We’ve headed North to the lovely Galilee. I’d really been looking forward to checking out the stories of Jesus’ ministry and the dynamics of the area where he grew up and spent most of his life.
We began at Beth-shean/Scythopolis, beautiful, pagan city of Rome’s. It was the only Decapolis city west of the Jordan River. The Decapolis was comprised of 10 cities built as a sort of evangelizing outreach of Rome. I found it pretty interesting that Rome wanted to get their influence out so much that they came and settled towns here in Israel and built them up like mini Roman cities. Each of the ten cities in this area were built with the same pattern so if a Roman soldier was familiar with one he could easily find his way around any of the other nine. There is the bathhouse, enormous theater and wide pillared streets. All footprints of Rome and its affluent culture.
At times I realize how much I really like Beth-shean and start to think, “Wow, finally a really civilized city with lots of preserved streets, pillars and buildings.” And yet I don’t want to like all this when I think about the awful Greek lifestyle that came along with it. A purposeful move to lure people into living a life of luxury and self-indulgence and away from relying on the One True God. It may feel good to live it up for awhile but what really counts in life? What about all those people who were below par and had to struggle through life there being looked down on and mistreated? This magnificent city was destroyed by an earthquake in 749 and all this beauty that was built for pleasure and power, now lays in ruins.
We drove up along the beautiful Jezreel Valley to Megiddo. It was taken from the Canaanites by Thutmose III. He snuck up through the hills and surprised the unsuspecting Caananites and could have easily taken the city but all of the army was so overtaken by the spoils in the camp that the townspeople had time to gather together and take shelter inside the walls. Egypt ended up laying seige to the city for seven months before they were able to take it. They fortified Megiddo for some time then. Solomon also built up this city during his reign.
Its great to read the story of Deborah and Barak in Judges 4 while looking at the geographical context of things. Their songs in chapter 5 refers to the mighty waters of the Kishon River that carried away the Canaanite army but it must be a funny play on words because the Kishon was only a tiny stream that ran through the Jezreel Valley. Since the valley was low-laying it was marshy and wet most of the year and it is highly probable that wheels of their wonderful chariots got stuck in the goo which, of course, would have caused some major problems for fighting.
We moved west from there to Mt. Caramel and the miracle with Elijah. What would it be like to live here without rain for three years? Seeing the results of the East Wind while we sat overlooking the valley was annoying because visibility was awful but also helped me to feel just a bit what it would have been like. To sense this tension between the Baal prophets and Elijah’s God and then the power that was unleashed when the fire fell and the awe of the people who cried out, “The LORD—he is God!”
We ended our day on the Nazareth Ridge just above the modern city of Nazareth. The ridge overlooks the Jezreel Valley but has such a strong cliff face that tapping into trade below would have been extremely difficult. I loved the thought of Jesus’ playing here as a young boy while all these important stories were happening in the valley just below.
We headed to Kibbutz Ein Gev (our hotel/retreat) on the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee. The food at amazing. I wish I would have shot a few pictures. A huge salad buffet, another with meat, rice, potatoes or pasta. There was soup and bread and the most amazing non-dairy desserts you’ve ever tasted. Ah, we’re spoiled! And then we got to stay in lovely little cottages with a kitchenette stocked with coffee and tea, a table and enough beds for six people though we only had four. It was really nice and I of course forgot to take a picture of ours. 😦 Sorry! But the best part was that it was right on the shore of the sea and if you wanted you could just run out for dip after dinner or walk along the shore early in the morning. Yes, it was a great day.