Israel 2022: In This Valley

Battles had been fought here. The site is a strategic one. As we stood at Megiddo and looked out over the Jezreel Valley4, war was just about the furthest thing from my mind. The view was incredibly beautiful. The sky was incredibly blue with soft white clouds scattered to the horizon. In the distance across the valley, we could see farms divided into neat squares either planted with winter crops or being prepared for the summer in ombre layers of green and brown and tan. 

View of the Jezreel Valley from Tel Megiddo

Just to my right I saw a couple of cows grazing with the requisite Cattle Egret which I had to take a picture of, of course. It was a bird, after all, and everyone knows how much I love birds. At that moment, there was only peace; nothing in that place, in that valley, spoke to me of war or battles or the end of time.

How could I not include the photo of the cows & Cattle Egrets?

I was standing on the top of Tel Megiddo1. A “tell” is an archaeological mound built over hundreds of years as cities rise and fall in the location and new cities are built in the same location using the previous ruins as foundations for the new cities. Archaeologists believe that there are about 20 levels or strata of ruins at Megiddo with an overlap of Egyptian, Hittite, Mitanni, Assyrian, and Israeli peoples occupying the site at differing times over the centuries with the primary inhabitants being those of Israel, Philistia, and Phoenicia.

Circular altar in Tel Megiddo’s “High Place” (temple) from the Bronze Era

Megiddo is strategically located near the mountain pass through the Carmel Ridge. This is the ancient trade route called Via Maris2 (“by way of the sea”) taken by traders traveling between Egypt and Assyria and Babylon – from north Africa to Asia. This area has been inhabited since about 7000 BCE (before the common era) or BC (before Christ) to me. The pass was always guarded so Megiddo was always fortified…. it is listed as one of Solomon’s chariot cities where many of his horses were stabled and war chariots were kept. Invariably, as long as this city controlled the pass through the mountains to the east, there would always those who would fight to control it.1   

King Solomon’s (or possibly King Ahab’s) stables at this “chariot city”. This could hold about 30 horses; the northern stables could hold about 300.

Three major battles have been fought in the area that were named the “Battle of Megiddo” (see references 5, 6, & 7 below) and a whole plethora of no-named skirmishes. I got totally caught up in the online reading about these battles and the history of this place. It is such fascinating history. But I will spare you with all the details.

Megiddo City Gate possibly built by “forced” labor (slaves?) during the time of King Solomon

But I am not thinking about all this war stuff when we visited the site. From the top of Tel Megiddo, the peaceful Jezreel Valley was laid out before me. This valley is one of the most fertile spots in all of Israel. When we embarked on this tour, I had a vision of Israel as a dry hot desert – you know the kind of geography – with Jesus walking around in dusty leather sandals in the wilderness hungry & thirsty in the sweltering heat while being tempted by the devil. I suppose I thought that all of Israel would be that way – hot, rocky, dry, and dusty.  

In this valley, you just cannot imagine the devil tempting Jesus – maybe I could see him tempting Adam & Eve to eat of the fruit of the tree up here at Jezreel…. but certainly not tempting the son of God to turn stones into bread (Matthew 4:1). For how could anyone go hungry or thirst up here in the land of plenty? Surely, this is the promised land that Joshua scouted out way back there in the book of Numbers (chapter 14).  This is definitely not the wilderness where Jesus was tempted…not even close.

Old millstone on Tel Megiddo

The land here is good and there is plenty of water from the springs at Carmel.  Even the name “Jezreel” is derived from a Hebrew word, “Yizre’el” meaning “God sows”4. They grow all sorts of things here like oranges and watermelons and wheat and beans and cotton and sunflowers and chickpeas – of course, chickpeas, you just can’t make hummus without chickpeas. I cannot imagine what the restaurants in Israel would do without hummus and pita bread!

And I cannot imagine war here in this peaceful beautiful place.

Flowers in bloom on Tel Megiddo

But this is Armageddon.  The place where it is prophesied that the war to end all wars will be fought. From the Greek “Har” (mount) and “Megiddo”, we get Armageddon9. It is the place noted in Revelation 16:16 where nations will gather in the final confrontation between the forces of good (God) and the forces of evil (Satan) “for the great day of the Lord” from Revelation 16:14. Over the past two thousand years, the word has come to mean any world ending catastrophe, any great conflict that would end life as we know it here on earth. Prophecies about the end times abound throughout the Bible. Yet the only cite in the Bible predicting that last great battle to be fought at the Valley of Jezreel or Armageddon is Revelation 16:16. Some theologians and historians say that the battle to be fought in this valley is all symbolic and not necessarily ever going to happen at all…. that the reference is all about conflict in the middle east in general. 

