Day 1 – Monday, February 17
Arrival in Tel Aviv. Transfer to Nazareth/Tiberias for rest, supper and overnight. On our way to Galilee we will stop to venerate the Tomb of St. Great Martyr George the Victory-bearer, who according to tradition was a native of this little town in Palestine.
Day 2 – Tuesday, February 18
Our first day in Galilee will begin by exploring the vicinity of “sea” of Galilee. We plan to visit a number of sites around the lake. To cover the territory in one day is impossible, but some of the most important sites are definitely on the list: we will visit Capernaum, where Jesus made his home during the years of His earthly ministry; the Mount of Beatitudes where Our Lord taught His followers the New Testament “ten commandments” Tabgha, with church of multiplication of loaves and fishes; and Kursi, the place where Lord healed the Gadarine demoniacs and where the herd of swine rushed into the sea and drowned.
Day 3 – Wednesday, February 19
Our second day in Galilee we will start in the town of Nazareth, where the good news to the world were announced by Archangel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary and where Christ spent his young years with His Most-Holy Mother and the righteous Joseph. There are two important churches in town that share the glory and importance of the event. One is an Orthodox Church built over a well with a spring where according to local tradition the Archangel Gabriel appeared to the Virgin Mary. Another shrine is the much large Catholic foundation that is built over the remains of the house of the carpenter Joseph. Later this morning we will stop in the little town of Cana – the place of the first miracle of our Lord (of turning water into wine) that announced the beginning of His service to the world. In the afternoon we will continue to Mt. Tabor, the place of the Lord’s glorious and wondrous Transfiguration.
Day 5 – Thursday, February 20
Today we will begin by attending early Liturgy at the Basilica of Nativity in Bethlehem, founded on the place of the birth of our Savior. After service and some light nourishment, we will continue to venture deep into Judean desert to venerate the most prominent fathers and spiritual leaders of Palestinian Monasticism – St. Sabba the Sanctified and Venerable Theodosios the Sanctified. The Lavra of St. Sabba is open for males only, so we have to warn our female pilgrims that they will be able to observe the monastery only from a “bird’s eye view” – from an observation deck in an ancient defense tower nearby.
For Lunch we will return back to Bethlehem and will continue with an exploration of a Greek Monastery on Shepherd’s Field, which is marking traditional spot of the apparition of Angels that brought good news about the Birth of Messiah to simple, but pious shepherds. If situation on the ground will permit, we will visit Russian Ecclesiastical compound in Hebron that encompasses the site with the oak tree marking the site of the settlement of Abraham in the Promised Land.
Day 5 - Friday, February 21
Today we will start in Bethany, one of the sites not too far from Jerusalem that Lord loved to visit because his friends Mary, Martha and their brother Lazarus lived there. Here we will visit Tomb of Lazarus and Russian Ecclesiastical school for Palestinian Children. From here we will proceed to the Monastery of our Lord’s Ascension on Mt. of Olives. In the afternoon we will visit Jericho, one of the most ancient cities on the World; according to research Jericho was successively occupied for over 11,000 years. Here we will visit two ecclesiastical compounds respectively associated with the traditional sites of the famous Zacchaeus’s tree and the remains of the house (or rather remains of the Byzantine Monastery built on the site) of the repented tax collector. At the end of the day we will visit the Monastery of St. Gerasimos of Jordan, one of the oldest in the Judean Desert.
* The accessibility of the sites in Jericho is subject to constant change due to the political situation
Day 6 - Saturday, February 22
We will start our day on Mount of Olives, following the Entrance of our Lord into Jerusalem and His saving Passion. Our first stop will be at the Church of “Our Father” – a small modern house of worship built over a system of tunnels and caves where according to tradition our Lord taught His disciples the prefect prayer to His Heavenly Father. From here we will come to the site known as “Dominus Flevit” or Lord wept. From here the most beautiful panorama of the Holy City unfolds before your eyes and it is here that our Savior wept over the city and its inhabitants that so terrifyingly rejected their salvation. Convent of St. Mary Magdalene – a Russian Imperial foundation that houses the remains of the martyred grand Duchess Elisabeth. In addition to the splendid church built in the upper part of the convent, there is a smaller cave church that tradition is named as the place of the prayer, or rather “sleeping” place of the disciples during his agony in the Gethsemane. Practically adjacent to the site is the Garden of Gethsemane, the beginning point of Christ’s Passions with splendid Basilica of Agony. From here we will proceed to St. Stephan’s Gate and will enter the Old City. Our first visit will be to the Church of the Nativity of the Theotokos built over the house where the Theotokos lived with her righteous parents Joachim and Anna, then to a sheep’s pool, known from the Gospel story as Bethesda. Then we will continue on Via Dolorosa – the path Christ walked carrying His cross to Golgotha. We will make several stops along the way to visit churches and places marked by Holy Tradition as being related to the last walk of Christ to save all men from death. We will end our journey in the Holy Sepulcher – a Medieval Cathedral built atop of a Byzantine basilica that St. Helen had built to house the places of our Lord’s Saving Passion and Crucifixion – Golgotha, the stone of anointing, the Tomb of our Lord – place of Lord’s Resurrection, and several adjacent places depicted in the description of the Lord’s Saving Passion.
