We started very early today and drove from Jerusalem to Caesarea, Herod the Great’s tribute to the Roman Empire on the Mediterranean Sea. This is one of the best presented sites in Israel and I have always enjoyed the walk along the beach. We started at the theater and spent quite a bit of time looking at the various columns and other architecture behind the theater itself. Several students took some pictures on the columns of Herod’s palace (without my approval of course).
The palace has a cistern which is labeled as the pit in which Paul was imprisoned at Caesarea, but this seems to be unlikely since he was a Roman citizen under house arrest. Another room has a sign indicating it is the location of Paul’s appeal to Caesar, but I am not sure how that can be known. It seems to me it is best to just say Paul was at the location and leave the details vague.
After the students put their feet in the Mediterranean, we walked across the hippodrome to the aristocratic homes overlooking the sea. I noticed a few Greek mosaics I had not seen before, although I might find I had photographs of them already. We finished out Caesarea in traditional fashion for my tours, at the gelato shop near the exit.
We traveled across the Jezreel valley, stopping at the MacDonald’s near Megiddo for lunch. This was quite the experience. First, they have a “Big American” burger that I have never seen in American, the thing is as big as a small pet and probably was about 9000 calories. But I got a small fry and diet coke, so I am going to be okay. Second, Anna Lange was ahead of me in line and tried to pay for her meal (19.40 shekels) with an American $20 bill. A manager was called to make change, and he gave her two coins totaling .60 shekels. She asked me if that was right, and I called for the manager who sheepishly gave her the additional 65 shekels she was owed. It was a pretty clear attempt to steal from an innocent tourist.
After our lunch, we drove to Bet Shean, another favorite of mine. Like Caesarea, this site is excavated to the Roman period, although the city has a long and important history. After starting in the theater (where Ben Stout reenacted scenes from Lord of the Rings, or maybe Gladiator, I could not really tell), the group divided, with some hiking to the top of the Tel while the rest followed me through the bathhouse, agora/market, and sacred precinct. There are several pools and a nicely restored public toilet. It was a bit cooler today, but still quite warm without shade, so we only stayed about two hours before heading to our hotel (and pool).
We arrived at Ma’agan Holiday resort in Galilee in time for the students to enjoy an hour or so in the pool before dinner. I have been using this hotel for ten years now, and I have to say it is my favorite in Israel. While the rooms are a little smaller than most hotels, but it is right on the Sea of Galille and the grounds are immaculately landscaped. The hotel has expanded and modernized the resturant. Most of the tables have a spectacular view of the Sea of Galilee and the dining area is much more appealing. Several students commented they enjoyed this food better than the Leonardo, and I thought the fried eggplant was phenomenal.
When I got to my room, I noticed my iPhone had slipped out of my pocket on the bus. Despite telling the students to double check their seats, I left my phone (and camera) behind on the bus. Fortunately the driver noticed it and called me on my Israeli phone to let me know. The downside is I do not have any pictures to post tonight. I will fix this when I get my phone back. Hopefully I can get this posted, the free internet at the hotel has not been reliable (although the Bruno Mars CD that has been playing all evening is working fine, sadly enough). Some of the guys are watching a soccer match in the lounge, looks like they are having a great time with some Israeli fans.
Tomorrow is devoted to the “Jesus sites” around Galilee, check back for updates tomorrow.