We began our day by walking to Mary’s Well, a central location in Nazareth everyone uses for pickups/drop offs. From there, the bus took us to Haifa.
Haifa is the third largest city in Israel and is built up the side of Mt. Carmel. This mountain has been considered holy for around 3,000 years by various religious/ethnic groups. In the Bible, a ruined altar is mentioned. Elijah later built a new one and challenged the prophets of Baal to see if their god was real. This was the site that God poured fire down from heaven at Elijah’s prayers and showed His power over the Phoenicians.
It is also the center of the Ba’hai faith, and we took a tour of their gardens and temple.
Across the bay is Akko, also known as Acre. We ate lunch and spent time there. People settled in Acre around 5,000 years ago. When the Israelites came, this was one of the few places they didn’t drive out the Canaanites. Because of that, it was usually identified with Phoenicia rather than Israel during the ancient kingdom. It, of course, changed hands many times over the next 1,500 years. When the Crusaders came, they made Acre one of their bases. It is on the Mediterranean coast and has easy access down south to Jerusalem but also north to Lebanon and east to present-day Syria. Multiple battles were fought nearby, and one of my ancestors (on my mother’s mother’s side) was killed there, fighting Saladin’s forces.
Of course, the Crusaders eventually lost in 1291, I believe. Before then, Acre was the seat of the military/religious order Knights Hospitaller. There is a massive museum (The Citadel or Knights’ Halls) throughout the partially-restored ruins of the Crusader’s tunnels, walls, and citadel which, if you like European history, I recommend visiting. Or if you’re a huge Assassin’s Creed fan, I suppose. I’m told this fortress is in the game. The ticket price includes an audio-guided tour, which may malfunction on you. At least it did for us. But the buildings were great! Below is the refrectory, where the Hospitallers ate.
We spent almost a full hour in there and still missed a section of the museum! During the British mandate parts of the ruins were used as a prison. Several Zionists attempted to escape, and accidentally uncovered all sorts of artifacts and rooms in the citadel. It’s a very interactive museum with lots of videos and ambient noises to help a visitor imagine what life was life when the ruins were a real city. I think both Jordan and I had more time to spend there.
We ended the day at the Rosh Hanikra grottos. They were beautiful, especially at sunset. Very near the border of Lebanon, there used to be a railway tunnel through the cliffside to Lebanon, but Israel blew it up during the War for Independence when northern Arab countries looked ready to invade.