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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.


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.


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.



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.


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.



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.


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