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April 26, 2010April 26, 2010  0 comments  Uncategorized

Israel can now boast a new slogan: Bike where Jesus walked. Today Israeli, Palestinian and Italian bikers inaugurated the “Gospel Trail,” a new 40-kilometer path, off the main road that winds its way through holy sites from Nazareth to Capernaum.

The bike ride, which covered 25 kilometers of the entire trail, was part of the Italian pilgrimage of the John Paul II Games 2010, which began yesterday with the run from the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem to the Davidson Center in the Old City of Jerusalem.  

The dirt path that makes up the Gospel trail goes off the beaten touris
galilee, 
gospel trail, bikingt path and crowded roads around the Galilee. Instead, pilgrims may experience something closer to what Jesus himself did by walking through nature to arrive at the various sites.

The games are meant to promote peace between Israelis and Palestinians through sports. Pope John Paul II was a proponent of using sports to achieve peace and the initiative is named for him. This year’s delegation was the largest Italian contingent, 500 pilgrims, in seven years since its inception.
 
After the morning bike ride, hundreds of Italian Catholic pilgrims celebrated mass in boats on the Sea of Galilee.
 
The sporting events scheduled for this week are a joint initiative led by the official Vatican pilgrimage organization Opera Romana Pellegrinaggi and the Italian Olympic Committee in cooperation with Israeli and Palestinian government agencies. Three professional Italian teams, volleyball, cycling and swimming, are part of the Holy Land tour.
 

(Photos: Sasson Tiram)


June 29, 2010June 29, 2010  1 comments  Uncategorized

A new audacious project being planned in the Galilee combining accommodations and archaeology will serve more than just the practical needs of travelers, but will be a link between religions, cultures and time, according to the visionary behind the idea.

The Magdala Center, which began with the idea of offering hospitality to travelers in the Galilee, is situated on an archaeological site dating back to the time of Jesus - a find that will be integrated into the location’s expanded blueprint.

“The beginning of Christianity happened there, the first disciples of Jesus became the Church and that happened in that area,” said Father Juan Solana, Charge of the Holy See at Notre Dame in Jerusalem. “It is an important link between Judaism and Christianity. I hope, as it was at that time, it could be now.”

When Solana came to manage Notre Dame, a Catholic center and guesthouse, in 2004, he quickly ascertained the situation: “Pilgrimages have two different stops - the Galilee and Jerusalem.”

“We’re all set in Jerusalem,” he noted in an interview with Travelujah (http://www.travelujah.com), the only Christian social networking site focusing on travel to the Holy Land. “We need something in the Galilee.”

migdal, magdala, notre dame, jerusalem, galileeSo Solana set to work looking for land in the Galilee to accommodate pilgrims. The land he chose happened to contain a treasure: Buried under years of civilization was an ancient city with a synagogue, possibly a marketplace, homes and clues to a town that existed during the time of Jesus.

“God helped us as we found the proper place in Migdal for Christians and Jews as well.”

For Christians, the setting of Migdal, or Magdala, is important as central to Jesus’ ministry and the region from which Mary Magdalene hailed . For Jews, the discovery of a synagogue and the location there of the revolt during the Roman period are crucial bits of history.

Solana had always wanted the Galilee site to expand upon the goal of Notre Dame, to encourage dialogue and understanding between Christians and Jews.

“The discovery of the synagogue was further confirmation of that and we hope that it will foster our goals in that sense,” he said. “We were lucky enough to find this place, the archaeological findings confirmed the mission.”

When it is completed, the Magdala Center will host a Christian guesthouse, called Notre Dame of the Galilee, with 130 rooms, a multimedia center and an archaeological site open to the public that will be of interest to Christians, Jews and all students of history.

The archaeological site was discovered during construction on the site in August. The synagogue will take about another year to uncover completely and the rest of the city will take around three years. Solana hopes to inaugurate the hotel on July 22, 2012, the Celebration of Mary Magdalene.

The site is located between the city of Tiberias and Kibbutz Ginossar and is lakefront property of 84 dunams.

In the meantime, Notre Dame is looking for volunteers to help excavate the site. The Israel Antiquities Authority, in conjunction with two Mexican universities, is overseeing the dig and this is the first time Mexican universities received a license to manage a dig in the Holy Land.

The synagogue on the site, Solana said, appeared to have been constructed by wealthy patrons between 50 BC to 100 AD. It contains mosaics, a carved stone menorah and frescoes. It is one of only seven in the world unearthed from the same period, according to the IAA.