At Tel Megiddo

But I’m a literalist when it comes to scripture – if the Bible says there will be a final confrontation in this valley at this place, then you had best believe that it’s gonna happen in the Jezreel Valley – right there in that same valley I could see spread out in front of me as I stood on Tel Megiddo.

View of the Jezreel Valley – Armageddon – from Tel Megiddo

Scriptural Cites:

  1. Joshua 12:21 – In the list of kings defeated by Joshua, the king of Megiddo.
  2. Joshua 17:11 & 12 – Megiddo was given to the tribe of Manasseh although Manasseh never conquered the city/land.
  3. Judges 1:27-28 – Manasseh fails to drive the Canaanites out of Megiddo.
  4. Judges 5:19-20 – The victory song of Deborah & Barak speaks of the waters of Megiddo.
  5. Judges 6:33 – Gideon defeats the Midianites, the Amalekites, & the “children of the east” 3 in the Valley of Jezreel.
  6. Joel 3:2 – All nations will be brought to the Valley of Jehoshaphat which is believed to be the Valley of Jezreel.
  7. Zechariah 12:2-11 – On that day, the day of wailing in Jerusalem will be as great as the weeping of Hadad Rimmon in Megiddo.
  8. 1 Samuel 28:4 – Philistines gather against Israel & King Saul at Gilboa in the Jezreel Valley.
  9. 1 Samuel 29:1-6 – King Saul defeated by the Philistines in the Jezreel Valley
  10. 1 Kings 4:12 – King Solomon’s governors include Baana in Taanach & Megiddo.
  11. 1 Kings 9:15 – King Solomon uses forced labor to build cities including Megiddo
  12. 1 Kings 10:26 – King Solomon’s chariots and horses kept at the “chariot cities” one of which was Megiddo
  13. 2 Kings 23:29–30 & 2 Chronicles 35:22 – King Josiah is killed at Megiddo by Necho II of Egypt
  14. 2 Kings 9, King Jehu (10th king of Israel) killed all the family members of the House of Omri (King Ahab & Queen Jezebel) in the Jezreel Valley.
  15. 2 Kings 9:27 – King Ahaziah of Judah in the battle with Jehu escapes to Megiddo, is wounded & dies there.
  16. 1 Chronicles 7:29 – Holdings of the descendants of Ephraim are shown to include Megiddo.
  17. Matthew 4:1 – Jesus tempted in the wilderness.
  18. Revelation 16:12-16 – Place of end times gathering of nations/kings identified as Armageddon
  19. Numbers 14:36-38 – Joshua & Caleb sent to the promised land.

Sources for Additional Information About Megiddo & The Jezreel Valley:

(Other than the Biblical cites listed above, my research comes from Wikipedia as shown below.)

  1. Tel Megiddo – Wikipedia
  2. Via Maris – Wikipedia
  3. Canaan – Wikipedia
  4. Jezreel Valley – Wikipedia
  5. Battle of Megiddo (15th century BC) – Wikipedia
  6. Battle of Megiddo (609 BC) – Wikipedia
  7. Battle of Megiddo (1918) – Wikipedia
  8. Revelation 16 New American Standard Bible (
  9. Armageddon – Wikipedia
  10. Book of Kings – Wikipedia
  11. Book of Chronicles – Wikipedia

ICYMI (In case you missed it) – Previous blogs in the Israel 2022 series:

Pinch Yourself – April 4, 2022

Israel 2022: Caesarea Maritima – Birding Boomers – April 11, 2022

Israel 2022: Contested on Mount Carmel – Birding Boomers – April 20, 2022

Consider the Lilies/Venice Rookery

Rookery stretch

“And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? “And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these.…” Matthew 6:27-29

We arrived at the Venice Rookery just a bit after noon. Although it was a little cool, the sun was shining on a clear blue-sky with those huge white fluffy clouds that remind you of how wonderfully marvelous it is to be alive and outside enjoying all that this earth has to offer. We hadn’t been to the Rookery before and were anxious to see what birds, if any, might be nesting there. Even though it is Florida, I was not sure that any birds would be raising chicks in the cool weather this season. Raising babies is a dicey business even when the weather is nice and warm.

But there was no reason to worry…not one bit. There were birds – Cormorants, Egrets, Herons, and Anhingas – all going about the business of nesting and raising chicks in the Rookery….just like they should be.

anhingaWhen we arrived, it was relatively quiet. There were a couple other people there and one of the locals ambled over to give us the scoop on the Rookery and the lay of the land (or lake in this case). The site which is on Annex Road in Venice, Florida is not very large – a few acres perhaps – and consists of a smallish pond with a brushy tree island in the middle. It is on this island that the birds come to nest.

