Well—it’s almost here. Along with a group of new friends, I’ll be leaving for the Holy Land (Israel) on the 26th. Each morning through early afternoon we “pilgrims” will make an excursion to a place (or places) of biblical interest. I can hardly wait to set my feet on sacred soil.
We’ll be staying in two places—the first week in Tiberias on the Sea of Galilee and then for a week in Jerusalem. The drive from Galilee to the Holy City midway during the trip, with stops along the way, takes most of a day. Also the excursion to the Dead Sea toward the end of the pilgrimage requires a full day as well. Most days, however, will follow a regular pattern (a kind of Benedictine schedule). It will include the morning place of interest, followed by a time of biblical study, and then a time of spiritual direction and reflection.
For those who are interested here is a general itinerary:
Day 1—Depart the U.S.
Day 2—Arrive in Tel Aviv tired after the overnight flight. Drive to retreat location in Tiberias (Galilee).
Day 3—Walk a trail to the top of the Cliff of Argel for a panoramic view of the Sea of Galilee. Visible in the distance are the Plain of Gennesaret, Capernaum, Mount of Beatitudes and Tabgha. Descend the trail and drive to Capernaum.
Day 4—Mount of Beatitudes, Tabgha (traditional site of the loaves and fishes), and Chapel of the Primacy of Peter (traditional site of Jesus’ appearance to the disciples while they were fishing: “cast your nets on the other side.”)
Day 5—Boat ride across the Sea of Galilee to En Gev and visit nearby Kursi (traditional site of where Jesus healed the demoniac and cast the demons into swine). Return drive around the southern end of the Sea of Galilee.
Day 6—Drive through Galilee to Zipori (Sepphoris) and Nazareth. Return by a different route that offers a better view of Mount Tabor (traditional Mount of Transfiguration).
Day 7—Drive north to Banias (Caesarea Philippi) and the foothills of Mount Hermon. Along the way, pass Tell el-Qedah, site of ancient Hazor.
Day 8—No scheduled excursion. A day to rest, journal, and reflect. (A day for laundry as well!)
Day 9—Transfer from Galilee to Jerusalem. The drive itself is approximately three hours, but there are two important visits along the way: Megiddo (Armageddon) and Caesarea Maritima.
Day 10—Begin exploring Jerusalem starting with a panoramic view of the Old City from the Mount of Olives. Continue on foot to the Garden of Gethsemane, Church of Saint Anne, Via Dolorosa and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.
Day 11—Continue exploring Jerusalem: Garden Tomb, Church of Saint Peter in Gallicantu, Mount Zion, Wailing Wall.
Day 13—Full day excursion to the Dead Sea (including Masada, Qumran and Jericho).
Day 14—Return flight to the U.S.
The places we will visit are those that have become central to our faith. Our aim is to approach them in an attitude of worship and devotion. That is my prayer. I’ll share more upon my return. Until then, “shalom!”