October - November 2014, I had the chance to travel to Israel for a pilgrimage. As this trip corresponded to my annual vacation, I took the opportunity of visiting friends in Belgium, the Ursuline Sisters in Koenigstein, a convent at 15 miles from Frankfurt in Germany, where I studied German, as well as I visited my nephew, Jean Claude, in Ancona, Italy.

For a long time, I yearned to go to Israel, but I never had the opportunity to do so. This time, thanks to my friend Fr. Paul Vanderbeke, the director of pilgrimages for the diocese of Brussels, a window opened up for me to join a group of 46 other people from Belgium, Luxemburg and France, for the pilgrimage.

All started with a flight of 4 hours and 27 minutes from Brussels to Tel Aviv. After 2 hours of driving South of Israel, we came in the desert of Negev where we spent the night in the kiboutz of Mashabe Sade.  

Continuing south, we came to Ein Avdat where the tombs of Paula and David Ben-Gurion are located, close to the great crater of Hamachtesh Hagadol before spending the night in Arad. This step of the trip gave us the chance of discovering the well of Abraham in Beersheba where he made a pact with Abimelech and where also Jacob had a dream (Gen 28: 10-15; 46: 1-7).

Going east, we came to the Dead Sea with its desalination and evaporation pools. Here, one can see from afar the buildings in Jordan. The interest of this step was to see the Dead Sea and the archeological site of Qumran in the Judean desert where the ancient scrolls dating 100 BCE were discovered hidden in the caves. Besides Qmuran, we visited also Ein Gedi, a source of water in the desert, close to the Dead Sea, where, David spared Saul’s life (1 Sam. 24). From there, we drove to the Jordan River, shared by Israel and the Kingdom of Jordan, in order to see the site of the baptism of Jesus (Mt 3: 13-17; Mk 1: 9-11; Lk 4: 21-22) at Al Maghtas.

From there, we spent the night in the Palestinian territory in the city of Jericho where we discovered the sycamore tree (Lk 19: 1-10) and the mountain of Jesus’ temptations (Mt 4: 1-11; Mk 1: 12-13; Lk 4: 1-13). Driving north to Nazareth, we made a stop in Samaria (Nablus) in order to see the well of Jacob (Jn 4: 4-42). The well currently lies within the complex of an Easter Orthodox monastery of the same name, in the city of Nablus in the West Bank.

The discovery of Nazareth was quite moving with the visit of the tomb of the just (St Joseph) in the convent of the sisters of Nazareth, the Basilica of the Annunciation (Lk. 1: 26-36), the Synagogue Church (Lk. 4: 16-24), the Mountain of Precipice (Lk. 4: 29-30), the Greek orthodox Church of St Gabriel within which lies the well where the Blessed Mother was used to drawing water in the village. I took also the advantage in visiting the convent of the little brothers of Jesus who have inherited an old convent of Clarisse sisters where Charles de Foucauld stayed for three years in imitation of Jesus, from 1887-1900.

From Nazareth, we drove to Cana to see the site of the transformation of water into wine (Jn 2: 1-12). That night in Nazareth, we had the chance of hearing a conference given by Fr. Emile Shoufani, an Israeli Arab Christian, a Melkite Greek catholic Priest, a peace activist and theologian, who works for the reconciliation of the Jews and the Arabs.

On the following day, we went north at the border with Lebanon to visit the sources of Jordan river in Banias or Caesarea Philippi (Mt 16:13-19), situated 25 miles north of the Sea of Galilee at the base of Mount Hermon. At Caesarea Philippi stood the ruins of an ancient temple dedicated to Caesar August. We finished the day at Mountain Tabor, the site of the transfiguration of our Lord (Mt 17:1-13; Mk 9:2-9; Lk. 9:28-37; 2 Peter 1:16-18) where we celebrated the Holy Mass in the Basilica of the transfiguration.

The following day we drove to the beautiful Sea of Galilee, from where Jesus’ mission started (Mt 4:12-25; Mk 1:14-20; Lk 4:14-15). The Sea of Galilee is also called the Lake of Tiberias or the Lake of Gennesaret. It has a circumference of 33 miles and is 13 miles long and 8.1miles wide. If within 2000 years Israel has changed a lot in terms of demography, landscape and life of the people, the Sea of Galilee, on the contrary, remains the same. It is a silent witness of the events of our salvation.

At the Lake of Galilee one finds what is called the Holy triangle, namely the Mount of Beatitudes (Mt 5:1-12), the site of the multiplication of bread (Jn 6:1-15) at Tabgah and Capernaum at the northern shore of the lake (Lk 4:31-37, 38-39; Mk 1:21, 35), the village of Jesus (Mk 2:1-2). The Lake of Galilee is also the scene of the apparition of our Lord after his resurrection from the dead (Jn 21:1-14). Near the Lake is erected a chapel called of primacy where our Lord has made Peter a rock on which he builds his church.  Another church built near Capernaum is said to be the home of St Peter (Mt 8:14-15; Mk 1:29-31; Lk 1:29-31). There stand the ruins of the ancient Synagogue that our Lord might have used in his time. We called the day off with the crossing of the Lake in a ship by listening to the text of Mark 4: 1-9, 35-41).

