image Jaffa, Cesarea, Mount Carmel : My pilgrimage through Israel

Jaffa/Joppa/Japeth/Yofa — named for Noah’s son Japeth

I was able to Jaffa located in Israel (previously Palestine), Jaffa is a significant city in Christian history, it is where Christian history is transformed forever. Jaffa was a port city for ancient Israel, Jewish Legend says it was founded by Noah’s son. Jaffa is mentioned in the Old Testament (Jonah 1:3, 2 Chronicles 2:16), in the New Testament (Acts 9:36-43; Acts 10:5-23 & 11:5-10). Acts 10 we see that Peter is in Jaffa, Cornelius is in Cesearea.

I went with a tour group via Cruiselady.com land tours with a keynote speaker named Brent L Top, a professor at Brigham Young University in Utah who also has a degree in Middle Eastern studies and served several years as the President of Brigham Young University in Israel. Most of what I learned was from what Mr Top taught us. I have never learned so much and been so grateful for all that he was able to teach us.

I learned that Jaffa is where Peter, who had never partaken of animals that were unclean, didn’t associate with Gentiles either who were also considered, at the time, to be unclean. This is where we learn that Cesearea is actually a Gentile nation, and it was unlawful to associate with a Gentile if you were a Jew. It was asked of Peter by God to not call any man or any beast ‘common’.  This was a bit of a monumental thing for this time period, kind of like the ‘Iron Curtain’, the Berlin wall coming down, Sacrament meetings happening in Beijing China. There were those who held very strictly to the law of Moses, and this was something that went against that.

We left the city of Jaffa (that borders modern day Tel Aviv, Tel Aviv is where be began our Journey through Israel. There is a lot of Nightlife & clubs here. There is a common saying in Israel of, “In Jerusalem you pray, in Haifa they work, and in Tel Aviv they play”. If you decide to play at the night clubs in Tel Aviv, may I make a suggestion to my female readers? Don’t get drunk, don’t get in the car with strange men, and don’t go alone. Israel is a lot safer than the media makes it out to be, but I would definitely use the buddy system when the sun goes down, 2 is the minimum and 4 is best. The hotels here are very very nice, but the whole country follows the Jewish Laws of Kosher meals, so just anticipate that things are going to taste different, not bad, just different than you are use to because they do not touch dairy products to any meats and actually have separate kitchens for them. If you put them on the same plate, or ask them for cheese on a burger, or meat on your pizza, they will not be very pleased, but will politely inform you that is not allowed. This is at least what we ran into when we were eating our catered meals at the hotels we stayed at throughout the country.

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Our next stop was Cesaerea

Cesaerea was built by Herod in 22 BC, he had a summer palace here whose partial ruins are still visible, with an ampitheater, ancient tombs, broken sculptures surrounded by brilliant wild flowers and a movie that will show you the rise and fall and rise and fall of what is known as Cesaerea. Who was from Cesaerea? Usebius of Cesearea wrote the most significant history of the city, interestingly he was actually the close friend of Constantine. Where is Cesaerea significant in the scriptures? Acts chapter 9 from Luke: ‘hard to fight “against the Good or against the Barb”; Acts Chap 22 we see Paul defend himself to the Jewish people, which shows the beginning of his conversion, Acts Chapter 26 Phestus a Roman Kingdom, Paul is imprisoned & continues to defend Christianity; Acts 26:2-6 & 19-29 we see that Paul was a strict and conservative Pharisee & believed in the Resurrection of the Christ.

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In Caesarea we also see the Hippodrome, where chariot races occurred in the 2nd century AD, it had seating for nearly 40,000 people! That is pretty much like the amount of seating we see at the famous Wrigley field in Chicago, come to think of it Fenway park in Boston has less seating than the Hippodrome in Caesarea. It was 1500 feet long and 250 feet wide. There were also Aqueducts that brought drinking water from Mt Carmel (12 miles away) at the base of Mt Carmel.

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Make sure to dip your toes into the ocean! The beach isn’t really for those who want to lay out in swimming suits, you would be considered immodest and inappropriate given the history of the place. It is a little rocky, but my feet sure got a good exfoliation. It was just amazing that in 22 AD they could build things like this out of sheer force and will and yet I knew it was slaves who built these massive buildings.

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Next we were on to Mount Carmel (actually its a bunch of mountain ranges).

