The last full day we had in Israel was one of the most fun. Though we were rushing to places and were more hectic (it was a Friday, and there were more tourists and pilgrims), the time at the Dead Sea was great. In the morning though we went to a couple of places first.
The Chapel of the Ascension. On the top of the Mount of Olives is a small Chapel where the rock where Jesus stepped on before ascending into Heaven is. The rock is just there on the ground, not even encased in anything. And supposedly there’s a footprint. Check it out if you see it:
Inside, it was dark with a stream of light coming through the window.
After there, we made our way down the street to the Pater Noster Church. This is where Jesus taught His disciples how to pray. I love the Our Father. And “Your Will be Done” has become sort of a motto for my life.
Here’s the Our Father in Aramaic.
And our creative shot while waiting for the other pilgrims, He he
We then made our way by bus to two more sites near each other. The Upper Room where the Last Supper was, and the Church of the Ascension of Mary, where she slept and was assumed into Heaven. Of course, I told Des to take a picture there for her old work place and for the school of our girls.
Dormition Abbey, what they call the place of the Ascension of Mary
And then we made our way to the Dead Sea. It is the lowest place on Earth! And the rivers lead into it, but nothing is released. Water is just evaporated. So it is now 30% salt and has so many other minerals in it. The mud, they say, is good for the skin. And true enough, my skin got smoother after rubbing it all over. I tasted the water, and it is nasty!
You can only stay 20 minutes in the water, or else it will be hazardous to your health. But that is enough time for the wonderful experience. You really float, even if you don’t want to.
It was a great way to end our trip. Having fun after all the praying and walking and reflecting. Just as everything should be. Don’t forget to have a little fun in life
Thank you, Lord for this experience. And thank you too to Mahir and Tamar for guiding us the whole week. Shalom!
Before I get to what I really want to share, I’ll just go through quickly what we did today. If you allow me. No choice, actually.
We left Israel and went into the Palestinian Authority to visit Bethlehem (just like Jericho, it is outside Israel). We visited the Milk Grotto, where Mary breastfed Jesus and some of her milk dripped onto the cave floor and turned everything white. Now people get particles for healing and if they want to conceive.
We didn’t have the Mass in the Nativity Church because it is owned by the Greek Orthodox Church. So we just visited the site after Mass at St. Catherine’s. The place where Jesus was born is under the Church. You have to bend to reach the Nativity Star inside a small nook. He was born in a limestone cave, and not a manger.
Awed. Jesus was born there. It is just a bit harder to imagine and get into the moment with a whole Church built over the site, and with hundreds of pilgrims before and behind you. But nonetheless, I am awed. I wonder why the “Vatican” is based in Rome and not here in Bethlehem? Wouldn’t that be awesome if the seat of our faith is based in the town where Jesus was born?
Then we left Bethlehem and made our way back to Israel and straight to the top of the Mount of Olives. There aren’t that many olives, but there are a lot of graves. The Mount of Olives face the closed Eastern Gate of Jerusalem. The Jews believe that the Savior will come and open the gates of Jerusalem, and the dead will rise. So those who got buried facing that gate believe that they will be one of the first to enter the new Jerusalem when that happens.
We walked down the Mount of Olives, using the same path Jesus used on Palm Sunday. Then we stopped at the Dominus Felvit. Or the place where Jesus wept for Jerusalem. Further down is the Garden of Gethsemene. And in the Church there, there is the rock where Jesus cried tears of blood. The agony in the garden.
I reflected a lot on the agony in the garden. Jesus must have really been in agony to have shed tears of blood. And I thought to myself, have I ever been in so much agony? THAT MUCH to shed tears of blood? Yes, I have been through a lot in life, but I cannot say that I ever went through something like that. And it is because of two things. One, I am a simple person. I don’t like complicating things. So maybe things don’t affect me as much as the other person. And two, it is because I know that Jesus went through everything already for me. And everything will be OK in the end. The rock where Jesus shed His blood is still there. And it is telling me that Jesus is my rock. He went through agony for me. And He is still there. His suffering, death and ultimate victory is already ahead of me. And He is in control.
Can you think of any other radical person such as Jesus? He spoke out, and spoke the truth. I believe He knew what would happen to Him. He knew He would rise on the third day (why would He preach it if He didn’t believe it?). But He also knew what kind of betrayal, suffering and pain He would have to go through before that. And that caused Him agonizing feelings. I mean, who wouldn’t be in agony if you knew you’d be whipped, cut, spit on, nailed, broken…. I can’t even imagine.
But, thank you. Thank you for doing that for me. Thank you for being radical. For me. It encourages me to be radical, like you, for you. My agony will never equal yours, but it gives me courage to get through anything the world throws at me. I will speak the truth, and live in the light. Just like You. For You. Thank you.
