Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Day 6

Another early start and we set out toward Jerusalem across the fertile Jezreel Valley and to Mt. Carmel. We had some beautiful views from our bus on the way this morning even though it was a misty day today.

Mt. Carmel is the place where Elijah challenged and slew the prophets of Baal. As you will recall from the story of 1 Kings 17, Elijah taunted the prophets of Baal and called down fire from heaven. Also on this site is the Carmelite Monastery. Just below the Monastery was a spring where the people of Elijah's day got the water to flood the altar after the fire came down from heaven.

Then on to Caesarea by the Sea. Wow, what a beautiful place. It was a magnificent Roman city built by Herod the Great. It was absolutely full of sophisticated engineering feats including an artificial harbor, a complete aqueduct system, a hippodrome and a stadium with signage proof of the historical existence of Pontius Pilate. The hippodrome was a place where they had horse and chariot races which had space for seating for 10,000 spectators. The city had no natural water and the aqueduct system brought water 12 miles to the city. The original steps at the harbor are still there and the great likelihood is that the apostle Paul walked down these very steps to get on the boat to sail to Rome. This place is located in the Mediterranean Sea and has absolutely incredible views. This is probably why King Herod had his palace there as well. This area today remains one of the most upscale areas in Israel. After the city was built in 22 BC, it went through many transformations due to various wars. It was captured last by the Muslims who eventually abandoned it. At one point, the crusaders built a new city on top of the old one and it is believed that the Holy Grail was brought there for a time.

Now we are off to Bethlehem the City of David where Jesus was born. It was interesting to learn that that was originally the place where shepherds raised the flocks to be used as sacrifices at the temple. How appropriate that the final sacrificial lamb was born in a cave/stable there. A large silver star marks the spot where it is believed that Jesus was born. Also adjacent to the star is a manger like He was born in. They are both located in the Church of the Nativity, which is the oldest continually functioning church in the world. We had to stand in line a good while to get in because unbeknownst to us this just happened to be Christmas Day for the Orthodox Christians. The Church of the Nativity has many different churches contained there including Catholic, Armenian, Greek Orthodox and others. The  Palestinians are in control of all Bethlehem now. Also, at the church we saw the statute of Jerome who translated the bible into Latin.

 Here are some pictures of Jerusalem and Bethlehem

Arrived at our hotel here in Jerusalem and it is great. We will be here 3 nights and have 3 more wonderful days to explore this area. We can't wait

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