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November 7, 2011November 7, 2011  3 comments  Uncategorized

It wasn't your everyday sight at the Western Wall, the holiest site in Judaism: dozens of motorcyclists in black leather vests, tattoos and army-green bandanas gathered at the plaza in a culmination of their journey across the country, broke bread together and honored the Israeli army with a prayer and a moment of silence.



israel, tourism, holy land, harley-davidson

(Photo credit: Ministry of Tourism/Yossi Zamir)


The gathering on Sunday was the culmination of a motorbike tour of Israel organized by Mission:M25, a group of Evangelical Christians and military veterans whose mission is to honor the armed forces, fallen soldiers and those missing in action. This is the first time the organization has taken one of these honoring rides, called Run for the Wall, outside of the U.S.


israel, tourism, holy land, harley-davidson


(Photo credit: Ministry of Tourism/Yossi Zamir)


“We came to be a blessing,” Gary Burd, director of Mission:M25, told Travelujah. “Our whole emphasis was to honor the IDF and all of the armed forces in Israel. As Christians we can come here and freely walk where our Lord walked. We know it takes the sacrifice of men and women to keep a country free.”

The group had 71 American participants including 31 bikers who shipped their motorcycles to Israel. The tour began at the port in Ashdod, where the bikes were shipped to, and continued up the coast to Tel Aviv, Mount Carmel and Megiddo and then inland to Nazareth. Most of the bikes were fitted with American and Israeli flags.


israel, tourism, holy land, harley-davidson

(Photo: Travelujah)

On Sunday afternoon, the American bikers were joined by more than 100 Israelis on motorbikes and the entire entourage rode, with a police escort, from the military memorial at Latrun to the Western Wall. It was an impressive if not shocking sight as dozens of Harley-Davidsons motored through the cobble stone streets of the ancient city and parked outside the Temple Mount.

“The Bible says that there will be a time when the nations will worship together at Zion,” said one of the bikers, Paul, leading the bread-breaking ceremony. “That is happening at this moment.”

Along their journey, the bikers gave to soldiers that they met army-green bandanas with Psalm 91 printed in Hebrew and English.

Mission:M25 also brought $620,000 worth of medical supplies to be distributed by an Israeli NGO.

The ministry sponsors a ride every year from California to Washington DC called Run to the Wall to honor the United States military. The ride ends at the war memorials in the nation's capital. This event was an extension of sorts of that trip. As to why the ministry chose Israel as its first foray outside of the U.S., Burd said, “We believe its God's favored nation. It's his chosen people.”


israel, tourism, holy land, harley-davidson

(Photo: Travelujah)


But aside from the logistics of the trip and their mission to bless Israel, the sights were awe-inspiring to the bikers as well.

“As we were riding down the Megiddo Valley, I thought of all the history and the future prophecies regarding this land – and there I am riding through on a motorcycle,” Burd said. “I teared up riding into the Old City. This is where King David and all the greats – the prophets and kings – walked.”

The group came to Israel with Coral Tours as part of the efforts by the Israel Government Tourism Office in North America to encourage tourism to Israel particularly from the Evangelical Christian community. Haim Gutin, Israel's tourism commissioner for North and South America, said they didn't know the tour would end up being as meaningful as it was. “To stay here to pray for Israel, to honor the military – its something amazing.”


Before praying individually at the Wall, the bikers – both Americans and Israelis – prayed together for the safety of Israel, the Jewish people and Israeli soldiers.


israel, tourism, holy land, harley-davidson


Hal Bryan of the American contingent and Haim Gutin, Israel Ministry of Tourism (Photo: Travelujah)

The youngest member of the trip was Kyler, 11, from Phoenix. He rode with his father, Ron Arieli, who runs a motorcyclist training center in Arizona. Kyler enjoyed seeing the country from a windowless view on a bike and take in the ancient sites. Ron lived in Israel for 30 years, and as a Jew, it was important for him to allow his sons to connect to the land and culture.

“Here he's living it, he's seeing it, he's breathing it,” he said. “He is immersed in thousands of years of history.”

israel, tourism, holy land, harley-davidson

Kyler with one of the Israeli bikers at the Western Wall plaza. (Photo: Travelujah)

Bobby Goodman, an American in Israel for the first time, came to ride his motorcycle here, but it broke down within the first 40 miles of the tour. Goodman said the malfunction turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

“ I don't need to ride – I'm here for Israel, not the ride,” he told Travelujah. “Its not about the ride, its the journey.”

Since he's been in the Holy Land, Goodman, a hardened biker, said he's felt the presence of Jesus as he has made his plgrimage in the Holy Land.


“When I'm where he was, yea, I've done nothing but feel,” he said.

By Nicole Jansezian, Travelujah

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


April 13, 2011April 13, 2011  2 comments  Uncategorized

A documentary film, whose release was timed with the Easter season, claims that nails found in a 2,000-year-old tomb in Jerusalem could have been the very ones used to crucify Jesus.

Though that exact claim is inconclusive, the Israeli-Canadian filmmaker Simcha Jacobovici announced his findings on Tuesday in Jerusalem and promoted a new film of his regarding his findings.

“In the future things that look far fetched today may become facts tomorrow,” he said.

Jacobovici, whose findings are oftentimes mired in controversy, displayed two rusted, bent iron nails claiming that perhaps these were the very ones used to crucify Jesus to the cross 2,000 years ago on Golgotha. He said these nails were discovered 20 years ago in a Jerusalem excavation. They were found in a tomb, believed to be the tomb of Caiaphas, the high priest who handed Jesus over to the Romans to be killed.
“These are probably, possibly, the nails from that Caiaphas tomb. So, if you accept that this is the tomb of Caiaphas and, if you accept that these nails came from that tomb, given that Caiaphas is only associated with the crucifixion of Jesus they very well could be those nails,” Jacobovici said.

His film, “The Nails of the Cross,” will air on the History Channel and other major TV channels during the Easter season in the U.S., Latin America, Canada and on an Israeli channel, the first time Israeli TV will run a program featuring a historical analysis of Christianity.

A 1st-century tomb discovered in East Jerusalem in 1990, believed to be that of Caiaphas, contained the nails. According to Jacobovici, the nails mysteriously disappeared shortly after that until he tracked them down at Tel Aviv University, in the lab of an anthropologist who is an expert on ancient bones.

Jacobovici said 1st-century Jews regarded crucifixion nails to be a talisman of sorts.

But, “there’s no proof that the nails are connected to any bones or proof from textual data that Caiaphas had the nails for the crucifixion with him after the crucifixion took place and after Jesus was taken down from the cross,” said archaeologist Gaby Barkay. “On the other hand, those are possible things.”

Jacobovici speculates that Caiaphas may have become a follower of Jesus and taken the nails, or simply wanted them as an amulet to help him in his afterlife.

“Why would someone take these nails to the grave with them? I would say that in rabbinic literature there is only one kind of nail that is like an amulet and that is crucifixion nails,” Jacobovici said. “I guess that it is an insurance policy in the after life.”
At this point, there is no way to scientifically prove that these are the nails that crucified Jesus.

“From what I understand you cannot get DNA from iron. Maybe in the future they will be able to. So no real testing beyond looking at the limestone has been done on these. I think they have been looked at to see if there is bone residue and none has been found. I don’t think you can get blood and flesh,” Jacobovici said.

The Israel Antiquities Authority issued a statement: “Nails were commonly found in burial tombs of that period. The most accept view is that they were used to carve on the ossuary the name of the deceased. The claim that these nails had any other significance is baseless and a figment of the imagination. The theories presented in the film have no archaeological or scientific basis.”

Four years ago, he teamed up with James Cameron, director of the Titanic, to unveil what they claimed was the ossuary of Jesus. The burial chambers were marked with the names of Jesus, Joseph and Mary. These claims were contested by archaeologists and scholars.

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.

April 25, 2010April 25, 2010  0 comments  Uncategorized

It was a rare sight as Palestinian, Israeli and Italian runners crossed the Bethlehem checkpoint near Rachel’s tomb hand in hand on Sunday morning proving that, at least on the sports level, achieving peace was not a problem.

The 400 strong contingent running for peace was in sharp contrast to demonstrations in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan that occurred at the same time.

bethlehem, peace, sports“Unlike provocative political initiatives such as we have seen in Silwan this morning, the unique sporting events that took place at the same time in Jerusalem contribute to coexistence and constitute a fascinating encounter between Italian Catholics, Israelis and Palestinians which is designed to promote pilgrimage to the Holy Land, peace and dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians,” said Israeli Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov.


(Photo: Sasson Tiram)


The seventh annual Pope John Paul II Games were significant in many other ways this year: it drew the most participants ever - 500 Italian pilgrims - and, for the first time, Israelis were able to start the Peace Run in Bethlehem with the rest of the runners, Palestinian and Italian.

Organizers point to that last fact alone as proof that these games are finally having an effect to bring around peace. Some 400 runners participated in the opening event of the games sponsored by the Italian organization, Opera Romano Pellegrinaggi. About 300 Italians made up the bulk of the running contingent, along with almost 100 Palestinians and 30 Israeli runners. Six Israeli runners started the race in Bethlehem, while some met up with the group at the checkpoint. At the checkpoint, the Italian National Junior Women's Volleyball team was joined by Palestinian and Israeli players for a few quick matches before the runners continued the run and finished adjacent to the Western Wall. 

Yaron Ruchin was one of the six Israeli runners who started in Bethlehem. He had been to Bethlehem before it was closed to Israelis, but he hasn’t visited since Israeli has prohibited its citizens from entering Palestinian territories.

“It saw things I recognize like the shops and the cafes, where I used to drink coffee, but they were all closed because it was too early on Sunday morning,” he told Travelujah, the only Christian social  network focused on travel to the Holy Land. “It hasn’t changed much, its the Bethlehem we all knew. Now we were there as guests.”

It took great effort from the Tourism Ministry in coordination with the Civil Administration to allow Israeli citizens in for the event and ensure their safety.

Lilian Jaar, a Palestinian from Bethlehem, has participated in the run for four years now. She believes that even a small thing such as this run will do its part to achieve peace and noted the fact that Israelis were able to begin the runbethlehem, peace, sports at Manger Square this year as a sign that these efforts were beginning to pay off.

“I was so happy to be running with Jews at the beginning of the race, not just from the middle,” she told Travelujah. “You feel this is the beginning of something and we are already seeing the results now.”

Italians who participated, from tourists to professional athletes, experienced the Holy Land on a new level, and some for the first time.

“Its impossible to describe,” said Carlo Bausi, in Israel for his first time with plans already to return. “It is necessary to come here another time, two times, three times because it is such a special place. There are so many things to see and to study.”

Father Cesare Atuire of Opera Romano Pellegrinaggi in Rome, told Travelujah that the greater participation this year and the fact that Israeli citizens actually started in Manger Square speaks to the success of the event.

“Deeper relationships have been built, Italians and the Jewish Israelis and Palestinians,” Atuire told us. “It is becoming easier to dialogue. Some come back and stay with families here. Peace is not gonna drop from the sky, we are going to have to build it through better human relations.”

This year the organization raised money for needy communities. The Italian delegation donated 12 bicycles to the Falasha community and raised money for a sports center in Gaza, Atuire said.

The Italian Olympic Federation was involved in the Holy Land games this year and brought the national junior women’s volleyball team, the cycling team and the swim team all came to Israel this year to take part in some of the games.

Mishezhnikov said that the large Italian group this year showed that, “Pilgrimage has in fact become a bridge for peace.”

Deputy Director General of Israel’s Tourism Ministry Rafi Ben Hur said during a news conference on Sunday that the goal for next year is to allow Palestinians from Gaza to also participate. But getting Israelis into Bethlehem was “one step further than the politics and the politicians in the Middle East have gone.”

“Where politics can’t go, the universal language of sports can,” Gianni Petrucci, president of the Italian Olympics Committee, said at the news conference.

On arrival at Rachel's Crossing, hundreds of participants signed a joint proclamation calling for the faithful around the world to visit the Holy Land and work for peace and coexistence.

