A Memorable Journey of a Lifetime- the ‘HOLY LAND EXPERIENCE 2019’
Going to mass on Sundays, I would often hear about the Holy Places such as Jerusalem, Dead Sea, Red Sea, Nazareth, Bethlehem, Jericho, Egypt, Temptation, visitation of Mother Mary and Elizabeth and many other places. But I had never thought that I would one day visit these places where Jesus walked. The experience was different, what we heard and what it actually felt like while visiting those places personally. These are destinations for Christian pilgrims to visit and experience how Jesus, Mary and Joseph led their lives in Jerusalem, Nazareth, Bethlehem and other places. Pilgrims from all over the world visit the Holy Land to see the physical manifestations of their faith, their beliefs and to have a personal experience of the Holy Land.
It was an exciting and emotional feeling to be at the birthplace of Jesus. My tour of the Holy land was a memorable one and I suggest every Christian to visit these places to experience the bible.
Our journey to the Holy land started on September 16, 2019, with 93 people, including two of the staff from Globe Travels from the Mangaluru International airport at 8 pm. The group was split into two and my group boarded the flight on September 17 at 4.30 am from Bengaluru to Sharjah and then to Amman. Once the two groups assembled together again, all the 93 members explored the beauty of Jordan. As soon as we departed from the airport, two luxury buses were waiting outside the airport to take us to our destination along with the tour guides, Hassan and Arkan. As all the members were tired after a long journey, and the tour guide informed us that we would be taken for lunch and we had a sumptuous buffet. Later, the guide dropped us at Hotel Jerusalem for an overnight stay. At 6:30 pm, we had mass at the Conference Hall followed by a buffet dinner.
On September 18th, we began the day at 6:30 am with breakfast at Hotel Jerusalem and started our journey an hour later. Our tour guide Hassan briefed us about St George Church in Jordan, the biggest church in Jordan. We passed through the Desert Road to attend the mass in an orthodox church. After the mass, we continued our journey while the guide continued to brief us on the history of St George Church in Madaba, Jordan, which has the oldest mosaic map of the Holy Land in the world.
He said that through the colours, you can tell whether it is a cathedral or church as the seven colours in the rainbow represent the seven days of creation. They represent God’s colour spectrum. Likewise brown represents Holy places, blue means water or sky, white colour means love, peace. There are many kinds of churches in Jordan. St George’s Church is built with 7 million mosaics. It was built in the 6th century and is a very old Cathedral. The mosaic which is used for the Church is from Moab. Madaba is in the middle of Saudi and Syria. We can see all the cities on the map and it is called the mosaic city.
Explaining to us, the guide said that Jordon is in the heart of the middle east and three stable kingdoms emerged there at the end of the Bronze Age – Ammon, Moab and Edom. Jordan is bordered by Saudi Arabia to the south and the east, Iraq to the north-east, Syria to the north and Israel and Palestine to the west with four important Holy gates – Damascus, Jericho, Mekka and the Baghdad gate. “Our King was like Nehru and people loved him. He had given priority to the safety of the country and its citizens. Most of its neighbouring countries like Syria, Israel, Iraq and Saudi had wars but Jordan is very safe. Jordan is in the middle with three borders – Sheikh Hussein, Araba Crossing and King Hussein – with three airports, two in Amman and one in Akaba. We are in the middle of the Holy land. In Mohab, everything is green. The Dead Sea is salty; it is a living sea because there are many products from the dead sea. The rift valley contains the Jordan River and the Dead Sea, which separates Jordan from Israel. The Dead Sea is located along its western borders and the country has a short 26-kilometre coastline on the Red Sea in its extreme south-west but is otherwise landlocked. The population of Jordan is 10 million and it is a tourist destination which attracts pilgrims from around the world,” said Hassan.
Hassan also explained about the history of the Red Sea and Jordan, where he said that, In 1965, the King decided to exchange the land with Saudi and gave 25 kilometers of land to Saudi. In return, the Saudis gave 25 kilometers from the Red Sea which is rich in coral. After 5 years in 1970, oil was found in the land which was given to the Saudis and they became rich, but we were the winners because we got the best coral from the Red sea, said Hassan. The Red sea is rich with water and the Dead Sea is very salty. Three thousand years ago, there was no religion here. 332 AD was the golden time for Christians and the region started to believe in Christianity. In Madaba, the Church was built with mosaic. We also visited the Mosaic factory of Madaba where they produce beautiful carvings from Mosaic.
After visiting the Mosaic factory, we proceeded towards Mount Nebo – the burial site of Prophet Moses – overlooking the Jordan Valley. After a sumptuous buffet for lunch, we proceeded on to the beach at the Dead Sea where our members relaxed for the rest of the day, floating in the salty waters. We drove back to Amman in the evening and stayed overnight at Hotel Jerusalem.
On September 19, after an early check out from Hotel Jerusalem, we boarded the bus to explore the beauty of Amman, Allenby, Jericho and Jordan River. We proceeded to the Sheik Hussain Border for the completion of visa and immigration formalities to get into Israel. Upon entering Israel, our tour guides Freddy and Mursi from Eternity Tours welcomed us. Our next drive was to Jericho, the Sycamore Tree and then the Mount of Temptation. The Mount of Temptation is said to be the hill in the Judean Desert where Jesus was tempted by the devil. There we had dates and fruits of the sycamore tree. The vendor, speaking in Malayalam, was selling dates for “moonuh muppathuh” (three kgs of dates for $30). After visiting the Mount of Temptation, we had a sumptuous lunch at Hotel Jericho Temptation Restaurant.
Mount of Temptation
Original Baptism Site
After lunch, we proceeded towards the Jordan River, the Original Baptism Site where Jesus was baptized. The authenticity of this site is as pure as the testimonies from the Gospel. Priests who accompanied us in our Holy Tour namely, Fr Francis D’Souza and Fr Jesudas, sprinkled the water from the Jordan River (Baptism Site) on heads of few of us, while other members of the group had a dip in the water seven times. Later, everyone proceeded to Good Shepherd’s Church for Mass. After the mass, we went back for an overnight stay at Hotel Orient Palace in Bethlehem.
To be continued…..