Solana said he is also working with biblical scholars to see if there is a link between Magdala and the events in Jesus’ life. For example, Jesus’ encounter with Jarius, a synagogue ruler, and with the woman with the issue of blood, is traditionally believed to have happened in Capernaum. Solana asks, what if this happened in Magdala or if Mary Magdalene herself was the woman with the issue of blood?

Although it is barely mentioned in the Bible, Magdala was one of the larger of the cities in the Galilee at the time of Jesus. According to Jewish historian Josephus Flavius it had a population of 40,000 at the time of the first Jewish revolt (66-70 AD).

The find is appealing for locals and tourists alike. Solana said pilgrimage to the Holy Land uncovers biblical treasures such as Magdala that help believers grow in their faith. The Holy Land, he said, is the fifth gospel. It adds the setting, light, weather and natural environment to the other four gospels.

“We know usually by listening, but when you come you see things in their place, its like going from a black and white TV to a 3D plasma screen,” he described.

“There are many things special in Israel as far as religion is concerned,” he said. “There are strong deep traditions, different religions and a long story as ar as religion and culture is concerned.” And of course the sournce of Christianity is here. The more I know about Judaism, the more I know Christianity. And vice versa, I think.”

By Nicole Jansezian, Travelujah

Nicole Jansezian writes for Travelujah.com, the only Christian social network focused on travel to the Holy Land. Travelujah is a vibrant online community offering high quality Christian content, user and expert blogs, travel tours and planning services for people interested in connecting with or traveling to the Holy Land.


July 7, 2010July 7, 2010  0 comments  Uncategorized

Tours to the Galilee and the Negev regions are about to get even better as Israel announced today it will pour some $10 million into Galilee and Negev tourism industries in order to attract more visitors, both domestic and international, to these areas.

“The objective is to uncover the hidden Galilee and the tourism attractions in the Negev to as many visitors as possible so that they will prefer to take their family vacation in these areas,”  said Silvan Shalom, vice prime minister and minister of development of the Negev and the Galilee. “This is Israel’s shop window and, as a result of the investment in tourism, we can also attract others to live in the Negev and Galilee.”
 
The ministries of tourism and the Negev and Galilee development will bolster existing tourist villages and infrastructures while seeking new attractions that will draw more tourists.
 
galilee, gospel trail, biking, negev, tourMost of Israel’s tourism activities and sites are located in the periphery, in the Negev and Galilee, and therefore the Tourism Ministry invests many resources there in order to develop the areas and turn them into places that attract both domestic and incoming tourism,” said Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov. “Continued investment this year will lead to an increase in demand for visits to the region, its sites and attractions, to the creation of new jobs, to a decrease in unemployment and an increase in revenue for the economy.”


In the Galilee, the sites that will be promoted are the Safed fortress, Yavniel Founders’ Park, trail development in the Weiss Forest in Metulla, tourism planning in Sajur (Druze village), infrastructure development in Shaar Yeshuv, Mevo’ot Hermon, Rosh Hanikra, the West Golan, Hamat Gader, Migdal, tourism villages in Menahamiya and Dalton and the promenades in Karkom and Nahariya.


In the Negev, sites on the investment list include the Peace Path in Eilat, tourism village in Alumim, assistance to zimmers, hotels and attractions throughout the Negev, cycle paths on the Spice Route, in Meitar, Bnei Shimon and along the Israel Trail, strengthening infrastructure and establishing a motor park in Hazerim, a Visitors Center in Timna Park, the mosaic at Sussita and the Yatir Forest. The initiative will also promote Bedouin tourism.


By Nicole Jansezian, Travelujah

Nicole Jansezian writes for Travelujah.com, the only Christian social network focused on travel to the Holy Land. Travelujah is a vibrant online community offering high quality Christian content, user and expert blogs, travel tours and planning services for people interested in connecting with or traveling to the Holy Land.


November 3, 2010November 3, 2010  0 comments  Uncategorized

The humble little olive, a staple of Holy Land cuisine, is rich with biblical symbolism and is the subject of an annual festival going on right now in the Galilee region of northern Israel.

Up until November 7, the 16th annual Olive Branch Festival, sponsored by the Israel Ministry for the Development of the Galilee and Negev, the Galilee Development Authority and the Olive Council, is celebrating the small fruit.

