Last night at dinner, our guide joked that a phone call to God from Israel is cheap because it is a local call. I think he might be right. The land where Jesus was born, lived, preached and died all fits into a spot on the map the same size as New Jersey. This center for Islam, Judaism and Christianity doesn’t take long to drive across, but it could take years to properly explore because around every corner lies another ancient site dating back to the Old Testament and beyond.
My first day in the one and only Holy Land began with a trip to a palace built by King Herod in Caesarea. Now made into a national park, the area holds archeological ruins from the time of Christ including a remarkably intact Roman Theater. As my guide helped me imagine the wealth and splendor of the once mighty port city on the Mediterranean, I felt transported to the movie Ben-Hur, since part of the extensive ruins featured a huge stadium that charioteers once raced around holding on to their chariots for dear life. To help me visualize the past grandeur of the site, the park had a museum with interactive exhibits and a video that virtually transformed the palace remains into a thriving metropolis.
The rest of the day I had to keep reminding myself that I wasn’t dreaming as I toured site after site pertaining to the life of Jesus Christ. Each site straight out of the Bible had its own church devoted to its Christian connections, including Nazareth’s Basilica of the Annunciation, Cana’s Wedding Church and Mount Tabor’s Church of the Transfiguration. Worn out from a plentiful dinner of lamp chops, goose liver and fruit crepes, I fully expect to fall straight asleep before embarking for more holy adventures tomorrow.
The Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth
Caesarea National Park
View from Mt. Tabor