Tomorrow, the Italian, Israeli, Palestinian contingent will mark the official opening of the Gospel Trail, a 40-km path between Nazareth and the Sea of Galilee. The bike ride will be 25 km. Following the event, Italian pilgrims will celebrate mass in boats anchored in the Sea of Galilee.

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.

May 17, 2010May 17, 2010  1 comments  Uncategorized

Wedged on a narrow alley about halfway between New Gate and Jaffa Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City is a quaint and historic Catholic guest house called Casa Nova.

From the entrance, the guest house appears as just another storefront on a winding road. You would never know from the outside, but the guest house unfolds into an expansive building with 88 guest rooms, conference rooms, a chapel and a beautiful Old City courtyard at its center.

The guest house is an excellent jumping off point for pilgrims in the Old City. Snugly set in the heart of the Christian Quarter, most sites are within walking distance from the Casa Nova. Immediately upon stepping outside, guests find themselves on a stone path in the Old City. Just minutes away from the Holy Sepulchre, the Via Dolorosa and churches on Mount Zion, the guest house is an ideally location for travelers interested in Old City holy sites.

Staying at Casa Nova thrusts you into your part of more than 500 years of history. The guest house was built in the 16th century to accommodate pilgrims visiting Jerusalem. Father Raffaele Caputo, the friar responsible for the site, said that the place was built to offload Italian pilgrims who had been staying at the Convent of St. Savior.

“It was small at first because there was not a lot of people coming,” Caputo  told Travelujah, the only Christian social network focusing on travel to the Holy Land.

The guest house expanded with the increase of pilgrims to the Holy Land once in the 1780s and then again in 1870. In the 1980s, it was renovated again to what you see today. Caputo said that the name Casa Nova (meaning new house in English) was given at the establishment of the guest house.

casa nova, pilgrim, hostel, jerusalem, old city, christian quarterCasa Nova has a small chapel and holds mass daily at 6:30 a.m. Three conference rooms are available for group meetings. A cafeteria and a bar that serves coffee all day is also available.

The property is Franciscan run. Rooms are austere and spartan, but are equipped with bathrooms, air-conditioning and wireless internet. Handicap accessible rooms are available, but there are three steps up to the front door. Connected to the Jerusalem Casa Nova are guest houses in Bethlehem, Tiberias, Nazareth and Mount Tabor.

The majority of Casa Nova’s guests are Catholic pilgrims from Italy, Spain and Argentina. Rarely do you find individual pilgrims staying here as Casa Nova is better equipped to house large groups, according to reservations manager Maral Shemmessian. Group rates range from $40 to $55 per person, depending on meals requested and $60 perperson for individuals, bed and breakfast only.

For Group Reservations for 10 or more people at Casa Nova, click here.


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 to the land.

June 16, 2010June 16, 2010  0 comments  Uncategorized
After an onslaught of bad press and public opinion in recent weeks, Israel finally got some welcome news as the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development chose to hold its annual meeting in Jerusalem instead of Paris.

Israeli tourism officials believe that choosing to host the conference in Jerusalem is a boon to the country’s tourism industry and its economic potential.

“The committee’s decision to hold its annual meeting in Jerusalem and give it a festive and prestigious touch, together with the invitation to tourism ministers from the member countries, is an important vote of confidence with additional significance for promoting tourism and improving Israel’s image around the world,” said Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov.

The 86th OECD Tourism Committee conference will include tourism ministers and representatives from member states, as well as from other countries and will take place in October. After the conference, participants will tour the country and visit various tourism sites.

“Israel’s joining the OECD is of great importance in terms of building a positive image for the country,” said Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov. “The positive image gained will have an effect on the tourist’s choice to visit Israel and it will attract foreign investors to the country, including, among others, investors in tourism.”

June 20, 2010June 20, 2010  0 comments  Uncategorized
It has been a record year so far in the number of Catholic visitors to Israel, a pay off to the 10-million shekel investment by the Ministry of Tourism in promoting tourism to the Holy Land from Catholic nations.

But one organization is looking to widen the scope of the Catholic tourism surge to include more about Israel and not just the Holy Land.

“What I’ve noticed from a lot of Catholic tour groups is a kind of ‘Great Disconnect’ between the Israel in the Bible and Israel today,” said Ariel Ben Ami, director of Catholics for Israel. “They don’t even use the word ‘Israel,’ but only ‘Holy Land.’ Many come here to see an open air museum, to see where Jesus walked, to see the holy sites. But they have no experience whatsoever with Israelis or any appreciation for the modern miracle of the re-birth of Israel and return of the Jewish people home after two thousand years of exile to the land that God promised them in the Bible.”

By comparison, Evangelical tours include more of a focus on the Jewish roots of the Christian faith and what God is doing among the Jewish people today from the founding of the State of Israel to the current political situation, Ben Ami said.

Catholics for Israel is an internet-based organization with a threefold mandate: to love Israel, to love the Messiah and to love the Church. Ben Ami, a Catholic Canadian who has lived in Israel for 12 years now, said his mission is to be a bridge between Catholics, Evangelicals and Jews. One of his goals is to bring out the Jewish roots of the Catholic faith.

“Evangelicals are ahead of Catholics in understanding that God still has a plan today for Israel,” Ben Ami told Travelujah, the only Christian social networking site about travel to the Holy Land. “A moderate biblical Zionism is in agreement with the Catholic faith. The Catholic Church has laid some foundations, speaking against anti-Semitism, affirming that the covenant with the Jewish people has not been revoked. But often it has not trickled down to the masses.”

To incorporate more of a focus on modern Israel, Ben Ami recommends that Catholics make sure to visit Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial to better understand modern Jewish history and places like the Temple Institute to become more familiar with biblical Judaism, which was Jesus’ religion. He said Catholics should get to know modern Israelis by attending a synagogue or Messianic congregation and by incorporating a Shabbat meal with a Jewish family or organization.

“The Lord is forming a family and he wants to unite us,” Ben Ami said, which is why his mandate includes promoting respect and unity among Jews and Christians, both Catholic and Evangelical. “There has been a gap in the (Catholic) Church and its teaching on Israel. So many Catholics miss it on Israel. They tend to be swept away by spirit of the world and take news at face value which are often anti-Israel, forgetting that God has a special purpose for this people and land.”

The website, www.israelcatholic.com, is in five languages (English, French, German, Hebrew and Italian) and includes articles about the organization’s beliefs.

Ben Ami notes that most Catholics in Israel are Arabs, indigenous to the land. He said that while the organization wants to bless them as well, Catholic tour groups are usually led by Arab tour guides and are already privy to the Palestinian side. He wants to expose them to the Jewish-Israeli side as well.

“Our focus is mostly biblical and theological. We try not to get into political side unless we see a problem and then we say something,” he said. “With all the craziness going on here, the anti-Israel bias can be troubling and irrational, and sometimes we feel that we need to be a balancing voice. All Catholics should recognize that the root of their faith is Israel – and this includes the Israel of today just as much as the Israel of the Bible.”

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.

August 2, 2010August 2, 2010  0 comments  Uncategorized

The Israel Museum has gotten a facelift and has reopened with double the exhibition space, longer hours and a new feel from the entrance on in.

A re-opening ceremony was held last week with President Shimon Peres, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat in attendance. Beginning this week, hours were extended till 9 p.m. on Tuesdays and all the way till 1 a.m. on Thursday.

“Forty-five years after the Israel Museum first opened its magnificent campus, we have completed a renewal project that allows us to serve our public as never before,” said James S. Snyder, director of the Israel Museum. “The most ambitious undertaking in our history, this project has yielded a truly transformational change across our site. We look forward to welcoming our visitors to the museum’s stunning new public spaces and galleries, planned to provide a richer and more enjoyable experience of our unparalleled collections and of our powerful Jerusalem hilltop setting.”  

The redesign took three years and cost $100 million, much of which went to renovate the Museum’s three collection wings – for archaeology, the fine arts, and Jewish art and life – and the reinstallation of its encyclopedic collections.

The renewed galleries highlight new acquisitions and long-held masterpieces across its collections. The renewed campus also features two new monumental commissions.

Netanyahu called the museum an “exceptional combination of the values of our heritage and world culture, which is essentially the bridge connecting the past with the future.”

Barkat said the redesign of the museum was in keeping with the vision of the city as it return to the center of Israeli culture and “another stage in the realization of [former mayor] Teddy Kollek’s vision.”


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.

October 26, 2010October 26, 2010  1 comments  Uncategorized

Israeli hotels will add some 3,500 new rooms in the next few months to meet the demands of record level tourism to the Holy Land.

The nation’s existing 44,000 rooms are insufficient to meet the current demand, according to Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer, who spoke at the OECD tourism conference held in Jerusalem.


Israel’s Tourism Ministry is allocating grants to dozens of hotel projects in order to build more rooms to match the expected 30 percent increase in tourists this year -- half a million more than in 2009. If the ministry’s goal of 5 million tourists in 2015 is met, an additional 18,000 hotel rooms, especially in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and the Sea of Galilee area, would be needed.
“Steps must immediately be taken in order to prevent irreversible damage to incoming tourism – firstly transferring the authority for marketing land for tourism to the Tourism Ministry, differentiation in grants to entrepreneurs, renewing the track for attractions and updating the map of the national priority areas for tourism,” said Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov.


Misezhnikov has warned that the shortage in hotel rooms will negatively impact tourism and Israel’s image as a modern, attractive and quality tourist destination.


Fischer also called for regional cooperation with Egypt and Jordan in tourism, to strengthen the industry by integrating sites in all three countries so that tourists would visit three countries in one trip, spending a few days in each.

While an insufficient number of hotels in Israel may negatively impact Israel’s ability to effectively handle the existing demand, it is a sign that the industry is booming and highlights Israel’s evolving status as an attractive tourism location and certainly may heighten investor interest in Israel and the region.


“More and more tourists are discovering the gems in Israel and that is obvious by the demand for hotel rooms in the country,” said Elisa Moed, CEO of Travelujah. “The fact that tourism has set record levels this year shows that Israel is considered a safe and worthy destination by millions around the world.”

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 10, 2010November 10, 2010  0 comments  Uncategorized

Israel is on the cusp of exceeding its previous record of 3 million tourists in one year, the Ministry of Tourism has announced.

The record, set in 2008, will be broken next week, according to the Tourism Ministry. Between January and October of this year, 2.87 tourists visited the country, more than the total number for last year at 2.7 million. The previous record was 3 million in 2008. The 404,000 tourists who visited in Israel in October set a record for that month.

“The October data, together with data since the beginning of this year and even beyond, reflects the revolution that the Tourism Ministry, the tourism industry, Israel’s tourism product and Israel’s image as a tourism destination is going through in Israel and around the world,” said Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov. “In order that Israel’s tourism potential is realized, tourism must be given its rightful place in the order of national priorities, as a leading social and economic force.”

The Israeli economy benefits tremendously from the tourism industry. The Tourism Ministry estimates that tourism’s contribution to the Israeli economy from January to August was $2.3 billion.


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.

Tags: israel holy land tourism 

November 30, 2010November 30, 2010  0 comments  Uncategorized

In John 10 we see that Jesus went to Jerusalem in 29 AD to commemorate the miracle of a portion of oil that lasted for eight days, an event that today we call Hanukkah.

At the temple, Jesus in essence declared that He was the fulfillment of the Feast of Dedication (another name for the holiday) saying the Father sanctified the son of God, who is the light of the world, and sent Him into the world.

Hanukkah is a celebration of the defeat by the Maccabees of Antiochus Epiphanes IV in 168 BC. When the Jewish fighters recaptured Jerusalem, they found one portion of oil to be used for the menorah in the temple. That portion miraculously lasted for eight days even though it was enough for only one.

Now Israelis are gearing up to begin celebrating the miracle of Hanukkah, which begins on the evening of Dec. 1. Around the country hanukkiahs - a nine-branched menorah - will be lit one candle each night in many homes. The shamash, usually the tallest candle, is used to light the others.

