I'll admit, Israel was never on my bucket-list of must-see places...I figured I would get to see it one day anyway when the King is there reigning! :) However, when the offer came to send Nathan and me together to see the sites and expand our understanding of the Bible by visiting the place where so much of it took place, it was an offer we couldn't refuse. And I'm so glad I went! Our 8-day tour was packed to the brim with sightseeing and learning. It was like drinking from a fire hydrant of interesting facts, important information, and living history...and I'm still processing it all. I will say that a tour of Israel lived up to its claim of making the Bible come alive in even deeper ways than every before!
Now that we have been home for a time and are just about recovered from jet lag and mountains of laundry, and have reconnected with our boys (who stayed with my parents) and gotten back on a home-life routine, I am finally getting around to sharing some of the 300 pictures I took during our travels. :) We saw so many neat places and made lasting memories...I want to adequately capture those memories as best as possible via blog posts over the next few days and weeks as I'm able to squeeze in time. So stay tuned for lots more segments to the story! Here is Day 1 of the tour to get us started...
Welcome to Casesarea by the Sea.
This was once a bustling sea port and favorite palatial dwelling place for both King Herod and Pontius Pilate. It's easy to see why they liked this beautiful, refreshing location so much!
The Mediterraen Sea
The few palace ruins that remain intact, mosaic floors and all, despite the sea's perpetual beating over 2000 years' time.
Numerous other ruins are scattered throughout this site as well.
The workmanship of the artisans of the Roman era was something amazing to behold.
I learned that according to proper terminology, a theater was a semi-circle shape of seats facing a stage where dramatic performances took place. An amphitheater was a complete circle (or oval) of seats surrounding an arena where events like chariot races, gladiator fights, and human vs. wild beast show-downs took place. This picture shows the original site of the theater in Caesarea, though it was destroyed and rebuilt overtime. This is where the Apostle Paul made his famous defense before King Agrippa in Acts 26.
These chairs are not usually here, but we were touring the site the day before Israeli Independence Day, and they were expecting a large crowd for various festivities.
In the background, you can just make out the Mediterranean Sea. In the foreground is Ron, one of our Israeli tour guides during the trip.
A Roman aqueduct amazingly still intact, despite its close proximity to the sea.
Our next stop of the day as we journeyed north toward the Galilee was Mt. Carmel where Elijah's showdown against the prophets of Baal took place. From the top of Mt. Carmel, we looked down over the Valley of Megiddo, also known as Armageddon. Numerous battles throughout the Bible's history took place in this valley, and at the end of time, the enemies of the Lord will gather here before one final battle against God.
For now, Megiddo, one of the most fertile valleys in the world, is beautifully green and full of farms and vineyards.
Next, we made our way to the Nazareth Village, a small recreation of how life in Jesus' boyhood days might have looked. I thoroughly enjoyed our time at this site as we observed daily life in a simple village context. Also, the Christian tour guide here was very insightful with the facts he shared from that era.
An olive tree.
A shepherd at work.
A wine press. Do you see the notch in the rock?
Grapes would have been placed in the upper chamber and stomped on with bare feet. The juice would then run down the spigot notch in the rock to the lower chamber where it would be scooped out in buckets across the ledge to the left for making into juice or wine.
This is an olive press. Olives were placed in the basin, and a donkey was hitched to the stone. Around and around the stone would be pulled, crushing the olives' flesh and breaking them apart.
Then, the crushed olives were placed into baskets much like this one.
The baskets were placed under the wooden circle/post you see at the far right. Under the basket was a hole in the ground for catching the oil.
The stone weights in the foreground were used to create the pressure needed on the basket to extract the oil. The first press was the extra virgin olive oil used for offerings to the Lord and eating. The second and third press brought forth a lesser quality oil that was used for other daily needs such as candles.
A re-created synagogue much like the one in which Jesus was invited upon His return to Nazareth to read from the scrolls. This was the time he proclaimed his Messiah-ship from Isaiah 61.
Another Preacher of the Word. :)
The "carpenter" or builder of Nazareth.
Hannah, the weaver of Nazareth giving us a demonstration of her work.
Nazareth Village - a peek into the past in the midst of a modern, bustling city.
Next stop: the Sea of Galilee!
I was amazed by how pretty this part of Israel was. So many rolling green hills, farms, vineyards, olive groves, and of course, the beautiful blue lake itself!
For three days and nights, while we toured all the sites in the area, our group stayed in these cozy little cabins right on the water.
Now this is starting to feel like a vacation... =)
Sunset over the lake.
To be continued...