Ideal length of stay: 7 days
1st day: Via Maris, Carmel
Blessed the man who finds refuge in you, in their hearts are pilgrim roads. [Psalm 84]
After landing in Tel Aviv, we take the new main road that follows the ancient Via Maris, the “motorway” in the time of Jesus that linked Egypt with Syria. We cross the plain of Sharon, with a brief stop to admire the Roman aqueduct of Caesarea Maritima. We continue to the city of Haifa to climb Mount Carmel. A halt at the Sanctuary of Stella Maris allows us to remember the figure of the great prophet Elijah. From here we continue to Nazareth, the flower of Galilee.
To visit Galilee, you can stay at Casa Nova (the Franciscan residence for pilgrims) in Nazareth.
2nd day : Nazareth
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming to her he said, “Hail, favoured one, the Lord is with you. But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary for you have found favour with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High.”.
(Luke 1, 26-32)
We start in front of the large Basilica of the Annunciation, consecrated in 1969, which holds the “venerated grotto” with the remains of the house of Mary of Nazareth. It all started here with the Angel’s announcement to the Virgin Mary: “HIC Verbum Caro factum est” that is, HERE the Word became flesh. Our visit continues with the Museum of the ancient village with the finds from the archaeological excavations by Father Bellarmino Bagatti. Close by we can visit the Church of the Nutrition or the House of St. Joseph, and the Virgin Mary’s Spring.
We cross the plain of Esdrelon to Daburiyyeh, a Muslim village at the foot of Mount Tabor. We climb to about 600 metres above sea level by minibus to visit the Basilica of the Transfiguration of Jesus.
On the way back, we stop at the village of Naim, where Jesus resuscitated the widow’s son. On the road to Nazareth we stop in Cana of Galilee, the sanctuary that commemorates Jesus’ first miracle at the wedding. Bridal couples come here to renew their marriage vows.
3rd day : Lake Tiberias
As he was walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew, casting a net into the sea; they were fishermen. He said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” At once they left their nets and followed him. He walked along from there and saw two other brothers, James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They were in a boat, with their father Zebedee, mending their nets. He called them and immediately they left their boat and their father and followed him. (Matthew 4,18)
The whole day is dedicated to visiting the places linked to Jesus’ preaching around Lake Tiberias or the Sea of Galilee.
The visit starts from Capharnaum, “Jesus’ city”, where we visit the Memorial of St. Peter built here on the remains of his house where the Lord often stayed during his ministry in Galilee.
“In Capharnaum, the house of the prince of the apostles was made into a church and those walls are still standing today as they used to be…”.
Peter the Deacon, Benedictine monk (12th century)
The Franciscans who have done excavations in the past two centuries have unearthed a large part of the town plan of Capharnaum. Opposite Peter’s house there is the 5th century Synagogue built on the foundations of the one that stood there in Jesus’ time.
Taking the road that goes along the Lake, the remains of the old Sanctuary of the Beatitudes can be seen. Nearby, there are the two sanctuaries of Tabgha that commemorate the Multiplication of the Loaves and the Fishes and the Primacy of Peter.
In Tiberias you can stay at the Casa Nova, the franciscan house for pilgrims.
4th day: from Galilee to Judea along the Jordan
We leave Nazareth and Galilee for Judea following the River Jordan which marks the border between Israel, the Palestinian Territories and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.
Our first stopping place is Qasr el-Yahud, on the banks of the Jordan, where Jesus was baptized by John. We continue to Qumran where the oldest manuscripts of the Bible were found.
Not far away, we reach the Dead Sea, a large salty lake, where you can go into the waters rich in salts and minerals well known for their curative properties.
We then enter Jericho, the city of Zacchaeus and of the blind man.
He came to Jericho and intended to pass through the town. Now a man there named Zacchaeus, who was a chief tax collector and also a wealthy man, was seeking to see who Jesus was; but he could not see him because of the crowd, for he was short in stature. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree in order to see Jesus, who was about to pass that way. When he reached the place, Jesus looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house,” And he came down quickly and received him with joy. When they all saw this, they began to grumble saying “He has gone to stay at the house of a sinner.” But Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “Behold, half of my possessions, Lord, I shall give to the poor, and if I have extorted anything from anyone I shall repay it four times over.“ And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house because this man too is a descendant of Abraham.” For the Son of Man has come to seek and so save what was lost.” (Luke 19,1-10)
After lunch, we climb back up from the depression of the Dead Sea (400 metres below sea level), reaching the highest point, the Mount of Olives, at about 800 metres above sea level. We make a stop in Bethany, the home of Lazarus, Martha and Mary.
