The Holy Land where Jesus lived and died

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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

THE Holy Land was always on my bucket list of places to visit. Every year, I would put Israel as number one on that list as my next travel destination but somehow it wouldn’t push through because cautious hubby would always question, “Of all places, why go to a strife-torn area? The peace problem there is no joke.” The dutiful wife in me made him have the last say ... until last October when everything just fell into place.

When the canonization date of Visayan saint, San Pedro Calungsod, was announced, the hubby and I immediately made plans to go to Rome for that once-in-a-lifetime-event. As luck would have it, Zenaida Chua of Worldwide Travel and Tours, offered a travel package that included a trip to the Holy Land after the week-long canonization festivities. This time around, I didn’t listen to hubby’s negative comments because I was convinced that the opportunity was too good to pass (Israel is only a three-hour flight away from Rome) ... and thankfully hubby made me have the last say.

A visit to the Holy Land is something you have to do at least once in your life if circumstances allow it. It is a one-of-a-kind experience that gives you a chance to recall the life and times of Jesus Christ in the place where He lived and died. Somehow the exercise makes you reflect seriously on your own life and how to live it the way Jesus taught us. With all these things in mind, you can’t help but resolve to be Christians in the truest sense of the word.


Our week’s stay went so fast. There were so many things to see and do. We tried to assimilate as much as we could but there were things we missed. Here are some useful tips...

Places to visit

1. Bethlehem

One of my favorite Christmas songs is O Little Town of Bethlehem and I was thrilled setting foot in the birthplace of Jesus which is now the Church of the Nativity. I couldn’t get my eyes off the Star of Bethlehem - the silver star that marks the spot where Jesus was born. And yes, we viewed the Shepherd’s field too. We proceeded to the Visitation Church where Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth, and the Church of St. John the Baptist.

2. Nazareth

This is the place where the Angel Gabriel told Mary that she would become the Mother of God’s Son. The exact spot is now the Church of the Annunciation. Nazareth was where St. Joseph made his home with his family and had his carpentry shop. Hence, Jesus spent His childhood in Nazareth. The Church of St. Joseph marks this home/workshop.

3. Capernaum

A wealthy Jewish town, this was where Jesus did His first public ministry, met His first disciples (Peter, Andrew, James, John and Matthew) and performed many miracles. Remnants of the ancient synagogue still stands. Nearby is the modern Church of St. Peter which was built through generous benefactors. We were told that one of the biggest donors was the late Don Ramon Durano Sr., namesake and grandfather of Ramon “Boboy” Durano IV who is now a candidate for vice governor of Cebu.

4. Tabgha

The main attraction here is the fifth century Byzantine basilica (Church of the Multiplication of Loaves and Fishes) housing a mosaic of the loaves and fishes symbolizing the miracle. The rock which Jesus used is located below the altar. Not too far away is the Church of St. Peter’s Primacy which was the place where Jesus appeared to His disciples after His resurrection and where He asked Peter to “feed my sheep” thus entrusting Mother Church to Him.

5. Mount of Beatitudes/Mount Tabor

The Mount of Beatitudes is the place where Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount while Mount Tabor is the traditional site of Jesus’ transfiguration before Peter, James and John.

6. Mount of Temptation/Jericho

A barren desert at the outskirts of Jericho (considered the oldest city in the world), this is where Jesus fasted for 40 days and 40 nights. We passed by the legendary Sycamore tree, said to be the same one tax collector Zacchaeus climbed in order to get a glimpse of Jesus.

7. Garden of Gethsemane/Mount of Olives

Sitting on the slopes of the Mount of Olives, the garden is home to ancient olive trees, dating back to the time of Jesus. The Church of All Nations now stands in the place where Jesus prayed and wept. In the front of the main altar is the Rock of Agony. The top part of the Mount of Olives houses the Chapel of the Ascension marking the traditional spot where Jesus ascended to heaven. It also gives a stunning view of the Old City of Jerusalem.

8. The Church of the Holy Sepulcher

Situated in the heart of the Christian Quarter of the Old City, the church is always teeming with people. It is actually the place where the 10th to the 14th stations took place. I found it absolutely touching to behold the place where Our Lord Jesus was crucified. It was a moving experience seeing the spot where His body was laid in preparation for burial...and when I finally viewed the sepulcher, it took time for the whole thing to sink in.

9. Mount Zion

This is the area where King David’s tomb, the Dormition Abbey believed to be the place of the Blessed Virgin Mary’s assumption into heaven, and the room of the Last Supper, are found. There is also the Church of St. Peter in Gallicantu, built on the house of high priest Caiphas, where Peter denied Jesus thrice.

10. National Parks: Masada/Qumran

One of the few historical places that is not a church, Masada was the last bastion of Jewish freedon fighters against the Romans. It was a palatial fortress built by King Herod and is now the most complete surviving ancient Roman siege system in the world. Masada is on the Unesco World Heritage list.

On the other hand Qumram, located on the north-western shore of the Dead Sea, was where the ancient Dead Sea Scrolls were found hidden in jars inside a cave for nearly 2000 years.

What to do...

1. Get wet at the Jordan River, at the baptismal site called Yardenit. We felt privileged when our chaplain, Fr. Benny de Guzman “re-baptized” us at the site with water from the Jordan River.

2. If you are with your spouse, make sure you renew your marriage vows at the little church in you that special loving feeling and brings to mind the miracle of Jesus turning water into wine.

3. Visit the Western Wall, popularly called the wailing wall, and put your written petitions in between the cracks on the wall as the Jews do. It is here where the Jews gather in pilgrimage and in prayer. The Western Wall is actually a retaining wall built by Herod in 20BC.

4. Do try carrying a cross along the Via Dolorosa (Calvary) route. Unlike the cross of Jesus, it is made of super light material but at least you get a feel of how it is to carry a cross.

5. Go for a dip at the Dead Sea (you’ll just float) and lather yourself with mud--yes, as in black, slimy mud...does wonders for the skin.

6. Have a relaxing cruise around the Sea of Galilee and recall the events in Jesus’ life that happened there. One that stands out is His walking on water.

If given the chance I would like to go back to the Holy Land and once again retrace the steps of our Lord and Savior.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on March 28, 2013.


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