Caesarea was a bit of a bus ride away and we found ourselves on the coast near the Mediterranean Sea. Caesarea was built around 22 BCE during the time of Herod the Great. It was important for us to see it because it is where some of the first Christian community was formed. Paul was imprisoned here for nearly two years before being sent to Rome, but unfortunately there are no remnants of the prison left. Like many other places here, Caesarea experienced conquest after conquest and the ruins were built upon many times over. One really neat thing about Casarea is that our tour guide Menzur had worked here as an archaeologist himself and shared some unique tidbits others might not have known. We also learned that it was right there in Caesarea that the concept of First/Gold, Second/Silver and Third/Bronze became known. Even our modern day Olympics can say thanks for that!
Our next stop on this busy day was El Meggido National Park. After another delicious lunch we walked through the ancient city gates and made our way up to the top of the hi where many of the ruins have been uncovered. Meggido comes from the same word for Armageddon, so this is the place where it is believed that the final battle for good/God to overcome evil, will take place. (I guess I never realized hat Armageddon was a place, not necessarily a time!). Meggido was conquered and rebuilt 25 different times, but is important to us because King David conquered and resettled this land/city on the 16th time.
Meggido had a grain silo to ensure the town had food and also had a unique way of getting water into the city. The water source was outside the city so in order to get water safely and without compromising the safety of the city, they built a tunnel underground into one of their cisterns. That way they could fetch water without ever having to open the gates of the city. We walked 183 steps down into the tunnel, through the tunnel and 80 steps back up the tunnel and for some that was a real accomplishment! Seeing all these different cisterns makes one very aware just how important water was to these societies, and how meaningful it would have been for Jesus to tell someone that he can quench that eternal thirst.
After visiting the end of the world, Armageddon, or Meggido, we made our way to Nazareth where we visited the church of the annunciation. Many people in Nazareth lived in caves at the time of the announcement to Mary, and some people still live in caves in Nazareth, today. But according to our tour guide they now have electricity and cable in their caves! The Church of the Annunciation was built on top of the cave in which they believe Mary received the announcement that she would carry and deliver God's Son. A beautiful church, it has many different paintings dedicated to Mary and the Annunciation.
Our final stop for the day was at the Church at Cana, where Jesus performed his first sign. There are actually two churches in Cana, right next to each other, that lay claim to THE spot, the Catholic Church and the Greek Orthodox Church. We visited a newer Catholic Church that was of course built on top of the ruins of another church, and another from many centuries ago. The Catholic Church in Cana used to sell and make wine, and would also give a bottle of wine to those who were getting married. Unfortunately for Laura, they don't still do that, oh well!
After another full day we made our way to Tiberias where we will overnight next to the Sea of Galilee before a few more spots, and then back to Jordan tomorrow. We appreciate the continued prayers for safe journey and keep checking that Facebook for more photos!