Day 1: Departure from the USA
Our pilgrimage adventure begins with an overnight flight to Tel Aviv.
Day 2: Arrival in Israel, Jaffa, Mediterranean Coast
I rejoiced with those who said to me, “Let us go to the house of the LORD.” (Psalm 122:1).
The adventure begins! We arrive at Ben Gurion Airport and go on to Jaffa for an orientation to the land and stretch our legs walking through Jaffa’s artists’ quarter. Here St. Peter had his vision that led him to convert Cornelius (Acts 10) and bring the mission of the church to the Gentiles. We drive through Tel Aviv on the way to our hotel in Netanya on the Mediterranean Sea.
Day 3: Caesarea, Mount Carmel, Nazareth, Mt. Arbel, Sea of Galilee
The angel said to her, ‘Mary, do not be afraid; you have won God’s favor. Look! You are to conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you must name him Jesus (Luke 1:30-31).
This morning, we follow in the footsteps of Saint Paul as we make our way to Caesarea. With the conversion of Cornelius by St. Paul (Acts 10), this Roman city became the beachhead of the Christian mission to the Gentiles. We visit the ancient Herodian harbor, the remains of the seaside palace of Pontius Pilate, the theater and the aqueduct on the beach. Get your feet in the water. Continue to the altar of Elijah at Muhraka atop Mount Carmel. Looking out over the Valley of Jezreel, we remember how Elijah called down the fire. (1 Kings 18:39). We drive across the Valley of Jezreel to Nazareth, where we will stop for a lookout over the town and visit the church of the Annunciation for a welcoming Mass to the Holy Land. Continue to the cliff of Mount Arbel, where we’ll help each other down the Cliffside (scary but safe!) to the Sea of Galilee. Overnight at a hostel or hotel on the Sea of Galilee.
Day 4: Sea of Galilee: Boat Ride, Capernaum, Tabgha, Mt. of Beatitudes, Caesarea Philippi, Jordan River – Baptism and optional Rafting
Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them saying: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”. (Matthew 5:1-3).
We start out early, boarding a wooden boat for Ginnosar – sailing in the footsteps of Jesus! We drive to Capernaum to see the house of. St. Peter and the synagogue where Jesus preached and cast out demons (Mark 1). Contnue to Tabgha, visiting the Church of Loaves and Fishes marking Jesus’ miraculous feeding of the Five Thousand (Mark 6:30-44) and the Church of the Primacy of Peter. We then drive up the hill to the Mount of Beatitudes to reflect on Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Onward to the foothills of Mt. Hermon and the headwaters of the Jordan at Banias – Ceasarea Philippi, where Peter acknowledged Jesus as Messiah (Matthew 16:13-28). Climb to the cave and the remains of the pagan temples of Roman times. We drive a few miles down the road to the Jordan River, where we can board rubber dinghies to raft down the Jordan (cost additional and seasonal conditions permitting)! Hallelujah!
Day 5: Baptismal Site on the Jordan, Jericho, Qumran, Ein Gedi, Dead Sea
Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone.’ (Luke 4:1-4).
We leave the Sea of Galilee and travel to the Jordan River baptismal site. Descending the Jordan Valley, we head down the Jordan Valley to Jericho, the world’s oldest city, climbing the Tel to view the ancient towers and the Mount of Temptation, marking Jesus’ temptation by Satan in the wilderness (Luke 4). We travel down the Dead Sea coast to visit Qumran, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were written and hidden in a cave until their discovery by a Bedouin shepherd in 1947. Then on to the desert oasis of Ein Gedi. See the ibex and conies and cool off under the rushing waterfall. In the late afternoon, float in the Dead Sea. Overnight at the Masada youth hostel.
Day 6: Masada, Mount of Olives, City of David, Hezekiah’s Tunnel
Say to the daughter of Zion: Look, your king is approaching, humble and riding on a donkey and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden (Matthew 21:5).
