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December 19, 2010December 19, 2010  1 comments  Uncategorized

During the Christmas season, there is no shortage of services to attend. Here is a list by Travelujah of just some of the plethora of churches significant to the Christmas story and Christianity in the Holy Land.

Church of the Annunciation
Essentially where Christmas began, this is considered the site where it is believed the angel Gabriel announced to Mary that she was chosen to carry the Messiah. From there, Mary and Joseph traveled to Bethlehem. Nazareth was central in the life of Jesus. It was his home town, where he was raised as a carpenter before starting his ministry. The church was built in the 1960s, but stands on the foundations of an ancient Byzantine church and a Crusader church from the Middle Ages. A grotto below the church is believed to be the place where Gabriel visited Mary.

Church of the Visitation
Ein Karem, Jerusalem
Following the original Christmas story, after Mary found out about her immaculate conception she went to the Judean village of Ein Karem to visit her cousin Elizabeth who was also pregnant. Now the Church of the Visitation, built in 1679, marks that site.

manger square, church of the nativity, grottoChurch of the Nativity
Joseph and Mary traveled to Bethlehem, the city from where Joseph’s family came, in order to register as part of a nationwide census. Jesus is believed to have been born in the Grotto where the Church of the Nativity now stands. The church was built in 325 AD and is one of the oldest churches in the world. It is the most popular stop on Christmas Eve and day.

Mar Theodosius
Beit Sahour
After Jesus was born, wise men from the east visited Jesus in Bethlehem. Tradition has it that Theodosius was led by God to seek out a cave where the wise men rested after paying homage to Jesus and after having been warned by an angel to return to their country via another road to avoid Herod. St. Theodosius Monastery, founded in 476, stands upon that site.

St. Joseph’s Chapel
The traditional midnight mass is celebrated on Christmas Eve in St. Catherine’s, the Roman Catholic church next door to the Church of the Nativity. This is also the site of several chapels with their own historic and religious significance. The Chapel of St. Joseph is where an angel appeared to Joseph and commanded him to flee to Egypt, Matthew 2:13.

The Milk Grotto
This smaller and more peaceful chapel is located close to the Nativity Church in Manger Square. Legend says that while Mary was feeding Jesus when a few drops of milk spilled to the ground turning the rocks white. This chapel has long been a devotional site for women. The church is believed to be where Joseph, Mary and Jesus took refuge before their escape to Egypt.

Garden Tomb
garden tomb, golgothaJerusalem
The Garden Tomb is not part of the Christmas story, but it is a significant site in the life of Jesus. Not a church per se, the site is a place of reflection and where Protestants believe Jesus crucifixion and burial took place. The site is popular for Easter, but also has a Christmas Day service.

Church of the Redeemer
Jerusalem, Old City
Not central to the original Christmas story, the German church makes up for lost time by celebrating the holiday in style. The Church of the Redeemer was commissioned by Prussian Crown Prince Friedrich Wilhelm in 1869. Decorated for Christmas, the church also hosts classical concerts, midnight mass on Christmas Eve and a Christmas day service.


By Nicole Jansezian, Travelujah

Nicole Jansezian writes for Travelujah, the only Christian social network focused on travel to the Holy Land. Users can learn, plan and share their travel experiences on Travelujah. Travelujah offers customized group and individual tour experiences to ministries, parishes, Bible study groups, universities, organizations, families and others seeking an unforgettable journey to the Holy Land.

December 8, 2010December 8, 2010  5 comments  Uncategorized

Looking for an off-the-beaten, true Christmas experience in the Holy Land? This is a Travelujah tip: The Nativity Trail takes these concepts to a literal level.

Various organized hiking trails populate the Holy Land, some mostly for sport and some rich with biblical and historic significance. The Nativity Trail is one to consider during the holiday season. Just as the Advent calendar follows the holy journey of Mary and Joseph from Nazareth to Bethlehem, where Jesus was born, the Nativity Trail is a walking trail from the city where Jesus was immaculately conceived to his birthplace.

Snaking from the Christian Arab town of Nazareth in Israel into the Palestinian territories, the follows a 160-kilometer route and ranks up there with the Israel Trail - the mountain trail through Israel, and the Jesus Trail, a 65-kilometer walking trail concentrated in the Galilee that connects sites significant in Jesus’ ministry.

And with a temperate climate most of the year, walking is a treat in the Holy Land for an up close and personal view of the countryside and the people.

Some of the Nativity Trail, as carried out by tour operators, involves driving to different sites and crossing checkpoints. The majority of the trail is in the Palestinian West Bank.

nazareth, church of anunciation, nativity trailThe Nativity Trail begins in Nazareth where visitors appropriately begin at the Church of the Annunciation and the house of Mary. From there, other important 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 of course Bethlehem.
The trail highlights many of the treasures in the Palestinian controlled West Bank.

The landscape and population along the trail is diverse. From desert to valleys, stark mountainsides to lush fields and olive groves, hikers get a varied view of the Holy Land firsthand. Along the way, visitors will pass through Christian and Muslim villages and meet priests, farmers, Bedouins and families.

