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April 16, 2010April 16, 2010  0 comments  Uncategorized

Peace attained through sports is the goal of an upcoming weeklong sports pilgrimage from Italy marked with events including a 10-kilometer noncompetitive race that crosses a checkpoint and Israel’s security wall.

“JPII GAMES 2010 – Pilgrims of Peace” is the 7th marathon-pilgrimage named after John Paul II, who himself promoted sports as a means to peace, and will take place in the Holy Land from April 21 to 28.

“In the Holy Land pilgrims walk in the very locations where Jesus lived and at the same time they also ‘cross through’ the suffering of a non-peaceful situation bearing a message of joy,” the organizer said in a news release. “They also provide help and generate work for the local populations.”

The peace run begins at Manger Square, outside the Church of the Nativity, the traditional birthplace of Jesus, where Palestinians from the Bethlehem area join the Italian delegation. Due to Israeli law barring Israelis from entering the Palestinian territories, Israeli runners were forced to wait on the other side of the checkpoint for their Palestinian counterparts. But this year, Israelis were issued passes to get into Bethlehem for the race. The runners then continue together in Jerusalem, next to the Old City, and ending at the Davidson Center Archaeological Park.

bethlehem, peace, sports Opera Romana Pellegrinaggi and Centro Sportivo Italiano, the Italian Sports Association, brings star athletes and pilgrims from Italy to participate in these athletic events with both Palestinians and Israelis. Last year’s tour was fueled by retired AC Milan soccer star Demetrio Albertini and Italian volleyball world champion Andrea Zorzi.

This year, the JPII Games will include swimming, water polo, basketball and cycling with competitors representing Italy, Israel and Palestine.

Another highlight of the trip will be on Monday a bicycle tour of The Gospel Trail, the Christian locations that are found along the Sea of Galilee.
“In the Holy Land pilgrims walk in the very locations where Jesus lived and at the same time they also ‘cross through’ the suffering of a non-peaceful situation bearing a message of joy. They also provide help and generate work for the local populations,” the organization said in a news release.
“In the Holy Land it is likewise hoped that sports, which by their very nature are a vehicle of peace and use a universal language, represent an opportunity for people who normally live with different rhythms and customs to meet and embrace.”
In a homily, Pope John Paul II once said, “Sports have spread to every corner of the world, transcending differences between cultures and nations. 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.”

The pilgrimage is being billed as returning “to where it all started” and the JPII Games said that one should undertake a spiritual journey to the Holy Land at least once in a lifetime.

“An experience to live together and one that facilitates knowledge of different cultures and ways of life. Those who will be privileged to live this during JPIIGAMES 2010 will (experience) even more so the words of Isaiah: ‘How joyful on the mountains are the feet of the bearer of good news who announces peace, messenger of good news who announces salvation,who announces to Zion: ‘Here is your God.’”

By Nicole Jansezian, Travelujah

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

July 29, 2010July 29, 2010  0 comments  Uncategorized

A dozen Christian graduate and undergraduate students are visiting Israel as part of a unique tour designed to help them grasp historical, modern and spiritual perspectives of the Holy Land and to be able to take that outlook back with them to their universities and their countries.

The Eagles Wings’ Israel Experience is underway right now for its seventh consecutive year with 12 students touring the country and meeting with government leaders, Holocaust survivors and people from the various cultures represented in the nation.

The tour “allows them to see the complexity facing Israel and the Middle East and the reality of Israel’s working democracy and continual efforts towards peace,” according to Michael Onifer of Eagles Wings, who is leading the group. “It also allows them to see the contrast between treatment of women, and religious and ethnic minorities in Israel in contrast to other nations in the Middle East.”

Onifer said the program supplies “emerging Christian leaders” with an experience that will help them present Israel’s story from a firsthand perspective when they get back home. So far, 100 students hailing from nations such as the United States, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, Finland, Venezuela, China, Kenya and Brazil have gone through the program. 

Havilah Mendez, 20, of Baltimore is in Israel for her first time. When she joins Messiah College in the fall she will be a sophomore political science major. Seeing for herself the rocket battered city of Sderot on the Gaza border in southern Israel and the Western Wall -- two controversial places in the headlines -- helped her form her own world view, she said.

“These two places are something I will remember when I go back to school,” she said.

“Israel has a lot to offer especially to my own generation,” she added. “Israelis are so welcoming and so tolerant, something I think that people in my generation don’t necessarily know. Israeli young people are like American young people. It is an energetic and lively environment. I would encourage people to come travel and visit, not just the spiritual sites, but cultural ones as well.”

Amely Schneider of Rodgau, Germany has a similar message to bring back to Christians in her country.

“First I’m going to tell them what I saw on the spiritual side, like for example the Golden Gate or the Western Wall,” the 22-year-old math and chemistry student said. “On the other hand it is important for me to show the political side, that Germany should stand up for Israel and support the Jewish people.”

