Concensus: One of the Best Days Ever

Trip Start May 19, 2012
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Where I stayed
Ein-Gev Holiday Resort Jordan Valley
Read my review - 5/5 stars
What I did
Tel Megiddo
Mount Carmel
Nazareth

Flag of Israel  , Northern District,
Monday, June 4, 2012

Of course, with a title like that I set myself up a tall order to try to explain why and how it was this, and frankly I'm tired so I don't know if I'm up to the task, but darn it I've gotta try.

Morning started in Jerusalem with a brief workout, breakfast, and rolling on the bus by 7:45 (supposed to be 7:30 but we had a few people be a little late.  Can't really blame them because we were all exhausted...) on our way up north for some awesome times gallivanting.  Said gallivanting began after an hour and a half bus ride to Caesarea Maritima, the main New Testament port in Israel.  So this Herod the Great guy keeps popping up doing incredible in the old sense of the word building projects on a bit of a whim.  I'll grant him this:  each one has been impressive.  So Herod saw that there was no significant port between Tyre and Egypt, meaning that boats sailing along the coast had to spend the night riding at anchor and being buffeted by what can be pretty gnarly seas; easy enough answer:  build a port.  Observation:  if there's not a port in this highly logical spot, there's probably a reason for it, possibly even reasons.  Problems:  1:  Israel has what's called a concordant shoreline, meaning that there is a inland mountain chain that parallels the coast, which means that the way the land slopes up to the mountains prevents the formation of deep water harbors and natural coves; 2:  the Mediterranean north sweeping current (too many adjectives) deposits literally tons of silt from the Nile delta anywhere you might be fool hardy enough to try and dig out a deep water harbor.  Solution:  be a tyrant king with deep pockets and a streak for extravagance.  The first order of business was for Herod to order his engineers to design a cement that would harden under water, the first time this was done in recorded history, and utilizing approximately 18,000 tons of imported volcanic ash from Europe.  That done and a huge artificial harbor bigger than the one at Athens built, Herod ordered the digging of channels deep enough to allow ocean-going ships to dock, a process which involved clearing the shoals of coral diver by diver.  Once the harbor was in place it was a relatively simple matter of extravagance to establish a fully European city in Israel, complete with theatres, palace complex (where Paul was standing trial when he appealed to Caesar and thus began his trip to Rome), hippodromes, a temple to Caesar-all the necessities and maybe a thing or two more.  I'll sum it up the way my professor did:  every time Herod saw God keeping him from doing something he wanted to do, Herod shook his fist at God and did it.  Fun fact:  in the early 2nd century AD a massive earthquake hit the region and dropped the shoreline, incredible artificial harbor and all, by about 6 meters, enough to submerge it completely.  Last laugh?

From this awesome spot that probably even deserves a paragraph as long as I gave it, we wound our way up one of the three passes of Mount Carmel to a monastery commemorating the standoff between Elijah and the prophets of Baal that occurred thereupon.  This gave us an great overview of the Jezreel Valley, which is kinda a big deal as far as Bible things go-I'll touch more on that as I go.  From the monastery it was down a little ways to lunch at a Middle Eastern restaurant (falafal pita for the win) and along side the Mount Caramel ridge to the ancient ruins at Tel Megiddo.  If Megiddo is sounding somewhat familiar, you're associating it with the passage in Revelation where the Plains of Megiddo are referenced as being at a place called, in Hebrew "Har Megaddon" (Har=mount, Megaddon=the original name for the place corrupted by Greek speakers to Megiddo, put it together you get Armageddon).  Before moving to the end times, I should point out that people have been fighting at Megiddo and in the greater Jezreel Valley since literally the beginning of recorded history:  the first full account we have of a battle in history takes place here between the Egyptians and Canaanites.  Megiddo sits just outside a mountain pass through Mount Carmel which empties into the Jezreel Plain, which is A:  incredibly fertile and, more importantly, B:  the only place in Israel you can cut from the Jordan Valley to the Sea without making 5 ascents and descents of over 1/2 a mile and thus an extremely important travel corridor.  All that to say, when the Pharoah who conquered Megiddo in this battle was asked what his men should do with the city, he said "Subdue it and fortify it, for to have Megiddo is like having 1000 cities".

Regarding the battle of Armageddon, a couple brief things:  I'm not a Revelation's expert, so I don't know whether to think of this as a literal battle at this literal spot, but I do know that as far as likely places go, this one's pretty good.  Second, read the account in Revelations 17:  for all the buildup, there's no battle of Armageddon.  It goes like this:  all the forces of Christ assemble on one side, all the forces of the beast and the false prophet on the other, Jesus speaks, and the buzzards swoop in to feast on the dead bodies-no contest, 1 punch KO.

I should move on.  From Megiddo we drove across the Jezreel Valley, passing Mt. Tabor where Deborah and Barack lead an Israelite militia to victory against Canaanite chariots, and up into Nazareth.  Here's an observation:  when Philip goes to tell his brother Andrew that he's found the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth, Andrew says "can anything good come out of Nazareth?"  His question is based in the reality of Nazareth, a city of maybe 120, intentionally isolated in a depression on a ridge overlooking but not participating in the huge events in the valley floor below.  This adds another level to Jesus' birth narrative:  it's hard for Mary, a 12ish year old girl from an ultra-orthodox Jewish family, to get pregnant outside of wedlock, but when you compound that with the fact that she's in a tiny town where everyone knows everyone's business, that's an unenviable position.  Some traditions do too much in honor of Mary, but gotta give the girl props for the move of faith to say yes to God.

We left Leaping Mountain, where Jesus was taken by those wanting to kill him for proclaiming himself Messiah and where there's a sweet overview, heading for the Sea of Galilee.  En route we passed the village of Nain, where Jesus raised the widow's son, and Mt. Gilboa, where Gideon routed the Mideonites, where King Josiah was killed by an Egyptian force on their way to Assyria, and where Saul committed suicide after being defeated by the Philistines.  Did I mention there was a scrap or two in this valley?  Anyway, after this relatively long day it was a bit surreal to descend to 700 feet below sea level to our kibbutz on the shore of the Sea of Galilee.  Here's the deal:  this post is already really long, and I'm already really tired, so I'm gonna hold off on trying to describe this until tomorrow.  Let me just whet your appetite with two words:  night swim.

Tomorrow is supposed to be a heavy hiking day, so I'm gonna get to sleep.  Peace, blessings, and love from one of the better spots on earth.

My Review Of The Place I Stayed



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