Arrival, Caesarea Maritima

Our plane landed in Tel Aviv, at about 10:30 a.m., local time.  We met our guide, Ramzi and our driver, Nezi – both Arab Christian men.  When all was said and done, we left Ben Gurion airport around noon.  It was a short 45 minute drive to Caesarea by the Sea.  The weather was cooler than we had been expecting when we peeled off all our layers at the airport and packed them under the bus.  The cool air wasn’t too distracting though, as we breathed in the expansive beauty of the Mediterranean Sea.  Our first stop though was to feed our hungry, tired bodies with “sandwiches”.  “Sandwich” is what our tour guides call pita stuffed with our choice of falafel, shawarma, or schnitzel and this is mostly what our lunches will consist of, for the bulk of our trip.  Caesarea is a port city and was important to all of the different empires in Israel’s history.  Our tour started at the “Crusader” part of the park.  We quickly moved on to look upon a minaret from the 19th century, when Bosnian immigrants moved in.  From there we walked over ruins from the Roman era, including a hippodrome (where they would do chariot races), the remains of a sort of verandah from Herod’s palace (what Cameron referred to as his summer home), Paul’s jail, and a Roman theatre.

As the students reflected this evening on what they saw, a number of them were pleasantly surprised by all the green.  I suppose there’s an expectation, when reading these stories in the Bible, that they all happened in and amongst piles of dirt and sand.  In previous years, some students have made the comment of “reading the Bible in green”.  This is one of my favourite aspects of this trip, as I personally connect with God so well in and amongst nature.  We will have a lot more of this in the next few days.

One thing that is pretty special about this year, is that we have Cameron McKenzie with us.  Cameron is the Academic Dean and VP for Providence University College.  He is also an Old Testament professor with a wealth of knowledge that Jeff and I simply don’t have (Jeff excels in New Testament and I excel in counselling psychology).  Cameron also happens to be quite clever and quick on his feet so when Jeff asked him this morning to talk on Caesarea this afternoon, Cameron was equipped for the task.  I can only assume that he’ll have a lot to share with us every day.  Today, Cameron chose to talk about the juxtaposition of how important the city of Caesarea was with its history of extreme violence (the Roman theatre was used for gladiator fights and the hippodrome had equally dreadful torture that went on there) and how important it was in terms of evangelism.  This place of violence and torture (did I mention that Herod was bring guests out to his veranda for a dip in the pool and poison?) was also the place where God chose to reach out to the Gentiles, first in the story of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch, then through Peter to the Roman centurion, Cornelius.  Finally we know that Paul would have walked in that very area, as we have an approximation of where he was jailed.

Right now, we are back at our hotel, where we can still see the Mediterranean Sea just over the date palm trees.  I can still smell the ocean air and feel the cool breeze and I’m feeling more reflective than usual, on this piece of history that I hadn’t ever stopped to consider.       

 
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