So after visiting the location where the prophet Elijah confronts the prophets of Baal and Ashera on Mt. Carmel in northern Israel (I Kings 18), watching a beautiful sunset on top of the mountain overlooking the Jezreel Valley, and telling Denyon the story about how and why we chose the name Elijah (which was indeed an extremely special and cherished moment), we called our hotel to get directions. We knew the address and the general area but neither really helped much. It seems that here in Israel, it is more common for roads to be unmarked and very atypical to have street signs of major road numbers. So, the receptionist's response to our inquiry about how to get to the hotel was, “Just get up the mountain, near Moriah, and go right at the fountain!” After further pressing for better instructions, that’s all we were left with. She didn’t even know what the main road was called to get up the mountain. By some miracle, we did find the hotel (after calling a couple more times), and sure enough we did get “up the mountain and turn right at a fountain!” So for the rest of the weekend the joke when we couldn’t find some place was, “Just get up the mountain!” If any of you have seen the movie Blood Diamond, you’ll understand the phrase that we’ve adopted and modified slightly—TII—this is Israel!
We rented a car and spent two nights in Haifa this past weekend. Haifa is the main industrial port city located along the northern coastal tip of Israel. This central location allowed us to visit Mt. Carmel (much of Haifa is actually located on the Carmel Mountain range); Akko—another city along the coast and known as the most well-preserved crusader city in the world; Caesarea—a large port city built by King Herod along the Mediterranean; Tel Aviv—another large city on the Mediterranean Coast.
Friday night we watched the sunset on Mt. Carmel as I mentioned above. It was a very special moment for us because this is the location that inspired us to use the name Elijah for Denyon’s middle name. We learned the story and experienced it here two years ago and the passion of Elijah stuck with us. It was very cool to tell Denyon the story too, although he just wanted to cruise around on the rocks. He’s already wanting to rock climb!
Saturday was Denyon’s first birthday! He was so excited to celebrate that he woke up early 6 a.m.! He briefly fell back asleep then and some books and toys were able to hold him off until about 7 a.m. until we got him up to sing Happy Birthday! It’s hard to believe that it’s been a year already and yet it also seems that it was so long ago the day I gave birth. Funny how time works, isn’t it? He is doing great and growing strong. He has eight teeth now and is moving fast all over the place. He’s not walking yet but cruising, climbing, and crawling freely. He loves to play chase with his dad (he will get into crawling position, look back in anticipation, then take off panting with excitement as he tries to escape his dad’s reach…it’s great fun!). So, he enjoyed some playtime with dad before getting the day started.
We spent most of the day in the present day city of Akko (Acre). The city is now an Arab port city but was once a thriving port crusader city. At one point it was the most important port city in the country. In the city are the impressive remains of the crusader citadel with numerous great halls, courtyards, underground tunnel systems, palaces, city walls, moats, and more. It is so amazing that people could build these structures hundreds of years ago. Napoleon and his army tried to conquer the city in the 1700s I believe (don’t quote me on my history, dad) and the city changed leadership often. Its decline was much a result of the great city of Caesarea flourishing (the city we visited on Sunday).
We ended our day at the beach in Haifa watching the sunset. It was beautiful and so peaceful. You can never get tired of beach sunsets, can you? We ate at a delicious pub in downtown Haifa and indulged in one of the best crème brulees that we’ve ever had. We figured it was Denyon’s birthday so we should have some dessert! Denyon will have his special dessert when we have a small party next week!
Sunday morning we drove down the coast about an hour to Caesarea. This city was built by King Herod as the main harbor of the day. The stones used to build the city were brought from all over including southern Egypt, Syria, Greece, Rome, and beyond. Many of the structures were inlayed with a scintillating white marble which made the city sparkle in the sun from a distance. Even today, you can find pieces of the stone that washes up onto the shores as you walk along the site. Brad and I found and kept several pieces of the sparkly stone. Herod built the harbor out into the sea and under the water. Today, it is possible to scuba dive at the harbor and see much of the remains of the harbor (we of course did not do that but Brad would really like to some day if he ever gets certified to scuba dive). The city includes a large amphitheater where all sorts of athletic events and competitions took place, a performance theater, palaces, an extensive Roman bathhouse where people would just relax or even conduct meetings and business, and a fresh water swimming pool built right in the middle of the sea (that is no longer standing). Also at the site, is a large aqueduct that brought fresh water to the city that came all the way from Mt. Carmel. Herod’s building projects were always extraordinary and this is no exception.
To end the day, we headed down to Tel Aviv for one last indulgence. When we were here two years ago, we stayed at a hotel in Tel Aviv for a couple nights in between the two study trips that we participated in. During that short stay, we found an amazing restaurant called the Manta Ray where we had the most delicious fried calamari we’d ever had. The restaurant sat right on the beach and was amazing. So, we took our chances in finding the place on the way home and we actually succeeded. It took longer than we’d expected, but nevertheless, we made it. We arrived just in time to enjoy another sunset on the beach and even did a little swimming this time. Denyon loves to swim and splash so he had a blast. After drying off and changing, we enjoyed our delicious calamari and one of the best salads we’ve ever had. Yum!
The only downfall of the evening was a big scare from the little guy…he dropped his cup and we looked down to get it…before we knew it he had pushed his feet against the table and flipped his chair completely back. The booster seat attached to the chair stayed completely in tact and he stayed attached to the chair, but it was so scary. He cried and cried but eventually was okay. I think we were more scared than anything and he recovered quickly. I can’t believe he was strong enough to push himself back. Bless God he was okay!
So that’s our weekend. It was a wonderful time and we are so grateful for all of the places we’re getting to see and all of the things we’re able to do. It’s been a great adventure!