After the stay in Nazareth, we drove to Bethlehem, in Palestinian territory, where we logged in the guest house of the Sisters of Charity of St Vincent de Paul. That night, we had a talk given by sister Laudi, a French-Lebanese, explaining the many difficulties the nuns have in taking care of an orphanage in the Palestinian territory. Before going to the convent, we stopped at Bethlehem Wood Shopping Center, where Palestinian Christians sell arts and crafts they made for living.

The interest of Bethlehem was to see the site of the birth of Jesus which is in the grotto complex within the Basilica of Nativity and the field of Shepherds from where rung the songs of the angels. By entering Bethlehem one can see easily the electric fence and the wall of separation that Israel has erected in order protect its territory against Palestinians. On the last day of the stay in Bethlehem, we visited a Palestinian refugee camp of Aida in order to see with our own eyes the complex situation of the difficult relationships between Israel and Palestine. Dr Abdelfattah instructed us on his foundation that works for peace and the rights of Palestinians.

The two last days of the pilgrimage were dedicated to Jerusalem. As we entered Jerusalem, we listened to the Psalm 122 that the pilgrims were singing in seeing the city of God. The discovery of Jerusalem started with a visit to the Auxiliary Bishop of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem who talked to us about the challenge of Christian churches in the Holy Land and the difficult political situation to which they are confronted on a daily basis.

After that, we visited the museum of Shoah at Yad Vashem, downtown Jerusalem, the mascot of the city of Jerusalem at the time of Jesus and the manuscripts of Dead Sea in the museum of the book, near the Knesset, the Israeli Parliament. It was also an occasion to discover the Mount Zion and the Cenacle where Jesus had the last supper with his disciples (Mt 27:69-75; Mk 14:66-72; Lk 22: 14-20) and the Church of St Peter en Gallicante remembering Peter’s denial of Jesus (Lk 22:33-34).  

After a peaceful night at Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, we opened up the day with the visit to the Mount of Olives on the ridge east of the ancient city of Jerusalem (Mt 21:1; 26:30). At the foot of the Mount of Olives lies the Garden of Gethsemane where our Lord was in agony before his arrest (Mt 26:36-46). At the same place a church is built at the site where our Lord wept over Jerusalem ([Dominus flevit super illam] Lk 19:4-44). The Jewish cemetery is near the Mount of Olives. There is very close to that place one of the gates of the ancient city of Jerusalem which is completed sealed. The Orthodox Jews believe that when the Messiah will come, it will be by at that gate. At the Mount of Olives is also the church of the nations where one finds the “Our Father” in all the possible languages of the world. It is believed that it was there that Jesus taught his disciples how to pray (Lk 11:1-4).

In the afternoon of that day, in our way to the Wall of Lamentations or Western Wall, we went on foot at the discovery of the bazaar of Jerusalem with all its different quarters (Jewish, Muslim and Christian). After the visit of the bazaar, we stopped to the ruins of the Pool of Bethesda that had the virtue of healing (Jn 5:1-18). The Pool is in the Muslim Quarter and within the complex of the Church St Anne. From there we followed the traditional Via Dolorosa, by doing the way of the cross in the footsteps of Jesus until the Golgotha. The crowning of the day and the visit of Jerusalem was the celebration of the Holy Mass at the Church of St Sepulchre, where our Lord was buried and from there he rose from the dead. The grotto where they laid him is very visited. In our way to Tel Aviv for the return to Brussels, we celebrated the last Mass in the Holy Land in Emmaus (Lk 24: 13-35) with another group of pilgrims from the Diocese of Arras in France. The Mass took place in the Benedictine Abbey of Abu Gosh.

Enjoy some pictures from the pilgrimage.

