Israel Day 12 – Going West
Our final day in Israel and we’re headed west, hitting a couple of sights before our final destination, Tel Aviv.
I’d say today was about hills and valleys.
We hovered mostly in the valley, most famously known as, Armageddon. And all around this strategic valley are mountain ranges and peaks that hold lots of historical and possible future events.
Present day this valley is known as the Jezreel Valley. This valley separates Galilee and Samaria, and from the here you can see much – a virtual panorama:
- To the south – Samarian Mountains and Mount Gilboa
- To the north – Mount Tabor
- To the west – Mount Carmel
- To the east – the Jordan River Valley
On our bus ride we passed Mount Tabor, truly a hill alone. So many of the “mounts” of Israel are mountain ranges, but not Tabor. It stands alone. It stands out. Some traditions hold that Mount Tabor is the site of Jesus’ Transfiguration, so as expected, we could see a church atop this mount.
A little further west we could see the city of Nazareth, a typical limestone-white city of Israel, sitting atop a small ridge. Nazareth is a good-sized town today, filled mostly with Arabs. Nazareth’s main claim-to-fame is the home of Jesus…Jesus of Nazareth.
Still we didn’t stop. Ariel chatted with us about all the rich biblical history of the valley till we reached our destination, Megiddo – a city well-known for warfare in its past. Ariel explained that Megiddo stood at the heart of important trade routes of the “Fertile Crescent.”
As we pulled up alongside this tel, Megiddo, I found myself oddly disappointed. I’m familiar with the Revelation prophecy that Megiddo and its valley, Armageddon, will be the site of the final battle of good and evil. At first glance I saw this hill with a u-shaped cut in it and assumed the “u” was the valley. It seemed too small to be the sight of the Battle of Armageddon.
Turns out that “u” was NOT the valley but an amateur archaeologist’s attempt at uncovering the mystery of how many civilizations had stood on the spot of Megiddo.
My disappointment left as fascination took over. The tel Megiddo has 20, yes 20, civilizations to its credit. That amateur archaeologist basically did a cross-section cut into the tel and, as a result, the layers revealed themselves like the rings of a tree.
Since that time other archaeological teams have uncovered some of the ruins from the first few layers of the tel. We spent quite a bit of time poking around and learning more history. Megiddo was a large city by ancient standards with city walls and gates, places of worship and elaborate water systems. They even dug silos into the bedrock to store their grains.
Through archaeology and historical documents, the two uncovered layers reveal that the most recent city was active during King Ahab’s reign (see 1 Kings 18). The one before that, during King Solomon’s reign. There were amazing “mangers,” what we’d call troughs, for Solomon’s horses who pulled his famous chariots (see 1 Kings 10:26, 1 Kings 9:15, and 1 Kings 4: 26).
Because of its location on trade routes, Megiddo was fought for and inhabited by many civilizations. Standing on top of it today, its valley is an obvious stage for a final stand-off. Each mountain and mountain range that encircles the Armageddon Valley is home to a different people: Arabs, Israelis, Palestinians, and Syrians. For me, the Revelation 16:16 prophecy seems plausible after being there, hearing its history, and seeing its breadth and placement. Time will tell.
From the Megiddo we could see Mount Carmel – our next stop. It’s a high ridge in the northern parts of Israel, and historically it’s known for the “battle of the gods.” Well, that’s my name for it. It’s the scene of the prophet Elijah versus the prophets of Baal, a pagan god of the day. This is where Elijah calls on God to start a fire on an altar under impossible circumstances and challenges the Baal “priests” to ask the same of Baal.
Of course God came through and Baal did not. Lots of drama in this show-down, and even a little sarcasm from Elijah! Ariel pointed out that Elijah was very intentional in choosing this high place for the contest of gods. From this mountain side, people in all directions could see, could witness the power of the One True God!
As we pulled out of the Jezreel (Armageddon) Valley and left behind all the mountains, hills, and history, we set our sights for the Mediterranean Sea.
Love at first sight!
After all the desert and HOT places we’d walked, hiked and ascended through for two weeks, the blue waters of the Mediterranean were a refreshing welcome to the eyes!
At Caesarea by the Sea we were able to witness more of the wonder of Roman architecture. If you ever have time, Google the original Caesarea built by (guess who?) Herod the Great. The models we saw of this fortress at the sea were breath-taking. It’s still so hard to imagine how an ancient civilization built what they did with the bedrock (limestone and basalt)…
One of the most amazing remnants of the ancient city is its theater. Today it has been refurbished to restore its former glory with the addition of a new wooden stage and present-day technology. Today concerts are held in this relic just south of Tel Aviv.
There are remnants of a hippodrome and Herod’s palace. The rest is bits and pieces because of war and the sea’s effects (in actuality the whole thing has been sinking since its inception, but Herod couldn’t have known that).
It was very hard for me to leave this beautiful place…maybe because of the lure of the Sea or maybe because it was our last stop on the tour. I’m not sure which was the stronger.
But Tel Aviv didn’t disappoint. It is a baby city compared to Jerusalem. Tel Aviv was founded in 1909 – so just over 100 years old; whereas, Jerusalem is thousands of years old. And I could tell.
Tel Aviv still uses the white limestone for its buildings as every other city and village in Israel, but its skyscrapers, hotels, and embassies give it a modern feel, as well as, look.
We enjoyed our final hours in Israel combing the beach outside our hotel and eating a last dinner with all our crew. It was such a bittersweet evening. We’re exhausted and ready to reunite with family and friends, yet we’re not quite ready to let go of Israel. And we’re sad to say farewell to Ariel.
Something Ariel told us has really stuck with me. He told us our pilgrimage doesn’t end here. He says it goes with us and will continue as long as we’ll allow it. As we read our Bible, we’ll come across a name, a place, and we’ll rejoice as memories flood our minds – we remember! We’ve been there! And now it means so much more!
The Bible has truly come to life for our crew of 42. We have bonded with one another. We have become part of this country and its history – the idea of being “grafted in” has a reality to it that I didn’t think possible.
Ariel told us in our Farewell time together that Israel is unique. It calls to people, beckoning them, “Come!” It’s as if a weight bears down on our hearts and won’t let up.
So for those who follow the call and are able to “come,” that weight is lifted. We know we are where we’re meant to have been.
But then something more happens. Those “rocks” that had burdened our hearts break apart, so as we head home, they fall back to the land to which they belong.
We leave a piece of ourselves behind in the Promised Land.
I know I have.
But I’ve also brought a piece of it back with me.
Our pastor has challenged us throughout this trip to ask God what He’d have us do with all He’s shown us. Won’t it be fun to see how that pans out!? For 41 Okies and one Coloradoan – the trip may be over, but the journey continues.
Thanks for following along with us. I truly pray that someday God will open a door for you to step through so that you can experience Israel for yourself!
Blessings upon blessings,