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Oh man, how do I begin to explain, describe, convey this first day?
Ryan and I woke up at 5:30 local time. We took two steps out on our small balcony and looked out upon the Mediterranean Sea. The Mediterranean Sea! After a quick shower and a donning of fresh clothing we set out exploring, as there was ample time before breakfast. A romantical writer might have described the air as “balmy”… I think “humid” is better.
There was a cool breeze, and a dampness to everything. Ryan and I made our way to a set of steps leading to the beach off in the distance. We cut thru a city square that was deserted save for a stray cat. We took a stroll on the beach, watched surfers, and I, eventually, took off my shoes and stepped into the waters of the Mediterranean – I had come this far, I couldn’t be that close and not splash around a bit. Ryan opted to keep his shoes on…he’s touched that body of water before, old news. The sun rose a bit higher and a club of geriatric swimmers began their morning splash. Ryan snapped a few more shots of the retreating storm clouds and we headed back to the hotel; breakfast was soon to be served and I didn’t want to miss that.
I had salad for breakfast… that was a first… I also sampled granola, yogurt and the ubiquitous automated espresso machine that I came to love (of which I still dream. Glorious. At the push of a button, a double espresso, followed by another.)
We loaded on to the bus and got our first true Shimon lecture – to sum up – YA & EL in Hebrew both mean “God”. The town we spent our first night in is called NatanYA – “gift of God”. Cool lecture.
First stop: Ceasarea: one of Herod’s many living arrangements. The place where Paul of Tarsus was held in prison.
Stop Two: the Aqueducts used to feed fresh water to Herod’s seaside palace (including a fresh water pool with a really close view of the seascape) Incredible. MILES of stone arches. MILES.
Stop Three: Mount Carmel – Caram = “vineyard” El = “God” – God’s Vineyard.The location of Elijah’s battle with the prophets of Baal. From which an outrageous view of basically the Biblical landscape – Old and New Testament – can be seen.
Stop Four: LUNCH at Liali a-Carmel Restaurant where we had our first amazing taste of chicken schnitzel and falafel in pita – accompanied by hummus, pickles, sauces, and salads. I could eat it all day, everyday.
Stop Five: Tel Meggido or “Armageddon”. A ruins with 27 discovered layers of civilization built one on top of the other. We walked down 100 feet into the cistern (carved by hand, people! No modern tools!) and along the underground tunnel that once connected the inner city with the spring outside the walls.
Stop Six: Jordan River – I put my foot in – theres something to be said for connecting with a body of water. The Jordan looked like the River of America’s in Disneyland.
Stop Seven: A kibbutz by the Sea of Galilee – our home for the next few days. Ryan took night shots of the lightening storm in the hills of the opposite shore. I skipped stones and marveled over and over again at how real the Sea of Galilee was – “Jesus walked here.”