Caesarea Maritima, Netanya, Mount Carmel, Elijah’s Caves, Megiddo, Tiberias on the Sea of Galilee
During breakfast, the fire-eaters among us try to hustle those who chew more thoroughly than thou:
“Hey, we’ve got a big day on Mount Carmel!”
Our bus shoots us straight west to Tel Aviv, where we turn north along the beach.
About 26 minutes north of Tel Aviv, we start rubber-necking at the modern city of Netanya.
“Did five settlers really put shovels in the sand in 1929 to start this place?”
“True enough,” our guide replies. “And in 2015 the census counted 207,946 residents — from the former Soviet Union, France, Ethiopia, the United Kingdom, United States, Canada, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand.”
Caesarea on the sea
Half way between Tel Aviv and Haifa we stop at Caesarea Maritima, the city Herod the Great (25 – 13 BC) built and named for his boss, Caesar. A few years later, Governor Felix kept Paul in prison here for two years hoping for a bribe.
We arrive at lunch time in the Mt. Carmel Grill. The flame-broiled burgers make us think of Elijah’s challenge: “The god who answers by fire is the true God.” Pity those poor prophets as they shouted, “Baal! Put your fire under our bull!” Frenzied at first. Then lower leaps, slower steps. Like bunnies with the wrong batteries, they ground to a halt. No fire. No answer. No god.
The fire fell
Then — remember? — it was Elijah’s turn. He slaughtered a bull, laid it on the altar, poured on 12 barrels of water, and asked, “Lord, let people know you are the God of Israel….” And the fire fell. The fire of the Lord. It burned up the meat and the wood, the stones, the dirt, and the water.
We jump into this scene and stand just behind Ira, Elijah’s young friend. We look over his shoulder and hope for signs of rain. Sure enough! Soon we yell, “A cloud the size of a man’s hand! Coming up out of the sea just south of Cyprus!”
It’s now time for us to show the polite respect of a guest. Even though we know Elijah hid in a cave clear at the other end of the country and scripture shows no record of him entering a cave near Mt. Carmel, we humor the dear souls who hung “Elijah” signs on two caves here in the north.
Under the altar
One is the Stella Maris Church. It’s a fun ride up the cable car and then a great view of the sea! Of course, when we poke our nose inside we realize, “Just another church, this one with a cave tucked under the altar.”
We drive southeast a few kilometers to stand at this strategic pass cutting into the Jezreel Valley. Now we begin to understand why so many armies have fought for the plain of Megiddo.
On the bus we huddle and trade our favorite interpretations of Revelation 16:16 “And they assembled them at the place that in Hebrew is called Harmagedon.”
An hour later we put our feet down in Tiberias. As we settle into another comfy Leonardo Hotel, we sneak looks across the Sea of Galilee at the Golan bluffs.