The olive branch is perhaps best known as the symbol of peace. But in the Bible the olive holds a rich host of uses. The oil of olives is used to anoint and to light. It is a symbol of healing. Also, the olive tree is also used as an example in the New Testament as Christians being “grafted” in to the Jewish people through Jesus. The Mount of Olives in eastern Jerusalem is where Jesus prayed the night before he was arrested and condemned to die.

This year’s theme is “A Tribute to the Olive in Different Cultures.” The festival is taking place in four northern Galilean communities including Cfar Veredim, Hananiya Farms, Cfar Kama and Agmon Hula. Activities planned like classes highlighting the olive’s health benefits, olive press tours, workshops, guided hikes, cycle and jeep tours mark the festival. Plus there will be gourmet meals and olive related alternative health treatments available. The festival aims to increase awareness of the health benefits of the olive.

“The annual Olive Branch festival is a unique event that attracts travelers from around the world to celebrate one of the region's most popular exports--the olive,” said Haim Gutin, Israel Tourism Commissioner, North and South America. “The festival will provide valuable insight into the lives of the residents who inhabit the olive-rich region.”

Olives and olive oil have played a role in Israel since biblical times. Olive pits as old as 6,000 years old have been found in the land, and in Deuteronomy 8:7, Israel is referred to as a land of olive, oils and honey. During the fall harvest, residents pick olives from trees in neighborhood parks.


By Nicole Jansezian, Travelujah


Nicole Jansezian writes for Travelujah.com, the only Christian social network focused on travel to the Holy Land. People can learn, plan and share their Holy Land tour and travel experiences on Travelujah


March 15, 2011March 15, 2011  0 comments  Uncategorized

“There will be a time in the future when Galilee of the Gentiles, which lies along the road that runs between the Jordan and the sea, will be filled with glory.” Isaiah 9:1 (New Living Translation)

A new project has the potential to fulfill a major need in the Galilee for tourist accommodations and perhaps a bit of biblical prophecy as well.

Anne Ayalon, founder and president of The Galilean Resort and Campus, is spearheading an ambitious project that is aimed at drawing Christians to the area for vacations, conferences, concerts, educational courses as well as spiritual revival in this highly significant region.

“The more you develop the Galilee in the right way, the more pilgrims will come,” she said. The concept of the resort and campus, Ayalon said, will inspire “spiritual renewal in the area.”

Currently the Galilee is benefitting less from the surge in tourism to Israel than other popular destinations such as Jerusalem. Ayalon said that many Christians, polled as they leave Israel, express a desire to spend more time in the Galilee. But with a dearth of accommodations around the lake, many tourists visit the area without spending the night. Even if they do, few tours offer more than one or two nights in the region where Jesus spent the bulk of his ministry.

“What’s going on in Israel for Christians is in the Galilee,” Ayalon said. “All the places that have meaning to the Christians are in the Galilee.”

Much of the activities in the Gospels were centered in or near this region. Jesus crossed the lake several times. Here, he called many of his disciples to follow him. Several churches have been built memorializing miracles he performed and sermons that Jesus preached in this region. The Galilean is designed to capitalize on that, allowing pilgrims to park in the area for longer than a day or two. The resort features 250 rooms, but the center include much more than just accommodations. The grounds and adjacent campus will include a performing arts center suitable for lectures, concerts, films. The campus will host day and evening courses. An amphitheater on the lake will seat 1,500. The grounds would also be complete with a library, chapel, shops, spa, pool and a conference center. Approximately $60 million is needed to develop the project.

And while the amenities will make the resort attractive to Christian groups, The Galilean is not just envisioned to fill a tourism need for Christians, but to add spiritual and educational dimensions to the time they spend in Israel, starting with learning about the Jewish roots of faith at the source.

David Zwebner, founder and managing director, said one mission of The Galilean is to “create a better understanding between Christians and Jews.”

To that end, Jewish rabbis and teachers will be part of the campus outreach. Noted rabbis and pastors including Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, Robert Stearns, Brad Young and others, are also on the board of the Galilean and will help in developing the curriculum which will focus on educating Christians about their faith’s Jewish roots. Ayalon said the goal is to build “bridges of understanding and respect between the two faiths” and to educate Christians about the Jewish roots of their faith and understanding God’s purposes for Israel.

The concept is backed by a line-up of significant evangelical Christians from the US and based in Israel. including Gary Bauer, David Cerullo, John Hagee, Pat Robertson and Michael Little from CBN and Jay Sekulow. Naim Khoury of Bethlehem is also backing the idea as is Brazilian Pastor Rene Terra Nova.

