We made it!

If you have read my most recent post, you know that wasn’t always guaranteed. My second trip to Israel started off under difficult circumstances, to say the least. Snow was still everywhere when we left Newark and another front was on its way. But when we lifted off at just before 4 Tuesday afternoon, it was smooth flying all the way to Tel Aviv.

The weather here, by the way is perfect. The high is about 65-70 and the nights are in the high 40s. Sorry to all of you who are suffering with snow and ice. Wish you where here.

For those of you who have toured with Tony Crisp in the past, you know that there is no easing into your time in the Holy Land. Once you land and gather your luggage (at about 10 a.m. local time), you immediately board a bus and begin seeing sites.

The first spot we hit was Caesarea by the Sea, the palace home of the Herod the Great, who was Rome’s puppet king of Israel during the time of the birth of Christ. Impressive in ruins, it was surely spectacular in all its glory. The picture below is of our guide, Kenny, standing outside the amphitheater near a Roman statue that dates to the time of Christ. All of the statues were beheaded by Muslims when they took over the area several hundred years later.The next photo is inside the amphitheater. It’s a huge stadium where most likely Roman theater was performed. That’s Dr. Crisp in the orange sweater.

The next shot is of part of the ruins of the castle grounds itself, which juts right out into the Mediterranean Sea. In fact, Herod had his private bedroom built in a man-made tidal basin, so that he could have own swimming pool right outside the door.

From there, we went to lunch at a Druse village near Mt. Carmel, where newcomers to Israel were introduced to falaffles, which is a sandwich of crushed, fried chick peas in pita bread (it’s better than it sounds, really). From there, we climbed (by bus) to the top of Mt. Carmel, the site where the prophet Elijah defeated and slew the prophets of Baal in I Kings 18-19. You can see the entire Jezreel valley and, since it was so clear, almost to the Sea of Galilee. If you are not familiar with this name of the valley, then you might recognize it as the Valley of Armageddon, where the Bible says the final battle of this earth will take place.

Our final stop of the day was at Mt. Precipice in Nazareth, which also overlooks the Jezreel valley. Nazareth, as I’m sure you know, was the boyhood home of Jesus. The spot where we were is thought to be the place where the people of Nazareth tried to throw Jesus off a cliff when he claimed to be God in Luke 4. There is a small park there and I was able to capture this shot as the sun was going down.

It was truly a spectacular day and a great start to the trip. I only hope the rest is this awesome.

More to come.