November 30-December 2, 2022
Our flight from Houston to Tel Aviv was uneventful. Upon arrival in the afternoon (8 hour time zone differential from home), we were met outside the gate by a representative of the Imagine tour company who guided us effortlessly and quickly through the entry processes of Israel. We soon met our guide, Ori, and Serah, our driver, at our beautiful bus. Ori is well known in Israel since he was an evening newscaster and later top official of the prime minister of the nation. A Bible scholar, he is an ideal guide. Our hotel in Netanya was awesome, and the food, served buffet style, was very tasty. We went to sleep for the night as quickly as possible since the 8 hour time differential (plus 20 hour flight times) from home had our bodies out of whack.
The next morning–December 2–was to turn out to be meaningful and spiritual and beautiful experience.
Caesarea Maritima–King Herod the Great, who ruled just prior to the time of Jesus, built a magnificent palace complex from the ground up. Its harbor was safe from storms, since he built a mile long protective barrier into the Mediterranean. It brought in huge sums of money as a major Mediterranean port. Now mostly a ruin, the complex contained a large Hippodrome for 20,000 spectators for horse and chariot races and an amphitheater that seated 3,500. Arched aqueducts brought water to the complex. Many New Testament events took place in this seat of government power. Of great importance was Jesus’ disciple Peter’s encounter with the pagan centurion Cornelius, which opened the Christian church to the influx on non-Jews. It was also here that the missionary Paul, who wrote much of the New Testament Bible, defended himself against accusations of treason before the Roman leadership. He was eventually to die a martyr’s death in Rome. We were able to stand on the very spot where Paul made his defense as he shared his faith in Jesus.
Mount Carmel is a high hill with commanding views to the hills and valleys below. From here, Elijah, the great Old Testament prophet, challenged the pagan priests, who were being introduced into the nation by increasingly pagan Kings and Queens, to produce fire from heaven on a pile of wood. They could not do so, yet Elijah’s wood offering was immediately consumed by fire. The pagans were driven out from the land. This was a momentous event in the life of the Old Testament church.
Mount Tabor is another important hill where Jesus took some of His disciples to witness His transfiguration, proving Himself to be the Son of God as His body beamed with light as He visited with Moses and Elijah. A beautiful church stands on this space on the hill.
We drove on Route 66–this time in Israel. This road connects Africa and Europe and Asia close to the Mediterranean. Another major ancient road crosses this route near Megiddo and connects the Mediterranean to the Middle East. Here armies marched in ancient times to control this strategic trade route. The last book of the Bible, Revelations, speaks of this place now known as Armageddon.
Nazareth is the boyhood home of Jesus until his public three-year ministry commenced. Only about 200 people lived here in Jesus’s day. Today, Nazareth has a population of 90,000, yet the infrastructure has not kept pace, and it is a crowded noisy city. A magnificent church sits over the ruins of Joseph and Mary’s home where Jesus grew up. Pilgrims flock by the touching site.
Upon arrival at our Sea of Galilee hotel, we spoke of the overwhelming sites we had seen and the impact of the Biblical knowledge we had gained. Putting Bible stories to Bible sites and connecting the dots is a moving experience. As we stood on the commanding height of Mount Carmel and viewed the hills and valleys that stretch far into the distance and our guide spoke of numerous major Bible events or stories that took place within our eyesight, we were overwhelmed. Huge amounts of the Old Testament and the New Testament were lived out before us. It was rare air to breathe.