After recovering from our flight, we spent our first day in Galilee in four sites: Caesarea on the Mediterranean Sea, Megiddo (the site referred to in Rev. 16 as Armageddon), Nazareth, and Cana.
Caesarea is a marvelous site for getting a feel for how the aristocracy lived in the first century. It was where the Roman governors had their main headquarters, in a large and prosperous city by the sea. There we saw the Roman theater that seated (and sits—it is still to all evidence used for events, because there are seat and row numbers in Hebrew that are obviously of recent vintage) about 7000 people, and that on this day accommodated the voices of dozens of Christians who sang songs of praise to God. We then saw the remains of the palace of Herod which sits close by the theater, ruins that were only uncovered about four years ago. From there it we went to the aqueduct which brought water from Mount Carmel near modern-day Haifa down the Caesarea, much of which has been covered by sand lo these many centuries. There we also had the opportunity to touch the water of the Mediterranean, and I collected sea shells to bring home to the children at The Cove.
Our next stop was unscheduled and remarkable. On a non-descript two-lane road between Caesarea and Megiddo, we pulled off to the shoulder. On the other side of the road was a family tomb, complete with the kind of flat, circular stone that was used in Jesus’ day to seal such tombs. This one had several burial spaces in it, and in most of it you had to keep your head ducked by bending over almost 90 degrees. Perhaps the most remarkable thing about it is that it wasn’t marked in any way. Our guide happened to know about it from traveling that road, and wanted us to see an example of what a typical family burial tomb would have looked like in the first century.
From there we were on to Megiddo, which proved to be a bit of a letdown for me. The site is at Tel Megiddo, a man-made hill that contains a number of archaeological digs. One of them, which you had to do if you were going to see the whole site, is a water tunnel that runs under the tel and once came up outside the city walls to provide the city with water in case of siege. The tunnel is at the bottom of abut 190 steps, and about 90 are required to get back out. My knees being what they are, I passed, but the folks who went said it was fascinating. I’ll be checking their pictures when I get a chance.
Next up was Nazareth, now a large modern city of almost entirely Arab population. Our destination was the Church of the Annunciation, a Roman Catholic church built in 1964 on top of one of the traditional sites of the angel Gabriel delivering God’s message to Mary regarding the birth of Jesus (the Greek Orthodox have a church over the other location). The Church of the Annunciation is the largest in the Middle East and the third largest in the world. Though it is a modern structure—a good portion of the stained glass practically dates the time of its construction—it is built over the grotto that had formerly been contained with its Byzantine and Crusader predecessors. It was a beautiful place to pray for the Lord to give to His people the same spirit of obedient servanthood with which He blessed the Virgin Mary.
Finally, after wending our way through the worst traffic this side of the Beltway at 5 pm, we arrived in Cana, a town of about 15,000. There we visited the Roman Catholic Church of the Wedding, where seven married couples from among our 28 pilgrims participated in a reaffirmation of their wedding vows in the garden chapel. It was a lovely liturgy. I also had the pleasure of seeing what looked like a group of Filipino Catholics in the main nave who were either all getting married or reaffirming their vows—it was hard to be certain which, because the women were all dressed quite formally, but the rest of their group was treating it more like a photo op.
After Cana we returned to Tiberius, with most going to a diamond factory (I passed, as I had the first two times I came, and it sounded as though my folks were not particularly impressed, so I’m glad I did). We had a delightful dinner that included turkey, and then everyone headed to their rooms. They’ll need the rest, because tomorrow should be a pretty busy day, including stops in Capernaum, the Mount of Beatitudes, and several others, beginning with a boat trip across the Sea of Galilee.