Our journey through the Holyland continues to Israel, which is the main highlight of the group tour.
For our Day 1 to 3 in Amman, Jordan, see blog here.
Day 4 – Amman to Israel: Lower Tiberias: Mount Gilboa / Nazareth / Cana
From Amman, Jordan, we headed west to Sheik Hussein Border at Bet She’an to enter Israel. The tour agency facilitated our entry hassle-free. Filipinos are Visa-free to enter Israel. Our first Israel biblical tour experience started in Mount Gilboa, from which the Valley of Megiddo can be seen. For Christians, the word Megiddo is synonymous with the end of the world as mentioned in the Book of Revelation. The valley of Megiddo, or Armageddon, is said to be the site of the Final Battle of good and evil. Not a nice picture to imagine, but the view is breathtaking. Various agricultural plantations can be seen.
Our tour then continued to Nazareth and up to Mount Precipice where Nazarenes tried to kill young Jesus by throwing Him head down on a cliff, as described in the Bible. We then proceed to Cana, where Jesus performed His first miracle in a wedding by turning water into wine. Some of our tour companions celebrated their reaffirmation of marriage vows at the wedding church in Cana. We also had some wine tasting at one of the shops outside the church. The wedding church is one of the most charming church that we’ve visited during the tour.
Day 5 – Nazareth and Galilee Center
Our 5th day started with a visit to the Basilica of the Annunciation, where, as per the Bible, Angel Gabriel told Mary that she will conceive the Son of God. it’s believed by many Christian historians that the Basilica is built on the site of Mother Mary’s home, where many churches (but not the Greek Orthodox) believe the Annunciation took place. The basilica is uniquely designed to have two floors. The Upper Basilica has a soaring-shaped dome like an inverted lily, designed to ‘glorify Mary as the Mother of God’.
Our journey proceeded to the central region of Galilee which is the Northern center of Jesus ministry. We got to experience a boating ride at the Sea of Galilee.
Other highlights of the day: Mount of Beatitudes overlooking the sea of Galilee. traditional site of Christ famous Sermon on the Mount. This was also the venue where he heard our first Catholic mass, as officiated by Fr. Alejandro, who is also our fellow tourist. We then proceed to Capernaum & see the 4th CE old synagogue built in the remains of synagogue during the time of Christ and see also Apostle Peter’s house. Capernaum became Jesus’ home town and the Bible calls it Jesus’ “own city”. Matthew 4:13 tells us that Jesus left Nazareth and went to live in Capernaum after meeting temptation in the wilderness. Here he met James, John, Peter, Andrew all fishermen and Matthew a tax collector, five of his future disciples.
Day 6 – Bethlehem/Jordan River/Valley of Psalms 23/Dead Sea
Our 6th day started early in the morning at the Shepherd’s Field in Bethlehem where the angels announced to the shepherds the birth of Jesus. We then proceeded to the Church of Nativity, also in Bethlehem, which is the birthplace of Jesus Christ. We then visited the Milk Grotto where the wise men visited the Lord Jesus with their precious gifts. The Milk Grotto is located just a few minutes walk from the back of the Nativity Church.
This Star, as shown above, is said to be the spot where Jesus was conceived. This is located below the “Altar of the Nativity” inside the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. The 14 points of the Star are said to represent the 14 generations of Jesus Christ from Abraham to David then from David to the Babylonian captivity and after that from Babylonian captivity to Jesus Christ (Matthew 1:17).
The group then proceeded to Qaser El Yahud Jordan River, which is the biblical site of Jesus Baptism. We also had our renewal of faith and baptism, as officiated by Fr. Alejandro. We took some time in this activity for prayers and thanksgiving.
We then had a quick stop at the Death Valley in Wadi Qelt described by King David in Psalms 23, before we headed for a swimming and floating experience in Dead Sea.
Day 7 – Jerusalem City Center
Day 7 was the highlight of the tour to the Holy City of Jesus. We spent the day at Jerusalem, which is the Spiritual Capital of Israel and the center for revival among Christians. We were able to walk down the Palm Sunday Road unto the Garden of Gethsemane and saw the ancient olive trees,which are the silent eyewitness of the agony of our Lord Jesus. The Garden of Gethsemane is a good jumpstart to do Via Dolorosa (or way of the Cross) for Catholics.
The Church of St. Peter in Gallicantu marks the location of Jesus’ Passion, Scourging, and condemnation to death; and the location of St. Peter’s triple denial of Our Lord. The church is built over the ancient remains and ruins thought to have been where Christ was confined before the crucifixion. It was here that Jesus Christ spent the night of His Passion. The ruins of the actual passage of the passion is preserved on site, as well as the dungeon below the church.
The Way of the Cross terminates to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which is built on the traditional site of Jesus’ Crucifixion and burial (John 19:41–42), the two holiest sites in Christianity, dating back to the 4th century. Upon entry to the church, the Stone of Unction is first seen. By local tradition, on this rock Jesus’ body was laid and prepared for burial.
We also visited the Western Wall and Mt. of Olives in the evening, but my photos were awful, I cannot share them here. Mount of Olives offer the best panoramic view of Old Jerusalem, as seen in popular postcards.
Day 8 was a long travel by land from Bethlehem to Eilat, Southern Israel, where the border crossing to Egypt is located. This will be uploaded on the next blog. =)