Day 7 - Sunday, February 23
With Our Lord’s will, we will start our day with Matins and Divine Liturgy in the church of the Holy Sepulcher. I want to forewarn all pilgrims that we would have to be in the church of the Holy Sepulcher between 11:30pm and 3am (duration of the entire Midnight office) as the gates will be closed during that entire time. After the Midnight service we will return to the hotel. After breakfast we will continue our exploration of the city with visits Mt. Zion – to venerate the tomb of the righteous King David, the chapel marking the place of the Mystical Supper, and the Basilica of our Lady’s Dormition, the Monastery of the Holy Cross and the National Museum of Israel, where we will visit the Shrine of the Book that houses the famous Scrolls of Qumran; Katamon for a visit of the Church of St. Simeon; Emmaus Nikopolis, the place of apparition of the Risen Lord to Lukas and Cleopas.
Day 8 - Monday, February 24
Based on the political situation, a tour of the Holy Sites located on the territories of the Palestinian West Bank may be offered. If offered, tour will include the Jacob’s Well, Mt. Gerizim, Cave of ten lepers and some other important Holy Sites.
Day 9 - Tuesday, February 25
This morning we will check out from the hotel and will transfer to Jordanian Border. After border formalities, we will go to the site that recently was identified as the most probable place of “Bethany beyond Jordan” – the place of our Lord’s baptism, also not far from the hill from where according to tradition St. Prophet Elias ascended to Heaven in a fiery chariot. The area is historically very significant and marked with many Byzantine ruins. The vicinity of the site is also closely associated with the Venerable Mary of Egypt and her cult is very prominent among local Christians. Today we will start our day with a visit to Mt. Nebo. The law-giver Moses observed the Promised Land from this mountain and this is the closest he ever got to the place where he desired to be so much. Then we will visit Madaba – a little village housing Byzantine Churches with very important mosaics, among them, one depicting the map of the Holy Land. This will be our last stop before our transfer to Petra.
Day 10 - Wednesday, February 26
Petra is a most intriguing Nabatean city carved in rock cliffs. This is a historical monument really “one of its kind anywhere in the world.” We will spend most of the day exploring ancient ruins and temples, fortifications, theaters and other buildings carved in the rock. In the afternoon we will explore the site of Little Petra, located just some miles away from its more famous “neighbor”.
For overnight and Dinner we will remain in Petra.
Day 11 - Thursday, February 27
This morning we will depart from Petra back to Amman. Along the way, we will stop to see Shobak Castle which was originally called Krak de Montreal o Mons Regalis, and was the first Crusader outpost beyond the Jordan River. It was built by King Baldwin I of Jerusalem to guard the road from Egypt to Damascus. It resisted many sieges, but in 1189, it fell to Saladin's troops. The towers and walls are well preserved and decorated with carved inscriptions dating from 14th. From Shobak we will continue to the deserted Byzantine camp-settlement of Um Rassas, with the remains of an important monastic complex where probably the only surviving column of some ascetic (stylite) still stands. Our last top of the day will be Mukawir – site of Herod’s palace, where the sorrowful events of the end days of St. John the Baptist most likely took place. We will arrive to Amman for dinner and overnight.
Day 12 – Friday, February 28
This morning we will travel North to visit the Archeological Park in Jerash, which is the site of some of the largest and better preserved ruins of one of the major cities of the historical and biblical Decapolis. For its state of preservation, this archeological park has gained the nickname of “Pompeii of the East”. Dinner and overnight in Amman.
Day 13 – Saturday, March 1
Departure from Amman for the US, arriving to New York.
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