The Star of Bethlehem
Salam! - greeted us Khader,
Just call me George - said our tourist guide in Tel Aviv,
on the morning of the third day of our stay, when we began our pilgrimage.
It turned out of Khader - that is George - that he speaks the language of
Jesus, although today's modern version.Of course he guided us in English.
As a preliminary, I'll tell you that this will be about Israel, our
voyage and pilgrimage to the Holy Land.
Our excursion began in Tel Aviv and on the first day we were led to Caesarea
Maritima, which was founded by Herod the Great in 29 B.C.
and functioned as an economic capital.
After Caesarea we paid a visit to Nazareth, the place
of Jesus' conception and where He spent His childhood. On the way we gazed
at the two important mountains in both the Old and New Testament: Mt. Carmel
and Mt. Tabor. When we reached Carmel, I could almost see the prophet Elijah
struggling on the mount all by himself against more than a hundred prophets
of Baal (I Kings18, 20-40). Continuing our journey we've reached the town of
Cana, where we had a look at the church of the famous
Wedding at Cana, where Jesus performed His first miracle, converting water
into wine at the request of His mother, the Virgin Mary. In Galilee we could
see the Sea of Galilee, which they also call Lake
Tiberias and its basin from the plateau. This wonderful land of rich harvest
was an astonishing sight. The valley of the Jordan is a fantastic patch of
colour, nearly in the middle of the desert.
Listening to the call of the holy River Jordan
(Jesus was baptized in it); we hurried there, so that we could see it
and dip at least our legs in. Baptisms are held up to the present day in
this river, thus we could also be witnesses of this ceremony.
After the river Jordan, we set off to our accommodation for that night.
In the southern bay of the See of Galilee we had lodgings in the hotel
of a kibbutz, founded by Transylvanian and Hungarian Jews: Maagan Holiday
Our room overlooking the lake and surroundings recalled the looks of
the Garden of Eden.
On the next day we made a trip around the lake, our first sight being
the The Beatitude Monastery on the Mount of Beatitudes,
which marks the spot where Jesus proclaimed the Sermon on Mount. Our
next stop was the church of Seven Springs (Tabgha), otherwise known as
the Church of the Miraculous Multiplication, which was
the site of multiplying loaves and fishes.
This scene is depicted on a famous, Byzantine mosaic.
Two kilometres from here lay the small town of Capernaum,
worthy to be called the town of Jesus, since He mostly resided here with
the Disciples, during the three years of his activity. Here we saw
the house of Simon Peter that is Arch-apostle St. Peter and the synagogue
beside it, where Jesus taught. We also made a visit to Beth Shean
, originally called Scythopolis: capital and far-western
point of the Decapolis.
Touching Jericho we arrived at Jerusalem, and stayed at the Ambassador
Hotel. The hotel is the first in
East-Jerusalem, also proud of its view of the Old Town. It is
located in the Arab sector of Jerusalem, only a 15-minute walk
from the Old Town.
On the fourth day we travelled to the 'House of Bread' (Eprath),
Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus. This was an Advent in a way,
as we were waiting to see the Star of Bethlehem, where Jesus was
born! From Manger Square we could immediately see
the Church of the Nativity. Then our attention was
drawn to the cross with a star on the top of the church. The entrance
to the Basilica of Nativity is no ordinary gate; it is half the size of
an average man. This also signified to the visitor that this is not an
average place of veneration.
Samer (Sam), our second guide replaced George for the last two days, who
from we received the same cheer, youthful energy, serenity and kindness.
All this was combined with strong professional readiness.
Jerusalem's bazaar-life is a swirling bustle, with
its many noisy and haggling tradesmen, a real mill. It was a great joy to
walk through the Old Town; everywhere we look there are kerchiefs,
clothes, jewellery, rings, necklaces, clocks and watches, antiques,
sishas, devotional objects and many other things. One can almost feel
lost in this whirling drift, but this feeling immediately vanishes
with the desire of haggle-done shopping, to bring back to your beloved
ones and friends a piece of Jerusalem, of the Holy Land. Fantastic!
After the shopping experience, a number of sights were waiting for us:
firstly it is worth to have an overview of the city from the Mount of
Olives. Walking on, we quietly watched the Garden of
Gethsemane, where Jesus was betrayed.
In the Old Town we visited Christian sites, walked through the Via
Dolorosa (the Street of Sorrows, with the Stations
of the Cross which Jesus carried), closed by the Church of the Holy
The Dome of the Rock is perhaps Jerusalem's most
ornate patch of colour with its princely golden cupola. In its nearby
surroundings is the Western Wall, known throughout the
world as the Wailing Wall. We also paid a visit to the Israel Museum,
where we had a look at the Dead Sea scrolls along with many other important
cultural items. The scrolls are of inestimable value, since not one
inscription survived in this region that is older than 2000 years. The
Dead Sea scrolls (Qumran scrolls) serve as a living example of how the
books that are in the Bible have retained their ancient, original
state. The Isaiah scroll found here, matches to 97% with the book of
Isaiah in the Holy Scripture, which greatly excited scholars.
Qumran, with the ruins of its supposedly Essene
community, but especially with the existence of its scrolls -
adventurously found by a shepherd boy of which the whole world
knows about - form an essential part of the region's history,
just as the story of the heroic rebels, who defended the
fortress of Massada.
It is fantastic what great historical past and many legends
are attached to such a little region!
We've spent one wonderful week in the Holy Land, actively, always
travelling, which may seem exhausting at first, but believe me, it
isn't. Having seen so many marvellous towns and places, the traveller's
appetite for knowledge grows more and more. Amidst the ruins and walking
within towns, that are thousands of years old was something like
being carried away by the spirit of the past to give an insight
how this world was like in the time of Jesus.
Imbued with the devotion for history and faith, that nearly
blend here, we almost saw the people of the time whirling
and haggling in those bazaars. It was our goal to visit the
Christian religious and holy sites as pilgrims during this
one week. Being interested in other cultures and religions
as well, we also visited the historical and sacred places
of Judaism and the Islam.
We believe it worked!
In this a local travel agency, Net Tours was of
great help to us. They organized our stay in a fantastic way.
Our two guides talked enthusiastically about the historical aspects
of certain places, the related biblical source-material and other stories.
The trip was suited for our family in an individual way. With a rented
car, we easily reached the destinations from our base in Jerusalem
, where in Hotel Ambassador we got half board
lodging, rich smorgasbord breakfast and in the evening they spoiled
us with the flavours of the East.
Hotel Ambassador is of high level, comfortable
and elegant; furthermore the view from its windows on the Old Town is
One must see these amazing places, where fabulous events took place,
the legendary towns, and the history living up to present day. I also
recommend it for those, who want to familiarize themselves directly
with the three major religions.
Where else is such a place to be found, where the three religions
are side by side in the other's vicinity, where the sacred sites of
many faiths can be found? One can even discover colourful branches
within major religions themselves, such as in Christianity a number
of kinds are found, such as Armenian, Syrian, Coptic, Russian and
Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Protestant.
Last, but not least I also recommend it for those, who want to
relax and be on holiday. There are beautiful hotels of good
standard providing a quality stay and a thousand and one kinds
of Eastern delicacies for gourmands. Moreover, in terms of wellness
I suggest the Dead Sea with all its beneficial
effects. For those, who are yet only familiarizing themselves with
the Holy Land, I hope to have convinced them and those who are already
travelling there, confirmed their decision in going there.
I recommend it to everyone, especially if the stay is organized
by the Net Tours Travel Agency.