Caesarea, Tel Aviv, and Jaffa

Aqueduct, CaesareaSo the soldiers, according to their instructions, took Paul and brought him during the night to Antipatris.The next day they let the horsemen go on with him, while they returned to the barracks.When they came to Caesarea and delivered the letter to the governor, they presented Paul also before him.On reading the letter, he asked what province he belonged to, and when he learned that he was from Cilicia,he said, ‘I will give you a hearing when your accusers arrive.’ Then he ordered that he be kept under guard in Herod’s headquarters. (Acts 21:31-35)

Herod the Great (73-4BCE) did nothing if not on a grand scale. Caesarea, sometimes called Caesarea Maritima, the capital of the Roman province of Palestine, was one of his grandest achievements. Building a bulkhead to create a safe and deep harbor, a huge Roman city grew, with bath houses, a temple, a theater and hippodrome for entertainment, and an aqueduct that is a feat of engineering. In biblical times, this is where Peter encounters Cornelius the Centurion (Acts 10), and Paul was imprisoned after his arrest in Jerusalem, prior to being sent to Rome (Acts 21). Today, the YDS travelers wandered around this cold and windswept archaeological site with the waves of the Mediterranean crashing against the seawalls, sending a mist over the site, gaining some sense of the size and modernity of Herod’s capital. After the fall of Rome, the city came under Byzantine rule until the invasion of the Crusaders, and it was later destroyed by the Mamelukes under Baybars. In the 19th century, the Ottomans restored parts of Caesarea and settled Bosnian refugees here.

US EmbassyWe then took a leisurely drive south into Tel Aviv, circling the old city of Jaffa before arriving at the US Embassy in Tel Aviv for a scheduled meeting with Robert Silverman, Minister Counselor for the Political Section. There are 170 Americans working at the embassy with twelve of those devoted to bilateral work with the Israeli government. The Consulate General in Jerusalem engages the Palestinian Authority. Mr. Silverman gave us some background on the political situation in Israel, and we, after all of our travels here, had many questions for him, particularly regarding the settlements and the suffering we have witnessed among the Palestinians. He states that lack of trust on both sides – legitimate on both sides – has prevented what would seem to be an obvious solution to a two-state Israel-Palestine. He continually reiterated that Israel is a sovereign democratic nation and that the US is limited in its ability to force the government’s hand. He also said that good agreements had been on the table on two occasions that would have given back over 90% of the occupied territory, but the Palestinian negotiators failed to follow up on those offers, although he did not say that issues important to the Palestinians were not agreed to in those negotiations. Given all that we have heard from the Palestinians and Israelis we have encountered, his answers seemed inadequate, although, realistically, I’m not sure that we should have expected anything more than a purely diplomatic response to any of our questions and concerns.

As we gathered in the lobby of our Grand Hotel in Tel Aviv, there was a bit of a kerfuffle when we learned that our Palestinian guide and driver had not been given rooms at the hotel. Fortunately, the president of our group tour agency was with us and convinced the front desk manager that giving our prepaid rooms to other guests while not refunding our money was not acceptable, and, in the end, our room keys were provided to us, and our trusted friends are spending the night in this hotel. I think that many of us were prepared to sleep on the bus in solidarity with them had it been necessary!

We gathered for a final meal in Jaffa where we said farewell to three of our fellow travelers who are leaving tonight. Three others have already left us in the past two days, and one was taken ill and spent this afternoon at the hospital along with her trip roommate to keep her company and a physician on our trip who went along to help with the medical system here. However, all is well, and we are preparing to return to the States tomorrow morning, bright and early.

I don’t think that I am speaking for myself in saying that this has been a thought-provoking, transformative experience. The people we have met and the sights we have seen will not easily be forgotten. The political situation here is having such a profound impact on the lovely people we have met, Palestinian and Israeli of three faiths, that we can only pray that the day will not be long in coming when we can say, in the words of the psalmist, “How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity” (Psalm 133:1)!

Elaine Ellis Thomas

Betsy and Steve Peterson, Caesarea
Betsy and Steve Peterson, Caesarea

Bob Massie and Tim Thomas, Caesarea
Bob Massie and Tim Thomas, Caesarea

 

Carol and George Bauer, farewell dinner
Carol and George Bauer, farewell dinner

 

Our driver, Mohamed, and guide, Naim, with their Yale swag
Our driver, Mohamed, and guide, Naim, with their Yale swag

 

Caesarea carving
Caesarea carving

Connie Royster on the Mediterranean
Connie Royster on the Mediterranean