|Israel is a fascinating and beautiful country. Rolling mountains and steep desert cliffs provide outstanding geography. The green Judea and Galilee mountains surround vast fertile valleys and to the west and South, dry arid desert. Around every curve in the road was a magnificent picture opportunity.
And the history is so complex and volatile, it's exhausting to try and learn and understand all the factions and nuances. Every town has multiple names, depending upon who conquered them or settled them over the centuries. It's in a critical location for East-West trade and for all it's history, including now, has been occupied by various nations. Even in our short visit, we could see religious and political cultural clashes that we in the West have a hard time to fathom. I can't imagine any other country or city in the world has experienced the history, wars, conflicts and destruction, yet is still vibrant and the home of three of the worlds greatest religions.
With that in the background, we had a simply outstanding trip. Father John was masterful in his organization. We were able to experience all the important religious site associated with the mysteries of Jesus. Everyone of the readings at mass were tied to the location. And by visiting all the places mentioned in the Bible, we were able to get a real perspective on the geography of His ministry and how the Christian religion spread in Israel and over to Europe. It's one thing to read about the Mt. of Olives , but to actually walk and view the relationship to the city makes the story much clearer and personal. And we had a great tour guide, Oliver, who kept us informed and interested every day. He made each place come alive with his renditions.
We had 18 in our group, half from Detroit, half from Ottawa. Everyone got along and was always engaging to talk with, just many great stories. Other than the last day, we didn't really see any clouds the whole trip and the temperature was between 70 and 85. Had some great hotels- free beer, wine and food all day, and one that didn't quite measure up, but still was fine. All in all, everything worked out perfectly , we didn't have to miss any sites, no one got hurt, no lost luggage and no long traffic waits.
I would think that everyone on the our bus would agree that this was one the more exhilarating and fulfilling trips one could take. We had the experience of all of the great location and culture-the geography,the food, the culture and the history. We had the experience of meeting and traveling with new friends who were excited for each day and to share the fun. And we shared the experience of the pilgrimage- able to see the stories of the Bible come alive in our imagination at each location and to literally walk in the footsteps of Jesus. Quite a lot for 9 days and worth every second!