Today was a very sunny day. I can’t say hot because the breeze is nice and cool. But since we were outdoors most of the day, now I have a sunburned face. But who is complaining?
We went around Caprnaum today with trips to two mountains as well. I have so much information stored in my head because of our guide Tamar, Fr. Gustilo and dad. But I’ll only share what I can. I’ll leave the rest for when you go on a pilgrimage here. Whenever I go to a new place, I think about how long it took Jesus to walk from place to place. Well, places aren’t that far. Nazareth is near Cana. And near the Sea of Galilee. And Capernaum is a boat ride away. Jerusalem is the far one, so that would probably take him more time to get there. He must have been fit
In the morning we went to the this site of Peter Primacy and Mensa Cristi. Peter Primacy because it is where Jesus told Peter to feed His sheep. And also Mensa Cristi because that is where Jesus cooked a meal for them. After His resurrection, the disciples went back to fishing and caught nothing. Jesus appeared and told them to fish on the other side of the boat (they say that the area has 7 springs. 5 are cold and 2 are hot. So people think the disciples were fishing along the 5 cold springs, when they should have fished along the hot springs), and they caught fish. And when the disciples went to shore, Jesus had a fire burning with fish on it. The rock where Jesus cooked is still there… the fish isn’t though. Peter knew he was a fisherman. But what he needed Jesus to remind him was that he was a fisher of men!
Then we made our way up to the Mount of Beatitudes. Where the Sermon on the Mount happened. Just five minutes (by bus) from Peter Primacy. They don’t know the exact place where it happened, but this has the best acoustics from top of mountain to valley for 5,000 people Do you know your beatitudes? Again, knowing who we are and who we should be!
We then took another 5 minutes and boarded a boat on the Sea of Galilee. More or less, that’s what Peter’s boat would have looked like. We spent an hour on the boat, with calm waters. And no, I did not try to walk. In the afternoon, looking at the Sea, the waves were acting up. And in the evening according to them, it really acts up. So you can see that the storm must have been real. Could I have walked on water? I would think about my weight, and the clothes I am wearing…. I don’t think I would have made it one step. Maybe I need more faith.
We had lunch and everyone had St. Peter’s fish. I had St. Peter’s chicken. Thank God for the manok ni San Pedro.
After lunch we made our way to Capernaum. We saw St. Peter’s mother-in-laws home where Jesus and the disciples stayed after they were thrown out of Nazareth. Yes, Peter had a mother-in-law, but the Bible isn’t about Peter. So we don’t know much about his wife. Again, KNOW who the Bible is about.
Right beside the home of Peter is the synagogue. Where Jesus also taught and read Scripture. So near His home! Like any neighborhood Chapel. Capernaum is empty now. It was cursed by Jesus, and now no one lives there.
Lastly, we drove an hour to Mount Tabor. The buses can only go up halfway. Then you get into these small vans and they bring you up steep zigzagging roads. Like Kennon I can imagine why the disciples fell asleep while waiting, because the climb is killer. On the top of the mountain is the Church where the transfiguration happened. Where Jesus appeared with Moses and Elijah. Where God the Father spoke about Jesus. Amazing. Moses, Elijah, Jesus, God the Father, Peter, John and James. All in one place. And now with us as well. Jesus was proclaimed to be God’s chosen Son. His identity. His mission. And just like Jesus, our being alive automatically gives us our identity and mission as well. We all have something to do in this world.
Today was an exciting day for us. We were all told to bring white for our renewal of wedding vows at Cana which would happen at the end of the day. Of course, being me, I forgot to pack anything white. Good thing I got to borrow a shirt from Carlo.
Side note: The food here is crazy. Buffet meals, and when not buffet, HUGE servings. I am gaining pounds by the DAY! Crazy!
We went to Mt. Carmel first (about an hour by bus from Tiberias). It was the place from the Old Testament where Elijah went on a “duel” with hundreds of prophets of Baal. Where Elijah wet his offering with water, and then asked God to light it, and God did. As opposed to hours and hours of worship to Baal by the prophets… and nothing. The obedience of Elijah in just doing what God wanted him to do.
From Mt. Carmel you see the fields of Jezreel. The very fertile valley of Israel. That’s where Gideon and his army of 300 defeated the Midianites abd Amalekites. I tried imagining the battle while looking down at the valley. That must have been an amazing site. Again, the obedience of Gideon to God, even if he was hopelessly outnumbered. And he won.
From there, we went to Nazareth. And went to the house of Mary. Mother Mary. The one we love deeply with all our heart. We actually saw where she lived! Not exactly a house, more like a limestone cave. But we were just a few feet from it. Now there is a two level Basilica above it. It really is a mix of excitement, awe, and imagination for me visiting these places. And I have to pinch myself that these are the places where the Holy Family moved, lived, breathed, spoke…. everything.
