Written by :- Deepti Kujur
The year 2017 like any other year was quite ordinary with nothing great in store for me. I thought I would swoon over my past and delve into beautiful memories with extended family and relatives not realising that God had some other plan for me.
In the month of January, my Principal informed in one of the staff meetings that he would be undertaking a holy pilgrimage in the month of June and that we were more than welcome to join his parish team to visit the Holy Land. I was instantly hooked up with the idea of travelling far and wide and to a new destination to understand the gift of life.
A group of six teachers were ready to imbibe this beautiful journey and were desperately waiting for it to begin soon. It was the midnight of 11th June 2017 at T3 IGI airport where a cluster of 50 people gathered together to travel a distance of 4000km to feel the magnificence of our dear Lord Jesus. For me this was not just a pilgrimage but also a venture to understand people and their culture.
Our ten- day trip started as soon as we reached Amman with the visit to St. George’s Church, Madaba known for its Mosaic Map and Mount Nebo where Moses was granted the view of the Promise land. It is situated in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and provides a beautiful view of the Dead Sea, Jordan River, Jericho, Bethlehem, and Jerusalem.
Day 2- Visiting Petra was a must to do thing for me in the itinerary. Carved in red sandstone this is not only a heritage site but also an archaeological city established by the Nabateans. A caravan city that is voted today as one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Walking inside the canyon takes you back in time to relive the past.
Day 3-After a wonderful stay at Amman we proceeded to visit the beautiful country of Israel. We headed towards Nazareth to see Mary’s well inside Greek Orthodox Church. After that we visited Basilica of Annunciation, it was at this place that Angel Gabriel made an announcement to Mother Mary that she would give birth to Jesus. From there
we went to St. Joseph’s Church where Joseph used to work as a carpenter and then to Jesus’ childhood home. We also visited Mary’s Well where mother Mary used to come and collect water during her Nazareth Days. In the evening we made our way to Cana church. It was at this place Jesus performed the miracle turning water into wine. We celebrated a mass and married couples renewed their vows. These sacred destinations made me thoughtful and stronger in belief trying to imagine what it was like 2000 years ago.
Day 4-Early in the morning we made our way to Mount Tabor. The twists and turns up the mountain provided a wonderful view of the city filled with luscious green valleys and pastures. On the top of the mountain is located the Church of Transfiguration a site where Jesus was transfigured and he spoke to Elijah and Moses. It was a day of purification as we made our way to Jordan River for Baptism. We then headed to Capernaum Village known for Jesus preaching and healing. There is also St. Peter’s church inside the village believed to be the home of St. Peter. After this, we were led to Tabgha where the miracle of the multiplication of loaves and fishes took place and then to Mount Beatitudes where Jesus delivered Sermon on the Mount. The day came to end with a boat ride in the Sea of Galilee.
Day 5- we woke up to yet another beautiful day in Israel. This day had a lot in store for us. We began our course of action to Bahai Graden and then to water aqueduct in Caesarea. We wiped off our sweat at the glimpse of gorgeous blue water of the Mediterranean Sea. After enjoying the onshore breeze we preceded towards Shepherd’s Field Church where Angel announced the birth of Jesus to the shepherds, Milk Grotto near to the Church of Nativity and finally we paved our way to the Nativity Church, our last sacred destination of the day. At the time of our visit the church was undergoing a massive renovation still; it managed to blow me away with its pristine beauty and serenity. I was left enticed with the well-designed roofs of the church and well- decorated altars.
Day 6- The day started with the visit to the church of Dominus Flevit in Mt. Olives. One can easily view the old city of Jerusalem. It was at this place that Jesus predicted the future fate of Jerusalem.Since it was the last Friday of Ramzan as well as Sabbath day for Jews we were unable to walk down the Muslim and Jewish quarters for the way of the cross. We straight away headed towards the Christian headquarter where 9th to 14th stations are situated. In a prayerful mood, we had the way of the cross in the church of Holy Sepulchre. The day also gave us the view of the Garden of Gethsemane, Jewish Wailing Wall, St. Peter’s in Galicuntu and the tomb of Lazarus.
