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February 23, 2011February 23, 2011  0 comments  Events

Mario Gomez, knelt down in prayer, even before hugging his wife.  Mario Sepúlveda was quoted as saying "I was with God, and the Devil - and God won."  Omar Reygadas, a 56 year old mechanic emerged from the rescue capsule holding a bible and wearing a helmet with "God lives" written on it. All of the 33 miners emerged from the capsules wearing shirts that said, "Thank you Lord" on the front, and with the back reading "To Him be the glory and honor," taken from Psalm 95:4. "Because in his hands are the depths of the earth, and the heights of the mountains are His."

 Chilean Miner, Mario Gomez, kneels in prayer

Chilean Miner, Mario Gomez, kneels in prayer immediately after rescue. Courtesy Hugo Enfante AFP Getty Images


On Wednesday October 13, 2010 the last of the 33 Chilean miners were shuttled 15 minutes through a dark shaft emerging at the surface to be greeted by friends, family and the worldwide media.


While most media reports downplayed it, faith clearly played a starring role in this story.  From the beginning, the miners families set up a prayer area at Camp Hope where many prayed continuously for the miners. Crucifixes, bibles, rosaries and other religious articles were sent down to the miners and Pope Benedict XVI sent down a rosary to each man. One miner, Jose Henriquez , became the defacto spiritual leader, leading his trapped colleagues in daily prayer. Chile is an extremely religious country and over 70% of the population identifies themselves as Catholics, and 15% as Evangelicals.  


Like others around the world, I too, followed this ordeal with a mixture of anticipation, hope, and fear. How would I feel if it were my husband trapped down there?  Imagine the elation I would have if my beloved was granted a second chance of life? I  would surely wish to give thanks to God for answering my prayers. 


So - when that last miner was rescued on October 13th, I immediately sent off an email to Rafi Ben Hur, the Deputy General of Israel's Ministry of Tourism.


"Rafi - I want to create a joint initiative with the IMOT to bring these Chilean miners to the Holy Land."


Within moments Rafi replied, "More details, please."


And that's it how it all started. Within five minutes I wrote a short brief to Rafi explaining how I saw them proceeding and why this trip of all trips possible would be so important to them.


"I think we should begin by working thru the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and have them connect us with the Israeli Embassy in Chile and we should offer a spiritually oriented Christian themed tour, provided by the State of Israel and flights thru ELAL - if possible. This is a very spiritual group of men - and God is very important in their lives. After this ordeal I cannot imagine them taking a more meaningful trip. .... . .We should get an invitation out now to the miners."


On the 14th I received this response from Rafi, "Your idea is rolling, I'll keep you informed".

 Rafi Ben Hur and Elisa Moed

Deputy General Rafi Ben Hur and Travelujah CEO, Elisa Moed


Three days later I received another email from Rafi, "Here are the results of your idea. We'll be in touch."


And he forwarded the yet to be published press release from Minister of Tourism Staz Misezhnikov stating that Israel was inviting the Chilean miners on a weeklong all expense paid pilgrimage to the Holy Land.


"Your bravery and strength of spirit, your great faith that helped you survive so long in the bowels of the earth, was an inspiration to us all," the tourism minister wrote in his invitation. "It would be a great honor for us to welcome you as our guests in the Holy Land."  


Staz Miseshnikov 

Israel Minister of Tourism Staz Misezhnikov


I was obviously very proud to have initiated an idea that not only did our government quickly act upon, but will provide these men and their spouses the opportunity  to experience a faith affirming journey to the Holyland that may very well be the most meaningful  trip of their lives.


On November 10th, the media reported that the Chileans had accepted the invitation, despite the fact that many people urged the Chileans not to come.


Faith guided these men through a most stressful ordeal.  What better way to celebrate that renewed faith than to come to the Holy Land where God's presence is uniquely felt?  On behalf of all Israelis, I am very thankful that our government  is sensitive  enough to recognize that the pilgrimage experience that only we can offer is a most important blessing for these men. 


