i’ve had a difficult time trying to decide where to start on documenting our trip to the holy land. it was just such a marvelous two weeks – enriching in many different ways, full of beauty and wonder - a really spectacular vacation. i want to post about things we learned and singular extraordinary experiences we had, about tips for traveling in that part of the world, about what it was like (so divine!) to share this place, that is both so personally dear to me and hugely significant to the whole world, with my true love. there’s a lot to say and that i want to record. but today i decided i better just start at the beginning – so here’s a recap of our first day in the holy land!
we arrived in tel aviv late on saturday. we were greeted by nightime air that was so warm and heavy with the scent of orange blossoms. we picked up our rental car and drove to our airbnb in jaffa. we found some food to eat and then went to sleep, excited to start our exploring in the morning! we drove first thing to caesarea on the coast.
the aqueduct at caesarea was built by herod in the first century bc and brought water to the city of caesarea from the springs of nearby mt. carmel. it was ten km long and most of it is still standing today! we were able to get up on top of the aqueduct and marvel at its history and the beauty of its surroundings.
the ruins of the city of caesarea are really neat. i actually didn’t get to see these when i did my study abroad semester in the holy land, because the site happened to be closed on the day our field trip brought us along the coast. caesarea was a great start to our two weeks of exploring lots of ruins. it’s really amazing to be in a place like this and imagine what it was like thousands of years ago. we constantly laughed throughout our trip that in america we think something from 1700 is super old. once you’ve been to the holy land, seeing something dated in the common era (after christ) really isn’t very impressive!
caesarea’s setting right there on the mediterranean sea is pretty stunning.
^^ the hippodrome! thrilling horse and chariot races went down here two thousand years ago. ^^
^^ my first glimpse of the holy land wildflowers i fell in love with nine years ago. back then, i was totally a wildflower kleptomaniac and always had my hair full of picked stems. i’ve since learned it’s probably best to let them be :) ^^
^^ the remains of the swimming pool in herod’s palace! ^^
^^ most of the ruins we visited throughout our trip are not just tourist destinations but also active archeological sites. we saw lots of workers carefully excavating. here’s a few on a lunch break! :) ^^
our next stop was the baha’i gardens in haifa. this is one of the most striking places i remember visiting nine years ago – the landscaping down the slope of mt. carmel to the mediterranean is incredibly beautiful and i loved learning about the baha’i faith. unfortunately, the boy and i happened to show up at the gardens on a baha’i holiday, so we couldn’t go in to tour around. i was pretty bummed becuase i checked and double checked the opening times online. but oh well! we’ll be back one day … and the view was still worth a stop!
we decided to head up to the top of mt. carmel to the site traditionally considered to be where the prophet elijah in the old testament called down fire from heaven. we read the story from 2 kings and enjoyed the amazing sweeping views over the jezreel valley (which is chock full of biblical significance).
we headed next to nazareth, where jesus spent his childhood. nazareth is today a quite big, quite modern city – so you really have to use your imagination when thinking about jesus as a boy there so long ago. we enjoyed some delicious lunch before visiting the church of the annunciation (commemorating the event of the angel gabriel appearing to the virgin mary and informing her that she would bear the son of god).
^^ on our walk to the church, we noticed some palm branches in the streets, as it was palm sunday! it was the start of an incredible holy week for us. ^^
^^ all around the perimeter of the church of the annunciation, there are mosaics depicting the virgin mary representing dozens of different countries. i love all these different depictions of the same beloved, sacred story. ^^
^^ many of the christian sites we visited include a particular revered spot speculated to be where a specific event occurred (pictured here: an altar over the place where the angel appeared to mary). we are definitely of the opinion that the reality of the event itself matters much more than the exact location of its happening – but it’s neat to have a specific spot dedicated to think on miracles and faith. ^^
we also went to “mary’s well,” a different spot commemorating the annunciation, and to a lookout point over the city of nazareth, before we continued northeast towards the sea of galilee.
^^ making the birds fly at mary’s well :) ^^
our last stop of the day was mt. tabor, a peak considered my many to be the location of jesus’s transfiguration. as our car wound up the hillside, the sun and clouds provided a spectacular show, and we had to get out of the car to snap some photos. it was so otherworldly and beautiful!
the church at the top of mt. tabor is so pretty and peaceful. we read together from the new testament and enjoyed the last bit of light of our first day in the holy land exploring the grounds and ruins.
next, we spent four days around the sea of galilee – a truly incredible place both due to its natural beauty and its spiritual significance. to be continued…!