Each city or town also displays a central hanukkiah, which is lit in a special ceremony. Two such important ones will take place on Wednesday evening:

Hebron: Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin will light the first Hanukkah candle at the Cave of the Patriarchs.

Tel Aviv/Ramat Gan: Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan will light the first candle on a giant menorah at Ariel Sharon Park.

The festival of lights also extends to the world wide web where the Israel Ministry of Tourism has an interactive Hanukkah candle. Register to light a candle online each day. With each candle, the site will then reveal something new about a location in Israel.

More than any other place, the city of Modi'in is associated with Hannukah. Modi'in was home to the Maccabees. The Maccabees’ Graves, off of Route 443, are carved into rocks and covered by large boulders. Also nearby is the Maccabee trail and Kfar Hashmonaim (Hasmonean Village).

Another place to visit near Modi’in is Neot Kedumim, a biblical nature preserve, between Modi’in and Ben Gurion Airport on Route 443. There Hanukkah is celebrated by picking olives, producing oil in reconstructed ancient presses, making the clay oil lamps and much more.

In Jerusalem’s Old City, excavations offer insight into the Hasmonean era including a citadel, remnants of Maccabee houses and ritual baths. These are at the Davidson Center excavation site.

Here are some other events:

Alrov Mamilla Avenue

At the outdoor shopping plaza under the shadow of the Old City, a lights festival and lighting ceremony of the Hanukkiah will light up the boulevard nightly. In addition a lego building will be on display, dances performed and holiday songs sung.

Mini Israel

A special exhibit, Land of the Dwarves, allows children to mine for valuable rocks in a makeshift mine. The exhibit includes a Sweets Factory is a wooden machine with a conveyor belt that churns out candy; a bowling game; and dwarf characters. Dec. 4 to 7 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.

Maimon’s Bakery will offer special doughnut decorating activities for children. Sunday and Monday, Dec. 5 and 6.

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 29, 2010November 29, 2010  0 comments  Uncategorized

Travel to Israel is about to get even more popular. Just after the record-setting 3 millionth tourist crossed passport control into Israel, 170 leading tour operators from around the globe are gearing up to attend the first international tourism trade conference in Jerusalem.

Israel’s Tourism Ministry is sponsoring "Where Else: Israel Tourism Convention 2010" in order to give the world’s largest tour operators a glimpse into tourism in the Holy Land. Of the 170 tour operators scheduled to attend, 136 have not yet pitched Israel as a tourism product.
The four-day conference is another step in Israel’s quest to attract a record 5 million tourists in the year 2015.

“A visit to Israel and the Holy Land has become a sought-after product over the last year for many varied target groups from different countries and this demand has turned 2010 into a record year for incoming tourism, with an estimated income of 16 billion shekels from incoming tourism alone (including income from Israeli airlines),” said Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov.  “The international tourism industry’s vote of confidence in the Israeli tourism product is significant and proves, once again, tourism’s positive influence on Israel’s image around the world.”

Tour operators will have the opportunity to experience a tour firsthand. Jerusalem and Tel Aviv are on the agenda for all participants. Operators will then choose to take a tour of either primary sites in northern Israel including Tiberias and Haifa or southern sites such as the Dead Sea and Eilat. The tours were arranged by the Tourism Ministry, tourism associations, local authorities and hotels association.

The countries represented include the US, Canada, Brazil, Russia, India, France, Holland, Germany and Italy.


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.

January 13, 2011January 13, 2011  0 comments  Uncategorized

For many Christians in the Holy Land and around the world, the holiday season is not yet over as the New Year is rung in tonight for adherents of the Julian calendar.

On Jan. 13, Armenians will ring in the New Year with celebrations this evening and a mass tomorrow morning in Jerusalem’s Old City. The Armenians in Jerusalem will also celebrate Christmas Eve on Jan. 18, the only community in the world to abide by the late Christmas date, 13 days after the Gregorian calendar of the traditional Orthodox Christmas date of Jan. 6.

That makes Jerusalem the Christmas capital of the world. Despite a small indigenous Christian community living in the Holy Land, the winter holiday is celebrated three times in Jerusalem - Dec. 25 (catholics and Protestants), Jan. 6 (Orthodox) and Jan. 19 (Armenian Orthodox only in Jerusalem) - than in any other place.

But tonight all Orthodox Christians observe New Year’s Eve.

“This is the new year for all  the oriental orthodox who observe the Julian calendar,” Armenian Archbishop Aris Shirvanian told Travelujah, the only Christian social network focused on learning about and traveling to the Holy Land. “This is Dec. 31 on the Julian calendar.”

Christians celebrate with a feast on New Year’s Eve and mass on New Year’s morning.

“At midnight there is a very short ceremony in the Armenian convent (St. James) and the church bells will ring and a congratulatory message will be delivered marking the New Year,” Shirvanian said.

Just as Jan. 13 corresponds to Dec. 31, the Armenians use the same calendar to celebrate Christmas: Jan. 6 on the Julian calendar corresponds to Jan. 19 on the Gregorian calendar.

“On Jan. 18 we go to Bethlehem for an official procession,” Shirvanian explained. “We have a series of services until the morning of the 19th. We have a midnight service in the grotto (at the Church of the Nativity) then the Divine Liturgy followed by a blessing of water symbolic of the baptism of our Lord.”

Services begin at 10 p.m. and continue until 6 a.m. in Bethlehem and Jerusalem. Families celebrate with a tradition dinner of pilaf and fish. In Bethlehem, the clergy will host the Palestinian president and prime minister.

The orthodox churches of Georgia, Jerusalem, Russia, the Republic of Macedonia, Serbia and Ukraine still use the Julian Calendar.

Armenia was the first nation to adopt Christianity in 301 AD. Armenians have claimed an enduring presence in Jerusalem dating back to 95 BC and a community on Mount Zion since the fourth century. To this day, there is an Armenian Quarter in the Old City with fewer than 2,000 residents.

Nicole Jansezian, Travelujah

Nicole Jansezian writes for www.travelujah.com, the leading Christian social network focused on travel to the Holy Land. Users can learn, plan and share their travel experiences on Travelujah.

Tags: christmas holy land 

March 30, 2011March 30, 2011  0 comments  Uncategorized

A time of reflection and a time or preparation, Lent in the Holy Land is a solemn and serious season for its spiritual implications, but also its geographical importance in the Holy Land where one can follow the passion of Jesus throughout holy sites in Jerusalem.

With just over three weeks until Easter, Lenten preparations are well underway. And although Easter is a popular time for Christians to visit Israel, many faithful believers from around the world like to visit during Lent in order to spend their reflection and preparation in the very places where Jesus prepared for his final few weeks on earth.

Currently, the churches are full with Christians from America, Russia, Ukraine, Romania, Greece and other nations attending special masses for the season.

With a line up of special masses, visitors may want to take part with the local churches during Lent. Some of the special events include a mass on April 3, at 9:30 a.m., the 4th Sunday of Lent, that will feature the entry of His Beatitude the Latin Patriarch into the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre, followed by the High Mass in the Chapel of St. Mary Magdalene.

On April 10, the 5th Sunday of Lent, High Mass will be celebrated in the Tomb, sung by Frairs of the Holy Sepulchre.

All of the services eventually culminate in Easter, which this year is Sunday, April 24. This year, Easter falls on the same day for Orthodox and Catholics.

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.

April 3, 2011April 3, 2011  3 comments  Uncategorized

Easter in the Holy Land is essentially centered on one specific tradition, the Holy Fire ceremony, which takes place on the Saturday before Easter, and is the hallmark of this holiday's season in Jerusalem for local Christians plus the thousands of faithful who make the pilgrimage to the Holy Land for this special occasion.

All of Lenten and Easter events culminate in that moment, when the spirit of Jesus fills the tomb site in the Holy Sepulchre. According to their belief, a flame appears in the tomb and is caught by the Greek patriarch and an Armenian Orthodox priest and is shared with congregants holding candles in the church.

Because this event is specific to Jerusalem geographically, it can be celebrated nowhere else in the world. Pilgrims, many from Greece, Russia, Armenia, Eastern Europe and the United States, begin lining up from the day before. Local Christians also join the throngs in an attempt to get into the Holy Sepulchre for the celebration.

On that morning, all of the churches have a procession through the narrow Old City streets to the Holy Sepulchre.

The day is referred to as Saturday of Light, or Sapt il-Noor and occurs the day before Easter Sunday.
The ceremony is observed only by the Eastern Orthodox churches, Syrian, Armenian, Russian and Greek Orthodox as well as Copts. Catholics and Protestants do not participate.

History of the Holy Fire

The event is considered a regularly occurring miracle in the Eastern Orthodoxy religion that has taken place at the same time annually in the same place for centuries, the holy fire website says. The first written account of the Holy Fire dates from the 4th century while accounts from 1106 and 1107 by the Russian Abbot Daniel describe a similar ceremony.

The belief of the holy fire is based on Matthew 28:3, which says that at Jesus’ tomb, an angel  of the Lord appeared whose appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow.

Travelujah Tips

To enter the Holy Sepulchre or get anywhere close to it, be sure to secure passes from one of the Orthodox churches. Be prepared to wait at crowded checkpoints in the Old City and be faced with the possibility of not getting in at all despite having a pass.
The Holy Sepulchre Church in Jerusalem's Old City is claimed by about 14 denominations, making for crowded services at times. Most of the Orthodox and Coptic churches celebrate the Holy Fire ceremony on the Saturday of Light, April 23, 2011, and the entire Old City will be flooded with local and Christian pilgrims trying to get into the church for the service.

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.

Tags: easter holy land 

May 26, 2011May 26, 2011  0 comments  Uncategorized

Two organizations, one Jewish and one Christian, have released statements on the relationship between Jews and Christians, encouraging understanding and dialogue between the two religions with certain established boundaries.

The Israel-based Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding and Cooperation and the American-based Hebraic Heritage Christian Center both released statements on Tuesday defending the other religion and promoting mutual understanding and cooperation between members of the faith. They recognize the potential to partner together in the spreading of a monotheistic religion based on the God of Israel.

The release of the statements is groundbreaking, especially for an Orthodox Jewish organization.

christian, jewish relations“From an Orthodox perspective we’ve never really dialogued with Christians officially,” David Nekrutman, executive director of the CJCUC, told Travelujah, the only Christian travel social networking site. “The statement is solely the opinion of the CJCUC - it doesn’t represent world Jewry, but it should be seen as a catalyst of conversation.”

Tension and misunderstanding have long marked the relationship between Christians and Jews on a theological and religious level. Centuries of mistrust, plus theological differences, have driven a wedge between the two religions. But an awakening among Christians, particularly Evangelicals, has stirred a pro-Israel sentiment and a desire by many to seek out the Jewish roots of the Christian faith.

Nekrutman said that it would be prudent for Israel to reach out to the Christian hand extended in friendship toward the Jewish state.

“We can ignore the friendship (Christians) have extended to us,” he said. “Or we could take the approach that we wish to have this long overdue conversation and see if we can work together to better the relationship.”

christian, jewish relationsCJCUC’s Founder Rabbi Shlomo Riskin recognizes that many in different streams of Christianity have become sincere  friends of the Jewish people and the State of Israel. “It is vital that we strengthen our relationship with them. We are certain that through these relational dialogues we will find far more which unites us than divides us,” he said.

According to the HHCC, based in Atlanta, the aim is to usher in “new era of Christian-Jewish relations based on mutual respect and support.”

“As Christians, we benefit from the input of Jewish scholars and spiritual leaders into our understanding of the faith of Abraham and the Hebrew Scriptures. As Christians we also share the Jewish call to bless all people,” the HHCC statement reads.

christian, jewish relationsHHCC President John Garr said Christians must recognize that “they are indebted to the Jewish people of history and the present for the core elements of their faith.”

Both statements draw lines that should not be crossed and highlight areas where Christians and Jews will continue to disagree. The Christian statement says there should not be any active proselytization of Jews.

