The Last Line Of The Old Man And The Sea A Pilgrim’s Journey to Israel

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A Pilgrim’s Journey to Israel

The time is near. It’s midnight when an El Al Israel flight arrives at Ben Gurion Airport amid cheers from the Israelis on board. Shalom…shalom…Our journey to the Holy Land begins with a Hebrew song…

This is our first trip to Israel. What is it like to meet “God’s people from the Old Testament”? Amazing! “Olive skin, green eyes and black hair” combination of Israeli youth is very attractive. Like homecoming, they gather together when the “fasten your seat belt” light goes off. I remember the divine origin of this race in the Bible. “They are Israelites, to them of old, and of their tribe according to the flesh, that is Christ.” (Romans 9:5)

Today, Israel is made up of different cultures – Lithuanians, Moroccans, Yemenites, Poles, Germans, Turks, Russians, Americans and Ethiopians, who make up the Jewish community; and the Palestinians, Bedouins and Druzes, who make up the non-Jewish community. How does one begin to describe the place where past and present meet? Israel defies logic.

“Welcome to Israel,” our taxi driver greets us. “Ladies, where are you from?”

“Philippines,” my sister and I answered in unison.

He turns to us, smiling. “And how is everything in the Philippines? Is there peace now? No more riots?”

This is our introduction to Israeli hospitality. I couldn’t resist asking him the same question about Israel. I have to admit his answer surprised me. Could this be the thinking of the younger generation of Israel?

“There will be peace,” he says. “We want peace with the Arab world, and the rest of the world.”

We begin our journey to Jerusalem by passing through the port city of Haifa, climbing to the top of the Carmelite Monastery of Elijah on Mount Carmel. What an amazing view! We had a beautiful view of Haifa, the Mediterranean Sea, the fertile valley of Jezreel filled with thousands of olive trees, and the city of Nazareth in the Hills of Galilee. Our guide explains the biblical incident in Carmel when the prophet Elijah challenged 450 prophets of Baal to test their faith. Like Elijah’s journey on Mount Horeb, I felt the peaceful presence of God in the “murmuring of a cool breeze” on top of Mount Carmel.

Today Nazareth, our landing place, is an Arab city of 60,000 people – half Christian, half Muslim – living together in harmony. It is Sunday and our guide shows the closed Christian shops. The city is full of interesting sights: Muslim men and women in traditional dress walking the streets, young men selling postcards to pilgrims, women preparing pita bread by hand. In the distance, we can see the gray wolf of the Church of the Annunciation.

Inside the church, we go to the cave where Mary lived and where the Annunciation took place. The cave is located next to the altar of the church, which was built in 1966. Next to the church is the church of St. Joseph and in another cave, his carpentry workshop. Although I grew up in a Catholic school and knew the beginning of my faith, seeing the caves where Mary and Joseph lived before Jesus came is something I will never forget. It is a humbling experience.

From Nazareth, we go to Ginnosar, on the shores of the Sea of ​​Galilee (Kinneret). This freshwater lake takes its water from the Jordan River and is the country’s largest reservoir. Here, we have the unforgettable experience of walking on the “Jesus Boat” statue for half an hour. Like St. Therese, we will never forget how the sea looks at us. We can’t take our eyes off it. Instead we imagine the apostles throwing their hooks into the sea. “And Simon Peter went up and pulled the net to the land full of big fish…” (John 21:11).

When we arrived at the port of Tiberias, on the west side of the Sea of ​​Galilee, and we had lunch called St. Fish. Peter. At $15 each, I wonder if St. Peter will also get a very high price. Don’t doubt it.

From Tiberias, we go to the surrounding cities where Jesus preached. In Capernao, we see the monument of Saint Peter, built on top of the ruins of the house of St. We continue to Tabgha, the place of the Multiplication of Loaves and Fishes. Near the altar of the church is an ancient painting of loaves and fishes. Here, Jesus showed humility, love and generosity when he performed the double miracle of multiplication.

Then, we remember the Virtues when we enter the church on the Mount of Blessings. With its pale blue dome, white stripes around it, and the flowers blooming around the chapel, it is a very pleasant place to escape. It is not surprising that this mountain area is the place where Jesus used to meditate. We end the day with a visit to the Pilgrim baptismal site on the Jordan River called Yardenit. Although it is not the exact place where Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist, this is where pilgrims renew their baptismal vows by being immersed in the water from the Jordan River.

In the end, I realize that the events and places in the Bible are real. I thank the early Christians for keeping the signs of Jesus and the apostles. In my heart, I felt their holy presence in the places we visited. I couldn’t wait until we got to Jerusalem the next day.