This morning, we get up before dawn to climb the winding Snake Path up to the top of the plateau of Masada. We arrive in time for Sunrise over the Dead Sea – an unforgettable experience! View Herod’s palaces, the Roman siege ramp, the water system and the synagogue of the Zealots who chose death by suicide rather than slavery to the Romans. Descend by cable car. After a shower and breakfast, we traverse the Judean Desert to arrive at the Mount of Olives, with its breath-taking view of the Old City of Jerusalem. We go down the traditional Palm Sunday Road, to the Church of Dominus Flevit (Luke 19) and reflect on Jesus’ weeping over the city. We continue to the City of David, site of the earliest buildings of Jerusalem. Explore Warren’s Shaft and the system of water tunnels. Walk through knee-high water in Hezekiah’s Tunnel, built 2,700 years ago to resist the Assyrian siege of Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 32). An amazing feat of engineering! Then check into our Jerusalem hotel to rest.
Day 7: Western (Wailing) Wall, Temple Mount, St. Peter in Gallicantu, Upper Room, Church of the Dormition, Herzl Museum, Ein Karem
At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!” (Luke 1:39-42, 45)
We begin at the Western (Wailing) Wall, remnant of the Temple in which Jesus preached and a holy place for Jews from all over the world. If we’re lucky, maybe we’ll see Bar Mitzvah services! We continue to the Temple Mount, viewing the Muslim Dome of the Rock, built on the site of the Second Temple. We then walk over to Mount Zion to visit the Church of St. Peter in Gallicantu, where Jesus may have been questioned before the High Priest Caiaphas, and see the Upper Room, traditional site of the Last Supper. We’ll also visit the Church of the Dormition, commemorating the Assumption of Mary. Crossing the New City of West Jerusalem, we visit the Herzl Museum, a state of the art multi-media presentation on the history of Israel and its founder, Theodore Herzl, We conclude at the beautiful village of Ein Karem at the Church of the Visitation, marking Mary’s encounter with Elizabeth. This evening we will hear from an Israeli spokesman on the current situation in the Holy Land and the prospects for peace in the future.
Day 8: Bethlehem, Shepherds’ Field, Voluntourism with local students
I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2:10-11).
This morning, we travel to the Shepherds’ Fields to rejoice over the glad tidings of the birth of Jesus and remember the faith of Ruth who gathered grain nearby. We then return to Bethlehem to visit the 5th-century Church of the Nativity and the Grottos of St. Jerome and the Massacre of the Innocents, and have some time for olive wood souvenir shopping. In the afternoon we will experience the Christian community living in the Holy Land, including students at Bethlehem University and the Holy Child School which serves Christian, Jewish, and Muslim children who have experienced trauma. This is an opportunity to learn about how real people live in Israel/Palestine today and offer thanks for all this land has given us.
Day 9: Gethsemane, Mary’s Tomb, Pools of Bethesda, Via Dolorosa, Holy Sepulchre, Tomb of the Kings, transfer to Tel Aviv and the Mediterranean
“He has risen!” (Mark 16:6)
We begin this morning with a prayer at the Church of the Agony and the Garden of Gethsemane (Aramaic for ‘oil press’), meditating on the sorrow of Jesus the night before his judgment (Luke 21). In the garden are olive trees thought by some to be 2000-years old! Continue to Mary’s Tomb. Then, we cross the Kidron Valley and see the Pools of Bethesda, where Jesus healed the man paralyzed for 38 years (John 5) and sing in the adjoining Crusader Church of St. Anne. Good singers – this church will make you sound great! We then proceed up the Via Dolorosa to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. We conclude our voyage with a Mass to celebrate the resurrection in the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Kyrie Eleison! Christ is risen! Late this afternoon, we stop at the Tomb of the Kings to crawl through an intact rolling stone tomb of Jesus’ day. Then we drive down to Tel Aviv so you can cool out at the Mediterranean or enjoy an iced latte in the cafes of Tel Aviv, Israel’s hottest city.
Day 10: Emmaus, Transfer to airport
Now while he was with them at table, he took the bread and said the blessing; then he broke it and handed it to them. And their eyes were opened and they recognized him; but he had vanished from their sight. Then they said to each other, ‘Did not our hearts burn within us as he talked to us on the road and explained the scriptures to us?’ (Luke 24:32)
This morning, we leave the hotel for the airport and the flight home to the USA. If we can, we will stop at Emmaus to worship at the site of the post-resurrection revelation of Jesus to his disciples (Luke 24). We make our way to Ben Gurion airport for the flight home. Bet you can’t wait to tell your friends all about it!
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