It had all the things you would expect from your typical red-eye flight: babies crying, dried-out eyes, elbows in your ribs, stale vacuum-sealed meals, and 30-minutes of sleep on a 9-hour flight;
But it was different too, is a humbling way.
Every few hours, several men throughout the giant 777 would stand up, reach into the stowaway bins for thier big black hats, and place them over their Yarmulkes, pull a prayer shawl from their suitcases and dutifully wrap it over their head and shoulders, place a phyladactylus on their forehead and wrap the attached rope around their wrists.
They would then head towards the nearest vacant corner, where they would start deveaning as they quietly chanted/recited/read their prayers. Some of these men were more focused/abrasive in these gestures than others.
It made me feel three inches tall for omitting my own 3-line pre-dinner prayer for the last … 30 days or so.
These men were as tired, frustrated, and worn-down as I was, yet their preparation alone was more of a focused-faith effort than I have seen in public for quite some time.
People seemed to be a little more willing to be patient and communicate with another as if it was understood that from different nations, cultures, and religions, we were all on a journey of both individual and communal importance.
We (the odd couple) sat next to a man named Fred who was making his ninth trip to Israel, his first in 25 years. “It looks the same from the plane, but I’m sure it has changed quite a bit in 25 years” he said as we were coming in for landing.
“How do you feel?” Phil asked.
“I’m so excited I could jump!” He exclaimed with a smile.
For that matter, so were we.
We landed and immediately grabbed our bags to and went outside to meet out our tour guide, Ronin, and bus driver, Shaher (one an 8th generation Israeli Jew and the other a Christian from Nazareth) and headed for Caesarea.
A Reading from the Book of Acts
(A plot against the imprisoned Apostle Paul results in his transfer to Caesarea, the seat of the Roman governor)
“So the tribune dismissed the young man, ordering him, “Tell no one that you have informed me of this.” Then he summoned two of the centurions and said, “Get ready to leave by nine o’clock tonight for Caesarea with two hundred soldiers, seventy horsemen, and two hundred spearmen. Also provide mounts for Paul to ride, and take him safely to Felix the governor.”
So the soldiers, accordingly to their instructions, took Paul and brought him during the night to Antipatris. The next day they let the horsemen go on with him, while they returned to the barracks. When they came to Caesarea and delivered the letter to the governor, they presented Paul also before him.” (Acts 23:22-24,31-33)
In Brian McLaren’s book “A New Kind of Christianity” he explains that when we analyzeJesus (his words, his stories, his life) we do so in the context of the Greco-Roman world WE inherited. However, he asserts that Jesus was actually living in the context of the Hebrew world HE inherited, thus, there is a gap between Jesus’ life and intention and our understanding of them. Closing that gap, in his opinion, is crucial to the vitality and future of Christianity.
Standing in Caesarea, steps away from the Mediterranean Sea, the grandeur, power, and threat of the Roman influence seemed breathtaking to humble Israel.
Caesarea was the only major port in Israel, built a century before Jesus by King Herod the Great in an attempt to establish favor with the Roman Ruler.
We saw where the upper and lower palaces were where Herod stayed (and even Pontious Pilate at times).
We saw the theatre that to this day is still the premiere outdoor venue for Israeli music stars. (The performer in me couldn’t help but run a few one-liners out to the empty stone seats)
We saw where the horses and chariots would race for crowds of thousands.
We saw the remains of excavated Roman statues – so beautiful, yet so different, even uncomfortable compared to the Israeli tradition that still exists today.
What we saw were the remains of a city so similar to Rome, so unique compared to its surroundings, and so domination over the lives of the people, that it remained much more part of Rome than Israel.
This was an intentional first stop. A backdrop for the trip. It gave us a context for the great power and influence of the Roman empire that loomed over Israel in the times before and after Jesus. This already begins to explain so much.
Har Megiddo Tel
After a 40-minute bus ride and a quick fullafle stop, we headed up to Har Megiddo Tel.
“On this great plain have been built strongholds and cities for many centuries. Megiddo was one of the most strategically located fortress cities of ancient Palestine, standing at the cross roads of two ancient routes.
…(Centuries after Kings Solomon and Ahab) the good King Josiah of Judah was killed here in a battle with Pharaoh Neco II, raising for the ancient Jews the vexing question of why evil had been allowed to overcome good here. Eventually Christians came to anticipate that a great cosmic battle would take place here, when good would again triumph decisively and permanently over evil…
Megiddo is located on high ground and is thus spoken of as Har-Megiddo. (Har is hill in Hebrew.) The Greek form of Har-Megiddo is Armageddon.” – Casey Baggott
We walked inside the city gates up to the top where we could see the town of Nazareth (our stop for tomorrow) and so much more of Israel in one panoramic view. Many of those who believe that there will be an Armageddon, believe that it will happen here.
And then we walked down to the underground water tunnel that was chiseled out at the hands of King Ahab’s men some six thousand of years ago. It is today a archeological dig and a national park.
It was quite an exciting reclamation of the Armageddon. What once stood for destruction now to me, represents completion.
What used to bring me to fear now brings me to peace.
What once meant end of the world to me now means understanding of the world.
Of course, at the base of the Magiddo vallley, (where all the major Biblical Israeli battles are believed to take place) lies a brand new Mcdonald’s.
So maybe it’s a little of both?
Shalom til tomorrow. Nazareth bound.
Click Here to Link to Day Three
Click Here to Link to Day Four
Click Here to Link to Day Five
Click Here to Link to Day Six
Click Here to Link to Day Seven
Click Here to Link to Day Eight
Click Here to Link to Day Nine