Friday, June 15th, 2001

Fatigued from the excursion on Thursday, I decided to lay low on Friday and try to get some much needed rest; however, not Father Severino. He got up around 6AM and drove to Haifa to pick up another friar at the airport. He is an amazing servant and freely blesses with complete joy and without grumbling. I woke up late on Friday and spent much of the day in prayer, petition, study, and research. I read through all of the scriptures that related to the places I visited the day before, and meditated on them. Then, I read through all of the scriptures that related to the places I would probably visit tomorrow and the rest of the week. It was quite the relaxing day.

A few significant things did happen during the day. One of these things was a rather lengthy dissertation that was blaring over the loudspeakers from the nearby mosque. It wasn't the usual "call to prayer." I explained in an e-mail to my friends.

Excerpts from an e-mail sent on 6/15/01
Today, there was a real ruckus from the nearby mosque. They were shouting for about an hour over the loud speakers, calling for acts of terror against Israel and westerners. The friars tell me that it is an almost a weekly occurrence [Friday is their holy day] and I shouldn't worry too much about it. In the past, they have shouted Death to America, and such things, but this one was mild by comparison. Often, there is some violence after these demonstrations. I don't have any touring planned for today; perhaps I will try to keep a low profile in the near term.

As for the bombing, it has stopped relatively. I have heard an explosion here and there, but nothing sustained like several nights ago. Last evening as we entered Bethlehem, all of the power in the city went out and the city was completely dark for about 30 seconds. However, it came back on and everyone proceeded normally after that.

I also heard significant machinegun fire for a lengthy period around dusk. I paused for a moment and managed to get some of the audible melee on videotape. However, there was no way to know where it was coming from (probably somewhere near the checkpoint) and I had no desire to investigate further than my window.

Saturday, June 16th, 2001
Caesarea Maritima, Haifa, Acre (Acco, Akko)

On Saturday, Father Severino told me that he had to go up to the hospital in Haifa to pick up one of the other friars up there. He offered to take me along and he would show me some of the coastal areas along the way and on the way back. Eager to see the "golden coast," I jumped at the chance.

The first place we visited was Caesarea Maritima, which used to be a very significant city in ancient times. It was built by Herod Antipas (who I call by my pet name, Herod Antipasta) for his patron Caesar Augustus. Caesarea was a significant religious and cultural center in the book of Acts and is referenced several times. It was the home of Cornelius, from which the Apostle Paul first preached to the Gentiles concerning God not showing partiality, as well as the home of Phillip the Evangelist. It was also the place from which Herod presented himself as a god and was smitten dead by an angel of the true God.

  • Acts 10:1-2 "At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion in what was known as the Italian Regiment. He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly."
  • Acts 12:18-19 "In the morning, there was no small commotion among the soldiers as to what had become of Peter. After Herod had a thorough search made for him and did not find him, he cross-examined the guards and ordered that they be executed. Then Herod went from Judea to Caesarea and stayed there a while. He had been quarreling with the people of Tyre and Sidon; they now joined together and sought an audience with him. Having secured the support of Blastus, a trusted personal servant of the king, they asked for peace, because they depended on the king's country for their food supply. On the appointed day Herod, wearing his royal robes, sat on his throne and delivered a public address to the people. They shouted, "This is the voice of a god, not of a man." Immediately, because Herod did not give praise to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died."

Caesarea was also the scene of one of my favorite quotes of Paul. I have marked this quote in the passage below:

  • Acts 21:8 "Leaving the next day, we reached Caesarea and stayed at the house of Philip the evangelist, one of the Seven. He had four unmarried daughters who prophesied. After we had been there a number of days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. Coming over to us, he took Paul's belt, tied his own hands and feet with it and said, "The Holy Spirit says, 'In this way the Jews of Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles.'" When we heard this, we and the people there pleaded with Paul not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered, "Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus." When he would not be dissuaded, we gave up and said, "The Lord's will be done." After this, we got ready and went up to Jerusalem."