In 2010 - a record year for tourism to Israel - 2.3 million Christians comprised 69 percent of all tourists to the country. This number is up from 497,000 in 2004. But that is still a pittance compared to the 2.2 billion Christians worldwide today and the 34 million tourists to the Vatican annually.

Should the project succeed, Galilee could eventually rival Jerusalem as a spiritual Mecca for Christians with its idyllic setting on a swath of land upon or near where Jesus fed the 5000, preached the Sermon on the Mount, and healed all who were brought to him.

“It is these places that are going to create spiritual enrichment for the Christians that are going to come here,” Ayalon said.

 

By Nicole Jansezian, Travelujah

Nicole Jansezian writes for www.travelujah.com, the only Christian social network focused on travel to the Holy Land. Travelujah is a vibrant online community offering high quality Christian content, user and expert blogs, travel tours and planning services for people interested in connecting with or traveling to the Holy Land.


July 10, 2011July 10, 2011  0 comments  Uncategorized

 

A new guesthouse, an archaeological site and a uniquely written Catholic mass booklet will bring to life New Testament times in the Galilee.


The Magdala Center will be on the shores of the Galilee and hosts a peek into the time of Jesus. Even though the Gospels barely mention the city, Magdala (or Migdal) played a historic role in the 1st century as revealed in the ongoing archaeological dig on the site.


migdal, magdala, notre dame, jerusalem, galileeFather Juan Maria Solana, Charge of the Holy See for the Notre Dame Center in Jerusalem, is the visionary behind this ambitious project and much needed accommodations. Solana spoke with Travelujah about plans to continue uncovering the ancient city on the grounds while building the 130-room guesthouse, called Notre Dame du Lac.


"I want to believe that there are a couple of gospel miracles that happened in Magdala,” Solana said.


The entire archaeological area uncovered is exclusively 1st century, which is rare. Most sites, even those nearby, usually show an overlap of periods. This one so far is purely Roman era. It has also revealed a community that was likely very wealthy.


In this synagogue they had a great leader – not common, very rich,” he said.


Solana listed some of the impressive findings in the excavations including a synagogue, a marketplace, a villa, a perfectly preserved mosaic, rooms paved with well-cut stones and three arches, one of which is still standing. The synagogue contains mosaics, a carved stone menorah and frescoes.


Another key find is the port of Magdala, some 50 meters from the current shoreline and near the marketplace. On one side of the port is all the remnants of the lake that had lapped against the wall.


With a villa, a marketplace and a port, Magdala could possibly have been more of a leading town than Capernaum, previously thought of as the “capital” of the Galilee. And the excavations continue.


We still have a lot of space to dig, dunams and dunams,” Solana said. “We will find many other things, but what we have found until now shows a very leading and active town.”


For people, especially Christian pilgrims, looking to understand the time of Jesus, we have the time of Jesus seen here, very pure.”


Solana has been consulting with biblical scholars to see if there is a link between Magdala and Jarius, the synagogue ruler whose daughter Jesus raised from the dead. Magdala was one of the larger of the cities in the Galilee at the time of Jesus. According to Jewish historian Josephus Flavius it had a population of 40,000 at the time of the first Jewish revolt (66-70 AD).


Perhaps the most special prospect though is the wooden altar, built in the shape of a first century boat, that Solana designed especially for the site. Located on the shoreline itself, the altar will used for open-air masses which can be said with a special missal written by Solana specifically for Magdala.


Solana spent two years in his spare time composing a mass booklet, a missal, for the site, drawing from gospel passages regarding Magdala, Jesus, the Galilee, Mary Magdalene, the calling of the first disciples who were on the lake's shores when Jesus called them.


The missal has been approved by the Latin patriarch.


Solana noted the need for accommodations in the Galilee when he first arrived in Israel in 2004. While Jerusalem is already rife with Christian guesthouses, the Galilee is not.


Solana hopes to inaugurate the hotel in December 2012, but will only know next year whether that will be possible. The site is located between the city of Tiberias and Kibbutz Ginossar and is lakefront property of 84 dunams.


By Nicole Jansezian, Travelujah

Nicole Jansezian writes for Travelujah.com, the only Christian social network focused on travel to the Holy Land. Travelujah is a vibrant online community offering high quality Christian content, user and expert blogs, travel tours and planning services for people interested in connecting with or traveling to the Holy Land.





 


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