Today was a travel day, north from Jerusalem to Caesarea and then on to Galilee. It is amazing how minimal the traffic is on Sabbath in Jerusalem. Later in the day we were in Beit Shean and there was no other car driving and only a handful of people on the street.
Caesarea is a thoroughly Roman city built by King Herod the Great to show that he was a king over a wealthy land that honored the Roman emperor. It turns up the in the Bible several times, primarily as the seat of Roman authority. Pilate lived there, and Paul appeared before both Felix and Festus in the city. Philip the Evangelist settled there, and eventually the city became an important location for both Jewish and Christian scholars (Origen and Eusebius, for example).
We started in the large theater, which originally held about 4000. Today it was set up for a rock concert. Not exactly an authentic experience, but perhaps Pilate enjoy a nice heavy metal show now and then. We walked to the imperial residence, which is all but swallowed by the sea. There are usually a number of fishermen on the rocks. Funny how college kids want to go collect shells when they see an ocean! After a few minutes of collecting sea shells by the sea shore, we continued through the hippodrome (horse track) and up to the Byzantine Period houses. These have well preserved mosaics, a number of which contain scripture. In the Tax Records office there is a warning that those who do good have no need to fear the government, based on Romans 13:3.
After poking around several other of the Roman period rooms (including the Mithraeum, although I did not see much there that made it clear what the room was), we walked through the Crusader castle. One of the things that makes Caesarea an interesting site is this wide range of periods nicely preserved and presented. Plus, I had a pretty good Turkish coffee.
The plan was to drive from Caesarea to Beit Shean, but due to a miscommunication our driver that we wanted to be dropped in Nazareth at the Church of the Annunciation. This was not too far out of the way, so I thought we could at least look around Nazareth for a half hour, use the bathrooms, and move on. As soon as the driver pulled away, I realized I had left my cell phone in the bus and could not call him when we were done. I could still see the bus, so I sent the group up to the church and I took off running (well, walking briskly) thinking that I could catch the bus because of the traffic. I figured that Scott and Luann Shaw (triple platinum belt in Tae Kwan Do) could handle things
I did not count on the bus turning, and I did not see where he turned. This is all a great deal funnier if you know how crazy traffic in Nazareth is, and the likelihood that i am going to out tun a bus. At the bottom of the main drag I guessed he probably turned left, but I simply did not see a lot for busses. After walking a block I saw a bus poking up above a fence and found the Nazareth Municipal Bus Lot. I saw a friendly looking Arab Christian (who was using Rosary beads at the time, so he got to be honest, right?) I asked him if he knew where the tourist busses parked, but his English was not good. He led me to the back of the lot, which sounds scarier than it was, where I found our bus and driver. He thought it was all quite funny since I had just ran (well, waddle rapidly) about a mile at that point. He gave me a water bottle and a ride on a municipal bus back to the church. Other that wasting time and taking a year off my life, there was no harm done.
We arrived at Beit Shean, which was quite hot but virtually empty by this time of the day. Beit Shean was a Canaanite city at he time of Saul. When he fell on his own sword, the people of Beit Shean took his body and displayed in on their walls (1 Sam. 31:8-13). It is later controlled by Solomon, but little else is know about the site until Rome re-founded the city as Scythopolis. While it does not figure significantly in the NT, the archaeology of the site is excellent and the National Park service has done a great job presenting the city at the Roman level.
Despite the heat, the kids troop all over the city, and quite a few went to the top of the Tel to get the panoramic overview. I stuck to the main city and walked through the Bathhouse with Becca and Brianna.
We arrived at Ma’agan Holiday Resort, the best place to stay in Galilee and maybe in all of Galilee. Tomorrow we visit the Jesus sites and I hope to end the day at Tel Dan.