Day 7- Our first stop was at the Dormition Abbey situated in Mount Zion. It is considered to be the place from where Mother Mary was taken in body and soul to heaven. It was also a day of joy and fun as we made our way to the Dead Sea. It is a salt lake and the lowest point on dry land. You can’t swim so we just laid back to float. It relaxes your body and makes you calm and composed. Our time at the Dead Sea came to end with the collection of mineral rich black mud in our empty bottles and jars. Any beauty product available free of cost is a must to take away (hahaha). We then proceeded to the place where Jesus was kept imprisoned for a day followed by a visit to St. Anne’s Church, Mother Mary’s childhood home, Jericho to look at the sycamore tree, Golgotha and Bethesda where Jesus healed a paralytic man.
Day 8- it was time for us to head towards Egypt. Israel was wonderful. It’s packed with culture, tradition, religion, history, biblical sites and scenic beauty. I would love to return back to this country again. In Egypt, we visited the well where Moses performed a miracle of turning bitter water sweet. In the afternoon we checked in our hotels and quickly rushed to the beach to relax and enjoy the view of the sunset.
Day 9- One of the first things that strikes you in Egypt is definitely the Pyramids. Egypt is a land of Pharaohs and Pyramids. Therefore we quickly rushed to our next destination, Giza. We stopped in a perfume factory en route Giza to check therapeutic perfumes in their concentrated forms. The aroma of perfumes is comforting and makes you stress free. Don’t forget to get your glass of hibiscus juice!! It’s good for immunity and digestion. Finally, we reached Giza to view the wonderful sight of the Pyramids the oldest of the seven wonders of the Ancient World. It is a work of skilled labour and was constructed as a tomb for a pharaoh. The spellbound beauty of this place with its elaborate design and structure will take your breath away. We made a short visit to the Papyrus shop, Holy Family church, watched a marvellous show of the Egyptian history at the Pharaonic Village and then went for dinner on a cruise in river Nile.
Day 10- The day had come to bid farewell and goodbye to our cluster who had embarked this journey with us. The cluster was divided in two to board our flights back home.
Sometimes it is very difficult to express yourself in words and what you feel after completing such a profound journey. Be the people, place, hotel or our cluster. We had such a great time with each other. We became like a small family with whom we share such joyous memories. It is hard to express and describe what I went through during our ten- day trip. Looking at the holy sites about which I had only read in books and Bible it filled me with sheer joy and happiness. There were moments when I was left numb and teary- eyed remembering the episodes that took place in the past. There was also a feeling of contentment and understanding that this was meant to happen for the good of the humankind. I had an “Aha” moment when a friend of mine in one of our random conversations said that God made us worthy to embark this holy trip. So I thank the Mighty Lord for giving me all that I have, wanted and desired in life and making me strong and capable to undertake this Holy Pilgrimage. I thank my Principal Rev. Dr. Sabu Joseph for including us along with his parish group to visit all the sacred sites. I’m grateful to Jemma Ma’m who coordinated with everyone to board this enlightening journey and finally, Siby sir and his team of JAAS TRAVELS for giving us with their knowledge, guidance and hospitality. From providing us with our identity cards, carrying pouch, caps, to boarding our flights to Amman, from our transfer to hotels and locations in Mercedes Benz bus to your interactive session in the wagon, I had the best time listening to you and our wonderful tour guides Mr Kamaal, Mr Rabia and Mr Mohsin . Your deeper insight of the places helped us understand the importance and significance of the sacred locations. You made our stay a comfortable one with such wondrous cuisines that I always relished eating. Thank you for making this tour possible and thank you, Father, for taking us on board with your parish group. I made such lovely friends, brothers and sisters whom I’ll always remember while going through our photographs, reminiscing the time we all spent together.
So Habibi, till next time- Wadaeaan, Shalom, Adios Amigos and Goodbye.
Photo Credit- Ms. Megha Lawaria