Today, beginning our actual tour, we drove northward up the coast to Caesarea Maritima, the spectacular Herodian construction that, for a few centuries, supplanted Jaffa as the chief port of Palestine. It was the home of Pontius Pilate, the Roman procurators Festus and Felix, Phillip the Evangelist, the “God-fearing” Roman centurion Cornelius (the first Gentile convert to Christianity), and, much later, the great Greek Christian father Origen and, after him, “the father of Christian historiography,” Constantine’s enthusiastic fan Eusebius of Caesarea. Most importantly, as far as the New Testament goes, it was the site of the apostle Paul’s famous defense before King Agrippa and of his fateful appeal to Caesar in Rome.
We then drove to the aqueduct that brought water to Caesarea from the southern end of the long range of hills called Mount Carmel, and, thereafter, onto Mount Carmel itself, where, among other things, we had a spectacular view of the Jezreel Valley and reviewed and commented on the rather amusing story of the contest of Elijah and the priests of Baal. (It wasn’t ultimately very amusing for them, I guess.)
After a falafel lunch at a Druze-owned restaurant on Mount Carmel, we drove through the Jezreel Valley to the complex ruins of Tel Megiddo, the Canaaanite-then-Israelite fortress city that controlled that all-important route and that gives us the name for the apocalyptic battle of “Armageddon.”
Tel Megiddo was the inspiration for James Mitchener’s novel The Source, which I hate. I read about half of it when I was an undergraduate student taking classes in Middle Egyptian and in Babylonian. When I read Michener’s description of the field archaeologist who is the modern hero of his characteristically lengthy novel — who had already struck me as uncomfortably similar to the adolescent-novel hero Doc Savage — as a man who could read hieroglyphs and cuneiform as easily as most modern people read the daily newspaper, I threw the book across the room and never picked it up again.
Nobody reads Egyptian and Babylonian that easily.
From Tel Megiddo, we drove up to Mount Precipice, near Nazareth, a traditional site for the event in which Jesus, having offended the Jews of his native town, is nearly tossed off a cliff to his death.
Then to Nazareth itself, and the modern Church of the Annunciation, of which I’m very fond:
As always in recent years, visitors to the church are obliged to walk through a small public park or square adorned with large banners containing Qur’anic passages denying the deity and divine sonship of Christ in both Arabic and English translations.
And from there down to Tiberias, on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee.
I’d be more descriptive, but I’m afraid that terminal jet lag is setting in.
Posted from Tiberias, Israel.