Click twice any picture to see a large version


Interior yard of Ursuline Sisters cloister in Koenigstein, Germany

holyland2t.gifChapel of Ursuline Sisters holyland3t.gif With friends in Brussels

holyland4t.gifMy nephew, Jean Claude, with his daughter Samanta, in Italy

holyland5t.gifWith grand niece, Samantha, in Italy

holyland6t.gifGroup of pilgrims at the airport of Tel Aviv

holyland7t.gifKiboutz of Mashabe Sade in the desert of Negev holyland8t.gifRiver in the desert after the rain holyland9t.gifView of the desert of Negev holyland10t.gifWild sheep resting under the tree
holyland11t.gifTombs of Paula and David Ben-Gurion in the Negev holyland12t.gifMass in the ruins of Nabatean City from V century in Avdat holyland13t.gifWell of Abraham in Beersheba holyland14t.gifView of Beersheba, admnistraive capital of Negev holyland15t.gifEin Gedi, place of encounter between David and Saul
holyland16t.gifOne of the Grottos of Qmuran holyland17t.gifRiver Jordan & Site of Jesus' Baptism at Al Maghtas holyland18t.gifIsraeli soldier at the River Jordan holyland19t.gifView of Dead Sea & Buildings from the Kingdom of Jordan holyland20t.gifSycamore tree in Jericho
holyland21t.gifMount of temptation in Jericho holyland22t.gif Resort Village in Jericho holyland23t.gifView of Israeli electric fence & colony in Cisjordan holyland47t.gifView of the City of Samaria holyland49t.gifWell of Jacob in Samaria
holyland48t.gifMass at St Justin Latin Church in Samaria or Nablous holyland24t.gifIn the chapel of the Sisters of Nazareth holyland25t.gifTomb of the just in the Convent of the Sisters of Nazareth holyland26t.gifChapel where C. De Foucauld spent his life in Nazareth holyland27t.gifBasilica of Annunciation in Nazareth
holyland28t.gifInside Synagogue Church where Jesus Preached in Nazareth holyland29t.gifNazareth seen from the Mount of Precipice holyland30t.gifSunset from the Mount of Precipice holyland32t.gifSource of Jordan River in Banias or Cesarea Philippi holand34t.gif Mount Hermon at the borders with Lebanon
holyland35t.gifPreserved Jar of water beneath the Church of Caana holyland36t.gifBasilica on the Mount of Transfiguration holyland38t.gifMass inside the Basilica of Transfiguration holyland37t.gifInside the Church of Transfiguration holyland39t.gifLake of Galilee or of Tiberias
holyland40t.gifA lost stone at the Lake of Tiberias holyland41t.gifMass at the site of Peter's Primacy at the Lake of Tiberias holyland42t.gifInside the Church of the multiplication of bread holyland42t.gifCrossing of the Sea of Galilee in a ship holyland44t.gifSunset of the Sea of Galilee
holyland45t.gifEntrance to the ruins of Capernaum holyland46t.gifRuins of the town of Capernaum holyland50t.gifBasilica of Nativity in Bethlehem holyland51t.gifInside the grotto of nativity holyland52t.gifEntrance of the field of Sheperds

It was so difficult to select only fifty pictures from a thousand that a separate section on Jerusalem and Emmaus was necessary

holand53t.gifWall of separation Between Israel and Palestine

holyland54t.gifMaquette of the city of Jerusalem at the time of Jesus holyland55t.gifWith the Auxiliary Bishop of Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem holyland56t.gifWall of the acient city of Jerusalem holyland57t.gifLibrary of book that contains Qmuran manuscripts
holyland58t.gifView of Knesset or Israeli Parliament holyland59t.gifMuseum of Holocaust in Jerusalem holyland62t.gifChurch of the nations, site of the prayer of "Our Father" holyland60t.gif"Our Father" written in different languages of the world holyland61t.gifMount of Olives
holyland63.gifJerusalem seen from Mount of Olives holyland64t.gifSite of Jesus' weeping over Jerusalem holyland71t.gifDominus flevit Church holyland65t.gifThe Church of Agony holyland66t.gifInside the Church of Agony
holyland67t.gifGarden of Gethsemane holyland68t.gifJewish cemetery at the foot of Mount of Olives holyland69t.gifThe bazaar of Jerusalem holyland70t.gifThe Cenacle holyland72t.gifRuins of ancient steps of Jerusalem
holyland73t.gifChurch of St Peter in Gallicantu holyland74t.gifMass in a tent at St Peter holyland77t.gifMount Sion seen from St Peter in Gallicantu holyland75t.gifOne of the Palaces of Pilate where Jesus was judged holyland78t.gifSwimming pool of Bethesda
holyland79t.gifTower of King David museum holyland80t.gifJerusalem seen near the Western Wall holyland81t.gifWall of lamentation seen from the Ladies side holyland82t.gifPrayer at the Wailing Wall holyland83t.gifFr Paul at the Wailing Wall
holyland84t.gifEver presence of Israeli soldiers holyland85t.gifVia Dolorosa in the footsteps of Our Lords Passion holyland86t.gifClimbing Steps of Jerusalem toward St Sepulchre holyland87t.gifWay of the cross in the footsteps of Our Lord Jesus holyland88t.gifJesus passed by at his Passion
holyland89t.gifSite of Pilate's tribunal holyland90t.gifSite of one of Our Lord's fall holyland91t.gifSite of Golgotha inside the Church of St Spulchre holyland92t.gifEmpty tomb inside the Church of St Sepulchre holyland93t.gifHoly Mass inside St Sepuchre
holyland94t.gifIn Emmaus, with the superior of the Abbey of Abu Gosh holyland95t.gifChurch of the Benedictine Abbey of Abu Gosh holyland96t.gifLast Mass in the Holy Land in Emmaus holyland97t.gifWaves on the Sea of Galilee holyland98t.gifShore of the Lake of Tiberias