So Jesus, perturbed again, came to the tomb. […] he cried out in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, tied hand and foot with burial bands, and his face was wrapped in a cloth. So Jesus said to them, “Untie him and let him go.” (John 11, 1-44)
From Bethany we go to Bethlehem, going through part of the new City of Jerusalem.
5th day: Bethlehem, Ain Karem
We dedicate the morning to a visit of Bethlehem.
In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that the whole world should be enrolled. This was the first enrolment, when Quirinius was governor of Syria. So all went up to be enrolled, each to his own town. And Joseph too went up from Galilee from the town of Nazareth to Judea, to the city of David that is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. While they were there, the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to her firstborn son, . She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them at the inn. (Luke 2,1-7)
From Manger Square we enter the Basilica; we go down into the grotto of the nativity and contemplate the remains of the Manger described by pilgrims. We visit the Grottoes called St. Jerome’s Grottoes and going back up again we are in the Crusader cloister.
We leave Bethlehem to go eastwards into the country to Bet Sahur where the shepherds received the Angel’s announcement. Lastly, we return to Bethlehem to take part in the daily procession with the Friars and it takes us once again to the Crib of Jesus.
After lunch, we leave for Ain Karem. We go up to the Sanctuary of the Visitation of Mary to her cousin Elizabeth and we will visit the birthplace of John the Baptist, the Precursor of Jesus.
During those days Mary set out and travelled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb. (Luke 1,39-41)
To visit these places, you can stay at Casa Nova (the Franciscan residence for pilgrims) in Bethlehem
6th day: Jerusalem (Mount of Olives and Via Dolorosa)
Then they handed him over to them and carrying the cross himself, he went out to what is called the Place of the Skill, in Hebrew Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus in the middle. Pilate also had an inscription written and put on the cross, It read, “Jesus the Nazorean, the King of the Jews.”. (John 19, 17-19)
The last station coincides with the Holy Sepulchre where the body of Jesus was laid.
”Do not be amazed! You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified, He has been raised; he is not here. Behold the place where they laid him.” Mark 16, 6 -7
To visit Judea you can stay at Casa Nova (the Franciscan residence for pilgrims) in Jerusalem.
7th day: Jerusalem (Wailing Wall, Cenacle and Dormition)
The last day is dedicated to the area around the Temple Mount of Jerusalem.
Going through the souk, we reach the holiest place for Jews, the Western Wall or the Wailing Wall. It is an original part of the wall containing the Esplanade of the Temple built by Herod in Jesus’ time. Jews pray here facing the Wall in two separate areas for men and women (as in a synagogue). You can go to the Esplanade of the Temple Mount, also called of the Mosques, except on Fridays and other Islamic holidays. Considered one of the holiest places of Islam, it is called “Haram esh-Sherif” (Noble Enclosure). As well as the two large mosques (Mosque of the Rock and al-Aqsa), there are small temples, colonnades, minarets and fountains.
After returning to the Wailing Wall, we go back up again on foot, following the walls of Suleiman the Magnificent and going through the Jewish Quarter from the Zion Gate. We reach the Basilica of Dormitio Mariae, which commemorates the Transitus of the Virgin Mary and the Room of the Cenacle. This is where Jesus wanted Easter, his Last Supper, to be prepared; he washed his disciples’ feet here and established the Eucharist and the priesthood. It was here that the disciples, who had gathered together “out of fear of the Jews”, received the gift of the Holy Spirit.
When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together. And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to. (Acts 2,1-4)
The Pilgrimage comes to an end with the visit to Emmaus where, according to tradition, the Lord arisen appeared to the two disciples of Emmaus, Cleopas and Simon.
When they approached the village to which they were going, he gave the impression that he was going on farther. But they urged him, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them. And it happened that, while he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them. With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight. Then they said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning [within us] while he spoke to us on the way and opened the scriptures to us?” So they set out at once and returned to Jerusalem where they found gathered together the eleven and those with them who were saying, “The Lord has truly been raised and has appeared to Simon!” Then the two recounted what had taken place on the way and how he was made known to them in the breaking of the bread. (Luke 24,13-35)