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On the morning of Saturday, we all departed Adi’s house to spend a few hours visiting the widely-known Tel Megiddo. I can describe the place as such, because even if you don’t recognize the name as given above, let me try and tell you the name is a few other, more recognized ways. “Tel Megiddo” is the current name, with “tel” referring to the man-made hill created by successive levels of civilizations which decided to settle upon the ruins of the previous occupants of the area, which has always been called “Megiddo.” Now, lets try it with an older name: har Megiddo (or Mount Megiddo, as translated). Now, take that expression and slur it and try and pronounce it with a Koine Greek accent, and you end up with… ARMAGEDDON. That’s right, ladies and gentlemen; we decided to have a late breakfast on Saturday in order to go visit and enjoy the widely-regarded location of the end of the world, at least in the Christian tradition (drawn from the prophesy of the last battle for the world taking place there, in the book of Apocalypse/Revelation). And, as Théo insisted on adding, we were actually going to look for Bruce Willis (having seen the movie ‘Armageddon,’ he was convinced we would find Bruce there 🙂 ).

Piling into the Chevy mini-van, we drove about 30 minutes away from Bethlehem of Galilee to the tel, and on the way got to enjoy the sights and landscape of the Jezreel Valley. This valley, known as the breadbasket of Israel, is surprisingly green and lush (look at the photographs attached which look down off the tel; you’ll see what I am referring to). It was somewhat difficult to mentally come to terms with, as living in Jerusalem means that we constantly live in a situation of dust and (usually) dry weather, looking out into arid surrounding hills and neighborhoods. Nevertheless, we arrived at the tel and got through “security,” which as Eti rightly explained, didn’t have anything to suspect of us as Eti (someone who very clearly looks Israeli) was driving the vehicle. She also explained that if I were driving, they would have stopped us and at least searched the “baggage (Israeli expression for trunk of a car),” if not more of the vehicle.

We went inside and took a quick look at the small museum there, including a look at the excellent scale model pictured below (hard to visualize all of such a large hill while one is one it), but we were all very keen on simply getting to the tel itself, immersing ourselves in the end of the world as it were. As such, we walked outside into the heat (it is already fairly warm in many parts of Israel by the middle of March, by the way), and up the path towards the ancient ruined gates to the fortress Megiddo. Along the way, I spotted an enormous lizard (almost the size of an iguana but extremely agile), but it ran up into a tree before anyone else saw it… prompting the requisite “oh, we’re sure you saw it Mike…” sorts of comments from my compatriots. Nevertheless, we hiked on, although unfortunately this rocky terrain was no good whatsoever for Eti’s already painful knee, so we took our time and enjoyed the walk.

After helping some elderly American women get down the rubble-strewn field in front of the gates, we walked inside and had entered one of the longest continually-important strategic positions in the world. I say this because it was occupied as everything from a strategic lookout to an actual fortress from pre-Canaanite times all the way up until World War I (specifically, General Allenby of the British Army took the humble title “Lord of Megiddo” during the first World War, and presided over some of the fighting that took place near there). The top of the tel is reasonably worn-down and ruined, given that it has been subject to human interaction and weather conditions for quite a few years at this point. The photographs do more justice than my written explanation, but suffice to say the following. Besides huge palm trees, scattered rocks, and sand, the top of the tel is also home to several sets of ruined houses, a 2 ton ancient grain silo, the remains of King Solomon’s stables, several ruined governing palaces, and a circular site which was consecutively regarded as holy enough to build a new temple on the exact same spot by successive civilizations for thousands of years.

After wandering over most of the top of the tel, Eti and Adi went to walk slowly and carefully back to the cafeteria there, while Justine, Théo and I decided to walk down into the deep underground waterworks. This ingenious system, devised thousands of years ago, allowed the occupants of the Megiddo fortress to hold out indefinitely against besieging forces: since they already had massive stockpiles of food atop the hill, this secret underground tunnel connecting the tell to a nearby spring also allowed them to consume water without ever leaving the safety of the fortress walls. We walked down a inwardly-turning modern staircase and came to the very steep modern staircase to the base of the water conduit… but not just any staircase. As I mentioned to Justine, this staircase was just as awful as the construction of the entire Eiffel Tower, because you can see ALL THE WAY DOWN TO THE DISTANT GROUND BELOW through the grating of the stairs. All three of us quickly made our way down as to avoid the uneasy feeling of being on a slippery and seemingly rickety metal staircase meters above the ground, which unfortunately caused us to be unable to really enjoy our surroundings as we should have. Reaching the bottom safely, we continued along the tunnel to what was the hidden entrance in ancient times, and is now the staircase out of the waterworks. Already tired from hours of climbing and exploring, all three of us huffed and puffed our way out of the tunnel, with Justine deciding to grace us with a hummed-rendition of “Chariots of Fire” as she ran up the stairs, some real competition for Mr. Stallone himself.

We met up with Eti and Adi, and departed to go back to Adi’s house for a delicious late breakfast (delicious bread, salad, and so forth, but with the main course being tomato paste with eggs cooked into it). For the next part of the story, go check out the “Bethlehem 2” post. That said, all in all, the end of the world wasn’t so bad, even though we didn’t end up finding Bruce Willis 😦

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