Day 1: Departure from the USA
Our pilgrimage begins with an overnight flight from to Tel Aviv, Israel
Day 2: Arrival in Israel, Joppa, Mediterranean Coast
I rejoiced that they 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, Megiddo, Nazareth, Cana, Sea of Galilee
The angel said to her, ‘Mary, do not be afraid; you have won God’s favor. 31 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). Continue through the narrow Eron Pass to Megiddo, the ancient town overlooking the site of Har-Megiddo or Ar-mageddon. 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! Overnight at our hotel on the Sea of Galilee where we will stay for the next three nights.
Day 4: Sea of Galilee: Mt. of Beatitudes, Tabgha, Capernaum, 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 our day boarding a wooden boat for Ginnosar – sailing in the footsteps of Jesus! Debarking, we visit an original fishing boat of Jesus’ day, recently discovered in the mud of the lakeshore. We drive to the Mount of Beatitudes to celebrate Mass and reflect 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). After lunch near the lakeshore (those who wish can savor “St. Peter’s Fish” native to the Sea of Galilee), we continue to Capernaum to pray at the house of St. Peter and visit the synagogue where Jesus preached (Mark 1). Return to Tiberias for a leisurely afternoon swimming or relaxing at the lakeshore. We will return to the hotel.
Day 5: Caesarea Philippi, Golan Heights, Gergesa, Baptismal Site on the Jordan, relax at the Sea of Galilee
Then Simon Peter spoke up and said, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ Jesus replied, ‘Simon son of Jonah, you are a blessed man! Because it was no human agency that revealed this to you but my Father in heaven (Matthew 16:16-17).
This morning, we head 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), Mass will be celebrated outdoors by the spring, so that we are reminded of the Rock upon which our church is founded, and the living water that nourishes it. Continue to the top of the Golan Heights, where we will stop by the Syrian border, look out on the road to Damascus, and be reminded of the conversion of Paul (Acts 9). We descend towards the eastern shores of the Sea of Galilee, to the remains of the Church at Gergesa, where Jesus drove the evil spirits out of the possessed man into the swine (Matthew 8:28-34). We end our day at the baptismal site on the Jordan River, reaffirming our rebirth in Christ.
Day 6: Mount Tabor, Jordan Valley, Jericho, Masada, Dead Sea
Peter spoke to Jesus. ‘Lord,’ he said, ‘it is wonderful for us to be here; if You want me to, I will make three shelters here, one for You, one for Moses and one for Elijah.’ He was still speaking when suddenly a bright cloud covered them with shadow, and suddenly from the cloud there came a voice which said, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved; He enjoys my favor. Listen to Him.’ (Matthew 17:4-5).
Reluctantly, we must take leave of the Sea of Galilee, ascending to Mount Tabor. Transferring to taxis for the narrow ascent, we arrive at the top for a breathtaking view over the Valley of Jezreel, Galilee, Gilead and Samaria. After identifying the battleground of the Old Testament heroines Deborah and Jael (Judges 4-5), we enter the Church of the Transfiguration for Mass. As we reflect in silence before the altar, perhaps we too may hear Jesus, Moses and Elijah in deep conversation (Matthew 17:1-13). We then descend the Jordan Valley to Jericho, the world’s oldest city, climbing the ancient Tel to view the Mount of Temptation. Continue to the impressive desert fortress of Masada. We ascend by cable car to view the palaces of Herod and the site of the Zealots’ last stand against the Romans. Check in and overnight at our hotel at the Dead Sea, lowest point on the face of the earth. Enjoy a float (even if you can’t swim!) and a mud bath!
Day 7: Judean Desert, Mount of Olives, Gethsemane, Mount Zion, St. Peter in Gallicantu, Upper Room, Temple Tunnels
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).
We travel up the Dead Sea coast past Qumran, the ancient settlement where the Dead Sea Scrolls were written and hidden until their discovery by a Bedouin shepherd in 1947 (we will see the scrolls in Jerusalem). Traverse the Judean Desert to ascend the Mount of Olives, for the breath-taking view of the Old City. We descend the traditional Palm Sunday Road, to the Church of Dominus Flevit (Luke 19). As we gaze out on the magnificent walls and domes, we reflect on Jesus’ weeping over the city that has yet to know peace. Continue to 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. This afternoon, we drive to Mount Zion to visit the Church of St. Peter in Gallicantu, where Jesus may have been questioned before the High Priest Caiaphas. We will reflect on the trials of Jesus in a Divine Liturgy there. We conclude the day at the Upper Room, traditional site of the Last Supper. This evening we have a special treat, walking through underground tunnels to see the remnants of the Temple Mount of Jesus’ day including hewn stones weighing over 400 tons! Overnight in Jerusalem until the end of the trip.
Day 8: Model of Ancient Jerusalem, Shrine of the Book, Mount Herzl Museum, Yad Vashem, Ein Karem
I shall give them in my house and within my walls a monument and a name (Yad Vashem) better than sons and daughters; I shall give them an everlasting name that will never be effaced (Isaiah 56:5).
Crossing the New City of West Jerusalem, we view a 1:50 scale model of the City of Jerusalem of Jesus’ Day and the Shrine of the Book, where the Dead Sea Scrolls are displayed. Here you can see an original copy of the Book of Isaiah dating from a century before Jesus was born! We continue to the Herzl Museum, to view a remarkable 3-d presentation on the history of Zionism and its founder, Theodore Herzl. On the other flank of the Mountain of Memory, we will visit Yad Vashem, the museum and memorial to the Holocaust and the struggle of the victims and survivors to maintain human dignity in the face of unspeakable atrocity. We conclude at the pastoral village of Ein Karem, traditional birthplace of John the Baptist. Late afternoon Mass will be held in the tranquil Church of the Visitation where the Virgin Mary met her kinswoman Elizabeth. In the cloister, you will see beautiful ceramic tiles inscribed with Elizabeth’s praise of God, the Benedictus, in over fifty languages! This evening we will hear from a peace activist on the current situation in the Holy Land and the prospects for peace in the future.
Day 9: Western (Wailing) Wall, Temple Mount, Pools of Bethesda, Shepherds’ Field, Bethlehem
Look, I bring you news of great joy, a joy to be shared by the whole people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord’ (Luke 2:10-11).
We begin at 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. If we are fortunate, we may see Bar Mitzvah services in progress! 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 visit 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. Prepare your voices! Hymns never sounded this good! 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 10: Global Voluntourism Day
Learn to do good, search for justice, discipline the violent, be just to the orphan, plead for the widow. (Isaiah 1:17)
This day will be devoted to Global Voluntourism in Bethlehem or Jerusalem. We will spend time ministering to orphanages and hospitals, picking fruit, helping students practice their English, or painting and cleaning in churches, schools or community centers. We will meet and listen to real people and real stories of faith under siege – whether it be the Living Stones, Palestinian Christians who maintain their faith and hope in the face of violence and discrimination, or Israelis who struggle with the difficulties of conflict. By giving to others, we may reciprocate in small measure for the blessings of our pilgrimage.
Day 11: Via Dolorosa, Holy Sepulchre, free time, shopping, evening reflection
“He has risen!” (Mark 16:6)
We rise early to 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 Sepulcher, 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 12: Emmaus, Departure for the USA
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. 31 And their eyes were opened and they recognized Him; but He had vanished from their sight. 32 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)
With hearts full of gratitude and memories for a lifetime, we transfer to the Tel Aviv airport for the return flight home 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). We return home enriched with the blessings of pilgrimage and ready to share our faith experiences with family and friends.
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