Today I am going to lead you through a tour through Holy Land.
By the grace of God my husband and I got an opportunity to visit the Holy Land. It was the fulfilment of my long cherished desire . On July 18 early morning at 4.30 am a team of 42 persons under the leadership of Rev. Sleeba Kattumannil left Kochi for Doha. From Doha we had the connection flight to Amman, capital of Jordan.
From the airport we went straight to Mount Nebo where Moses breathed his last in the arms of God. Nobody knows where he was buried. A monument in his name is placed in Mount Nebo. A replica of the brazen serpent was also there. From there we went to a Greek Orthodox Church where a map of promised land in mosaic stone was kept. The place is called Madaba. Then after lunch we camped in Arena Space Hotel in Amman for the night.
Next morning we passed (by bus) King Hussein Bridge, Jordan Valley Bridge and Northern Bridge and entered Israel border. We visited Multiplication Church where Jesus performed the miracle of five loaves. Then there was the church where Jesus cooked meal for disciples (Jn. 21). The stone where Jesus supposed to have cooked meal was kept in the church. Then we went to Capharnahum which was the town of Jesus. There we saw the house where four persons carried the paralytic man and lowered him through roof, the ruins of old synagogue, Lake of Gennesereth, Tiberias Sea and Sea of Galilee. We had a boating through Sea of Galilee and it was very nice. We hoisted our national flag on the boat and sang National Anthem. It was the place where Peter went fishing and took coin from the mouth of fish. There is a restaurant there where we had lunch with rice and Peter’s fish!! A big fish for each one which is both half fried and half boiled!!
From there we went to Mount of Beatitudes. In all the places there are Catholic churches . So the places are well maintained and beautifully kept. After that we went to Mount Tabor (Mount of Transfiguration) which is a place very high from the road level. There is a big church and we can have a beautiful view of valley and whole of Israel and surrounding places from there. Then we went to Nazareth and camped there in Hotel Rhemonium.
Here we saw Church of Annunciation which is the place where Angel Gabriel visited Mary. It is a very large complex of many churches built with assistance of many countries. There are many paintings of St. Mary there different according to the imaginations of artists of all these different countries. There is the house of Jesus in Nazereth and Joseph’s workshop preserved as such in the underground of the churches.
Then we went to Cana where Jesus made water into wine. Even now the wine of Cana is famous. In the church there, all couples renewed the marriage vows. We passed through Nain, Mount Carmel, Joppa where Peter had vision, saw sea of Meditaranian, Emmaus etc.
Arrived at Bethelehem. There we visited the Church of Nativity, Shepherds’ Field and arrived at Hotel Seven Arches in Mount Olives. There we can have a beautiful view of old Jerusalem city. Al Aksa Mosque and Rock of the Dome in old city are in possession of Muslims and so we could see it only from a distance. There are eight gates to the old city of Jerusalem out of which one gate called Golden Gate cannot be opened /has not been opened till now. Tradition says it will be opened only on the second coming of Jesus.
The places we saw on this day were many and the program was thickly packed. The church of Tears where Jesus cried over Jerusalem, Garden of Gathesemene,The burying place of St. Mary, Wailing Wall, Mount Zion, Upper Room according to Catholic tradition, House of Caiaphas where Jesus was tortured, Tomb of David, place where Peter denied Jesus three times etc in the morning session. After lunch we started on the path of cross up to the place of Calvary or Golgotha, the places where Jesus fell down with cross and Holy Sepulchure Church at Calvary. There we saw the hole where the cross was planted and the rock on which body of Jesus was laid before putting in tomb, the tomb of Jesus , the pond of Bethesda etc. Coming down we visited Upper Room according to the tradition of Syrian Orthodox Church. From my view point this Upper Room should be the real room where Holy Spirit came down on disciples.
This day we started with the place where Jesus taught Lord’s prayer. Outside the church Lord’s prayer is engraved in Marble stone in various languages. One in Malayalam was also there which was placed there by Fr. Sleeba. Then we entered Ascension Church from where Jesus ascended to heaven. The rock on which Jesus ‘s footprints are seen is kept in that church.
Then we went to the place where Martha , Mary and Lazurus lived. There is a church there. This place is in Palestine. Then we went to Dead Sea. All of us took bath in Dead Sea. We floated on the Dead Sea for half an hour.
From there we went to Jordan river where Jesus took baptism.
Then to Jeriho the city of Palm Trees. On the way we passed Zachaeus’s Sycamore Tree. From Jeriho we went to Mount of Temptation where Jesus was tempted. Then we went to Enkre where John Baptist’s church is situated. This is where Mary went and greeted Elisabeth. Then back to Hotel.
At 6 am we packed breakfast and left for Egypt. It was a long journey but none of us were bored as Fr. Sleeba kept us engaged in various entertain ment programs throughout the journey. We travelled along the seashore of Dead Sea. On the way we passed Lot’s wife, the woman who turned into a stone pillar when Sodom and Gomorah (the present Sead Sea) was destroyed by fire from heaven. We passed through the long desert of Sinai, saw Sinai mountains the path through which Moses led huge multitude of people to Canan from Egypt. On the way there was Aaron’s tomb, a replica of golden calf which Israelites made. We stopped at the foot of a big mountain which is said to be the mountain where Moses got the vision of Burning Bush and where he got Ten Commandments from God. We travelled up the mountain in a small van and reached St. Catherine’s Monastery where a mosque and a chapel and a replica of Moses’s Burning Bush are kept. We could not climb to the upper mountain. We reached Egyptian border and went to Tolip Hotel. This was a very beautiful hotel and we enjoyed and relaxed there. From the hotel we can see the Red Sea and many of us basked in the evening sun in the sea.
After breakfast we set out for Cairo which took 17 hours by bus. Again none of us were bored thanks to Fr. Sleeba. We passed through the tunnel under Suez Canal and entered Cairo. We reached Holel Le Meridian Pyramids aroundmidnight.
We saw the Pyramids, climbed some steps, took some photos etc. It is really wonderful how these pyramids were constructed long long ago with mathematical accuracy when there was no cement or concrete or similar things or equipments!!! Then we went to The Museum which is very old and very big. Saw Mummys, old Egyptian thrones (in pure gold) , crowns, sceptres etc all in pure gold! No photography is allowed inside the museum.
There was also the church where the holy family lived in Egypt when they ran away from Herod. In the evening there was Nile Cruising where we saw the Egyptian Belly Dance.
Thus we came to the end of sightseeing . Next day we boarded the flight Cairo-Doha. From Doha we took flight to Kochi. Arrived in Kochi at4.30am.
We express our deep felt thanks to Fr. Sleeba and his Royal Omania Tours Company for arranging the journey . The program as a whole was meticulously planned, managed efficiently and performed perfectly.
Dear readers, I have posted the photos of the trip in my facebook (Susamma Chacko) under two sets titled Holy Land tour and Holy Land Trip 2. As far as I could I have given captions for the photos. Thank you all for reading this patiently.