I finally have time to share a bit more about our trip, so here goes!
Our second full day in Israel was also our first actual tour day.
We were rather impressed and pleased when we had our first introduction with our bus for this week! It appeared to be an almost new Mercedes Benz. Quite the comfortable seats and there were even usb plugins to charge devices.
After a hearty breakfast, we left our hotel at 8:00. Our first stop was at Caesarea by the Sea. We drove on the highway talked about in Matthew as “By the Way of the Sea”… (the Bible quizzers at our school this year are memorizing Matthew chapters 2 – 7, and it was so amazing to see some of these actual locations that we’ve been hearing/reciting over and over every day!). We were at the ruins of the palace of Herod the Great, the one he built out on a rock peninsula on the Mediterranean Sea. It jutted out into the water. All that remains now is some of the foundation stones, and a few floor mosaics. Also an ampitheater. While there, Cliff read to us from Acts 25 and 26, the account of Paul before Festus and Felix. We were able to stand right on the spot where Paul probably stood as he shared the gospel with Agrippa! we also saw an aqueduct from that time period, what had been used for their water supply.
Next we drove to Mount Carmel. There is a monastery on top of Mount Carmel, but we were still able to see how it was to be up on the mountain top like that. How incredibly high up it was. This was the location of Elijah’s confrontation with the prophets of Baal. Their encounter would have been visible to everyone for miles. And imagining how that fire that God sent down would have appeared–WOW! Also, I never realized before, but the way they carried all that water up there to drench the altar…they had to carry it up a steep mountainside–this was no easy task!
We ate lunch at a small roadside cafe. They had two options – falafel or schnitzel. Both were wrapped in pita bread, with cabbage, cucumbers, and sauces. The schnitzel was kind of like a fried chicken tender, the falafel was a ball made up of ground garbanzo beans, mixed with herbs and seasonings, and then fried.
Just a little side note here…there were cats walking around in the cafe. We started taking special notice of all the cats…and kept seeing them EVERYWHERE!! They were not mangy, neglected looking like you might think…oh no, these were obviously well fed, maybe even a bit pampered…they were definitely not starving, but were more on the plump side.
After lunch, we visited the Roman city of Bet She’an. This consists of a large ruins that has been mostly excavated. It includes bath houses, which were quite open and not private (they had signs on the walls to explain to tourists just how these were operated back then), a theater, columns, some standing, some that fell over in an earthquake (which is what caused this city to become abandoned), roads of stone blocks, houses, and more. Then we climbed up a lot of stairs to the very top of the unexcavated “Tel”. That is the part that is an even older city. This is believed to be the very place where they hung Jonathan’s and Saul’s bodies after their deaths. This is also a place that was visible for miles around. The only part of the city that was visible to us was part of the foundation/walls.
Next, we drove back by the border of Jordan (the border between the countries of Israel and Jordan is the Jordan River), and this section of land is in the West Bank, which is a section in the country of Israel that is under Palestinian authority.
We saw lots of varied terrain. Anything from high mountainous areas to desert, cactus, and rocks. Trees. Flowers, grassy areas. Forests of date palms. Lush Jordan river valley (brought to mind the story of Abram and Lot)
We drove along the road from Jerusalem to Jericho and saw what that stretch looks like. I had just never pictured Israel as truly mountainous…somehow I assumed it was only rather hilly. I cannot imagine how much time those Bible people spent walking. And walking. Just to get to the next town! And then, it was dark as we got back to Jerusalem (it was dark by 4:30) So…we got to see a view of the Old City after dark. It was beautiful!
The hotel served us a large buffet dinner when we finally got back there.
Salads consisting of cucumbers, cheeses, tomatoes, cabbage, another salad of grape tomatoes with chicken & cilantro. And then there was the hot dishes. onion soup. chicken, beef, and fish. (I think this one of the few times we were served beef, it was rather like a beef roast). Desserts consisted of various small pieces of fancy looking desserts. They even served us ice cream which was not at all like the American ice cream we are used to, but delicious none the less.
One thing that probably surprised us the most was how modern their vehicles and their highways were. It would have been easy to think we were driving somewhere in the States.
And a few pictures from the day:
I like sharing pictures…but…sigh…pictures really don’t even begin to do justice to all that we saw. And I also realize that unless you’ve actually been there, these pictures probably won’t mean very much to you…but for what it’s worth, here they are! 🙂