Day 1: Departure from the USA
Our pilgrimage adventure begins with an overnight flight to Tel Aviv.
Day 2: Arrival in Israel, Joppa, Mediterranean Coast
I rejoiced with those who said to me, “Let us go to the house of the LORD.” (Psalm 122:1).
We arrive at Ben Gurion Airport and travel to Joppa for a panoramic orientation to the land and a visit to the Church of St. Peter. Peter’s vision in Joppa led him to convert Cornelius (Acts 10) and initiate the church’s mission to the Gentiles. We drive through Tel Aviv on our way to our hotel in Netanya on the beautiful Mediterranean Sea.
Day 3: Caesarea, Mount Carmel, Nazareth, Cana, 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 Paul as we make our way up the Plain of Sharon to Caesarea. We visit the aqueduct, the ancient Herodian harbor, the remains of the seaside palace of Pontius Pilate and the theater. With the conversion of Cornelius by St. Paul (Acts 10), this impressive Roman city became the beachhead of the Christian mission to the Gentiles. Continue to the altar of Elijah at the Muhraka atop Mount Carmel. Looking out over the fertile Valley of Jezreel on the East, and the Mediterranean on the west, we ponder Elijah’s challenge to resist the temptations of power and wealth and proclaim “the Lord, He is God!” (1 Kings 18:39). Cross the fertile Valley of Jezreel and climb to Nazareth. There, we celebrate Mass in the Church of the Annunciation and view the ruins of the ancient churches and the remains of the town of Nazareth of Jesus’ day. We continue to the Church of the Wedding at Cana, where Jesus performed His first miracle, changing water into wine (John 2). Some couples may want to renew their marriage vows here! We conclude the day with a visit to the baptismal site on the Jordan River. Overnight at our hotel on the Sea of Galilee for two nights.
Day 4: Sea of Galilee: Mt. of Beatitudes, Tabgha, Capernaum, Caesarea Philippi, Boat Ride
Seeing the crowds, he went onto the mountain. And when he was seated his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak. This is what he taught them: How blessed are the poor in spirit: the kingdom of Heaven is theirs (Matthew 5:1-3).
We begin with morning Mass at the Mount of Beatitudes, reflecting on the challenges of Jesus’ teachings. We then descend the hillside (twenty minutes by foot or by bus) to Tabgha (Heptapagon – Greek for seven springs), visiting the Church of Loaves and Fishes marking Jesus’ miraculous feeding of the Five Thousand (Mark 6:30-44) as well as the Church of the Primacy of Peter (John 21). We then visit Capernaum, paying at the house of Peter and visiting the synagogue where Jesus preached (Mark 1). After lunch near the lakeshore (those who wish can savor “St. Peter’s Fish” native to the Sea of Galilee), we continue north through the lush Upper Jordan Valley and the foothills of Mt. Hermon to the headwaters of the Jordan at Banias – Caesarea Philippi, where Peter acknowledged Jesus as Christ, son of the Living God (Matthew 16:13-28), We return south to the Sea of Galilee and board a wooden boat for Tiberias – sailing in the footsteps of Jesus!
Day 5: Jordan River, Jericho, Judean Desert, Mount of Olives, Gethsemane
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).
Reluctantly, we take leave of the Sea of Galilee to travel to the baptismal site on the Jordan River, and be reminded of our death to the world and our rebirth in Christ. We then descend the Jordan Valley to Jericho, the world’s oldest city, climbing the ancient Tel to view the Mount of Temptation. We traverse the Judean Desert and catch our first glimpse of the Holy City of Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives. We then descend the traditional Palm Sunday Road, to the Church of Dominus Flevit (Luke 19) for Mass. As we gaze out on the magnificent walls and domes, we reflect on Jesus’ weeping over the city that has yet to know peace. We conclude the day at the Garden of Gethsemane (Aramaic for ‘oil press’), meditating on the sorrow of Jesus the night preceding his judgment – ‘father let this cup pass from me, yet not my will but thy will be done’ (Luke 21) We will marvel at the gnarled ancient olive trees and meditate in the somber Church of the Agony. Check into our Jerusalem hotel, where we will remain until the end of our Holy Land pilgrimage.
Day 6: Western (Wailing) Wall, Temple Mount, Church of St. Peter in Gallicantu, Shepherds’ Field, Bethlehem
A song of Ascents of David: I rejoiced that they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of Yahweh.’ At last our feet are standing at your gates, Jerusalem! (Psalm 122:1-2).
We begin our day by entering the Old City to visit the Western (Wailing) Wall, remnant of the Temple in which Jesus preached and a sacred place of prayer for Jews from all over the world. We continue to the Temple Mount, viewing the Muslim Dome of the Rock, built on the site of the Holy of Holies of the Temple, and the Mosque of El Aqsa. Leaving the Temple Mount, we walk through the Jewish Quarter to Mount Zion to visit the Church of St. Peter in Gallicantu, where Jesus may have been questioned before the High Priest Caiaphas, and the Upper Room, traditional site of the Last Supper. This afternoon, 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 celebrate Mass in the Chapel of the Massacre of the Innocents. Finally, we stop to shop for the famous olive wood and mother-of-pearl crafts that have been produced by the Christians of Bethlehem for centuries
Day 7: Bethesda Pools, Via Dolorosa, Holy Sepulchre, free time at Old City
“He has risen!” (Mark 16:6)
We rise early to visit the Crusader Church of St. Anne and the Pools of Bethesda, where Jesus healed the man paralyzed for 38 years (John 5). We then proceed up the Via Dolorosa. As we make our way past the 14 Stations of the Cross, we reflect on Christ’s suffering and sacrifice, and the gift of His blood. We enter the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, proceeding to the Hill of Golgotha, the Chapel of the Skull of Adam, and the empty Tomb. In the chapel alongside the tomb, we conclude our pilgrimage with the celebration of Christ’s resurrection. He is risen indeed! The rest of the afternoon is free for shopping, individual sightseeing or relaxation.
Day 8: Departure by way of Emmaus
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 on to the USA. Flight hours permitting, we will stop at Emmaus to celebrate Mass at the site of the post-resurrection revelation of Jesus to his disciples (Luke 24).
The Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore. (Psalm 121:8)
© Faith Journeys LLC
Author: Dr. Jackie Feldman, Ben Gurion University, Beersheba, Israel