Riskin and his organization have been criticized by Jewish groups who say that Jews should not associate with Christians for fear of conversion.

“When you’re pioneering you are going to have people criticize what you are doing,” Nekrutman said. “The criticism comes from a minority group that doesn’t have the backing of the major Jewish world.”

The CJCUC statement has been years in the making. The center, located in Efrat, has long hosted Christian groups for day long educational experiences, tours of the Efrat area, seminars and dialogue. Nekrutman said tourists may come and interact with the people of the land.

“What better way to experience the land than with the people here in an open honest dialogue?” he said. “Tens of thousands of people have come through and walked away knowing something unique has happened. You walk away with a difference experience of Israel and a different approach in how to look at the Bible.”

The CJCUC statement concludes: “If Jews and Christians can become partners after nearly 2,000 years of theological delegitimization and physical conflict, then peace is possible between any two peoples anywhere. That p
eace would be our most powerful witness to God’s presence in human history and to our covenantal responsibility to carry God’s blessing to the world. It is the very essence of which the messianic dream is made of.”

The full statements can be read here for CJCUC and here for HHCC.



By Nicole Jansezian, Travelujah

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

June 28, 2011June 28, 2011  0 comments  Uncategorized


The Feast of Saints Peter and Paul is celebrated by Catholics, Orthodox and a few other Christian denominations on June 29, marking the martyrdoms of the two great apostles of Christendom.

In Israel, at least three churches are dedicated to Peter, the disciple who declared to Jesus, “You are the Christ, the son of the living God.” Solemn masses will take place on Wednesday at all three of these churches in Jaffa, Tagbha and Tiberias. The churches will hold a solemn mass and ordinations on this day. Another church named for Peter is St. Peter Gallicantu in Jerusalem.

“It is a big feast for the church,” Father Athanasius Macora told Travelujah. “Peter and Paul were considered to be the great apostles. Of all the apostles, these two stand out for various reasons.”

st. peter, jaffaPeter, a Galilean, was a fisherman by trade. He was one of the few apostles who witnessed the Transfiguration of Jesus. Peter was the most outspoken of Jesus' 12 disciples and is mentioned in the gospels more than the others. His boldness led to the salvation of 3,000 people on the day of Pentecost as he preached his first public message. Peter became a natural leader of the early church.

Paul was a Pharisee of the highest order who persecuted the first believers. His dramatic conversion took place as he was heading toward Damascus. His salvation turned him from persecutor to missionary plus he became the most prolific writer of the New Testament, setting church doctrine. His ministry was mainly to the gentiles. He was born in Tarsus, located in present-day eastern Turkey. He was a tentmaker by profession and was a Roman citizen.

While Paul's missionary journeys took him around the Middle East, Europe and Asia Minor, Peter's ministry was concentrated in Israel. Accordingly, several sites in Israel are dedicated to Peter including the three churches and Capernaum, his home town .

Both Peter and Paul were believed to be martyred on the same day.

By Nicole Jansezian, Travelujah

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


Tags: peter paul feast holy land 

May 30, 2011May 30, 2011  0 comments  Uncategorized

Catholics around the world honor Mary, mother of Jesus, during the month of May which culminates in the Feast of the Visitation on May 31.

In Israel, observances for the Feast center at a church on the outskirts of Jerusalem dedicated to the visitation  - when Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth. The Church of the Visitation is in Ein Karem, the village where Elizabeth and Zechariah, parents of John the Baptist, lived.

(Photo: Travelujah)

church of the visitation, ein karemWhile daily masses are devoted to Mary, the Visitation day features a special mass to honor the meeting of the two cousins, Mary and Elizabeth, who were both expecting. The Feast is based on Luke 1.
“At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!’” Lu
ke 1:39-45
Father Athanasius Macora told Travelujah that between the picturesque, forested town of Ein Karem and the beautiful Church of the Visitation the mass there is one of his personal favorites.

“It is a joyous liturgy,” he said. “The visitation is quite a significant part of the Gospel.”

church of the visitation, ein karemThe Church of the Visitation was bought by the Franciscans in 1679. The present church was restored in 1955 on top of ancient church remains. The Crusaders recognized the site as the meeting between Mary and Elizabeth.

The mass begins at 9 a.m. and is immediately followed by a procession from the church, outside to the crypt below the church. In afternoon at 4:30 p.m. there is a mass procession in the Old City from St. Saviour’s Monastery near New Gate to the Frere’s school to the Latin Patriarchate and then back to St. Saviour’s. Many local Catholics participate.

(photo courtesy of AllAboutJerusalem.com)

The passage in Luke concludes with Mary’s Song, the Magnificat, written is inscribed in 41 languages on one wall of the church: “And Mary said: ‘My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me—holy is his name. His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, just as he promised our ancestors.’ Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home.” Luke 1:46-56

Visiting Ein Karem

With the Feast of the Visitation on Tuesday, the spotlight is on the village of Ein Karem, but the small town is worth visiting at any time of year.

Known as the childhood home of John the Baptist, Ein Karem is home to two churches, three monasteries and two Christian guesthouses. And with a trove of restaurants, cafes and gelato bars, Ein Karem is a retreat from bustling Jerusalem. Just a few miles from the city center, the village is in a valley surrounded by the Jerusalem Forest.

ein karem, church of john the baptistReligious Sites
(Photos: Travelujah)

Church of Saint John the Baptist
Church of the Visitation
Moscovia Monastery
The Greek Orthodox convent of Saint John
Notre Dame de Sion Monastery
Mary's Spring

(Photo: Travelujah)


ein karem, church of john the baptist

(Photo: Travelujah)


ein karem, chocolatePlaces to Eat
Sweet N’ Karem is a chocolatier and gelateria with specialty chocolates like coffee and cardamon; marzipan, chili and spice. The store also offers chocolate-making workshops (in Hebrew).
Gelato, coffee and wines are also served.




Christian Places to Stay

Rosary Sisters Guest House
The Rosary Convent in Ein Karem was built for the first Rosary nuns in 1885. In 1917, the superior  transformed the house into an orphanage and then in 1999, the convent was renovated and expanded to include a guest h

ein karem









(Photo: Travelujah)


Notre Dame de Sion Guest House

In 1856, Father Marie-Alphonse Ratisbonne began building the Ecce Homo convent in the Old City, on the Via Dolorosa and then, in order for the nuns and students to enjoy the fresh air of the Judean hills, he built the convent in Ein Karem which took in orphan girls. After 1967, the house gradually became a guest house, and it has remained that until the present.
christian guest house

christian guest house

(Photos: Travelujah)

(For Christian guesthouse reservations and tour information contact info@travelujah.com)

By Nicole Jansezian, Travelujah

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

September 21, 2011September 21, 2011  0 comments  Uncategorized


While the international stage is awash with demonstrations and wrangling over the vote in the United Nations this week for Palestinian statehood, tourism in Israel and the Palestinian territories seems to be continuing unabated despite the acrimony surrounding the political situation.

One tour guide told Travelujah that none of his groups or any that he knows of have cancelled trips to Israel and cities in the Palestinian Authority such as Bethlehem.

“In fact, people are surprised, after leaving the PA, how secure it is,” the tour gruide, who asked not to be named, told Travelujah, the only Christian socail network about travel to the Holy Land. “I don't even see a hesitation among tourists to go there. They may hesitate visiting Israel in general, but once they are here they are not afraid.”

According to the Israel Ministry of Tourism, 3.6 million visitors came to Israel during the year 5771 on the Hebrew calendar—a 17 percent increase over the previous year—even while unrest in the Middle East caused an overall drop in travel to the region.

“Israel is a tourism challenge for every Israeli tourist and, of course, for foreign tourists,” said Minister of Tourism Stas Misezhnikov. "The upcoming holiday season is a wonderful time of year to travel, and I call upon everyone to get out, see the sites, learn about Israel’s heritage and history while taking care of the natural surroundings.”

More than 300,000 visitors are expected to visit Israel during the fall holiday season and many of these are Christians. These numbers prove true on the ground as tour groups forge ahead with their Holy Land travels.

For example, the God TV tour with Kim Clement, which will feature live broadcasts on the satellite Christian network, began on Tuesday with approximately 600 people, none of whom cancelled their trip in light of the turmoil surrounding the UN vote.

And later in October, for the Feast of Tabernacles, the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ) expects some 6,000 Christian tourists to attend the weeklong event. David Parsons, spokesman for the ICEJ, which hosts the largest Christian event of the year in Israel, said registration hasn't waned this year.

“Our feast pilgrims know this is the time to come to show solidarity with Israel,” Parsons told Travelujah. “People ask us what is the mood (in the country),” he said, but “pilgrims are still signing up.”

The ICEJ will even offer bus tours that travel along the pre-1967 and of flash points in Jerusalem.

Parsons said tourism will likely rise during the fall, which is peak season. “I think it would really have to get out of hand to get cancellations,” he said.

One Christian tourist from Texas made his third pilgrimage to the Holy Land despite the negative news reports. On his way to the Western Wall, Larry told Travelujah that he feels safe and unhindered traveling around the country.

Both Israeli and Palestinian security forces have beefed up their defenses in anticipation of potential problems, but as of Wednesday—when large rallies were expected to take place in New York outside the UN—no major violence had been reported in the Holy Land.


Christians here are paying close attention to the events in New York. Archbishop Michel Sabbah, the former Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, was among many priests in the region to back the Palestinian bid. During his Sunday Mass in the Palestinian city of Nablus he called for a UN vote for a Palestinian state.

A joint statement was also issued by various Palestinian Christian clergy–including Catholics, Orthodox, Anglicans and Lutherans—to “support the diplomatic efforts made to achieve international recognition of the state of Palestine ... on the June 1967 borders with Jerusalem as our capital.”


By Nicole Jansezian, Travelujah

Nicole Jansezian writes for Travelujah.com, the only Christian social network focused on travel to the Holy Land.

Tags: tourism holy land 

September 27, 2011September 27, 2011  0 comments  Uncategorized


Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat welcomed 600 Christians, currently on a tour of Israel with God TV and Kim Clement, to the city on Sunday night during a concert that was broadcast live on the Christian satellite network.

“The more people come and walk the streets of the city of Jerusalem the more they understand the huge potential of our city,” Barkat said. “Come to Jerusalem at least once in your life because then you see it with your own eyes—I don't have to explain it to you, it looks very different.”

Barkat was interviewed by Rory and Wendy Alec, the founders of God TV.

israel, tourism, holy land















(Photo Travelujah)


“There's room for all people from all faiths—Jews and non-Jews alike,” Barkat continued. “The most important thing (I could say to viewers) is, come and visit us. Enjoy your stay. Go back home as an ambassador of peace. Tell people how beautiful, wonderful, spiritual and cultural the city of Jerusalem is.”

The concert began with four shofar blowers sounding the rams horn from the ramparts of the David Citadel next to Jaffa Gate. The strains of the concert reverberated throughout the Old City well into the night as Kim Clement led a prophetic worship set themed “Israel is forever.”

The audience was comprised of Christians from 21 nations. During the tour, the group worshiped on boats on the Sea of Galilee, prayed on Mount Carmel and at various sites in Jerusalem. The trip culminated in the concert at the David Citadel.

Many of the visitors were overwhelmed by their spiritual pilgrimage in the Holy Land.

“Coming to Israel has been just a gift from God—a kiss from our father in heaven,” one woman said.

israel, tourism, holy land

(Photo: Travelujah)

“It is the most amazing place, to actually experience and be among the places where Jesus and his disciples walked this earth,” a man noted. “It is just an amazing experience. The most amazing life experience we could ever have.”

Barkat thanked the pilgrims for visiting the country despite the rancorous political climate.

“It is hard to find people more committed to Israel than you folks and the people watching your channel,” he said. “It's hard to find people more committed and so I'd like to say thank you to you. We want to hug you like you hug us.”

By Nicole Jansezian, Travelujah

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

Tags: tourism holy land 

September 28, 2011September 28, 2011  0 comments  Uncategorized

This evening ushers in the first of several consecutive Jewish—or biblical—holidays, celebrated in Israel in the autumn in highly festive fashion, beginning with Rosh HaShanah and ending with the Feast of Tabernacles.

