Holy Land Journey

After two days of travel, our real journey began on Day 3 (Monday) In Galilee at St. Peter’s Primacy, Capernaum. We celebrated MASS at an outdoor chapel overlooking the sea of Galilee. Inside an indoor chapel is the rock where Jesus commissioned Peter with the words “Feed my lambs. Feed my sheep”.

It was one of several times that Jesus identified an area of the sea where he suggested the apostles could throw their nets that resulted in a big catch. It was also in that area where post-Resurrection Jesus was on the shore cooking fish for the apostles to come share with him.

Capernaum is an excavated, small town of houses sharing walls (original row houses?) that were made of black, volcanic ash, including Peter’s home, where Jesus lived for the three years of his public ministry.

An open-air church is built on top of Peter’s home.

Just outside the wall was the home of the Roman Centurion whose daughter was cured by Jesus–the same Roman who told Jesus that it was not necessary for him to even come into his home. We accessed it “unofficially” by walking through a field of stones and weeds. Nearby is a classic, small, quaint, Orthodox Church with pinkish/red domes. (So, this small geographic area managed to blend religions?)

Very old, beautiful plants and trees distinguished the whole area. After lunch, we went for a ride on the Sea of Galilee in “an ancient boat”. We were the only passengers. After our scripture reading, we enjoyed 30 minutes of silence while floating as Jesus and the Apostles would have when they were not busy fishing or walking on the water.

The area around the Sea of Galilee is geographically small, about three miles. Ironically, except for a few trips to Jerusalem for the high holy days, Jesus spent his public ministry in this area.

Since it’s a two-hour drive to Jerusalem, the reference to Jesus’ looking south toward Jerusalem to begin his final journey made sense! This is the world he left before his dramatic arrival in Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. Scripture suggests that the timing was prompted by his hearing of the arrest of John the Baptist. So, this had been the area where Jesus lived for the three years of his public ministry, the area small three-mile area around the Sea of Galilee.

Day 4–Tuesday: Cana, Sepphoris & Nazareth.

Cana is now a small, busy town that features the miracle at the marriage feast, the one wedding where the bride is completely ignored! (Wouldn’t it be an interesting to develop a fictional account of how the bride and groom met, how they knew Mary and Jesus, etc.?) The three married couples in our group were remarried. Fr. Lally had even arranged for tourist-oriented veils to be available for our “brides”.

Interesting modern artwork in the chapel and other areas of this site use pottery fragments.

On to the excavated town of Sepphoris that challenged me historically just to understand the many different eras represented! This seems to be a tourist opportunity given the new video plus the Roman-looking chariot on the grounds, etc.

Ignacio joined me in pretending to be Roman!

It is believed that Herod started a new city there to reflect his power and grandeur and that likely Jesus and Joseph helped in the building since Nazareth was a one hour or so walk away. Nazareth. the home of the Holy Family and the tomb of the Just Man (excavated below the convent where the nuns thought they had paid too much but did so because locals suggested that it was on holy ground). Quite a bonanza for them!

Saint Joseph’s church recalls the courage of Joseph to accept Mary as his already-pregnant bride.

Image of the Holy Family:

The Basilica of the Annunciation is a huge edifice that includes Mary’s childhood home where the angel appeared to her (on the lower level). The main church is on the second level. All around the walls of the Basilica of the Annunciation are images of Mary provided by many different countries. Notable for Mexico is the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Our last stop before completing our time in Nazareth was to go into the synagogue where Jesus taught. (I kept thinking about the song from “Hamilton” about the “room where it happened”!)

Day 5/Wednesday: Mount of the Beatitudes, Galilee, and Bethsaida

We began the day with MASS at an outdoor altar on a hill overlooking the Sea of Galilee where Jesus did his Sermon on the Mount or the Beatitudes. The Church of the Beatitudes is octagonal in shape to reference the eight Beatitudes. It was built in 1938 for a Franciscan Order of nuns. The colonnades and dome reflect a traditional design.

The altar at the nearby Multiplication of Loaves Monastery. The image of Mary likely reflects what she really looked like!

