Day 1: Departure from the USA
Our pilgrimage begins with an overnight flight to Tel Aviv.
Day 2: Arrival in Israel, Jaffa, Tel Aviv
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 Jaffa for a panoramic orientation to the land and stretch our legs walking through the picturesque alleyways of Jaffa’s artists’ quarter. In Jaffa, St. Peter had a vision that led him to convert Cornelius (Acts 10) and initiate the church’s mission to the Gentiles. Here too he revived the righteous woman Tabitha (Acts 9:36-40). We drive through Tel Aviv on the way to our hotel in Netanya on the beautiful Mediterranean Sea.
Day 3: Caesarea, Nazareth, Sea of Gailiee
The angel said, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God.” “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” Then the angel left her. (Luke 1:35-38)
This morning, we follow in the footsteps of St. Paul as we make our way up the Plain of Sharon to Caesarea. We visit 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. We stroll through the walled Crusader city and drive out to the Roman aqueduct on the beach, where we can put out feet in the Mediterranean. Continue across the Valley of Jezreel and drive up to the Hill of Precipitation (Luke 4:14-28), where we will reflect on the Old Testament Biblical events Jesus would have seen from this precipice near Nazareth. We will point out the sites of the battle of the Waters of Megiddo, led by Deborah (Judges 4-5) and wonder at the courage and faith of this remarkable woman. We then drive down the hill to Nazareth Village, a reconstructed first-century village that tells the story of the hometown of Jesus. The homes, crafts and reenactments will help us appreciate the daily life and responsibilities of women of Jesus’ day. We continue down to the Church of the Annunciation, holding a welcoming Mass at the site where the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary. We also visit the Church of the Wedding at Cana (John 2), where at Mary’s request. Jesus performed the first of his miracles, changing water into wine. We arrive at our hotel in a kibbutz on the Sea of Galilee. Relax at the shore before dinner. Overnight at the Sea of Galilee for the next three nights.
Day 4: Sea of Galilee: Boat Ride, Mt. of Beatitudes, Tabgha, Capernaum
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 begin our day boarding a wooden boat for Ginnosar – sailing in the footsteps of Jesus! Disembarking, 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 reflect on the new commandment Jesus taught here. 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, where after the resurrection, Jesus appeared to his disciples on the lakeshore and named Peter as head of the Church (John 21). After lunch (those who wish can savor “St. Peter’s Fish” native to the Sea of Galilee), we continue to Capernaum to celebrate Mass directly over the house of Saint Peter, where Jesus healed Peter’s mother in law (Mark 1:29-31). We see the cramped living quarters of the ancient town and the basalt hand mills where women would grind grain together for their families’ daily bread (Matthew 24:41), as well as the synagogue where Jesus preached and cast out demons (Mark 1). After dinner, we will hear from one of the members of the kibbutz on the life of women in the changing kibbutz.
Day 5: Tel Dan, Caesarea Philippi, Golan Heights, Gergesa
When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:13- 16).
This morning, we head north through the lush Upper Jordan Valley to Dan. Here we combine a short nature walk with views of the ancient ruins, including the Israelite high place where King Jeroboam erected a golden calf (I Kings 12). Onward to the foothills of Mt. Hermon and the headwaters of the Jordan at Banias – Ceasarea Philippi, where Peter acknowledged Jesus as the Christ (Matthew 16:13-28). Stoll along the rushing waters and walk up to the cave and the remains of the pagan temples of Roman times. We continue to the top of the Golan Heights, where we will stop at a former Israeli military outpost to hear about the Yom Kippur War and the current military situation. Looking out on the road to Damascus, we will be reminded of the conversion of Saint 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 return to the kibbutz hotel for a late afternoon swim or relaxation at the lakeshore. Those who wish may want to see the diamond and jewelry factory in Tiberias after dinner.
Day 6: Tomb of Rachel the Poetess, Jordan River Baptismal site, Jericho, Dead Sea
I have not sung you, my country, not brought glory to your name with the great deeds of a hero or the spoils a battle yields. But on the shores of the Jordan my hands have planted a tree, and my feet have made a pathway through your fields. Modest are the gifts I bring you. I know this, mother. Modest, I know, the offerings of your daughter: Only an outburst of song on a day when the light flares up, Only a silent tear for your poverty. (Rachel the Poetess)
We begin our day with a devotion at one of the most beautiful spots on the lakeside – the Tomb of Rachel the Poetess in the pioneer cemetery at Kinneret. We will read of the poems of Rachel, whose struggles with illness and unrequited love were strengthened by her attachment to the Bible and its landscape. We then 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. Passing by Qumran, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were written, we stop for a short tour of the Ahava cosmetic factory. 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! Some may want to relax in the hot mineral water at the hotel’s spa.
