Shalom and good evening from Israel! We have successfully completed our first day of touring. It was a great but tiring day. Most of us got a quick nap in on the bus after our last stop on our way to our kibbutz (more on what this is later!).
We started off the day with a great devotional teaching and time of prayer before breakfast. Mike spoke about the land of Israel, and the fact that God has set it apart for His glory. It was a great way to set the tone for the day's journey from the coast all the way inland to the Sea of Galilee.
We promptly boarded the bus at 8am... well, most of us! Once we had everyone, we were on our way to Caesarea Maritima, King Herod the Great's great technological feat of a man-made harbor, huge theater for plays, hippodrome for chariot races, vast pools, palaces, and a temple to Augustus Caesar. This was also the place where Cornelius, a Gentile, accepted Christ, and Paul was held prisoner, but was able to proclaim the Gospel in the presence of many leaders of the Roman empire. Here are a few shots from Caesarea Maritima:
Next, we made a quick drive over to a Roman aqueduct that supplied Caesarea with fresh water from the mountains in the east of Israel:
We then visited Mount Carmel which sits high above the Jezreel Valley. The Jezreel Valley is the breadbasket of Israel, where much of their crops are grown in the fertile soil.
The other important point about this location is that it's where the prophet Elijah challenged followers of Baal to see whose God was more powerful (1 Kings 18). As we know from scripture, Elijah defeated the false prophets Baal. An interesting insight that Sahar, our guide, shared was that Elijah waited all day long while the Baal prophets were calling out to their God, until the appointed time of the afternoon sacrifice, at 3pm. It was at this time that Elijah called to the Lord and he burned up the sacrifice and the altar built for Him. This time, Sahar noted, was the same time that Jesus died on the cross, the time of the afternoon sacrifice. This is the time that he said "It is finished!"; the last sacrifice for all mankind in all time.
After a quick lunch in the village near Mount Carmel, we headed to Sephhoris (Zippori). This was a rich, cosmopolitan, Hellenistic town, just a few miles from Nazareth where there is an aqueduct and underground water storage. We walked through the carved-out tunnel, and thankfully, no one had to get their feet wet this time! (They have built a little boardwalk through the tunnel to allow people to walk through and observe the vastness of the work, all done by hand. One interesting theory that Mike shared was that the Greek word for "craftsman" is often mistranslated to "carpenter." It turns out that it's far more likely that Joseph was a stonemason in Sepphoris. Besides the water storage area, we also got to visit the old ruins of the main square in the town. There were many old houses with exquisite mosaic flooring and we also got to see the original streets, still in better shape 2000 years later than some streets in Baltimore!
Our last stop of the day was Nazareth, the hometown of Jesus. We went to the Church of the Annunciation, marking the (approximate) place where the angel Gabriel came down and "announced" to Mary that she would bear a Son and he would be the Messiah. The church had a service going on in it during the time we were there, and many commented on the powerfulness of the sung mass in Latin and all the voices singing along together. It's a beautiful church with many pieces of artwork from countries all around the world depicting the Annunciation and Mary with Jesus as a baby. it was very interesting to see the event through each country's own lense.
We got to our hotel here in Galilee. We will be here for three nights (leaving Friday morning) so we're excited to unpack a bit and just relax. As a final note, Kari had a great 26th birthday here in Israel. Proof here:
Please continue to pray for the Kortokraxes' luggage. We still haven't gotten it back to them yet. Here are our other prayer requests for tomorrow, February 11:
Wednesday, February 11 – Second Day of Touring: Around the Sea of Galilee with stops at Mount of Beatitudes, Capernaum, Tabgha (loaves & fishes), boat ride on Sea of Galilee – That Jesus would meet each of us as we spend time in the places of most of His ministry. Continued prayer for good adjustment and sleep. And finally, there is supposed to be a big rain storm coming through the next few days, with most of our touring to be outside. Please pray that the weather would be tolerable and not inhibit our tour in any way. (Overnight in Sea of Galilee).
Thanks so much for your prayers and for following along. We'll see you tomorrow back here on the blog!