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Mt Carmel or Muhraka is used as a symbol for abundance , it was used as a sanctuary for lush vegetation, and has thousands of caves within the mountain range itself. Old Testament reference to Mt Carmel include: Isaiah 5:2, Jer 46:18; 50:19, Amos 1:2, 9:3.  Mount Carmel or Muhraka is actually where the showdown between Elijah and the priests of Baal happened (see 1 Kings 18:17-40); Elijah asked (not Ahab but the priests) “How long halt ye between two opinions?” this phrase literally means “How long will you , like a bird, hop from one bough to another?”.  Professor Top actually made a very good point, that these people had actually been traveling in the wilderness for so long, and all the sudden they were thrust into this land that was so unfamiliar to them. They had trouble growing crops, because it was a different climate. Well the idol Baal is actually a fertility God and was envisaged in terms of seven-year cycles of fertility. Baal was popular in ancient Egypt 1400-1075 BCE, the people of Moses escaped Egypt (proposed date) of 1200-1250 BCE, wandered in the ‘wilderness’ traditionally known as the desert areas of Jordan for 40 years, Every Israelite over twenty years of age when they left Egypt under Moses’ leadership was now dead, except for three people: Moses, Joshua, and Caleb (see Numbers 14:38). All the others had died without realizing their cherished blessing.  This was a period of time where the people had no central government, so they only had Judges. It was a terrible time for Israel. Saul, David, Solomon established the first Monarchy  and then at the death of Solomon, there were 2 divisions in Israel. There was a Northern division (Israel), and a Southern division (Judea). The Northern Kingdom was afflicted with Pagan Gods… like Baal. Well why would these people who wandered so long in the wilderness and their ancestors had been through so much, worship Pagan Gods? Well in that time the people’s wealth and livelihood is their flocks, that’s what they always have been. Well they inherit this land, where agriculture now needs to be a big part of their life, and soil is more like swampland at that time. So they ask the local people how they should go about growing their own crops, The locals tell them to worship the God Baal, who is the God of Fertility (not just of a sexual nature, but also of crops, and animals including sheep & cattle). The Israelites didn’t think anything of it because they wanted to develop the land. So insert a prophet and messenger of God who puts the Baal priests to shame and helps to get the Israelites back on track by challenging them to a duel. I will let you read the story for yourself, now that you have the background about where it comes from you will (or at least I did) enjoy and understand a lot more about what is being said.  After he explained most of what I mentioned here  and we read the story (1Kings 18:21-36),  he asked if we have our own feet planted firmly in the space where God exsists & lives or one where God is and the other where the God of Baal is if you will.

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He gave examples like Pornography and loose morals with sexual encounters, and go to Church on Sundays and feel that there is nothing in their life that they should work on. The point the scriptures make is that you can’t hold 2 ‘Gods’ in your heart, the whole thing about ‘No man can serve two masters’ popped into my mind. I think this is especially spot on for the 21-40 year old generations that are most involved in these things; I don’t think that people who enjoy those things are ‘lost’ or would classify them as ‘unrepentant sinners who have no hope’, I think it is a good point though….. that we have to choose what is more important to us, and what brings a more significant/stable and lasting joy to our lives. I actually just recently (March 2017) read an article that came out of Harvard, it was a study on nearly 700 participants over I think 80 years. The study was focused on what actually makes people happy; I found it interesting that this reputable University study found that the most important finding is that the only thing that matters in life is relationships. A man could have a successful career, money and good physical health, but without supportive, loving relationships, he wouldn’t be happy — ergo those one-night stands, or sleeping with people you don’t remember the names of the next day…..probably not going to contribute to your happiness as much in the long run as finding ‘the one’ that you can spend the rest of your life with. The study also found strong relationships to be far and away the strongest predictor of life satisfaction. And in terms of career satisfaction, too, feeling connected to one’s work was far more important than making money or achieving traditional success. In addition, creative expression and positive coping mechanisms lead to greater happiness in the long run. They found that no matter what type of background the individuals had those with these tools in their emotional toolbox were much more likely to report happiness or satisfaction in their life and work. For example: Beethoven being able to cope with misery through his art was when he wrote  Ode to Joy, he was able to connect with his music and express his pain through it = a good cooping mechanism.

In any case as you can see this has spurred a lot of thinking on my part as I often get so caught up in the societal thinking of attaching self worth to job position, title, worshiping those movie stars that exhibit behaviors that are not exactly encouraged to emulate in one’s own life, as well as the constant barrage of commercials how, you could be more beautiful if you…..had less wrinkles, had a smaller waist, are a size xyz, have long hair, have a long waist and long arms etc etc etc…. The list could go on and on for both genders and the pressure we put on each other and ourselves to be perfect. So in the end we do exactly what these Israelites did, we start worshiping the makeup gods, the spanx gods, the ‘I wanna be sexy’ gods, the ‘I don’t have a good sex life’ god, I need to make more money gods, I want to be in charge of everyone and everything gods; and I think at least for myself I get caught up in this conundrum and eventually things like this make me take a step back and ask…… 1. What is it that makes me happy? 2. (when making a decision) ask Will this make me happy or am I really doing it for reason xyz , and 3. What is really important, and is this really important to helping me achieve the person I want to be or who I feel I can be according to my own standards of what I feel a good person is based off of those realistic hero’s in my life.

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Next blog post I will be taking you on my Journey through Jezreel Valley, Nazareth at the Church of Annunciation, and Mt Tebor (Mount of Transfiguration)

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