During this time, residents of the Jewish country partake in the observations of these holy days, but what about Christians? Many evangelical Christians who live in the Holy Land, and even some who don't, make it a point to come to Israel, and specifically to Jerusalem, to celebrate these feast days as the Lord commanded in the Bible.


“We recognize that the feasts are not really the Jewish feasts—in the Bible they are called the feasts of the Lord,” Jim Schutz, a Christian who lives in Israel, told Travelujah. “They have a special significance for both Jew and Gentile.”

Christians can relate to the Feast of Tabernacles through its prophetic New Testament meaning, including the return of the Lord, Schutz said. The metaphor of living in tabernacles symbolizes believers being strangers in this world, living in temporary tabernacles awaiting another kingdom. Also, the days of repentance and Yom Kippur are symbolic to the Christian of the sacrifice of Yeshua, Schutz outlined.

“The feasts should intensify the whole message, the whole meaning of what our lives are like in Yeshua,” he said.

Schutz, the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem liaison to local congregations and international speaker, offered another aspect of celebrating the biblical feasts: to encourage Christians identify with the Jewish people and to better grasp the mystery of Israel as explained in Romans 11.

“The whole point of Romans 11 is for the non-Jewish believer to understand God's heart for the Jewish people,” Schutz explained. “It is so that Gentiles can understand this mystery from the heart of God's perspective.”

Observing the feasts, though not a requirement, helps a Christian gain that perspective, he said. Schutz and his family will celebrate Rosh HaShanah on Wednesday evening with Jewish friends.

This year thousands of Christians from the nations will join Jews from around the world in “coming up to Jerusalem” during these appointed festivals. Michael Onifer, a leader of the Eagles' Wings' Israel tour, is one of them.

“Something that has been lost (among Christians) is the sacredness of space, the holiness of actual geography,” Onifer told Travelujah. “God was very specific about places and certainly about Jerusalem. He had a purpose for choosing the city of Jerusalem and the land of Israel. The feasts can be celebrated here in a different way than any other place in the world and were originally intended to be celebrated in Israel.”

Onifer said he makes it a point to be in Israel to observe these holy days. Some 35 Christians joined the Eagles' Wings tour, purposely scheduled to coincide with the fall feasts.

“There is the very prophetic promise of the nations in coming to worship in Jerusalem and we feel it is in our hands to begin doing that now in anticipation of what the scripture promises,” Onifer said.

Onifer maintains that the feasts are more than a religious activity given to the Jewish people, but an “invitation” for believers to understand God's heart, times and the places he has chosen.

“This is an invitation to deepen our knowledge of God and to understand how to cooperate with him and his purposes,” Onifer said.

Rosh HaShanah is known in the Bible as the Feast of Trumpets and was mandated in Leviticus 23:23-25. The following 10 days leading to Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, are known as the days of awe and are a time of repentance. A single Sabbath, known as the Sabbath of Repentance, occurs between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur (this year on Oct. 1) and is marked by a special reading from Hosea 14:2-10, urging the nation to: “Return, Israel, unto the Lord your God.” Yom Kippur begins at sunset on Oct. 7. This is considered the holiest day of the year on the Jewish calendar and is a full fast—no food or water.

And finally, the seven-day Feast of Tabernacles, or Sukkot, mandated in Leviticus 23:34-35 and 23:39-43, begins at sunset on Oct. 12 and concludes at nightfall on Oct.19. During Sukkot, Jews build tents or tabernacles in which they eat their meals and sometimes even sleep.


By Nicole Jansezian, Travelujah

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


October 3, 2011October 3, 2011  1 comments  Uncategorized


At a time when Israel faces caustic criticism and a rising tide of anti-Semitism from nations around the world, Christians gathered in Jerusalem - and thousands more tuned into a live broadcast - to pray during the Global Day of Prayer for the Peace of Jerusalem on Sunday.

This year's attendees included an array of Christians including Palestinians taking part in the Jerusalem event. Around the world, 300,000 churches had signed up to host their own gatherings to pray while the event was broadcast live on God TV, a Christian satellite channel.

“It is incredibly moving to see so many Christians who have come together for the purpose of praying for the peace of Jerusalem,” columnist Michael Freund, director of Shavei Israel, told Travelujah. “These people sincerely love Israel and they believe it is part of their obligation to bless Israel. We gladly welcome them.”

Christian leaders from Jerusalem and around the world called for prayer including Rebecca Brimmer, director of Bridges for Peace, who noted that the supplication was originating from and were prayed for the city where God chose to put his name. This was the first time that a Catholic priest joined the line up in the Global Day of Prayer for the Peace of Jerusalem. A pastor from Indonesia, the country with the largest Muslim population in the world, also prayed for Israel.

christian, jewish relationsRobert Stearns, executive director of Eagles’ Wings, and founder of the global prayer day, said this year's prayers for the city were especially poignant and timely.

“The need has never been greater,” he told Travelujah. “The whole world is taking sides regarding Jerusalem.”

Stearns also noted that in his 10 years organizing this event that cooperation between believers has never been stronger. Palestinian Christians prayed for the peace of the city alongside Jews and international Christians. Prayer was also lifted up for persecuted Christians around the world and for Israel's neighbors, including the Palestinians.

“We are not praying because we have all the answers,” Stearns said. “We are praying because we need God's wisdom.”

Gidon Ariel, an Orthodox Jew who runs Root Source, which promotes understanding and cooperation between Jews and Christians, said that Israel gets to know who her friends her during the tough times.

“This (event) speaks to Israel that you have friends and you are not alone,” he told Travelujah. “These Christians are taking up what they believe to be their responsibility as believers in the God of Israel as he wrote in his Bible to (pray for the peace of Jerusalem).”

Knesset Member Gila Gamliel, deputy chair for the Knesset Christian Allies Caucus, and Naomi Tsur, deputy mayor of Jerusalem, were some of the Israeli dignitaries who addressed the event.

By Nicole Jansezian, Travelujah

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


December 6, 2011December 6, 2011  1 comments  Uncategorized


On Thursday, Catholics will celebrate the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, which falls on Dec. 8 and provides a fitting segue into the Christmas season.

Many times the name of the feast is confused with the Annunciation, an event celebrating the conception of Christ when the angel announced to Mary that she would bear a son who would become the Messiah. That is observed on March 25, nine months before Christmas.

But the Immaculate Conception is about the conception of the immaculate mother. Mary was believed to be conceived on this day in the womb of her mother Saint Anne. Nine months later, on Sept. 8, the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary is celebrated.

As with other Catholics around the world, in the Holy Land, as Christians gear up to celebrate Christmas, Dec. 8 is a mandatory mass day. In Jerusalem, a concert in honor of Mary will take place at St. Saviour's Church (1 St. Francis Street in the Old City) at 6 p.m. free of charge.

While in Jerusalem, a fitting place to visit on this feast is the church dedicated to St. Anne built on the site believed to be her birthplace. The Roman Catholic church, known for its amazing acoustics, is adjacent to the pool of Bethesda believed to be the place where Jesus healed a paralytic (John 5:1-5). 

The church is a 12th-century Crusader church built between 1131 and 1138 to replace a previous Byzantine church. For some time, the church was turned into a Muslim theological school by Saladin. It was turned over to the French in the 1800s.

The church stands just inside the entrance to the Old City through Lion Gate and is right at the beginning of the Via Dolorosa.

The Eastern Orthodox Churches also celebrate the Feast of the Conception of Saint Anne. The feast was made an official Catholic observance by Pope Pius IX on Dec. 8, 1854. He wrote: “We declare, pronounce, and define that the doctrine which holds that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin, is a doctrine revealed by God and therefore to be believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful.”


Photo courtesy of All About Jerusalem.com


By Nicole Jansezian, Travelujah

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

December 8, 2011December 8, 2011  1 comments  Uncategorized

A total of 90,000 tourists are expected to arrive in Israel over the Christmas holiday, a third of which are pilgrims for the Christian holiday, according to the Ministry of Tourism.

Some 2.1 million Christian tourists will have visited Israel by the end of the year.

“The Christian community along its many denominations and hundreds of million of believers, is a central anchor to Israel’s incoming tourism industry,” said Minister of Tourism Stas Misezhnikov. “The Ministry of Tourism is working year round with communities in Israel and abroad to promote cooperation with leaders and believers from around the world, who act as a bridge toward peace and promoting pilgrimages in the Holy Land.”

Israel's tourism ministry, police, municipalities and border crossing officials are working with Christian communities in order to create a welcoming entry and exit to and from Israel. Misezhnikov will host leaders of the Christian communities in Israel and officials from the pilgrim tourism industry in a holiday reception on Monday.

The Ministry of Tourism will also provide free transportation for pilgrims traveling between Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Beginning Saturday, Dec. 24 at 12:00 through Sunday, Dec. 25 at 12:00, busses will leave from Mar Elias Monastery to the Church of the Nativity and return on a need basis.

According to the Ministry of Tourism, during the first half of this year, 1.6 million tourists visited Israel, 60 percent of whom were Christian.


In order to make border crossings as easy as possible, the Ministry of Tourism is currently preparing the names of the tourists and pilgrims wishing to do so. Contact the Ministry of Tourism's open hotline for tourists at 050.621.4070 or 050.621.4127.


By Nicole Jansezian, Travelujah

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

Tags: christmas holy land 

November 9, 2011November 9, 2011  0 comments  Uncategorized


Savoring a successful dinner event in Italy with four chefs – two Israeli and two Palestinian – from Notre Dame, Kevork Alemian, then director of the hotel school associated with the Catholic guesthouse in Jerusalem, stumbled upon an idea.

“I saw how the chefs united in this kitchen,” Alemian recalled. “Later, sitting on the balcony of the hotel room, overlooking the Mediterranean, an idea popped into my head.”

Alemian thought, if there are organizations uniting doctors, artists and other professionals across borders, then why not chefs? He had just watched two Jewish Israeli chefs and two Christian Palestinian chefs – not chosen for their religious or ethnic backgrounds – cook for an event sponsored by an Italian organization.

He met with the chefs and threw the idea out here – why not promote peace through an organization that bring chefs to cook together from the three religions in the Holy Land?

israel, tourism, holy land, chefs for peace

Thus, in 2001, with just four chefs, Chefs for Peace was born. Now the organization has 25 chefs from Muslim, Jewish and Christian backgrounds, who cook together for special events, creating recipes and menus that showcase the special blend of food found only in the Holy Land.

The goal, Alemian said, is “to show to the world we can unite at one table and eat together. The bottom line is everyone has to eat.”

The chefs hail from prestigious restaurants and hotels in Israel and the Palestinian territories including Eucalyptus, Mahane Yehuda, the YMCA, Notre Dame and the David Citadel Hotel to name a few.

“Food is an amazing story. Food combines all the languages together into one language – its like love, a first language that everyone speaks,” said Amit Cohen of Luiza Catering in Abu Gosh. “To cook together will make us friends and makes us partners.”

Since its inception, the organization has been called upon to to host events in Jerusalem, around the country and for several overseas initiatives. Its most recent foray was at a Red Cross event in Norway this fall.

Planning an event is a hectic and involved task. First, the chefs who will go to the event, at least one from each religion, are chosen based on their individual schedules and availability. Then those chefs meet to create a menu oriented around Middle Eastern cuisine. Afterwards, they must contact the local sponsors to see if their ingredient list is available and what they need to bring from Jerusalem, like spices and herbs impossible to get elsewhere.

“Each chef has his own way of thinking, but when we unite in the kitchen we forget our differences and unite as one body,” Alemian said.

israel, tourism, holy land, chefs for peace

A sample menu, like the one created for the Norway event, would make one's mouth water. The Norway event included the “three-faith soup” made of red lentils, eggplant and artichoke; sayadiye (Arabic for fisherman), a white fish dish with couscous and vegetables; a rack of lamb stuffed with figs and zaatar (hyssop) served over moujadara, a famous Middle Eastern dish consisting of lentils, rice and onions; and, for dessert, kenafe (fried cheese topped with and shredded pastry, katayef, a dough pancake stuffed with walnuts and sugar or cheese and cardamon ice cream.

