Lent::40 Days in Israel:Atlanta, Tel-Aviv, Caesarea by the Sea, Megiddo...


A year ago this very weekend, Louis and I were headed to Atlanta where we would catch our first flight toward Israel. 

I've shared very little about that trip -- mostly because it has taken months for us to absorb and reflect on what we learned and experienced. We'd fly back in a heartbeat, because we know there's so much more to learn and explore than those ten last March allowed. 

My hope is to post a few of the thousands of photos I took on that trip last March during Lent this year -- on Instagram and Facebook Monday through Saturday, and a repost of those photos here on the following Sunday through Easter. Today's posts are from this past Wednesday (Ash Wednesday), the first day of Lent, through yesterday.

I've flown in and out of Atlanta's airport several times. Their domestic terminal is a nightmare, but their international terminal (see below) was surprisingly peaceful and easy to navigate. It set me up for false expectations overseas. 

[Atlanta International Terminal]

After a long sleepless overnight flight, we landed in Frankfurt, Germany, and an airport that made even Atlanta's domestic terminal seem tame. Maybe it was because we were flying on to Israel, but we had to go through two more levels of security (though we never left the terminal or changed airlines) and walk forever through what felt like an unending maze before reaching the departure gate. Next time we fly to Israel, we'll book a direct flight from the U.S. Exhausted and a bit flustered, we were still excited to be almost there.

Most of that first day, arriving in Tel-Aviv near dusk and even into the first day of the tour, is a bit of a blur, and though we were completely at the mercy of others to guide and direct us, we could not have been in better hands. We were well prepared for this tour with Insight for Living Ministries months in advance, but some things just have to be experienced for ourselves before they are comfortable. I'd love to tour Israel again with the knowledge and experience I gained this time. I'd be more relaxed, sleep better, and therefore, be more attentive. 

[Top to bottom, L to R: Airport in Tel-Aviv, Tel-Aviv and Mediterranean Sea sunset while on the bus to our hotel, hotel lobby, greeting on the screen and our very modern hotel room, Tour Welcome Dinner, Jade Bus 7 Leaders introduced, Donna from Insight for Living Ministries greeting us on the bus our first morning in Israel as we leave Tel-Aviv]

After breakfast, we left Tel-Aviv for Tiberias with stops in Caesarea, Mount Carmel, and Megiddo. I can't remember exactly how many people were on our tour, but it was around 700. For most of the time, we were divided into 14 smaller groups, and each group had slightly different daily schedules that prevented all 700 of us from being at the same place at the same time, but almost every day, there was a time and place where we were all together for worship and a message from Dr. Swindoll. Each of the smaller groups was assigned to a different bus designated by a color and a number (our bus was Jade Bus 7), and each bus was staffed with an Israeli guide, a spiritual mentor from Dallas Theological Seminary, and a shepherd from Insight for Living Ministries. I'll share more in the future about the amazing guide, mentors and shepherds we were privileged to have on Jade Bus 7. 

Leaving Tel-Aviv, the buses traveled north along the Mediterranean Sea to Caesarea, a port city founded by Herod the Great in 22 B.C., and named in honor of Augustus Caesar. Caesarea was the seat of the Roman Government for over 500 years, as well as the home of the Roman procurators, including Pontius Pilate.

At Caesarea, we sat on the stone benches in the restored Herodian theater by the sea for worship that included special music by David Phelps, a performance by Dr. Reg Grant characterizing Herod Agrippa, and a teaching from Pastor Swindoll.

It was at Caesarea that Philip and Peter preached, Cornelias was baptized, and Paul was imprisoned for two years -- making his defense before Felix, Festus and King Herod Agrippa II. 
[Caesarea by the Sea]

From Caesarea by the Sea, we headed NE toward Megiddo in the Jezreel Valley--the prime international highway that connected all ancient kingdoms. The main road through Mount Carmel (a range of mountains) also passed through Megiddo. The first recorded battle in history, during the late bronze age, occurred in Megiddo, and it's at the Hill of Megiddo that the last battle just before Christ returns is prophesied in Revelations 16 to take place. 

Megiddo's location was strategic for traffic and trade. Archaeologists claim that there are twenty-six levels on Megiddo's 20 acres representing every period in Israel's ancient history.

A tripartite gate (top right photo below) dates from the time of King Solomon. Deborah and Barak fought General Sisera, Solomon used Megiddo as a defense post, and King Josiah was killed here. 

[Megiddo and the Jezebel Valley]

Next Week: Monday - Saturday on Instagram and Facebook: Mount Carmel, Tiberias, Mount of Beatitudes, Tel Dan, Banias, Caesarea Philippi, and Golan Heights.