Bethsaida is an excavated, thriving, ancient town, 1000 years before Christ, that is expected to have literally been on the sea of Galilee. Fisherman lived and worked there including the young men who grew up to be the apostles such as Peter, Andrew and Phillip.

Day 6/Thursday: Tiberius, Magdala, Bethany, the Jordan River, Jerusalem

We began our last day in Galilee on a cold, windy morning walking the short distance to the grounds of the monastery where an altar of a large stone out has been placed on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee, called Dalmanutha, referencing the sits of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes.

We learned that Tiberias (which was lovely to see at night from the extended veranda of the Pilgerhaus) was a city built by Herod Antipas, Son of Herod the Great. It was named after the Roman Emperor Tiberias and deliberately built over a cemetery so that Jews would not live there (given the distance they observe). In other words, we don’t have any reference of Jesus in Tiberias.

The first stop on our drive to Jerusalem was the excavated area (and growing tourist site that includes a hotel) in the town of Magdala that includes an impressive church, dedicated to women, especially Mary Magdalene, in her home town The altar is unique in shape of a boat. The Sea of Galilee is visible through the glass behind the altar.

The following impressive mural is behind the altar in the chapel below the main altar (there are several altars in the church). It references the woman from scripture who knew that she would be cured if she could but touch the hem of Jesus garment.

We continued to a site where we could access the Jordan River where we renewed our baptismal vows. Closer to Jerusalem we stopped in the Palestinian town of Bethany and went down into the tomb of Lazarus.

Day 7/ Friday: Upper Room, Western Wall, Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

We were the only ones in THE Upper Room, the location of the Last Supper where Jesus also washed the feet of the Apostles. Fortunately, we had quiet time for individual reflection

Nearby (really everything is “nearby”) is the St. Francis Ad Coenaculum Chapel. (Known as the Little Cenacle). The impressive iron sculpture of the Last Supper is positioned behind the altar.

Then we walked to the nearby area where Jesus was tortured. On the outside of St Peter in Gallicantu Church, one can see the image of Jesus in a harness being lowered into the cell/dungeon:

Next, the experience of the Western Wall on Temple Mount demonstrates the living history of the Jewish people. Others are also invited to pray at this important wall and insert their petitions into any crevice available. Most of us did. By the way, the women are on one side and the men are on the other.

Incorporated into and a part of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher are a stone that represents the location of Calvary, the stone slab where Jesus was anointed for burial after being taken down from the cross and the tomb where he was laid.

The tomb where Jesus was buried, guarded by a Greek Orthodox Priest

Interestingly, there are six different religious groups that manage their carefully divided areas of this church.

(We will conclude Beryl’s journey in a special issue published this coming Thursday. — Editors)


Beryl B. Byles, MBA University of Dallas, worked as an Executive Coach, specializing in leadership development for senior executives in large corporations, CEO’s of small to mid-sized companies and leaders of non-profit enterprises, challenging and supporting her clients in making growth oriented choices.  She wrote a professional memoir called Authentic Leadership: An Inside Job.  Beryl co-teaches OLLI-USF’s leadership class and is the inspiration for the Operatunity SIG.

8 Replies to “Holy Land Journey”

  1. So much history covered by the glimpse of your journey. Thanks for the opportunity to share your experience.

    1. Thanks, Judy, for your comment. As a writer, your observations have significant weight with me.

      Be good to Judy. Beryl

    1. Yes, Deborah, it was an excellent journey. Interestingly, it keeps on providing depth and richness, even after the fact.

      Thanks for your comment, Beryl

  2. Thank you for sharing your personal journey of your trip. The photos are fantastic.
    I love your travel writing style!

    1. Thanks, Diane, for your comments. The photos are important to me, because, as you know, they capture a moment forever. I’m especially touched by your generous reaction to my “travel writing style”.

      Is there an interesting journey in your near future that deserves your journaling?

      Best, Beryl

  3. Many thanks for sharing your very special trip of a lifetime. I appreciate your photos and historical notes.

    1. Thanks, Jay, for your very kind comment. On a daily basis, I am reminded of the value of the trip, and I was delighted to share it earlier on the OLLI blog.

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