Excerpts from an e-mail sent on 6/15/01
Today's trip to Caesarea, was INCREDIBLE!! Caesarea was a HUGE fortress area on the Mediterranean sea that was a major Roman stronghold around the time of Jesus. It was considered an architectural marvel of its time, with a harbor port that still partially stands today, 2000 years after it was built. The city is right on the salty sea, plush with sandy beaches, light blue and turquoise waters, a host of white, tranquil sailboats nearby, green palms, and this once mighty fortress. I was snapping photos every couple of seconds, and the video I have of the site is probably incredible.

white sails and blues and greens

powerplants in the distance

remains of the past

fortress walls

Medittereanian waters

columns amidst the ruins

a dreamy coastline

a truly tropic scene

I thoroughly enjoyed Caesarea not only for its history, but also for its unbelievable beauty. The pictures I took speak for themselves.

After walking around Caesarea for a while, we headed off to Haifa where we picked up one of the friars at the infirmary that they have there. Haifa is a pretty interesting city. It is Israel's third largest city and, located on the Mediterranean coast, it is its largest sea port. Haifa encompasses the beach and several miles of land up the side of a nearby mountain range. One of the nearby ranges contains a mountain named "Carmel", where Elijah challenged and defeated the Prophets of Baal. Father Severino, the other friar (who's name has escaped me), and I stopped off at a small Islamic restaurant for lunch, where we once again had various types of fish. I enjoyed it thoroughly, despite the adjustment to the bones which I found throughout.

The most impressive thing to see in Haifa is the Baha'i Shrine and Gardens. Haifa is the International home of the Baha'i faith, which believes in the synergy of all faiths. The shrine contains the remains of Bab, who was the spokesperson of the most recent Baha'i prophet, "Bahaullah." The entire structure faces Acre (formerly known as Acco in ancient times) where Bahaullah wrote the Bab and lived out his days in peace. Bab, on the other hand, was martyred before a firing squad.

approaching Haifa by the sea

The Baha'i temple and gardens

Acre was the final stop on our tour and I liked it very much. Acre is a true "ancient" city. It was first mentioned 3,500 years ago by Pharaoh Thutmose III, and was one of the "substandard" towns given to King Hiram by Solomon as repayment for his help building the Temple in Jerusalem. Alexander the Great conquered it in 332 B.C. It was renamed "Ptolemais" in biblical times. The Apostle Paul stopped over for a time during his missionary journeys as did Julius Caesar in 48B.C.

  • Acts 21:7-8 "We continued our voyage from Tyre and landed at Ptolemais, where we greeted the brothers and stayed with them for a day. Leaving the next day, we reached Caesarea and stayed at the house of Philip the evangelist, one of the Seven."

Acre was a very neat city, because it has been relatively untouched since the time of the Crusaders. There are rather intricate city sections located near the water with maze-like structures throughout the city. The water's edge features the remnants of a crusader fort with walls and obstacles designed to ward off a naval attack. I think I was tired when I visited the city, because I was less than intrigued by its obvious and interesting character. A few places did spark my interest, but I didn't engage many of the areas I should have. I took photos of some of the more interesting areas.

After seeing Acre, we all returned to Bethlehem and relaxed for the rest of the evening. I found time to write an e-mail before I went to sleep.

an archway in Acre

fishing in the Sea

a beautiful mosque

ancients streets from Paul's time

the marketplace

ruins from the Crusader period

impressive courtyard

dreamy coastline and fortifications

Excerpts from an e-mail sent on 6/15/01
There has been limited gunfire today, but yesterday there was a barrage of machine gunners near the Bethlehem Checkpoint where we pass through every day. It usually happens around 6PM until 8PM. Tonight, we had to pass through the checkpoint around 7PM, but there were no troubles at all. The border guards were acting like it has been quiet for days and we went through without a hitch.

As for my emotions, every moment I feel like I am about to explode with emotion. This place is amazing. Let there be no mistake, I wake up every morning in the city where Christ was born. On an evening around 2,000 years ago, there was an extra star in the sky over this city. Just about every night, I go up on the extensive roofing that covers the monastery and overlook the entire city of Bethlehem (The Franciscan monastery has the best view of any building here.) I have taken many hours pondering and considering where I thought the start might have been. Afterall, the city is very small, so it must have been almost directly overhead and low in the sky. I have wondered what shape it must have been, and what color, and what Mary and Joseph must have thought when they first laid eyes on it DIRECTLY over the spot of their newborn son. . .deep thoughts to ponder.

You may download my Israel 2001 screensavers at Webshots


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