Seeing life in Sderot, she said, opened her mind to a completely different world in which some people live. On the spiritual side, Amely said touring the tunnels under the Western Wall was like going back in time.

“It is such a holy place for the Jews and we, as Christians, have our roots in Judaism,” she said.


AJ Bennett of Toronto, studying international business at at York University and the University of Phoenix, is the campus coordinator for Christians United for Israel. Although this is his first trip to Israel, Bennett grew up with stories about the Israelites while living in a town rife with racism and anti-Semistism.

Now, he said, simply walking the streets of Jerusalem has been an affirmation of his faith.

“The world has been blind to Israel’s justice and I felt that confirmed being here,” he said.

His visit has also confirmed another goal: to bring groups to Israel and engage communities not necessarily interested in making pilgrimages to the Holy Land.

“Jerusalem is pivotal, central to the Bible,” he said. “It makes no sense to not visit a land that is mentioned from Genesis to Revelation and the story is not finished yet, so to have the opportunity to step into the story, where the story will finish.”

Just as Muslims make a pilgrimage to Mecca every year, Christians should rise to the challenge to visit Israel instead of just blessing the nation from afar, Bennett said.

Students have gone on to use their experiences in Israel when they got back home. One helped write a speech for Sen. Sam Brownback to Israeli parliament. Another worked at the White House during President George Bush’s administration. Recently, an Israel Experience student interned with Jerusalem’s deputy mayor and another is now the national coordinator on college campuses across the U.S. for Eagles Wings’ Day of Prayer for the Peace of Jerusalem.

The Eagles Wings’ Israel Experience is possibly the only Christian zionist program of its kind that operates on a collegiate level focused on academics and advocacy. Applications are accepted at www.eagleswings.to. The scholarship program is open to all university and graduate students with college-level English.


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 11, 2011January 11, 2011  0 comments  Uncategorized

Israeli tourism is forging a new path for Christian tourists to the Jewish state following the life of Mary, the mother of Jesus.

The itinerary, inaugurated Tuesday, is specifically geared to Catholic tourism, the largest segment of incoming Christian tourism to Israel. In 2010, a record 3.45 million tourists visited Israel, 69 percent of whom were Christian and more than half of them Catholic.

“The Christian world looks to the Holy Land as an important reference point for their faith and life,” said Rev. Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the Custodian of the Holy Land. While Christians come primarily to walk in the footsteps of Jesus, he said, “We cannot talk about the life of Jesus without talking about his mother, the Holy Virgin.”

ein karem, st. john'sThe new itinerary was developed by the Tourism Ministry in order to capitalize on the Catholic market. The tour encourages pilgrimages to sites where the Jewish woman was born, raised and visited including her birthplace near Nazareth, the town where she visited her cousin Elizabeth and her tomb near Jerusalem.

Tourism officials said they hope to encourage return visits to Israel by Christians. The itinerary is printed in English, but will be translated into Spanish, French, Italian, Polish and Portuguese as well. The booklet entitled "A Holy Land Pilgrimage: In the Footsteps of the Virgin Mary," includes information on the sites, operating hours and accessibility, and is being distributed to tourism wholesalers and tour operators specializing in Catholic and Christian pilgrimages from around the world. An abridged version of the booklet can be found on the Tourism Ministry's dedicated Catholic website: www.holyland-pilgrimage.org

The ceremony announcing the new itinerary took place in the Eden-Tamir Music Center in Ein Kerem, in Jerusalem.

“The Holy Land is the homeland of the Virgin Mary, where all the important events in her life took place, and it is only natural to follow a pilgrimage itinerary in her footsteps,” said Tourism Minister Director General Noaz Bar-Nir.

He noted that the booklet was written specifically for pilgrimage tour operators, to suggest these new itineraries for Catholic pilgrims who are seeking to enrich and enhance their spiritual experience in the Holy Land.

"In the Footsteps of the Virgin Mary," complements sites and places pertinent in the life of Jesus. Mary was born in Tzippori in the Galilee. In Nazareth, pilgrims can visit Mary's Well and the Mary of Nazareth International Center. Elijah's Cave is on the tour since Christian tradition identifies it as the place where the Holy Family rested on its way back from Egypt.

ein karem, church of visitationEin Karem, the town in which the Jan. 11 ceremony was held, is the birthplace of John the Baptist, where Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth while they were both pregnant. Abu Gosh, an Arab village on the outskirts of Jerusalem, with the Church of Notre Dame de l'Arche de l'Alliance is on the tour along with workshops related to ceramics, agriculture, traditional cooking and weaving.

The Custos encouraged first-time and return visits to the land.

“A pilgrimage to the Holy Land – which should be taken at least once in a lifetime – can change one’s life, as it offers the opportunity to perceive, touch, see and connect to the Bible,” Pizzaballa said.

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.

March 15, 2011March 15, 2011  0 comments  Uncategorized

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


By Nicole Jansezian, Travelujah

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

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