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The Star of Bethlehem

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 Village.
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 Sepulchre.
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 wonderful.
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.



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