The Nativity Trail was created by the Bethlehem 2000 Project as part of Palestinian millennium celebrations, linking the historic towns of Nazareth and Bethlehem.

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

December 17, 2010December 17, 2010  1 comments  Uncategorized

Israel is expecting 90,000 tourists this month who will be visiting the Holy Land for the Christmas season -  the only place in the world to experience Christmas in its original setting.

With several religious services, festive concerts and ornate decorations, Israel’s and the Palestinian Authority’s small  Christian communities muster up Christmas cheer during the holiday season for locals and for visiting pilgrims.
“The Christian community, in its various denominations with hundreds of millions of believers, represents one of the central anchors for incoming tourism to Israel,” Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov said. Of 3.18 million tourists to visit the Holy Land this year, 2.4 million were Christian.

Free shuttle transport for pilgrims, provided by the Ministry of Tourism, will be available from Jerusalem to Bethlehem from the Mar Elias Monastery to the Church of the Nativity every hour from Christmas Eve at noon for the next 24 hours.

You will fine plenty to enjoy in Bethlehem on Christmas Eve as there are multiple services and processions, including Catholic, Protestant, Greek Orthodox, Ethiopian, Armenian and more. There is an international Christmas Eve mass in Arabic, English and German at the Church of the Nativity. at 5 p.m. and of course, there is the midnight mass.

Saturday, Dec. 18
The Church of the Redeemer in the Old City has a Christmas concert with the Kfar Saba Chamber Orchestra on Saturday, Dec. 18 at 8 p.m. The Program is a “Ceremony of Carols\" including Bach’s Cantata no. 4 and Vivaldi’s Gloria.

Christmas Eve
The Church of the Redeemer has a service at 10:30 p.m. Call for tickets in advance: 02.626.6800

Christmas Day
The Garden Tomb has a Christmas service in English at 10 a.m.
The Church of the Redeemer has a service at 10:30 p.m. Call for tickets in advance. 02.626.6800

The public is invited to see the decorations at the YMCA on King David Street.

Thursday, Dec. 23
Annual reception hosted by the Tourism Ministry and the Mayor of Nazareth with the leaders of the Christian churches ambassadors and other public dignitaries in the Salesian Church including a special Christmas concert conducted by Imad Abu Sinai with guest singer Georgit Nofi at 6 p.m.
Christmas Eve
Traditional youth parade of scouts from the Christian communities, down Paul XI Street, Nazareth’s main street. 3 p.m.

Firework display, sponsored by the Tourism Ministry, to announce the opening of the festive Christmas celebrations 5 p.m.

The Christmas Mass at the Church of the Annunciation, in the presence of Bishop Giacinto-Boulos Marcuzzo, the Patriarchal Vicar for Israel. 7:30 p.m.
Christmas Day
Mass in all the Catholic Churches. The first mass in the Church of the Annunciation will take place at 7 a.m. then another at 10 a.m.

By Nicole Jansezian, Travelujah

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

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 23, 2011March 23, 2011  1 comments  Uncategorized

The angel Gabriel visited Mary in Nazareth to announce that she would become the mother of Jesus, the son of God. This week is the celebration of this announcement - the Feast of the Annunciation - and nowhere is it celebrated as it is in the place where it actually happened.

Nazareth, a city with 70,000 residents, will be bustling with activities over the next three days, March 24 and 25.

Christians observe the Feast of the Annunciation on March 25, nine months before Christmas. According to Luke 1:26, the Annunciation occurred in the sixth month of Mary’s cousin Elizabeth's pregnancy with John the Baptist.

The account of the annunciation is in Luke 1:26-38. When Gabriel visited Mary he called her “highly favored one.” Then he told her she would conceive a son and call him Jesus.

“Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, seeing I am a virgin?’ The angel answered her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore also the holy one who is born from you will be called the Son of God. Behold, Elizabeth, your relative, also has conceived a son in her old age; and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For everything spoken by God is possible.’ Mary said, ‘Behold, the handmaid of the Lord; be it to me according to your word.’ The angel departed from her.” (Luke 1:35-38)

There is a special mass in Nazareth to commemorate the event, and guided tours from Thursday through Saturday sponsored by the Nazareth Cultural and Tourism Association.

Tours include Mary’s Well Square, the Greek Orthodox Annunciation Church, Pilgrims' Route the House of Culture and Art, Alleys of the Old City, painted ceilings, Mary's International Center, the Synagogue Church, the Market, the White Mosque, and finishing with the Basilica of the Annunciation. Tours are 70 shekels a person. For more details on tours, call Nazareth Cultural & Tourism Association 04.601.1072 or email board@nazarethboard.org

The traditional parade for the Feast of the Annunciation should take place at 5 p.m. on Thursday with Fuad Twal, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem. On Friday, a Pontifical Mass will be held at 10 a.m. at the Basilica.

While in the city, it is worthwhile to visit Nazareth Village, an attraction that is a complete reconstruction of how the city could have looked and functioned in the time of Jesus.

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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