Day 7: Masada, Ein Gedi, Pillar of Lot’s Wife, relaxation at the Dead Sea
My lover is to me a cluster of henna blossoms from the vineyards of En Gedi. (Song of Solomon 1:14)
We begin this morning at 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. We then take a short nature walk at the oasis of Ein Gedi. See the ibex and conies and cool off under the rushing waterfall. Now we know why this place inspired Solomon when he thought of his beloved! We stop briefly to view the salt formation known as Lot’s Wife on our way back to the hotel. The rest of the day is free for relaxation at the Dead Sea or a soak in the spa of the hotel.
Day 8: Judean Desert, Mount of Olives, St Peter in Gallicantu, Church of the Dormition, Upper Room
Say to the Daughter of Zion, ‘See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’ (Matthew 21:5).
We travel back up the Dead Sea coast and cross the Judean Desert to ascend the Mount of Olives, to visit the Chruch of the Ascension, the Church of All Nations and see 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. 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. Continue to the Upper Room (Cenacle), traditional site of the Last Supper. We conclude the day at the Church of the Dormition, commemorating the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. In the crypt of the church, we view the beautiful mosaics depicting the major heroines of faith of the Old and New Testaments. This evening we meet with an Israeli woman to hear about the role of women in Judaism.
Day 9: Western (Wailing) Wall, Temple Mount, Shepherds’ Field, Bethlehem, Home visitation
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).
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 Dome of the Rock, built on the site of the Second Temple. Later this morning, we then head south into the Hills of Judea, passing by Rachel’s Tomb (Genesis 35:19) on our way to the Shepherds’ Fields. There we rejoice over the glad tidings of the birth of Jesus and remember the faith of Ruth who gathered grain in the fields of Boaz nearby. Her faithfulness and determination were rewarded and she became the ancestor of the Messiah. We go on to Bethlehem for lunch and to shop for the famous olive wood and mother-of-pearl crafts that have been produced by the Christians of Bethlehem for centuries. This afternoon, we visit the 5th-century Church of the Nativity, birthplace of Jesus. We worship at the Grotto of St. Jerome, the altars of the ascetic Saint Paula and her daughter Eustochium and the Chapel of the Massacre of the Innocents. We then meet with Palestinian Christian women of Bethlehem and join them for coffee in their homes. We will hear of their struggles to raise their families and maintain a Christian presence in Bethlehem today.
Day 10: Pools of Bethesda, Via Dolorosa, Holy Sepulchre, Garden Tomb, free time for shopping
“He has risen!” (Mark 16:6)
This morning, we begin 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 your will be done’. (Luke 21) We will marvel at the gnarled ancient olive trees and gather for prayer in the garden. Crossing over the Kidron Valley into the Old City, 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! We then proceed up the Via Dolorosa to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. We conclude our voyage with a celebration of Mass at the chapel of the Blessed Sacrament in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The tomb is empty! He is risen! The afternoon is free for shopping in Jerusalem, individual sightseeing or relaxation. The more adventurous might want to walk through the knee-deep waters of Hezekiah’s Tunnel. This evening we will have a gala farewell dinner in a fine Jerusalem restaurant.
Day 11: Ein Karem, Wind tasting in the Shephela Monasteries, Depart for Home
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)
This morning, we leave the hotel for the airport. Flight schedule permitting, we will depart Jerusalem via the beautiful village of Ein Karem, stopping at the Church of the Visitation, marking Mary’s encounter with Elizabeth. We will recite together the Benedictus, Mary’s praise of God, thanking God for our successful pilgrimage. Descending to the Shephela, the Judean foothills, we then visit the Benedictine Monastery of Latrun overlooking the lush Valley of Ayalon. We sample the wine produced by the monks and raise a toast to close our voyage. We make our way to Ben Gurion airport for the flight home, enriched with the blessings of the voyage and ready to share our faith experiences with family and friends.
Grace is deceitful, and beauty is vain; but a woman that fears God, she shall be praised. (Proverbs 31:30)
© Faith Journeys LLC
Author: Dr. Jackie Feldman, Ben Gurion University, Beersheba, Israel