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Holy Land Pilgrimage Day 5

Early morning departure for a busy day traveling to three different sites. The weather started off cool on Mt. Tabor and quickly warmed up as the day went on. Came back to the hotel just in time for dinner and some last-minute shopping before we leave for Jerusalem.

Mount Tabor

Mount Tabor is located in Lower Galilee, Israel, at the eastern end of the Jezreel Valley, 11 mi west of the Sea of Galilee. In Christian tradition, Mount Tabor is the site of the transfiguration of Jesus.

From the late times of the Roman province Judaea and on, the writers of the Christian New Testament relate that Jesus had brought Peter, James, and his brother John onto a high mountain apart and that Jesus became radiant there. However, none of these accounts identifies the “high mountain” of the scene by name. The earliest identification of the Mount of Transfiguration as Tabor is by Origen in the 3rd century. This early speculation is recounted by St. Cyril of Jerusalem and St. Jerome in the 4th century. It is later recounted in the 5th-century Transitus Beatae Mariae Virginis.

We also had the privilege of celebrating Mass in the Basilica in the morning. Sitting behind the altar for Mass gave me a new perspective of what Fr. Bill had said — thinking that Jesus would have seen Nazareth as he was floating in the air being told what was about to happen to him would have been surreal and put his purpose on Earth in a new unknown perspective. If I were in his place, I would have been scared and uncertain of why I am the one that needs to fulfill his Father’s wish.

Going up to Mt. Tabor is an experience in itself. Our bus can’t make it up the small and windy roads so there is a van service that takes you up. They drive crazy alongside the edge and pass each other with inches to spare. The views are great, however.

Megiddo (Armageddon)

Tel Megiddo is the site of the ancient city of Megiddo, the remains of which form a tell (archaeological mound), situated in northern Israel near Kibbutz Megiddo, about 30 km southeast of Haifa. Megiddo is known for its historical, geographical, and theological importance, especially under its Greek name Armageddon. During the Bronze Age, Megiddo was an important Canaanite city-state, and during the Iron Age, a royal city in the Kingdom of Israel.

Megiddo drew much of its importance from its strategic location at the northern end of the Wadi Ara defile, which acts as a pass through the Carmel Ridge, and from its position overlooking the rich Jezreel Valley from the west.

Excavations have unearthed 20 strata of ruins since the Neolithic phase, indicating a long period of settlement. The site is now protected as Megiddo National Park and is a World Heritage Site.

Mandala

Magdala meaning “tower” was an ancient Jewish city on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, 5 km (3 miles) north of Tiberias. In the Babylonian Talmud it is known as Magdala Nunayya meaning “Tower of the Fishes”), and which some historical geographers think may refer to Tarichaea, literally the place of processing fish. It is believed to be the birthplace of Mary Magdalene. Until the 1948 Arab–Israeli War, a small Palestinian Arab village, al-Majdal, stood at the site of ancient Magdala, while nowadays the modern Israeli municipality of Migdal extends to the area.

Archaeological excavations on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) conducted in 2006 found that the settlement began during the Hellenistic period (between the second and first centuries BCE) and ended during the late Roman period (third century CE). Later excavations in 2009–2013 brought perhaps the most important discovery on the site: an ancient synagogue, called the “Migdal Synagogue”, dating from the Second Temple period. It is the oldest synagogue found in Galilee, and one of the few synagogues from that period found in the entire country, as of the time of the excavation. They also found the Magdala stone, which has a seven-branched menorah symbol carved on it. It is the earliest menorah of that period to be discovered outside Jerusalem.

As archaeologists continued to dig, they discovered an entire first-century Jewish town lying just below the surface. The excavation revealed multiple structures and four mikvaot (plural of mikvah or mikveh). In 2021, another synagogue from the same period was discovered at Magdala.

A collapse layer from the Second Temple period supported the narrative presented by Josephus regarding the Roman destruction of Magdala during the First Jewish–Roman War. Excavations show that after the destruction, during the Byzantine and Early Islamic periods, the city moved slightly to the north


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