We slept like logs after a fitful night on the plane. I woke early enough for a jog. After a quick breakfast our bus pulled out at 7:30 am for a long day of sight seeing.
(Photo) "Touristicus Americanus" - this species is not native to the region, but is spotted frequently throughout the landscape.
The advantage of a group tour like this is that you get to see a lot of stuff in a short period of time. The disadvantage... you see a lot of stuff in a short period of time.
We visited Cesaerea first in the morning. When Herod the Great built a deep water port here, the city thrived. But gradually the city faded and only recently was it replaced. This is highlighted by the smokestack of a modern natural gas power-plant rising above the ruins of the Roman ampi-theater. We were reminded that it was here that Peter first preached to the Gentiles and here that Paul appealed to Cesaer and began his journey to Rome in chains. On the darker side, we saw a stone commemorating a building project by the infamous Pontius Pilate and stood in the Hippodrome where later Jews and Christian's were fed to the lions. Our tour guide reminded us: "This sand has absorbed the blood of the martyrs."
We flew from site to site throughout the day. We visited Mt. Carmel (below) and saw a commemorative statue of the prophet Elijah's deadly context with the prophets of Baal. Then we visited the ruins of the ancient city of Megido. Here 25 layers of habitation stretch back through seven millennia. The valley next to this region is known as the valley of Armageddon, site of John's apocalyptic conflict between good and evil.
Then we visited the sea of Galilee. It is much smaller than I had imagined. We took a ride out onto the water on a modern boat and viewed a recently excavated fishing vessel from the first century. We closed the day with a visit to Capernaum. Since Jesus based much of his ministry out of this village, it was a very special stop. The ruins of a 3rd or 4th century synagogue are built on the ruins of a synagogue from the first century. (below) There is really no doubt that this is the ancient village of Caperaum, no doubt that this is the spot of the synagogue, and not doubt that Jesus preached in the synagogue of Capernaum.
Therefore, we can be quite certain that we are standing on a place where Jesus did ministry. I have never before had the ability to say that. I'm still soaking that in. It was quite moving when our tour guide read, "I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die..." (Jn 6:48-50)
"...Jesus said these things in the synagogue, as he taught at Capernaum." (Jn. 6:59)