“…And Elijah went up to the top of Mount Carmel. And he bowed himself down on the earth and put his face between his knees. And he said to his servant, “Go up now, look toward the sea.” And he went up and looked and said, “There is nothing.” And he said, “Go again,” seven times. And at the seventh time he said, “Behold, a little cloud like a man’s hand is rising from the sea.” And he said, “Go up, say to Ahab, ‘Prepare your chariot and go down, lest the rain stop you.’” And in a little while the heavens grew black with clouds and wind, and there was a great rain. And Ahab rode and went to Jezreel. And the hand of the Lord was on Elijah, and he gathered up his garment and ran before Ahab to the entrance of Jezreel.” 1 Kings 18:42-46
The fascinating account of Elijah’s duel with the many prophets of Baal played out in my mind today as we drove narrow, winding roads up the side of Mount Carmel. It must have been quite a show: lone Elijah up against Ahab, 450 prophets of Baal, 400 prophets of Asheroth, as well as the wishy-washy people of Israel, whom he addressed with this exasperated declaration:
“How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him. And the people did not answer him a word.” (1 Kings 18:21)
On the rooftop of the Carmelite monastery at the top of Mt. Carmel, there is a staggeringly beautiful view of the hills and valleys below. I wondered what it looked like on the day of Elijah’s duel with the false prophets. I wondered, in that time of drought, where they got the water to pour, and pour, and pour again over the sacrificed animal. I wondered if the people of Israel cowered in fear or cheered in victory as God sent fire to consume the animal, the wood, the stones, the dust, and the water. I wondered about the violent scene that followed, where all of the false prophets were slaughtered. As I peered through the haze to locate the Mediterranean, I wondered what the gathering raincloud looked like as it formed over the sea. And I wondered why we, like those children of Israel, often can’t make up our minds to trust in the goodness and promises of God, but instead turn to empty, worthless idols that leave us searching for more.
WHAT. A. DAY.
It had a sad beginning for us, as we got word from home that our sweet Baci had died. It is hard to think of her hurting and us not being there to comfort her, and it hurts to imagine driving up and not seeing her tail waving in the air. She was the sweetest, easiest, most loyal doggie we could have ever wanted. We will miss her.
I intended to mention the election yesterday. We haven’t seen any news but have heard that Netanyahu won. We have heard mixed feelings about him here. It doesn’t seem that anyone was surprised that he won. Today, posters were still up and political fliers and trash littered the streets.
We got up at 5:30 and met downstairs at 6:30 for a beautiful breakfast of just about anything you can imagine, and then some! All kinds of breads, cheeses, fresh vegetables and fruits, boiled eggs, granola, yogurt, cottage cheese, and fresh fish.
We were in the van by 7:10, heading north toward Mount Carmel.
Our driver, Yossi was very accommodating as we asked to stop numerous times for pictures. We will have to put some sort of leash on Doug, since he went off-roading over barbed wire fences and down through random pastures, hanging upside down from branches (just kidding, Mom and Karen!) to find the perfect image.
Maybe I need to put some sort of muzzle on him too…John said “well, my sweet wife is on board (the van)!” And Doug replied, “Well, Carla’s on board.” I guess the brother-sister thing never ends, does it?
9 a.m. found us at the Carmelite monastery atop Mt. Carmel. We had the place to ourselves for a little while, as we started the filming process with John’s lesson entitled “The View from Mount Carmel”. Trying to get the audio just right was interesting, as the men who were whitewashing the rooftop below kept getting phone calls, and then fighter jets kept flying over, and then a huge tour group arrived and stomped around the rooftop (who invited them, anyway?? I suppose they were interested in the view from Mt. Carmel, too.) The view truly was beautiful, with an almost 180 degree panorama of miles and miles of little towns, farmland, foothills, and the Mediterranean Sea beyond.
We then continued north to Haifa, the largest city in northern Israel (third largest in the country.) It seemed to be very modern, though with a different architectural feel than what I’m accustomed to. We were in search of a flowering fruit tree, and John was very specific about what he was looking for. Yossi again accommodated us and took us to the Baha’i Gardens. The gardens are high up in the Carmel Mountain range, overlooking the harbor in Haifa. John got the shot he was hoping for, and we moved on in search of lunch.
And we learned that it’s pretty hard to make nine different stomachs happy.
We ended up back in Caesarea (pressed for time) at a little food shack. I ordered Shakshuka, and you can find pictures and a recipe here. I will withhold my review, until you are feeling a tad adventurous and can try it for yourself. I realize that it looks like Chicken Parmesan. I can assure you, though, it is not. Some had sandwiches. John had a fantastic Greek salad. Others were happy that I had packed some bread and peanut butter.
We then made our way over to the Roman aqueduct in Caesarea. Because Caesarea was such a popular destination, water was in great demand. Herod built the first aqueduct and finished it (I believe) in about 10 B.C. Incredibly, this aqueduct brought water all the way from Mount Carmel, a distance of about eight miles. The emperor Hadrian added a second acqueduct. Disrepair led to another acqueduct being built in the Crusaders period. And yet another was built during the Byzantine period. Set in the sand just about 50 yards from the deep blue Mediterranean, it is an arresting sight.
From there we went a little further on the coastline to the remains of Herod “the Great”’s very excessive palace. Among many other luxuries, he had a swimming pool hewn into the sandstone bedrock and then coated with hydraulic plaster, and filled with fresh water. This was just steps from the Mediterranean Sea. We walked through the Hippodrome and went on to look at some beautiful mosaics and marble baths. I couldn’t help thinking of my friend Kim and her love of quilts – these mosaics look just like a gorgeous patchwork quilt!
Gary filmed at several spots here – and his final one was shot at sunset on the edge of the Mediterranean, where he talked about Peter, Philip, Paul, and Cornelius walking the streets of Caesarea, and the first Gentile converts that were baptized into Christ here. We stood and watched the sun set and sang “How Great Thou Art!” Mat perched on a rock and caught the beautiful sun as it slipped below the horizon, while Philip launched out into the deep.
Most of the day, John was running from place to place “encouraging” everyone to hurry…but it’s hard to hurry when you’re in the middle of fascinating history! But he and Jon stopped long enough for a silly pose.
We just finished our evening meal and a meeting back here at the hotel, our last night here. I went to supper looking like this…and I don’t even care!
Up tomorrow: Rick, John, and Jon filming at Megiddo, the Jezreel Valley, Nazareth, and Cana! And I don’t know if I can keep my eyes open long enough to finish this senten
Just kidding. Sentence. I hope there are no serious typos. Please continue praying for us! We are all well, sunburned and already – as my dad would say – T.A.R.D. TIRED!