Passing through Jericho, we finally arrived in Jerusalem, to meet the people of the city in the evening. It is easy to love Jerusalem. Almost all of the buildings are located in the Judean hills, and they are made of limestone carved from the mountains surrounding the city, giving the city a beautiful and golden appearance. From the Old City founded by King David 3,000 years ago to modern government buildings and luxury hotels, it’s like seeing two different cities at once.

First we will detour to the nearby town of Bethlehem in the West Bank, six kilometers south of Jerusalem. The charm of Bethlehem is more from the heart than the appearance. The area is mountainous, and the town is still as humble as it was 2,000 years ago. The people living in the area, who are mostly Christians and Arabs, depend heavily on people who come to pray for their livelihood. Religious items such as wooden crosses, crowns and images of the Nativity are made from olive wood grown in the area. Looking at the rows of wooden crosses, I remember reading in a book that the cross of Jesus was made from an olive tree. Another legend says that when Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden, they were allowed to take a branch from the olive tree. From the same branch that they planted when they arrived at the Mount of Olives became the cross that Jesus carried 2,000 years later!

We are going to the Church of the Nativity which was built by Constantine in 330 AD This is the traditional place where Jesus was born. Entering the small door, we can’t find any seats inside. We reached the altar of the Orthodox church, passed the cracked pillars and the pictures on the stone floor, and went down the stairs to the manger. Here, we kneel and bow before the silver star that marks the place where Jesus was born. It’s a very painful moment. Like the Magi, we traveled far to honor our King. There are no physical gifts this time. The only gift of our souls, our hearts.

From Bethlehem, we will return to Jerusalem to take the passion of Jesus again. We begin in the Garden of Gethsemane in the Kidron Valley, at the foot of the Mount of Olives. Here, we found a grove of ancient olive trees glistening in the morning sun. In the center of the garden is the Rock of Pain, a large rock that depicts the pain of Jesus on the night he was arrested. We find this stone inside the modern church called the Church of All Nations. I remember the agony of Jesus, how he sweat blood.

The legend says that the armies of Lucifer (and Lucifer himself) surrounded Jesus on the night of his agony, and in his poverty, Jesus saw in a vision how he would suffer and die as a man. Even the angel who came down from heaven to comfort Jesus felt very sad. It is said that Jesus died for people’s sins forever; past, present and future sins to be committed until the end of the world.

After our tragic departure from Gethsemane, we entered the Old City of Jerusalem through the Garbage Gate. We walk past the Western Wall on the right, where we see devout Jews praying the Sidoor. The western wall or “Wailing Wall” contains Herod’s stones of the Temple Mount (Second Temple) built in 20 BC by Herod. We walk through narrow streets to reach Mount Moriah, where the Temple Mount was in the time of Jesus. Today, the magnificent Dome of the Rock stands atop Mount Moriah. We stand in line in the courtyard, without our shoes on, to see the sacred stone inside. For Jews and Christians, Mount Moriah is the place where Abraham sacrificed his only son Isaac (Gen. 22:2). According to Muslim traditions, Allah took his prophet Muhammad on a night journey from Mecca to Jerusalem (al Aqsa) where he ascended to heaven from a rock, then returned to Mecca. Muslim devotees bowing to the Dome of the Rock.

From Mount Moriah, we cross the road to the Via Dolorosa where we begin the Stations of the Cross. There are 14 stations on the Way of the Cross, nine in the narrow Via Dolorosa and five inside the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher. From the Chapel of Flagellation and Condemnation (Second Station), we remember the events of the brutal beating and torture of Jesus. It is said that Jesus was tied to a pillar above the ground during the flag raising and his cry was similar to that of a lamb being killed in a nearby slaughterhouse.

In silence, we marched along the cobbled streets of the Via Dolorosa, passing shops and vendors, pausing to pray at each station. It is difficult to meditate among the noise and the spectators. However, I am glad that we can be interested in Jesus in some way.

We arrive at the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher at station 10. Our guide explains how Helena, the mother of Emperor Constantine, visited the Holy Land in 325 BC in search of the Cross and the Holy Sepulcher. He ordered Golgotha ​​to be dug up and found not just one but three crosses. According to Christian tradition, Helena stopped the passing funeral procession, and carried three crosses over the dead boy. When the shadow of the third cross fell on the boy, he shook and came back to life! In the same way, Helena dreamed of a tomb buried under a pagan temple at Calvary. He ordered the removal of the pagan temple and surrounding mountain, and built a church around the entire site. This is now the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher.

Inside we pray before the altars of the last five places of the Cross, thinking about the death and resurrection of Jesus. Christian tradition says that the earthquake occurred when two angels carried Jesus’ crucified body from the grave to the Father in heaven. There is no doubt in my mind that after all this time Jesus is still among us through the Holy Spirit. At some point in this journey, I felt my heart, broken and shattered by the pain of life, begin to heal. The change is subtle; the experience is life changing. Time is short. Our journey ends with a prayer. Tomorrow is a new day, a new beginning.

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