Our goal was to leave Jerusalem at 8 o’clock sharp this morning, but that did not happen since a pair of students oversleep and unfortunately leave their phone off the hook so that could not be called. By the time I pounded on the door we were about 40 minutes late. The only one who is happy about this was our friendly neighborhood scarf salesman who was able to sell another 45 scarfs to the group waiting on the bus. Lest anyone think of exaggerating let me assure you I am not. If you know somebody on the trip (spoiler alert), you’re going to get a scarf for a souvenir.
Our trip to Caesarea went quickly. Since it was the Sabbath it was virtually no traffic on the road. Caesarea has always been one of my favorite places to visit on an Israel trip. The city is Herod’s tribute to the Roman Empire. By building such a beautiful city Herod demonstrates he is the ideal Roman client king and makes the claim that Judea is not something backwards end of the Roman empire, it can hold its own against any other Greco Roman city.
As for biblical significance, Caesarea is the city Peter visit when he preached to Cornelius in Acts 10. In Acts 12 Herod Agrippa was struck dead when he entered the theater looking like a God (a story confirmed by Josephus). Philip the Evangelist lived in Caeseara with his four daughters when Paul passed through the city on his return from Ephesus. Paul also spent two years under house arrest awaiting trial will Felix was the governor. It is what it was it Caesarea that Paul made his famous appeal to Ceasar. There is a cistern in Herod’s palace at Caesarea which claims to be the prison of the apostle Paul, but I think this has about a zero percent chance of being accurate. Since Paul was a Roman citizen it is highly unlikely he he would have been held in a cistern for two years (or at all for that matter).
After we visited the theater, many of the more adventurous students went down to the beach area to pick up shells and put their feet in the Mediterranean Sea, all the while ignoring the signs telling them to stay off the beach. I of course implored them all to come back, but they did not hear me (or simply ignored me). All in all was a good time.
From the beach area we walked across the hippodrome and explored some of the larger buildings the bathhouse storage areas and shops of the Byzantine Caesarea. The rest of Caesarea is preserved crusader castle that has been converted into a number of shops and restaurants. We enjoyed gelato, coffee, and several pizzas before leaving the site.
From Caesarea we traveled through Mount Carmel, past Megiddo and across the plain of Jezreel to Beth She’an near the Sea of Galilee. It was now quite late in the day and they were virtually no other tourists in the park. Bet She’an is excavated to the first century and features a mostly restored theater, a cardo with several restored shops and a large bath house complex. A favorite feature of this site is the sacred area and the water system that leads to several swimming pools and an ancient public toilet. Students seem to like sitting on the public toilets and posing for the camera.
We arrive at out hotel at the Sea of Galilee about 4:30, allowing the students plenty of time in the pool. We are staying at Ma’agan, the most beautiful resorts in Israel. Tomorrow we will visit quite a few sites related to the life of Jesus.