And so the chefs hope to promote peace one meal at a time.

“We spend all day long cooking together in the kitchen without any talking about politics,” said Johnny Goric from the Legacy Hotel in East Jerusalem. “So if we can do that for 12, 13, 14 hours a day, I'm sure we could even do more.”

Alemian said, “When we unite we forget about religion. Here are three chefs from three faiths working in the kitchen, in harmony, using the most dangerous dangerous weapon – a knife – but we don't stab each other. When we are cooking together, we use our imaginations, we create and we forget our political views.”

Members of the organization are carefully vetted for their culinary abilities and commitment to peace. At the moment, the membership is comprised of 10 Jews, 10 Christians and three Muslims.

“We are members from all the religions, all of us cooking, and we want to show people can live together, cook together, have dinners together, enjoy their life together without politics, without wars,” said Anat Lev Ari of Luiza Catering in Abu Gosh. “Politics never brings this to the world, just the real people do. So this is my way to do a little bit.”

The organization donates its earnings to charities that support the needy of all three religions represented. One of Chefs for Peace's big events coming up is an annual food festival in Norway next summer.

“When people gather together at one table they gather to break bread and to share with each other the good food and wine,” Goric said. “Over dinner, many peace agreements have happened. Over dinner, most of our disputes have vanished.”

To read more about Chefs for Peace, visit their website or look for them on Facebook.

By Nicole Jansezian

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

October 16, 2011October 16, 2011  0 comments  Uncategorized



As Jews in Israel take their meals in sukkahs, temporary structures that have been erected all around the country during the Feast of Tabernacles this week, many Christians continue their own celebration of the biblical holiday with the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem.

After a rousing message at Ein Gedi, a resort on the Dead Sea, Friday night and a restful Sabbath on Saturday, the Feast meetings returned to Jerusalem on Saturday evening and continue this week with events in additions to meetings.

Werner Oder, the son of a ranking and convicted Nazi official in Austria, who is now an Israel supporter spoke at the Feast recounting the testimony of his conversion from anti-Semitism to faith in God and love for the Jews and support for Israel.


The Feast this year includes a tour to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial and a trip to Haifa to visit the home for Holocaust survivors that the ICEJ supports.

On Monday, the ICEJ is sponsoring bus tours designed to acquaint Feast pilgrims with various locations and situations around the country. One of the tours, which will be led by ICEJ spokesman David Parsons, is the flash points of Jerusalem including neighborhoods such as Ramat Shlmo, Sheikh Jarrah, Silwan to Gilo and Har Homa.

We are trying to make them familiar with the issues surrounding some of these flash points they hear about in the media all the time,” Parsons said. “When (world leaders says that) new homes in Gilo constitute a settlement, that is ridiculous.”

sukkot, feast, christians


Another tour will travel along the lines of the 1967 borders, frequently mentioned by Palestinians as their desired lines for a state. The travelers will visit a community from where you can look right into Tel Aviv, thereby showing the strategic location of Jewish communities in the West Bank to Israel's defense should there be rocket attacks from there as there are from Gaza.

A third tour will take pilgrims to the Gaza border area, specifically the city of Sderot, which has takent he brunt of rocket attacks in the last decade. Feast participants will have the opportunity to deliver more bomb shelters donated by the ICEJ.

On Tuesday, a minimum of 2,500 Feast pilgrims will join in the Jerusalem march with colorful flags and outfits representing their countries. The ICEJ always comprises the largest delegation in the march.

While most of the Feast pilgrims are from Brazil, more worshippers from Asian nations have come to the Feast this year including a delegation of 150 from China, Taiwan, Japan and Thailand. The Christian pilgrims hail from more than 80 countries.

The theme of the Feast this year is “Israel – A light to the nations.” Parsons explained that this phrase, mentioned twice in Isaiah, has a specific application to the person of the Messiah and a broader application to Israel's spiritual character not just its leadership in scientific and economic fields.

“Israel may be a high-tech country, but the context of the promise was about its redemptive purposes and not just technological advances,” he said.

sukkot, feast, christians


Parsons said that the global constituency of Israel-supporting Christians is starting to show and many are having an influence on their nations' voting patterns. The theme is a timely one as Israel grapples with anti-Semitism and anti-Israel resolutions at the United Nations.

“This year’s gathering is again underlining our message that Israel is not isolated, but has millions of Christian advocates and admirers worldwide… and we all look forward to celebrating the joyous festival of Sukkot with our Jewish friends,” ICEJ Executive Director Juergen Buehler said at the opening of the ICEJ celebrations on Thursday night.


Photos courtesy of the ICEJ

By Nicole Jansezian, Travelujah

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

December 12, 2011December 12, 2011  1 comments  Uncategorized


A news conference on Monday illustrated – perhaps unintentionally – that there is something for everyone in Israel: In the same room a contingent of Hollywood celebrities spoke to the media about their experiences in the Holy Land while evangelical pastors from the United States answered questions about their own tour here.

Both groups were in Israel on vastly different tailor-made tours, but as guests of America's Voices in Israel, an organization that aims to bolster Israel’s image in the United States.

While the celebrities were experiencing night life, floating in the Dead Sea and enjoying raucous jeep rides in the Golan, the pastors were meeting with government officials and spiritual leaders in the country.

But despite the varying perspectives of the country, the conclusion of both groups seemed to be the same: A visit to Israel can be fun, fulfilling and surprising on many levels.

celebrity tour, israel

“For me it's pretty incredible – Israel is a leading country in high tech and yet also is unparalleled for its history,” said Greg Grunberg,omegawatchreview co-star of TV hits such as Heroes, Alias, Felicity and The Jake Effect and 26 films. “Just to see the two worlds together was amazing.”


Grunberg, who was raised Jewish, was on his first trip to Israel and wants to return with his three sons.

“I was moved by how all these religions coexist in Israel,” he con

tinued. “You think, living in America, that everyone in Israel in an orthodox Jew and yet, it's not like that.”

Melrose Place co-star Shaun Sipos, who was raised Catholic, said he was touched by the openness of Israelis and how, despite being a different religion, he was included in dancing and singing at the Western Wall on the Sabbath evening. He said many people are afraid to come to Israel because of news reports and sometimes sheer ignorance. but in reality, he said, he felt safe and had an unrivaled experience.

The stars, who were well received in Israel, have been tweeting about their trip on Twitter and Facebook. While most responses from their fans have been positive, they realized that the mention of “Israel” can evoke negative responses. The celebrity line up also included 24 co-star , of Shameless, Lost and Taken, and Austin Nichols, co-star of One Tree Hill.


Meanwhile the pastors delegation talked about spiritual experiences in the Holy Land and creating interfaith partnerships with Israeli officials.

Pastor Daniel de Leon of Templo Calvario in Santa Ana, California told Travelujah that he has been and would continue exhorting his congregants that visiting Israel is an experience that would enrich their Christian walk.

“When I first came here I came with a preconceived idea of what the country should be like,” he told Travelujah. “But when you are here, all of a sudden the word comes alive. When you experience a place, it really comes together.”

Pastor Gary Simons of Highpoint Church in Dallas, the largest Evangelical congregation in the US breitlingshow , said Israel feels like home to him.

“The first time I came here I was so moved – I was walking in the footsteps of Yeshua, our Messiah,” he said. “We have a common spiritual DNA with the Jewish people. There is a sense (in being here) of being completed, fulfilled and satisfied.”

De Leon and Simons were joined by Luis Rodriguez, pastor of New Life Church of God in Arizona; Eliezer Bonilla, secretary of the National Association of Hispanic Evangelical Churches; Joseph Davis, pastor of High Point Church in Arlington, TX; and Tony Calatayud, national director of Salem Radio Espanol.


israel, tour, pastors

The goal of the trip, from America's Voices in Israel's perspective, is to allow the guests, whether pastors or celebrities, to use their respective platforms – whether pulpits to social media – to share their experiences in the land and, in doing so, engender positive feelings and, ultimately, visits to Israel by their followers.

Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Minister Yuli Edelstein said the idea seems to be working.

“They have millions of followers and it helps us to get the word out,” he said.


By Nicole Jansezian, Travelujah

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

December 14, 2011December 14, 2011  2 comments  Uncategorized

1. Go Shopping at a Christmas Market


Christmas markets are already set up and operating in various cities around the Holy Land. You can't beat the main destination – Bethlehem – for a taste of the holiday spirit. The festivities began in November with a Christmas bazaar on Star Street featuring crafts and games, food and drinks traditional to the holiday, Christmas decorations, trees, lights and much more.

At the Bethlehem Peace Center in Manger Square, many tables and kiosks are selling the wares of local craftsmen, plus even from overseas like Italy and Norway.

In Jerusalem, the Latin patriarch is operating a smaller Christmas market from now until Christmas Eve. Located on the upper part of the Via Dolorosa, close to New Gate, the shop is selling Christmas decorations, crafts and Christmas candies and chocolates. The proceeds benefit the Catholic scouts club.

You can also enjoy the Christmas lights illuminating Bethlehem's Old City as the city is decked out for the holidays.

2. Take a Walk on the Nativity Trail

For an adventurous, off-the-beaten-path Christmas experience, try hiking portions of the 160-kilometer route Nativity Trail, the possible trek made by Mary and Joseph on their way to Bethlehem. The trail snakes from the Christian Arab town of Nazareth, where Jesus was divinely conceived, to where it ends in Bethlehem, where Jesus was born.

Some of the Nativity Trail, as carried out by tour operators, requires driving to different sites and crossing checkpoints. The Nativity Trail appropriately begins at the Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth. From there, other notable stops include Mount Tabor and the monastery of the Transfiguration; Zababdeh, a Christian town on the ancient Roman trade route; Nablus, where Jacob’s Well is located; Jericho, where Jesus healed blind Bartimaeus and ministered to the rich tax collector, Zacchaeus; Wadi Qelt where St. George Koziba monastery stands in a canyon; and Bethlehem, of course.



3. Enjoy the Christmas Tree Lighting and Concerts in Bethlehem


grotto, church of the nativity, bethlehem, christmasThe annual Christmas tree lighting will take place on Dec. 15, the first day of the Novena of Christmas, in front of the Basilica of the Nativity, on the Manger Square with Bethlehem Mayor Victor Batarseh. This will be followed by caroling and fireworks. The Christmas tree of Beit Sahour will be lit on Dec. 17 next to the Catholic Church in Shepherd's field.

The tree lightings will be followed by a Christmas Tree Exhibition from Dec. 17 to 19 at the Bethlehem Peace Center. Several Christmas concerts are scheduled as well: On Dec 22, a Christmas Musical Concert with “Shibat” will take place at Ad-Dar Hall – Dar Annadwa at 7 p.m. On Christmas Eve, the Evangelical-Lutheran Christmas Church will host a series of short Christmas concerts each hour, beginning from 7 p.m. On Dec. 29, the Bethlehem Christmas Festival will feature a 150-voice choir singing the world premiere of “The Gift of Christmas” at Ad-Dar Hall – Dar Annadwa at 6 p.m.

Photo: Travelujah


On Dec. 19, the feast of St. Nicholas (Santa Claus) will be celebrated in Beit Jalla, a small city next to Bethlehem, where St. Nicholas lived at some point. The holiday is going to be accompanied by a parade of local scouts.

While in Bethlehem, don't miss visiting the Church of the Nativity off of Manger Square, which is the focal point of the city during this season; the Milk Grotto, a smaller, peaceful chapel where Mary is believed to have nursed the infant Jesus; and Shepherds’ Field, just east of Bethlehem in Beit Sahour, celebrated as the spot where “shepherds kept watch over their flock” on the night Jesus was born.

