On our second day in Israel, we drove to the Tel Megiddo site. Upon arrival to what appeared to be a large, perfectly rounded hill, I noticed to our right a grove of large pine trees. While I had heard of the famed cedars of Lebanon to the north, I had never expected Israel to be filled with such a vast array of climates. Later in the week, we would find in the furthest northern section of the country, beautiful fields of green and even dense woodlands around Tel Dan. We would not even find a proper desert until we reached the Judean Wilderness, east of Jerusalem, north of the Dead Sea.
Our tour guide Roman, a Jewish man born in Russia, took us to the top of the hill and explained that this large hill we were standing on was no natural hill, but thousands of years of different civilizations, densely packed on top of one another. We learned that a “Tel” is where one city built itself upon another city, which built itself upon another city, over and over again. He explained to us that it was similar to the Grand Canyon, in which you can easily see the periods of time in the sand. Were you to take a bulldozer and shape this hill in half, Roman told us, you would find layer after layer of Israelite civilizations. We learned that a couple of clumsy and less-than-honest architects from the nineteenth century had done just that in their quest for historical treasures. While upset for history lost, it was interesting to see history stacked.
We also learned about the beautiful valley on display at the summit of Tel Megiddo. It is hard to believe that at many times in history, this valley, now filled with beautiful vineyards, farms, and a major highway was the battleground of so many battles. Greeks, Romans, Crusaders, and Ottomans all fought here. In 1948, the newly founded nation of Israel even fought their first war in this plain against their Arab neighbors. Napoleon Bonaparte, who fought a battle near this valley said that it is, “The most natural battleground of the whole Earth.”
We see this valley as a battleground in the Scriptures too. King Josiah (my namesake) was killed on the mound I now stood on by the Pharaoh of Egypt. As Christians, we know that this valley will be the location of the end of the world Battle of Armageddon, as described in John’s apocalyptic letter. It was hard to believe, standing where we were, that this now seemingly peaceful place had seen and was still yet to see so much bloodshed.
We finished our tour of Tel Megiddo, by wandering its paths beneath large palm trees until we arrived at the entrance to an underground tunnel. As we descended deep into the Tel, now aware of civilization after civilizations as we passed, we entered into a large dimly lit tunnel, taking us to a pool of water, the cistern that once existed in case of siege.