Chilean Miners arrive in Israel

Chilean miners arriving yesterday in Israel. Photo Courtesy: Yaron Brener, YNET News


The miners received many invitations to travel around the world after their nightmare but, according to the miners representative Jose Enriques,  it was a privilege for them to come to place where they can be close to God and an opportunity for them to  strengthen their faith in Jesus. They will visit holy sites in Israel over the next six days and will also be visiting Bethlehem, in the Palestinian Territories on Saturday.



Welcome miners! 


Elisa MoedElisa Moed is the Founder and CEO of Travelujah.com (http://www.travelujah.com) the leading Christian social network focused on travel to the Holy Land. People can learn, plan and share their Holy Land tour and travel experiences on Travelujah.



April 4, 2012April 4, 2012  1 comments  Holy Land Pilgrimage

A native San Diegan, Diana calls herself a ‘cradle Catholic', and has always gravitated toward Catholic places. Over the years she increasingly found herself fascinated by Catholic art, architecture and history. After completing law school and even starting to practice professionally, she realized law simply wasn't what she wanted to do with her life. Deep into planning her own honeymoon, she struck up the idea of a travel show focusing on religious and historic sites and thus, "The Faithful Traveler" was born.


 Diana von Glahn the Faithful Traveler

Diana von Glahn, "The Faithful Traveler"


Diana von Glahn, produces and hosts "The Faithful Traveler", a travel show carried regularly on EWTN featuring Catholic shrines and places of pilgrimage all around the world. Recently, Diana made her first pilgrimage to the Holy Land and experienced the holy sites first hand. Travelujah asked her about her recent journey.


Travelujah: What were some highlights of your recent trip to the Holy Land?


Diana - "The Faithful Traveler" - Picking highlights from the most amazing trip ever is hard to do. But I'll try. The thing about going on pilgrimage to the Holy Land, as a Christian, is that you must realize that very few of the places you will be visiting are what they were during the time of Christ. Two thousand years is a long time, and during that time, many groups of people have come and gone from the Holy Land. So, you won't be seeing the manger where Christ was born, or a church built by St Helena. You'll be seeing a church built on the ruins of a church built on the ruins of a church where this historical event occurred more than 2000 years ago.


Still, everything is amazing. My favorite places were the Garden of Gethsemane, which is beautiful, and which is the home to olive trees that are more than 2,000 years old! I had no idea olive trees could live that long, and to think some of these trees might have seen Christ during his agony?! Wow. It blows your mind. My other favorite place was the Sea of Galilee. Another spot of nature that can't have changed much since Christ's time. There is an electricity at the Sea of Galilee that is unmistakable. It's like the water is brimming with pride, for having once supported Christ's footsteps. Going out on a boat into the sea is moving, and visiting the historic spots along its shores brought me to tears many a time.

Galilee boat ride 

Sea of Galilee boat ride, courtesy the Faithful Traveler

Every place we visited in the Holy Land was amazing. But something completely unexpected was the FOOD! Oh my goodness, the food. Everything we ate was glorious. I couldn't get enough hummus, pita, olives, cheese. It's the Mediterranean Diet in the most ideal circumstances. And I looked forward to every meal.

 St. Peter Fish meal

Travelujah: Every trip has things that don't go exactly as planned. Can you share one of those stories?


Diana - "The Faithful Traveler" : It's just life that things don't go as planned. And when you're trying to produce a travel-based television show, compound that by ten!


Our trip to the Holy Land provided us with many of these blips. For instance, shortly before we left, I got some kind of cold that held me in its grip for more than a month. As I started to feel a scratchy throat the Monday before we left, I visited my doctor who said it would be gone by that Friday. I even lost my voice for two days, which is unacceptable when you have to speak in front of a camera!