4. Visit Nativity Scenes from Italy in the Holy Land


nativity scene, jerusalem bethlehemFrom Dec. 18, life-size nativity scenes, handcrafted in Italy, will be set up in Bethlehem and Jerusalem for the first time. In Bethlehem, the scene will be built in the cloister of St. Catherine’s Basilic while in Jerusalem, there will be two exhibitions, in the Latin Patriarchate and in the Custody of the Holy Land.

The art of making these life-size nativity scenes is a centuries old tradition, which can be traced to the early 1700s in the Trentino region of Italy. The tradition has been handed down through the generations and has become a family and town ritual. The figures of the Holy Family and the shepherds are carved out of wood.

The famed nativity scenes have appeared in St. Peter’s Square, Krakow, L’Aquila, Assisi and Istanbul in addition to, of course, the scenes in the Trentino valleys. During the Christmas season, the town of Tesero, Italy is transformed into a giant nativity scene. This is the first time they will be in the Holy Land.


5. Enjoy the Lights and Sounds of Christmas in Jerusalem


Despite Israel's predominant religion being Judaism,followed by Islam, and while Christians comprise a mere minority of the population, Jerusalem will be dressed up for yuletide cheer nevertheless.


christmas tree, ymcaThe David Citadel Museum is hosting a season-appropriate tour of Old City churches in addition to a liturgical concert. On Dec. 23, “Hallelujah,” a liturgical concert by the Barrocade Ensemble and soloist Revital Raviv will be combined with a Christmas tour of the Old City. The concert can be combined with a tour of the churches of Jerusalem's Old City. The concert will be staged twice: the concert at 11 a.m. followed by the tour at 12:30 pm or the tour at 10:30 am followed by the concert at 1 p.m. Tickets can be booked in advance by calling *2884 from a phone in Israel. The cost for both the concert and tour is 90 shekels and for the concert only 65.


Photo: All About Jerusalem.com

Also in Jerusalem, the YMCA on King David Street will be decked out for Christmas. A large tree will be decorated and the season will be capped off by a Christmas Eve Family Carol Service on Dec. 24.


And finally, in Jerusalem on Dec. 24, don't miss the festive Christmas Carols at Church at 7 p.m. followed by refreshments and the a service, communion and more carols at 10:30 p.m.


6. View the Entrance of Latin Patriarch into Bethlehem

On Dec. 24 at 1 p.m. the ceremonial welcoming of the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem to Bethlehem will take place. The entry is marked by colorful parades of scouts from the various churches marching through Star Street and Manger Square to the Nativity Grotto located inside the Church of the Nativity.

Of course, stick around in town for the annual Midnight Mass in the Basilica of the Nativity. Local Christians and pilgrims from around the world gather in the church for mass and prayers. Due to the overwhelming popularity of the event, only visitors who've received a special entrance ticket are allowed to enter the Midnight Mass at the Church. For a full list of services and information on how to get tickets, click here


7. Watch the Christmas Parade and other Festivities in Nazareth


church of the annunciation, nazareth

Although most of the Christmas action is centered in Bethlehem and Jerusalem, the Arab Christian city of Nazareth has a line up of Christmas celebrations beginning on Dec. 24 with the city's annual parade at 3:30 p.m.

The traditional parade includes thousands of Christian youth and the leaders of the Christian communities, through the main street of Nazareth.


Photo: Travelujah

The parade will be followed by fireworks at 5:15 p.m. and then Christmas Eve Mass at 7:30 p.m. On Sunday, Dec. 25, Christmas Mass at the Church of the Annunciation the first Mass will begin at 7 a.m. At 10 a.m., a festive Mass will take place with the Custos of the Holy Land or Bishop Marcuzzo.


8. Enjoy Classical Christmas Concerts in Abu Gosh

It may be off the beaten path of Christmas, but the Israeli Arab town of Abu Gosh on the outskirts of Jerusalem will also have seasonal festivities. Two concerts will take place, one on Christmas Eve and the other on New Year's Eve, featuring classical holiday pieces.

On Dec. 24 at 12:00 at the Kiryat Yearim Church, an ensemble will perform Vivaldi's Four Seasons and Motet for soprano and orchestra. On Dec. 31, also at 12:00, the Kiryat Yearim Church will host a “Christmas Oratorio – A Vocal Christmas Festival.” The concert will feature J.S. Bach's Cantata no. 5 from the Christmas Oratorio, Saint-Saens' Christmas Oratorio and Poulenc's Four Christmas Motets. Tickets for either concert are 110 shekels.

9. Celebrate Christmas with the Armenians of Jerusalem


st. james, armenian quarter, jerusalem

So you think just because it is the middle of January that you missed Christmas in the Holy Land? Don't worry - it's not over yet. While Catholic and Protestant Christians celebrate on Dec. 25, and Orthodox Christians on Jan. 6, the Armenians in Jerusalem – and only in Jerusalem – celebrate Christmas on Jan. 19, or on the eve, Jan. 18.


The Armenians in Jerusalem are the only Christian community in the world to abide by the late Christmas date, 13 days after the Gregorian calendar of the traditional Orthodox Christmas date of Jan. 6. The Armenians will actually have rung in the New Year on Jan. 13.

Photo: All About Jerusalem.com

For Christmas, the Armenian Patriarch, priests and a marching band will make a motorcade procession from the Old City of Jerusalem to Bethlehem. The processional then continues on foot at Bethlehem's Manger Square into the Church of the Nativity. A Christmas mass will also take place at Saint James in Jerusalem, a unique service as the church has no electricity and is lit solely by the colorful oil lamps hanging in the square stone basilica. Services begin at 10 p.m. and continue until 6 a.m. in Bethlehem and Jerusalem.


10. Be a Part of the Epiphany at Qasr Al-Yahud


qasr al yahud, baptism, greek orthodox, epiphany

The Epiphany is celebrated every year on Jan. 18 at Qasr Al Yahud, the traditional baptism spot on the Jordan River. This fascinating and colorful ceremony attracts thousands of Orthodox pilgrims from around the world.


The feast of Epiphany (from the Greek for “appearance”) symbolizes the visit of the Wise Men to Bethlehem when Jesus was born and Jesus' baptism by John the Baptist in the Jordan River. The Epiphany caps off the Orthodox Christmas season. On this day, many Christians come from around the Holy Land and world to get baptized.


Photo: All About Jerusalem.com

The joyous occasion can seem a bit raucous with dozens of young people playing pipes, beating drums and singing. The main procession is led by the Greek Orthodox Patriarch and monks. At the height of the ceremony, the Greek patriarch releases white doves into the air while church bells ring.


By Nicole Jansezian, Travelujah

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

Tags: christmas holy land 

November 15, 2011November 15, 2011  0 comments  Uncategorized


With short video clips in several languages about the country and holy sites here, Israel's Tourism Ministry has built a Youtube channel designed to appeal to Christians and challenge them to visit the Holy Land.

The Religious Affairs Desk of the Tourism Ministry directed the project, designed to arouse interest in Israel tourism among Christians around the world. In the last few months thousands of hits were already registered on the channel before it was even officially launched.

The channel includes short videos and testimonials in languages including English, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese, Russian and Polish among others. The videos feature short testimonials from pastors, religious leaders and tourists speaking about the spiritual experience of their visit to the Holy Land as well as information on religious sites and events.


The Tourism Ministry spent around $50,000 building the channel as part of its $15 million market effort aimed at the Christian world. Other outreach efforts include seminars and meetings with tour operators, pastors and religious leaders plus targeted advertising in the Christian media.

The channel, the Spirit of the Holy Land, is aimed at all Christians, including evangelicals. The ministry’s Catholic channel, Holyland Pilgrimage, has already registered more than 760,000 views.


“We are looking forward to the future of advertising and marketing and are using tools and the knowledge we have accumulated in order to maximize the vast tourism potential associated with Israel,” said Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov. “Incoming Christian tourism, in all its denominations, represents the main target market in which the Tourism Ministry focuses its marketing effort in order to increase incoming tourism. This new website will help transmit messages and the special spiritual significance of a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.”

October 18, 2011October 18, 2011  0 comments  Uncategorized

Christians in Israel for the Feast of Tabernacles joined the nation at the Jerusalem March on Tuesday in welcoming home Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit who was released after five years in captivity at the hands of his Palestinian kidnappers.

Thousands of Christians representing about 80 nations joined Israelis in rejoicing at his safe return. Shalit was kidnapped on June 5, 2006 by militants who tunnelled into Israel from the Gaza Strip and held him hostage, incommunicado, for years. Several of the marchers on Tuesday waved banners of support for Israel and held welcome home signs for the 25-year-old soldier.


“It feels like Christmas, like Yom HaAtzmaut (Independence Day), like a holiday. It is the best day of our lives,” Norwegian Arvid Binttsen described to Travelujah the feeling of being in Israel on the day of Shalit's release. “Thousands of Christian Zionists have been praying for his release for five years.”

icej, feast of tabernacles, jerusalem march

Photo: Nicole Jansezian

Binttsen, along with another man, carried a large Norwegian flag with the message “Welcome home Gilad Shalit” in English, Norwegian and Hebrew.

The Christians, who take part in the parade every year, infuse color and joy to the march with festive costumes from their native countries and large banners expressing support for the Jewish state. Many hand out flags and candy to people along the parade route while shouting exhortations such as “we love Israel” and “hag sameah” (happy holidays).

The Chinese delegation of the parade carried flags from the communist nation and many of the w
omen wore white gowns they said represented the bride of Christ walking on the streets of Zion.


icej, feast of tabernacles, jerusalem march


icej, feast of tabernacles, jerusalem march

Photos: Nicole Jansezian

Many in the Brazilian contingent wrapped themselves in flags from their country and raced through the streets shouting support for Israel. The Canadian marchers carried large flags and some wore the uniforms of the Canadian Royal Mounties.

“I came to Israel to let the country know we love Israel, we love the people and we want to bless Israel,” Jeff Young, from the Toronto area, told Travelujah. “We want to let Israel know, Canada stands with you.”


icej, feast of tabernacles, jerusalem march

Photo: Nicole Jansezian


Mabel Lau made her third trip to Israel from Singapore.

“I come to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles, to support and rejoice with the Jewish people, and to give them support – spiritual and moral support,” she told Travelujah.

Most of the parade's Christian contingent, described by the announcer as Christians who love Israel, are attending the annual Christian celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles sponsored by the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem.

“It is good for our Feast pilgrims from around the world to be here to express our solidarity on such a momentous day, as they will also see and experience first-hand what Israel is going through as Gilad Shalit returns home,” said ICEJ Executive Director Juergen Buehler. “We share the relief and joy of the Shalit family and all Israel that Gilad has come back alive. We also share the disgust of so many that the price for his return has meant having to set ruthless murderers free. These are the paradoxes which Israel constantly lives with, and our pilgrims will no doubt return to their own nations with a deeper appreciation of Israel’s unique struggles and an even stronger commitment to standing with the Jewish state and people.”

About 6,000 Christians from more than 80 nations are attending the ICEJ Feast celebration, which will concluded Tuesday night with a farewell address by Israel’s deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon.

By Nicole Jansezian, Travelujah

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

icej, feast of tabernacles, jerusalem march


icej, feast of tabernacles, jerusalem march


icej, feast of tabernacles, jerusalem march

Photos: Nicole Jansezian


November 23, 2011November 23, 2011  1 comments  Uncategorized

The National Association of the Diocesan Directors of French Pilgrimages recently held its 64th congress – for the first time in Jerusalem – to discuss Christian pilgrimage, particularly to the Holy Land.

Over the course of four days last week, the 150 delegates convened at Notre Dame Center and discussed the geography and history of the country and how to better organize pilgrimages and prepare pilgrims so when they arrive at their destination, they may have a greater awareness of their experience.

The days each had themes which focused on an area of importance, including the “living stones” of the local church body, Christians who live in the Holy Land.

“This (congress being held in Jerusalem) is an expression of our solidarity with our Christian brothers and sisters of the Holy Land,” Father Patrick Gandoul, president of the Association, said in his speech at the opening of the conference.

