The Holy Land: Israel and Your Yard

by Kathleen Glavich, SND on August 7, 2013

in Blogs

IMG_0003Last night I was reviewing my photos from a pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 1995. Visiting the land where Jesus chose to visit Earth some 2,000 years ago was a learning experience. For one thing, I met both Jewish people and Arabs who were friendly and good. My hopes and prayers for a resolution to their conflict in Israel increased. My visit also brought the Gospels to life. Here are ten new realizations…

1. The Sea of Galilee is not that big. The opposite shore can be seen. I had always imagined it was like Lake Erie where I grew up. When we were on one of the “Jesus boats,” a very strong wind blew up, just as the Gospels describe. The best view of the Sea of Galilee is from the Mount of the Beatitudes.

2. The hike to the church in Ain Karem that commemorates the Visitation is grueling: hot, stony, and uphill. The journey to help her relative Elizabeth was no easy task for Mary, especially as a pregnant girl.

3. The city of Jerusalem has a circumference of only 2 1/2 miles and is surrounded by a city wall and several doorways or “gates.” The Beautiful Gate was walled up by Muslims because the Jewish people believe that the Messiah will come through it. Many Jewish tombs are on the Mount of Olives facing this gate.

4. The church of the Annunciation in Nazareth is like the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. Shrines from various countries line the walls. The image of Mary at the U.S. shrine in Nazareth is an aluminum Woman of the Revelation against vivid colors.

5. A church or chapel marks every significant event in the life of Jesus, such as the Annunciation, the Visitation, the Nativity, the Transfiguration, the Multiplication of Loaves, the Raising of Lazarus, Peter’s betrayal, the primacy of Peter, Calvary and the resurrection, and the Ascension. It’s said that probably the only authentic site are the stone steps that lead to the house of Caiphas. Our guide said that when Neil Armstrong saw them, he declared, “Here is where the real giant leap for mankind took place.”

6. Mount Tabor, traditionally the site of the Transfiguration, is a lone, high hill. To get to the church at the top you drive a steep, narrow road on the north side that has fifteen switchbacks, or you can climb 4,300 ancient steps.

7. The entrance to the Church of the Nativity is so small that you must stoop to enter. It was walled up this way in order to prevent invaders. Stone steps lead down to the cave where a silver star marks the site where Jesus was presumably born. Shepherds with flocks of wide-tailed sheep are still seen in Bethlehem.

8. Under a convent in Nazareth, excavations revealed a first-century home and a tomb sealed with a large, round stone. The Sisters think that the tomb is possibly St. Joseph’s.

9. In Capernaum a house was discovered that contained artifacts suggesting that it was Peter’s home, which became a place of prayer for early Christians. Franciscans built a modern church over it. You can view the house through a glass in the floor.

10. Nothing is left of the great Temple except part of the restraining Western Wall that enabled the Temple to be built on a mountaintop. The gold-domed mosque built over the Temple site houses a large rock revered by three faiths: It is believed to be the site of the Jewish Holy of Holies. The rock also is thought to be where Abraham almost sacrificed Isaac and where Mohammad ascended for a tour of heaven.

Even if you do not have the opportunity to go to the Holy Land, remember that our whole planet is holy land because of Jesus. He walked its ground, breathed its air, and ate its food—just as we do.

Have you gone to Israel? If so, what striking memory or memories do you have?camel


{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Patricia Ruthemeyer August 7, 2013 at 9:55 pm

Very interesting observations and insights into the Holy Land, especially about the Sea of Galilee and the Beautiful Gate in Jerusalem. I had never heard the comment made by Neil Armstrong but, coupled with his comment on stepping on the moon, he was obviously a man of quiet but strong faith.


Kathleen Glavich, SND August 8, 2013 at 8:24 am

I’m not sure if Neil Armstrong really said that about the steps in Israel, but it is appropriate, isn’t it?


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