I had long desired to visit the Holy Land, my dream finally became a reality last month. What a journey following the footsteps of Jesus! It was overwhelming. I’m not sure where and how to begin, so the easy route is to arrange my Israel impressions according to the geographic order–along the Mediterranean Sea (east #1), near Galilee (north #2), the Dead Sea and Beyond (southwest #3), and Jerusalem (center #4).
Tel Aviv represents the present time of Israel, very modern just like any other major coastal city in the world. From the ways people dress to the ways they interact, Tel Aviv is quite different from old city of Jerusalem, like day and night. We stayed in Tel Aviv for two nights, the day we arrived and the day before we departed since Ben Gurion International Airport, the only international airport of Israel, is about 10 miles from Tel Aviv.
Jaffa, known as Yafo for the locals, Joppa in the Bible, is at the southern end of Tel Aviv, much more interesting in my opinion. Jonah left his footprint in Jaffa (Jonah 1:3). So did apostle Peter (Acts 9:36-43).
St. Peter’s Church. This was where Peter prayed and brought back Tabitha (her Greek name was Dorcas) from death, and not far from this church was tanner Simon’s house where Peter stayed when he was in Jaffa.
We had our first Israel breakfast in Jaffa at Nour28. They served lots of fruits, vegetables, cheese and freshly baked bread. It was very similar to the Mediterranean diet we’d known, I could easily get used to this cuisine.
Along the Mediterranean Sea, 35 miles north of Tel Aviv is Caeserea Maritima. Herod the Great built the city in ~22–10 BC and the name was chosen to honor Caesar Augustus. It used to be the booming capital of Roman Province Judea in the time of Jesus. Roman governor lived in the lavish palace by the sea, and here archaeologists discovered a stone tablet with Pontius Pilate’s name on it.
Many biblical events happened at this location: St. Peter came here to share gospel with Cornelius, a God-fearing centurion after seeing visions (Acts 10). Apostle Paul passed by Caesarea many times, he was imprisoned here at Herod’s Palace before being sent to Rome (Acts 23:23-35).
Do you know the whole nation of Israel is about the size of New Jersey?! So don’t be surprised that many sites are close to each other. Meggido is 30 miles east of Caesarea, a key crossroads to ancient trades and military battles along Mt. Carmel range. “Capturing Meggido is as good as capturing 1000 cities!” This location is mentioned couple of times in the Bible, and each time is related to critical battles because of the strategic location.
The story of prophetess Deborah defeated the Canaanites was recorded in Judge 5, Joshua defeated the king of Meggido in Joshua 12, and Josiah, the last good king of Judah, was killed here in a battle with Pharaoh Necho of Egypt (2 Kings 23:29-30). Probably the most famous record is from Revelation 16:16, the battle of Armageddon, the name literally meant Mountains of Meggido. Bible prophesies the final battle of good verse evil will happen at this very location.
The excavation of the site revealed at least 20 cities from different eras built on top of each other! Mindbogglingly amazing!! There was a very impressive tunnel built in King Ahab’s time (~1000 BC) to access water underground.
We also visited Muhraka Monastery on Mount Carmel where prophet Elijah prayed for rain and challenged 450 prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18). From the monastery, we had a beautiful view of Jezreel Plain, across the valley in the far distance were Mt. Tabor (also called Mt. Transformation) and Nazareth.
The last city we toured along the Mediterranean Sea was Haifa. According to cliché, “Jerusalem is the city of the past, Tel–Aviv is the city of the present and Haifa is the city of the future.” Today Haifa is the silicon valley of Israel, very beautiful and clean. It seemed a very safe place to live, we saw a little kid walking his dog at night all by himself.
Our hotel in Haifa “Bayview” was next to the famous Baha’i Garden. Great location with good breakfast buffet, clean and nice service, we highly recommend it. Make sure to take a walk in the evening to the German Colony nearby. There were restaurants and bars, and unique boutique shops, the Garden was amazing at night.
One thing worth mention, especially with the current hypes in the media about moving US Embassy to Jerusalem, is our hotel in Tel Aviv, Lusky. The hotel is right across street from the America Embassy in Tel Aviv! It is also on our recommended list, great location–across from the beach and very nice service.
A word about security check in Ben Gurion airport: it is mandatory to be at the airport THREE hours prior to flight departure. So keep that in mind when you book flight ticket–if your flight leaves 7:30 am you HAVE TO be at the airport at 4:30 in the morning!! No kidding. Lusky arranged taxi for us, when we got out at 4 am, the driver was already there waiting for us!
Taxi was abundant and reliable in Tel Aviv. It costed us 180 NIS (New Israel Shekel) to Tel Aviv city from the airport. One US dollar was 3.7 NIS. We had exchanged about 1,000 NIS before we left. In reality it was not necessary. We found out US dollar was accepted anywhere in Israel and hotels accepted major credit cards. Actually you should use credit card as often as possible because you don’t pay local tax (VAT 17%!) when using foreign credit card.