The purpose of the congress, he said, was to learn how, during pilgrimage to the Holy Land, to draw from “the pages of the Bible, from archaeology and from meeting men and women that today ... make up the living stones of the church. We will encourage the directors of pilgrimages to understand and perceive how the people live and how pilgrims also can walk on this land.”

“We need to present ourselves, not as professionals or performers, but as pastors and guides, in solidarity with the mother church, which supports the Christian presence in this land and in the holy places so that these places, where the history of peace was born, will never become merely an open air museum.”

Each afternoon was devoted to “field experiences” including a solemn entrance at the Holy Sepulcher with the Custos of the Holy Land and a trip to Bethlehem to meet with Christians there.

Founded in 1938, the association considers pilgrimage a pastoral and cultural experience and values its importance. France ranks fourth in the number of pilgrims to the Holy Land. Jerusalem was chosen as the host for this annual event to bring the land of pilgrimage to life.

“We come as pilgrims and we need to understand better this land and, as Christians, our link to the land,” said Father Jacques Nieuviarts. “We come (also) to learn from the church in Jerusalem.”

Gandoul said that pilgrims should also view themselves as carriers of peace when they step foot in other lands to visit the holy sites.

“The pilgrim is a being of peace who walks humbly in the steps of his Father. Like it was written by the prophet Micah eight centuries, the pilgrim seeks the face of God,” he said. “I think that we can really be peace makers. Each person can build up this land living in peace and looking forward to a serene and harmonious future.”


By Nicole Jansezian, Travelujah

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

November 27, 2011November 27, 2011  1 comments  Uncategorized

With four weeks until Christmas, the time of preparation leading up to the holiday has begun. Advent is observed on each Sunday of the four Sundays until Christmas Day, Dec. 25.

The word Advent come from the Latin word meaning “coming” and celebrates the coming of the Lord. During each day of Advent, Christians prepare for the “arrival” of the Lord Jesus by recalling the prophecies and promises of the Old Testament that were fulfilled in the first Christmas story.

The theme of readings and teachings during Advent and its purpose is to prepare for the second coming of Jesus while commemorating his first coming. Special readings are prescribed for each of the four Sundays in Advent, while an Advent calendar, primarily used by children, recounts the journey of Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem in the days leading to the savior's birth. Also, a candle on the traditional Advent wreath is lit each Sunday.

In many homes, some Christians mark the beginning of Advent by decorating the house or baking holiday cookies.

No one really knows when the celebration of Advent was first introduced into the Church, but it was originally observed as a time of fasting and penitence. Now its emphasis in the Western churches is usually interpreted as one of expectation and anticipation for the Messiah and a joyous time.

Eastern and Oriental Orthodox churches fast 40 days, similar to Lent, rather than like Western churches' joyous observance of Advent. The Eastern Churches' equivalent of Advent, the Nativity Fast, is 40 days long and began on Nov. 15, 2011. The Advent season begins on Nov. 27, 2011 and ends on Dec. 24, 2011.

The themes of the Advent season are Hope, Peace, Joy and Love. Lighting of candles, especially the circular Advent wreath with five candles is an important tradition of the Advent season. Each Sunday of Advent, one of four candles is lit -- with the final candle, the Christ Candle, being lit on Christmas Eve.

December 2, 2011December 2, 2011  0 comments  Uncategorized


While you can't beat actually being in Bethlehem for Christmas, there is a way to connect from afar during this season. Throughout Advent the celebration of the Eucharist will be broadcast live from the Milk Grotto in Bethlehem welcoming anyone from around the world who wants a taste of Christmas in the Holy Land.

The chapel of the Milk Grotto is believed to be the place where Mary breastfed Jesus before the holy family fled to Egypt on instructions from an angel who warned Joseph in a dream that Herod was looking for Jesus in order to kill him. According to tradition, some drops of milk fell to the ground, turning the stone white. Today, both Christian and Muslim women pray at the chapel for breastfeeding and fertility issues.

As of Nov. 28 and until 5 Jan. 5, an Italy-based Catholic broadcasting network,omegawatchreview TV2000, will be broadcasting the daily 8:30 a.m. mass live from the Milk Grotto. That would be at 1:30 a.m. EST in the US.

The mass celebrations will be streamed live on the TV2000 website and the Holy Land's Franciscan website. Some 20 nuns who are cloistered there will attend the celebrations.

The grotto is under the care of the Franciscans.



Fr. Michele Piccirillo, a Franciscan archaeologist who died three years ago, taught about the ancient tradition in which women who could not lactate or conceive would dissolve some dust from the rock inside the grotto in a glass of water and drink it, to ask for the intercession of the Holy Mary.


By Nicole Jansezian, Travelujah

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




October 24, 2011October 24, 2011  1 comments  Uncategorized


BETHLEHEM - On an unseasonably warm fall day, more than 300 runners of various ethnic backgrounds gathered under the penetrating Middle Eastern sun to cross literal and cultural boundaries on Monday as they began a 12-kilometer run from Bethlehem to Jerusalem.

This year's Peace Run, sponsored by Opera Romana Pelligrinaggi, brought some 280 pilgrims to the Holy Land. For the first time, this group included not just Italians but some 80 Haitians and 15 Americans, many of them here for the first time.

The route for the run brought the participants from Bethlehem, under Palestinian Authority control, through a manned checkpoint, into Israel. Israelis and Palestinians are typically not allowed to cross the border without prior permission. But Monday's run was different. About 70 Israelis and 70 Palestinians joined the foreigners. The run began at Manger Square in Bethlehem, the traditional birthplace of Jesus and ended at Notre Dame, a Catholic church and guesthouse in Jerusalem.


peace run, pilgrimage

Italians, Haitians, Israelis and Palestinians run together for peace (Photo: Travelujah)


The Haitians who joined the tour – all of them somehow impacted by the devastating earthquake there last year – were on a pilgrimage and a journey of healing, according to Father Rick Frechette who organized the trip for them. He brought the Haitian pilgrims here to give them some relief from their tragic circumstances and also to get recharged by seeing the holy sites.

“With all of the tragedies and problems they face we thought that for this once-in-a-lifetime chance we would try to bring as many people as possible to see the holy places,” he said. “Also it is a gesture of peace to the whole world.”

Father Rick's ministry, an outreach of a Catholic religious community called the Passionists, is based in the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince where he has built orphanages and schools and provided medical care for children in the impoverished country.

Conan Conaboy, who works with St. Luke's and is an associate of Father Rick's, was in Israel for the first time and began the morning's run in Bethlehem.

“It's really hard to absorb this – Jesus must have walked here also with his disciples,” he said. Conaboy said his organization endeavors to bring compassion to areas where no one wants to go, and that is what Jesus did too – on this very ground, he noted.


peace run, pilgrimage

Father C Hightower, Conan Conaboy and Father Rick Frechette (Photo: Travelujah)


Deborah Haggis, a founder of Artists for Peace and Justice, came to take part in the run and to tour the Holy Land – a first for her and her son James.

“I thought it was a special thing to do, a peace run for Israeli and Palestinian youth,” she said, adding that the spiritual sites were also an integral part of the experience. James, only 13, was amazed during his time in the Holy Land.

“I saw all the sites like the place Jesus was crucified, entombed and resurrected,” in addition to Mount of Temptation, the Mount of Olives and the Garden of Gethsamane, he said. “To be at all these places where things happened thousands of years ago – it is history, but it is cool to see it today.”

Zalman Adler, an Israeli and a member of Jerusalem's running club Solelim, helped found and has participated in the peace run for seven years. “When you run together is it a nice atmosphere. It's a good starting point for peace.”


peace run, pilgrimage

Palestinians take on the Italians soccer team during the 2011 Pope John Paul Games in the Holy Land (Photo: Travelujah)


Ghada Salamei and Nisreen Sleibi, both Catholic Palestinians from Bethlehem, were taking part for the first time. By the halfway point, they already planned to join next year's run for another chance to get to Jerusalem and be part of a peace-building mission.

Israel's Tourism Ministry helps coordinate the annual event.

“Pilgrimage is exactly this – a bridge for peace,” Lydia Weitzman, Tourism Ministry spokeswoman, said. “Bethlehem as well as Nazareth and Jerusalem are all part of the Holy Land and we are working together to promote pilgrimage to all of the Holy Land.”

Since 2002, Opera Romana Pelligrinaggi has been developing the sports tour of the Holy Land. The games are based on the philosophy of the late Pope John Paul II who recognized that sports can bring people together. The peace “marathon” is the highlight of the five-day tour.

"Sports have spread to every corner of the world, transcending differences between cultures and nations," he once said in a homily. "Because of the global dimensions this activity has assumed, those involved in sports throughout the world have a great responsibility. They are called to make sports an opportunity for meeting and dialogue, over and above every barrier of language, race or culture. Sports, in fact, can make an effective contribution to peaceful understanding between peoples and to establishing the new civilization of love."

By Nicole Jansezian, Travelujah

Nicole Jansezian writes for Travelujah, the only Christian social network focused on travel to the Holy Land.

November 2, 2009November 2, 2009  0 comments  Holy Land

October 27, 2009  It was a passage in Zechariah 14 that clinched it for Susan Jones, a Christian supporter of Israel from the United Kingdom. Immediately after reading the passage Susan knew the time was right to plan her first trip to Israel.

"I was reading the book of Zechariah where it says that the nations will come up to Jerusalem after Jesus comes back," she said. "I thought, ‘I need to do this now, before Messiah comes back. I need to come up to Jerusalem on behalf of my nation and worship Jesus."

And this trip is likely to be her first of many. For many tourists in Jerusalem the Feast of Tabernacles is the time they choose to visit Israel. According to the Ministry of Tourism, Jones is among 8,000 Christian visitors from all over the world who are pouring into Jerusalem this week - and this despite a wide-reaching global financial crisis.

"I feel moved to be here," Susan told Travelujah. "It is an adventure. Fortunately we have friends who showed us around. We're discovering things out of relationship with the people we are meeting. We are looking at things through someone else's eyes."

Collin Jones, Susan's husband, said he was touched by his experience on his first morning in the country when they visited the Temple Mount.

"I felt very moved that I was going up to the temple, like it says in the Bible, ‘I was glad when they said unto me let us go up to the house of the Lord,'" he said. "I am also very preoccupied with the way things are coming together as they were prophesied in scripture and the way they've come to life."

The Bible comes to life for first-time visitors to Israel. Many are allured by the scriptures and then moved immensely by seeing the physical ground where Jesus taught, where prophecies were given and where all faiths converge.

Millions of Christians in over 175 nations, prayed for the peace of Jerusalem on Sunday, Oct. 4. Robert Stearns, founder of Eagles' Wings and co-chairman of the Day of Prayer for the Peace of Jerusalem, led the Jerusalem celebration of the DPPJ where approximately 2,000 believers gathered.

"It is a new day in the Christian Church," Stearns said. "There are millions of Christians declaring that they will pray for the peace of Jerusalem. We are not spectators, we are not bystanders, and we will not be silent... The sin of silence (during the Holocaust) will not be repeated... Shalom to Israel is shalom for the world."

Many Christians who joined the Day of Prayer in Jerusalem said there is nothing comparable to praying on the actual ground for which the Bible commands us to pray rather than from abroad.

"When you can hear, you can touch, taste, smell it and you are praying against the very stone right here - it's the fulfillment of all your prayers," said Canadian Bethany Campbell. "You see the people you are praying for and seeing their faces."

"His name is on this very place, so there's something special spiritually" about praying here, said Rachel Ford from Brisbane, Australia.

One veteran visitor emphasizes the importance of blessing Israel on the land of Israel. Edwell Katsande, a pastor from Botswana, makes a pilgrimage to Jerusalem almost every year at great expense in order to be obedient to the biblical command to "go up to Jerusalem" during the Feast of Tabernacles.

"The most important thing when you come up to Jerusalem is to bless Israel," said Edwell, on his 13th trip to the Holy Land. "Israel has blessed the whole world. Now is our time to bless them. They gave us the Book that brought us salvation. Now we need to bless them."

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 to the land.

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