Diana von Glahn at the Wesetern Wall 

One morning, I had to wake up at 3:30 am to get ready for a 5 am bus meeting. Our group would be walking the Stations of the Cross in the early morning, to avoid the normal bustle of shopping that surrounds the Stations, and to allow for quiet reflection. I felt horrible. And as we came off the bus, I remember thinking, "I can barely breathe!" And then it struck me: Jesus walked this very road, and more likely than not, he was having trouble breathing, too. AND he was carrying a huge cross, AND he was being whipped, and spat upon, and cursed at, and he kept falling, and he had a crown of thorns on his head... and he knew he was about to be crucified. At that moment, I felt BLESSED to be feeling so awful. I know, it may sound odd, but we Catholics often say "offer it up," meaning that you should offer your sufferings up to Christ. It's like you're saying, "I offer my sufferings to you, as a way of sharing in your Passion." And what better place to share in Christ's Passion, even in that teeny tiny way, than along the Way of the Cross, the Via Dolorosa?


Travelujah: How did your Holy Land experience impact and or strengthen your faith?


Diana - "The Faithful Traveler" -I've never had a doubtful moment in my faith, thank God. But our trip to the Holy Land made the historical aspect of our faith more concrete. Before, I believed without seeing. But this trip enabled me to get just a little closer to actually seeing something of the Divine. Of course, I believe that God is every where, in all of His creation. But in the Holy Land, God became man, and breathed, walked, ate, and died. That's what makes that land so special. Now, whenever I read the Bible or hear it at Mass, I KNOW what it's like. I've BEEN to Shepherd's Fields! I've seen the dry and yet plentiful lands. I've touched the rock that held his cross. And it all feels a little more real.


Travelujah: As an art lover, can you tell us a bit about the mosaics, frescos and other art treasures that you saw?


Diana - "The Faithful Traveler" : The image that first comes to my mind is the spectacular mosaic of Christ in the Church of the Transfiguration. It is bright and shiny, just as you'd imagine Christ to have been, during his Transfiguration. Then there are the peaceful gardens outside, which are, in a way, God's art, created for us, beautifying our surroundings.


The images along the walls of the Church of All Nations, next to the Garden of Gethsemane, also comes to mind. I've always had a great love for Christ in Agony, so that was truly special.


The Basilica of the Annunciation at Nazareth is wonderful, beginning with the words of the Annunciation carved into the facade, and moving on into the many images of the Blessed Mother, from all around the world. It's an artistic representation of her life as mother of us all, from her "Yes" that changed the world, to her loving care for all of the children of God. Every where you go in the Holy Land, you see something spectacular.


Church of the Annunciation 

Mosaic donated by the Philippines, outside the Church of the Annunciation


Travelujah: What surprised you the most about coming here? What do you think other faith travelers would find surprising about a journey to the Holy Land.

Diana - "The Faithful Traveler" : How nice everyone is, and how safe I felt. I don't want to pretend there isn't strife for the people in the Holy Land, but everyone we met was glad to see us.


Travelujah: Did you feel safe during your trip to Israel and Palestinian Territories? Are there any traveling or security tips that you can share with us?


Diana - "The Faithful Traveler" Absolutely. Granted, we didn't enter into any trouble zones, but we didn't meet with any issues on our trip. In fact, many of our pilgrims were saying they felt safer there than in Philadelphia!


I think, no matter where you are, whether it be Europe or Israel, or any city in the United States, you just have to be aware of your surroundings and be smart. Once, when David and I were in Rome, we almost got mugged by two thirteen-year-old girls wielding a box cutter hidden behind a piece of cardboard! If I hadn't been hyper aware, we would have far worse memories of our time there. Bad things can happen to travelers no matter where they are. The key is just being smart, being aware, and being safe.


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The Faithful Traveler series of thirteen episodes can be purchased from the www.thefaithfultraveler.com. Clip from previous episodes and upcoming episodes on the Holy Land are also featured on the site.  Footage from their trip to the Holy land can be found on Vimeo here: Visit the Faithful traveler on Facebook


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Elisa L. Moed is the Founder and CEO of Travelujah, the leading Christian social network focused on travel to the Holy Land. People can learn, plan and share their Holy Land tour and travel experiences on Travelujah.


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