Holy Land Trip Page 1
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I will fast forward to my most recent trip in my Progress while it is still fresh in my mind. In May of 1999 I went on a trip to the Holy Land which was led by Father Mitch Pacwa. This was a hard, intense trip but well worth it.

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The group I traveled with visiting the Pool of Bathesda.   Click on the picture for a larger view to see everybody in detail.

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Father Mitch Pacwa

 Father Mitch is a Bible Scholar and our group was his 33rd trip. Father conducts these tours from his teaching job a Catholic University during the Christmas vacation and as the school year ends. Father Mitch taught at Loyola University for a number of years and now is at The University of Dallas which is also a Catholic University. He knows his job well and worked very hard to give us all the details.

When we arrived in Jerusalem Father had a Mass. As he began, he made a statement that no one in Jerusalem receives Communion in the hand. He went on to say that the Catholics in Israel cannot believe that Americans would take the Body of Christ in the hand. Everyone accepted that. I couldn't help but wonder and I am still curious about how many in our group continued this practice after they got home.

The first place we visited was the Garden of Gethsemane. Father said that there are two places to consider about the Agony of Jesus Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane. The first is a cave that we visited next to the tomb of the Blessed Virginia Mary. This was the Cave of the Olive Press. This is where the eight apostles remained while Jesus, Peter, James and John went a "stone's throw away" to pray. It is also the scene of Jesus' arrest.

I was very anxious to visit The scene of The Agony In The Garden, which is the first decade of the Sorrowful Mysteries.

This has become my favorite meditation, especially when I read the Diary of Blessed Faustina that Jesus asked her to meditate on HIS ABANDONMENT. I'm able to experience a sense of the sorrow He must have felt and it also helps me to cope with my feelings of abandonment by my family and or my friends.

The second is located across the street. It is the Garden of Gethsemane, an enclosed grove of olives trees and the Church of the Agony. the olive trees reproduce themselves and one is 2000 years old.


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Garden of Gethsemane

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Church of the Agony

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Stone at Gethsemane

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Mass at Gethsemane

The stone on which Jesus prayed is inside of the Church that has been built in the Garden. I kissed that stone. It is in an enclosed area in front of the altar.

This was a Friday May 21 which was the feast of the Pentecost for the Jewish people. The traffic was light because they may not light a fire and the engine in a car is considered fire. They have a low birth rate, 1.4 per family. The Orthodox have more children. Tomorrow, Saturday will be the Sabbath, as you know. Father Mitch said that he likes the Sabbath because it is peaceful. Friday is the Muslims Holy Day and so this day was particularly peaceful. This is the way it was with Catholics on Sunday before the Malls.

Please understand that I'm writing from my notes and the printed information from Father or his assistant, a tour guide who is a Muslim. I enjoyed watching the chemistry between them. Great respect for one another.

There is a 200% tax on automobiles In spite of the high tax there are a lot of cars, especially since the Russian Jews are coming to Israel since 1990.

The men with knit yarmulkes go to the synagogue but then they go home and have a bar-be-cue. Not so with the Orthodox who live a more simpler life. They do not cook on the Sabbath.

We learned that there is very little beef in Israel but plenty of pork. They call it "white beef". A rabbi said that there are no pigs on the land. This is true because they are raised on platforms in Israel.

We visited the places according to ticket availability and that seemed to depend on scheduling of other tours.

We went to the wailing wall on a Sunday because during the Sabbath it is very crowded. I enjoyed that visit.  

The security is tight, however once we passed the atmosphere is very relaxed as you can see from the picture of Susie seated between two Israeli soldiers.

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Susie with the soldiers

Susie was the pet of the group. She traveled with her mother and brother who is a sports news anchor from Texas.
As we walked through the huge square heading to the wailing wall a young female Israeli guard came out of her little shelter, came directly toward me. I stopped because it was apparent that she wanted to communicate with me. She lifted the St. Benedict crucifix that I was wearing and tucked it into my blouse in a respectful manner. On leaving I mentioned the incident to Father Pacwa and he said "oh yes, I meant to ask you to do that and forgot."

Jerusalem was destroyed 17 times. Each time it was rebuilt because it has a good supply of water.

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Ascension Chapel

The Ascension Chapel on the Mount of Olives is a twelfth century octagonal Crusader chapel. Mass can be celebrated here only on Ascension Thursday, but pilgrims can pray here on any day. The picture shows the exact spot from which Jesus ascended to heaven.

Driving in Jerusalem is very dangerous. We were told that if you can drive in Israel, you can drive anywhere. Gas is four dollars a gallon. The reason for the high cost because it is imported from Arabia. But they cannot sell it to Israel as they do to us. They sell its to Holland and Israel buys it from Holland.

Driving on the road I was fascinated with seeing a herd of goats on the left side of the shepherd and the sheep on the right. It was like seeing scripture in action. That on judgment day the good, being the sheep will be separated to the right, and the bad, being the goats will go to the left. 

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My picture from the bus

I managed to snap a picture from the bus, but only barely.

Father pointed out Palestinians wearing Black and the type of embroidery according to tribes.

The tomb of Lazarus was an interesting spot. It is still there. The steps down to the tomb. The stone steps show wear as expected, a person must exercise extreme caution. Once in the tomb as the picture shows, it is possible to stand up. I thought to myself, " I can understand why Jesus called out - Lazarus Come Out!"

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The tomb of Lazarus

As we rode to the next point, Father would tell us some interesting things. As we drove to Jericho he told us that the average walk would be 5 miles a day. From Jerusalem to Jericho it is about 20 miles which is 4 days. They went on the route of the water. Jesus was in Jericho when Lazarus died.

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Mount of Temptation

The Mount of Temptation In Jericho. In the picture it is the middle of the three mountains, with the squared top.

To see that was a moving experience contemplating the fast of Jesus for forty days and the devil attempting to tempt Jesus by giving him a glimpse of all the physical wonders of the world.

The Jordan River. In the picture, Joan Martin (my roommate) and I are standing in the water. 


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Joan and I are standing in the Jordan River 

This is believed to be the area where Jesus was baptized by St. John the Baptist. The river extends from the Sea of Galilee to the Dead Sea. In the Old Testament, the Jordan is the last physical barrier separating the Israelites from the Promised Land. Father Mitch warned us repeatedly not to get any of the river water in our mouths because of the contamination. In fact he suggested that our Hotel Room will give us water fit to drink from the Jordan River. Father blessed the water that some of the pilgrims took but asked them to mark it with a warning "DO NOT DRINK". We were blessed with the water from the Jordan River.

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