

We road across the Jezreel Valley (I love to look around).  You could see Nazareth spilling over the hillsides on the left.  Mt. Tabor out the front.  Hill of Moreh on the front right.  Gilboa and the Samaritan hills to the right.  It is a place filled with rich biblical history.  We wound our way up the hills to Nazareth – and to the precipice on which tradition says Jesus escaped the crowds.

We go up there for the views of the Jezreel Valley.  In one day we see it from Mt. Carmel.  From Megiddo. And now from the Nazareth Ridge.  Three different perspectives. Plus we drive through it, maybe something will stick!  Or maybe not.

To say the lookout was crowded was an understatement.  Benny thought maybe the crowds would be lighter – but they seem pretty heavy to us.  Not too bad, tho.  Just lots of people.  I remember going to the ridge and just parking on the side of the street.  No one was there.  Period.  No more.  There is a developed park and parking and….people.  More people to learn the land.  Not a bad thing at all.

We arrived at the hotel after 5:30 I think.  I’ve never stayed here (my usual hotel was booked….there’s a clue about the crowds).  The lobby is large and modern.  And full of other arriving groups.  We got our rooms and made it to our rooms.  It was not a problem.

We decided to do dinner at 7. I knew that was a mistake, but that seemed like a good time for folks.  The dining room was packed.  I decided to sit at my seat and drink water and talk – for about 20 minutes.  The lines evaporated some and then I went for salads.  I’m trying….

We had waited long enough that there were no lines for the main course or (more importantly) dessert.  The highlight of the day.

Some of us went on a stroll to see the Sea after dinner.  It’s a warm and balmy night. The desert folks love it – I’d say it’s still a bit on the warm side.  But the moon is full and casting it’s light over the Sea of Galilee.  It was just lovely.  I came back to the room to get some rest. Well….after some work for church and this journal.  At least I’d done pix before dinner – so that was one task done.

All in all, it really was a great day.  Folks enjoyed it.  Benny wore us out (well, it was the pre-planned itinerary).  He’s doing a great job and I’m learning to adapt to a new guide.  That’s not always a bad thing.  Tomorrow we start first thing with a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee (8 am).  We’ll try to squeeze in Mt. Arbel before the end of the day to buy us an early arrival at our hotel on Monday at the Dead Sea.  That would be great. 

We are all doing well.  It’s a good exhausted.  There is so much to see over here and so little time.  But we are doing the best we can to pack as much into each day as possible.  We can rest when we get home.  Can’t we?  I hope so. Shalom from the Sea of Galilee.

Oh, and Shabbat has begun.  Happy Shabbat everyone.  That’s the Sabbath.

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