Egret 2I was advised that the lake/island was man-made just for this purpose but I do not know for sure. Not that I question that the whole site was planned and developed by people but I did have some doubts. After all, it is not always a question of “if you build it, they will come.1

Egret displayConsider Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge (NWR). It is a beautiful spot on earth – we’ve been twice and we did not see nary a Pelican there on either trip. It appears that the pelicans have abandoned the island that is part of the refuge that the birds had apparently used as a rookery for hundreds, maybe thousands, of years. There is a beautiful park with trails and a lovely boardwalk that gives a great view of the island in the Indian River….but the White Pelicans no longer nest there. We left the refuge and drove some five or so miles down the road along the Indian River and, as we crossed the causeway bridge, discovered an island filled with pelicans and nests….of course, not where anyone could stop and look and take photographs. So I assumed that the Pelicans had decided to start up a new rookery on another island notwithstanding the efforts of the parks service to protect them at the old rookery site. So, pretty much the birds go where the birds go.

anhinga 2But back to the Venice Rookery…..You can walk around the lake and see the Rookery from all sides or you can just take a seat on one of the many benches provided by the Audubon Society that leases the site/rookery from Sarasota County. Our impromptu guide apparently loves the place for he mentioned that he came every day to sit and watch/study the birds and I cannot think of a more relaxing and engrossing activity….wonderful way to spend your days.

heron and chickSo who doesn’t love babies? There were actual babies to be seen in the nests although I have a tendency to call all birds – adult and juvenile – “babies”.   Like everyone who comes to the site, I stopped immediately on the edge of the lake directly across from the island and started snapping pictures and excitedly saying, “Oh, look at the Great Blue Heron on the top….and the Anhingas on the tree on the left side….and wow, did you see that Great Egret displaying for his female companion?”. I was all over the place looking at the birds oohing and ahhing and trying to get just one more photograph. The birds were just so close and I was sure I’d get some great photos…well, I hoped so anyway. We walked around the lake – a relatively short and easy walk with benches all along the way so that there was always a place to take a moment and rest and watch.

My husband and I have a birding/hiking rule …… “If you come to a bench, sit on it”. We have found that benches can be few and far between sometimes on the trail and taking a moment to sit and be quiet can give the birds time to accept our presence in the area and come out of hiding….. possibly giving us a better view.

cormorantsSo, once I sort of calmed down a bit and we had checked out the rookery from all sides, we found a bench in a warm sunny spot and just let the atmosphere of the place surround us. As I sat listening to the chirping, cackling, peeping of the birds and feeling the warm sunshine on my face and back, I pondered the peacefulness and beauty of the place. Everything seemed so calm and serene. In a world filled with war and hate and all sorts of strife, the birds are oblivious to all that……just living out their lives, eating, sleeping, mating, nesting, raising their young…surviving. I was at once reminded of the “lilies of the field” that Jesus spoke of…….they do not work or spend their days worrying about things that they cannot change or prevent…they just live. And the lilies are beautiful and perfect in their situation – exactly where and when they should be at any given moment in time. Likewise, the birds in the Rookery seemed to be peacefully living out their lives with absolutely nothing to worry about.

pelicanBut all life has strife. An alligator also lives in the lake at the Rookery. He (or she) swam lazily near the island, I’m sure waiting patiently for some mishap or accident that would put a chick within his reach. I’m also sure his patience is rewarded at times….more than I like to think about. But the alligator is also a part of the “circle of life” and, perhaps, has babies too that need a parent’s help. Most animals are relatively helpless at birth and spend time in a nest (of sorts) close to a parent who provides food and stands guard providing sustenance, safety and security…but eventually, all babies mature and all must stand on their own. For all life on earth is precious and so very fleeting….time flows on…..the proverbial sands flowing too quickly through the hourglass.

We all must reconcile ourselves with this reality. We live, we struggle, we die…..and, although outward appearances show things to seemingly be peaceful and calm, there is always the struggle. It is what it is and it is what it will continue to be…..for as long as there is life on earth and as long as there are Egrets and Herons and Cormorants here at the Rookery.


  1. Field of Dreams; Director – Phil Alden Robinson; Producers – Lawrence Gordon & Charles Gordon; Screenplay – Phil Alden Robinson; Based on the book, Shoeless Joe by WP Kinsella; Universal Pictures/TriStar Pictures; April 21, 1989; USA
  2. Bible, New Testament, King James Version (KJV), Matthew 6:27-29.