by Tina Richardson
At a very young age, I developed a fascination with the Holy Land. I listened with earnest every Sunday as I learned of this faraway place where Jesus and his disciples worked and lived, where miracles happened. At the age of eight, a family friend went on a pilgrimage to Israel, and again I was enthralled. I listened intently as the story unfolded of visits to the actual places spoken of in the bible, the beautiful churches, the olive trees, the gardens, the beaches of Tel Aviv. That friend brought me back a bottle of sand from his journey as a memento, and I still have it today. It reminds me of the beautiful world we are blessed to live in, and now, that I as well have my very own memories of the Holy Land.
I was recently blessed with the opportunity to visit the Holy Land and see for myself the places I had only read about. I left with expectations, as we all do, of certain things I absolutely wanted to see and do. First and foremost, I was anxious to walk the Stations of the Cross. This was going to be the highpoint of the journey. And while it was indeed momentous, the journey was about so much more.
The town of Nazareth struck me in a big way. As soon as I arrived, I felt an incredible energy. A feeling that remained with me the entire time I was there. As I walked the streets where Jesus walked as a boy, I was overwhelmed with emotion and awe. I browsed the colourful outdoor market and many shrines commemorating biblical events, but what I will always remember the most is simply walking the streets of the town. I was literally walking in the footsteps of Jesus, and this is a memory that will remain with me for a lifetime. I could hardly believe that people actually live there, and do this every day!
I will never forget the boat ride on the Sea of Galilee, where Jesus gathered his first disciples and performed the miracle of walking on this glorious body of water. Again, the same feeling I had in Nazareth washed over me as I soaked it all in. As we drifted, we sang. As we sang, we drifted. Simply, a moment in my life that I will never, ever forget. What I would give to be back on that wooden boat once more…
This is where Jesus delivered his famous Sermon on the Mount. I was taken aback by the stunning view of the Sea of Galilee. The mountain is topped by a Catholic chapel built in 1939 by the Franciscan sisters with support of the Italian dictator Mussolini. In the front of the church, the symbols on the pavement represent Justice, Prudence, Fortitude, Charity, Faith and Temperance. Inside hangs the cloak from Pope Paul’s visit in 1964.
Oh, the olive trees… My very first experience ever, tasting an olive from a live tree. The taste was extremely bitter, but the moment was beautiful. Just to be in those gardens at the slope of the Mount of Olives.
The Dead Sea, the lowest point on Earth, is not only a must-see for its significance in the Old Testament, but also for the natural wonders and beautiful landscapes. A bucket-list experience for sure, as I floated without effort and obtained my must-have photo. Cable car to Masada, again I was in awe.
The city I had for so long imagined was before me, and it was very different than I had imagined. It’s a unique mix of old and new. And I have to admit to being taken aback by how cosmopolitan it was, with its high-end boutiques and fancy restaurants.
The beach! The beautiful, spectacular beach…the sand that I daydreamed about as a child, finally beneath my feet. Tel Aviv is a beautiful, vibrant city with great fashion, spectacular food and just a short walk away is the Old Town of Jaffa. I saw the amazing St. Peter Church and took in the spectacular view of the Tel Aviv shoreline from Jaffa’s hilltop.
I loved Israel for that, the elegant mix of old and new. A country rich in history and faith. I’m not quite sure I’m done; I yearn to go back and learn more…to walk once again in this amazing land.
If you’d like to learn more about Tina’s experience or are considering a pilgrimage to Israel, CAA would love to help. Contact Tina directly at 613-721-3260 or email@example.com to get a quote or book a free Travel Talk.