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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.

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.

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.

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