About twenty steps from Mary’s house, we have Joseph’s house. They were really neighbors! There is a Church above Joseph’s house as well. And all that’s left of his home is the grotto and work area he had. The grotto was a blessing to Joseph because that place is a desert. And so water was scarce. Do you think he and Mary met while she was getting water? Maybe so.
Obedience of Mary and obedience of Joseph. Getting into something they didn’t truly understand. But did it because God told them to do it.
Then we made our way to Cana. By bus it is only ten minutes away. Walking, like what Jesus and Mary did, it would take a couple of minutes. Down the mountain of Nazareth, then up the mountain of Cana. The Church in Cana is down a small alley. You’d definitely miss it if you didn’t know where to go. Jesus obeyed His mother. The people obeyed Jesus. And His public ministry started.
We were able to have Mass at the Church, and renew our wedding vows. What a blessing. Des reminded me that I told her we’d renew our vows at 5 years. That was last September. It may be a few months late, but blessed nonetheless. Us and 23 other couples participated. Can you imagine that at our reception, Jesus would have been there?
It was truly a day of OBEDIENCE. Not only renewing our love, but also seeing the examples of Obedience from people. And using that as an inspiration to also be obedient to God. Everyday. All the time. I hope I can be just like them all.
The last shall be first.
Because of our flight arrangements, we will be missing the last day of the pilgrimage and will be going home to Manila. So Fr. G decided to bring us to the last day itinerary, on the first day.
The breakfast at Gilgal Hotel was weird. Just raw fish, some cheese and bread. And we found out why. Apparently, they don’t serve “living” food with “dead” food. Because that makes the food unclean. Cheese is living because it comes from a living cow. And meat, obviously, is dead. So even in burgers, they don’t have cheese. We ate in McDonald’s and the burgers don’t have cheese. How weirdly awesome is that? They even have separate sinks and drainage for both kinds of food.
We made our way to Emmaus. That’s where the two disciples of Jesus were walking coming from Jerusalem. Jesus walked with them and their eyes were opened after he broke the bread with them. Emmaus is 2 hours away from Tel Aviv, but only a few KM away from Jerusalem. I never imagined Israel to be so big. From the news and TV, you’d think it was a small place. But we’ve been traveling hours by bus, and there is empty space and tracts of land everywhere.
In Emmaus, there is a Church built on the supposed spot where Jesus and the two disciples broke bread. From the Church (with frescoes on the wall, though eyes scratched out by Muslim conquerers of old), you take a staircase down to a small Chapel with an old baptismal font. There is where we read the reading about Emmaus. And where our hearts not burning as we did so?
Wow, to be where Jesus appeared to people who decided to not believe anymore. Aren’t we like that sometimes? We know the truth, yet we choose not to believe. And Jesus walks with us, until our eyes are opened and our hearts burn with the truth. I still can’t fathom that I am actually here.
After Emmaus we went up the mountain to where the home of Abimilek (spelling?) used to be. Abimelek was tasked to house the Ark of the Covenant. He got rich and so King David took the Ark for himself. In the Church there is a small rock at the corner which is part of the home of Abimelek. The last remaining part of that home. Needless to say, I touched it. Thousands of years old, and you never know, maybe even King David or the Ark itself rested upon it.
Of course, the new Ark is Mary who carried the Good News in her womb. The new commandment of love. But it was good to go back to the Old Testament and just be there. Des even sang in the Church in honor of Mary, the new Ark.
Afterwards we made our way back to Tel Aviv, joined the rest of the pilgrims, and made our way to Tiberius. About 3 hours away. We are at Hotel Restal along the Sea of Galilee. So close to more places where Jesu Himself walked. I am blessed.
(Nothing about killing here….)
I suppose it is just right for my physical body to get ready for the pilgrimage as well. I had stomach issues this whole day. I went in the house, at Schiphol airport, even on the plane and again in Guiron airport. My body is purging. Or maybe I’ve been eating too much cheese.
The AMS-Tel Aviv flight was turbulent. But it was a red eye flight so I was fast asleep. Unttil, of course, the steward started shouting “Fish or Pastaaaaah?” PAL should offer “Chicken or Pork” and then when you choose, it ends up as Tinola or Dinuguan. In this world of so many choices, plane food remains untouched. You still don’t know what you’re going to get.
People clapped as the plane landed.Just like Pinoys coming home. I guess Israelis really love their country. Or they are just happy not to have been shot out of the sky by their neighbors. Is that why the flights are after dark?
All the government stuff went smoothly. As opposed to what we were told. And got our taste of taxi fare robbery! Oh taxis that overcharge. At 3AM, what can you do? Now at Gilgal Hotel in Tel Aviv, and now the pilgrimage really starts.