Tiberias: Day 1

We backtracked this morning, driving about 30 minutes south and then west to the archaeological site (and town) of Beit Shean.  We wandered through the Roman ruins of this town, marveling at the amphitheater and the patches of mosaic tile scattered through the ruins.  

Then it was off to Megiddo, an amazingly ancient site (ruins date back to roughly 3000 years before Christ!).  It goes by the name Armegeddon as well, and is the purported site of the future last battle between good and evil.  Given the volatile nature of this region, I can believe it!  But overlooking the Jezreel Valley, everything is so peaceful and beautiful – a patchwork of verdant green crops and deep, blood-brown soil awaiting cultivation – that except for the loud presence of Israeli warplanes crossing the sky every so often, I might believe that this would be the last place on earth for war.  But Megiddo has been destroyed and rebuilt at least 25 times over 7000 years.  Perhaps that is more than adequate testimony to the potential for war in this beautiful place.
Next we drove to Nazareth, the home town of not only Jesus, but our guide Shahdi as well.  We saw the Church of the Annunciation, built over ruins that are marked by second century inscriptions indicating that this was the dwelling place of Mary the mother of Jesus.  The newly built church is amazing in itself – very traditional looking from the outside, but contrasted with stark concrete on the inside and decorated by amazing, massive artwork from all over the world depicting Mary.  
We drove up the street to Mary’s Well and the Russian Orthodox church that houses it.  It also turned out to be Shahdi’s home church, and they were busy scrubbing and cleaning in preparation for a visit from their Patriarch.  
We left Nazareth and drove to Mt. Tabor.  This is the mountain traditionally associated with Jesus’ transfiguration, as it is close to Nazareth and the Galilee, and is the only free-standing mountain in the whole area.  We survived a rather crazy taxi ride to the top of the mountain where a church and monastary commemorate the holy mountain.  The taxi ride down in the dark was considerably less exciting, unfortunately!
Then it was back to our hotel for dinner.  The group surprised me with a thank-you gift of a beautiful olive-wood carving.  We had seen them at our first gift-shop stop in Bethlehem, where the artist had been on hand to sign pieces that people bought.  I was completely stunned at the gift and the thought behind it.  How blessed I am to be experiencing all of this with wonderful people!  We enjoyed wine with dinner, then it was time to blog and go to bed.  Although the rest of the group gets to sleep in late tomorrow, I’m actually getting up much, much earlier – at 4:40AM, to be ready by 5:00AM to drive off with our guide and tour host to check out a nearby archaeological site.  It will be fun, I’m sure – but painful!

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