Day 40: Sdot Yam to Zichron Ya'akov

Day 40: Sdot Yam to Zichron Ya'akov

Day 40, April 8: Saw Caesarea, rain on beach. Climbed south end of Mt. Carmel. Also very nice area. Trail marks again hard to follow, fair amount of bushwhacking. Currently not on trail. At junction waiting for trail angel - Joyce's knee just gave out again. Sort of glad to avoid more bushwhacking through what looks like difficult terrain. Slept @ trail angel - cool attic.

Caesarea is one of the larger and better-preserved Roman cities in Israel. It was a major port and also notable for St. Paul having been held prisoner there before being shipped off to Rome. I thought it was odd that, given that the alleged site of just about every Bible story seems to have a church or a shrine on it, that the prison around here never had one built on top of it. After all, the location of things like Jesus' birth or tomb are pretty dubious, the sources being along the lines of the word of a random shepherd, or a private revelation given to St. Helena. But if archaeologists can locate a prison in Caesarea from the right time period, then it's fairly reasonable to assume Paul was in one of those cells, right? But it's also not as important of a story as, say, the location of the rooster that crowed while Peter was denying Jesus; obviously that one deserved the church that it got.

The ruins also include a large hippodrome, or chariot racetrack, some mansions, a Mithraeum, and a massive aqueduct running for kilometers along the beach north of the city.

We also passed through Jisr az-Zarqa, the first of a handful of Arab towns that the trail crosses. The Israeli Arab population is mostly concentrated in the Galilee, which is half-and-half Jewish and Arab. In the center there are only a few Arab towns, and in the Negev it's just scattered Bedouins, either in the settlements they've been corralled into, or still wandering as semi-nomadic pastoralists.

The only Jewish town the trail technically passes through (rather than close to) is the greater Tel Aviv area; this is basically because it can't pass through most Jewish towns due to their layout. Almost all new towns and communities in Israel (which are all Jewish - no new Arab towns have been zoned since '48) are built in a very planned fashion, and all the smaller towns are reachable only by a single access road leading to them from the nearest highway. They also tend to have fences all around them, which may or may not have unlocked gates. As a result, routing the trail through them is just not an option.

Arab towns, on the other hand, are old and sprawling, having grown up organically with basically no planning involved. They are labyrinths, but because there tend to be lots of dirt paths leading up to the edge of town where they join paved roads, and thanks to the lack of fences or gates around them, you can have a hiking trail walk right through the middle of one. It's a shame the trail doesn't go through more towns, since it would mean more exposure to locals, not to mention the great convenience to hikers of walking right past grocery stores rather than having to detour several kilometers, as was often the case.

Idan was set to rejoin us on the far side of Mt. Carmel. I had hiked a bit in the Carmel just before starting the Israel Trail and it was one of my favorite spots in the country, so I was excited about returning. We ended up getting picked up by a very generous trail angel in Zichron-Ya'akov, a largeish city on the southern Carmel. Apparently, it's actually a moshav grown out of control. More exactly, it's a moshava, although what the difference is, I could not tell you. This family had us stay for Shabbat dinner, which was a very lax and secular affair, and in any case only the mother and daughter of the family were home. Their daughter was the one that told us about diving for valuables in En Akev.

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