Catholic Guide to The Holy Land: Israel, Egypt and Jordan
Once you travel to the Holy Land you will never read the Bible the same or hear the Gospel preached without reflecting on the places where Our Lord lived, taught, healed and was crucified. There are many shrines here that are holy to Christians, Jews and Muslims alike. It is here that all three religions intersect. You can see the places you have heard about all your life and be touched in many ways, so if the opportunity presents itself be sure to consider a visit to the Holy Land.
When we read of the stories in the Gospels it is not apparent how close these places were to one another. Most of these are just a few miles distance.
Often when people talk of the Holy Land they think only of Israel. A country small in size yet the center of the Christian faith, a trip to Israel brings you directly into the footsteps of Jesus. And there is where much of Jewish history and Christian history took place; however, there are sites in Egypt and Jordan that also help bring the Gospels to life.
And despite what the media might portray, it is perfectly safe for tourists. Over the last several decades hundreds of thousands have visited here and returned spiritually refreshed. In some cases, well-meaning friends and relatives tried to dissuade them from going and sadly, occasionally, they were successful, therefor robbing people of a truly spiritual experience.
This is really a shame since safety concerns are way over-blown, in our opinion. And the facts bear that out!
A word of caution: not all “Christian” tours of the Holy Land are from a Catholic Christian perspective. Although the Protestant tours will usually visit many of the same sites as the Catholic tours, their interpretation of scripture is naturally different from the Catholic one in several important instances.
An example would be the “Garden Tomb”, a highlight of many Protestant tours, as the possible burial site of Jesus. The Catholic Church recognizes the Church of the Holy Sepulchre as the actual burial site. The Garden tomb is visually interesting, but several factors weigh against the argument that this could be the actual burial site.
A note about tipping when traveling to the Holy Land in a group: most group tours in Europe include tips at hotels and restaurants. This is definitely not the case for many tours in Israel. If you will be traveling with a group to Israel be sure to check to see if tips will be in addition to the cost of your tour. If they are, then the group leader may collect those in advance from you to make things easier, but it is something to consider.
Here are some of the highlights for Catholic visitors to the Holy Land
Jericho: Mount of Temptation
Jerusalem: Many Holy Sites
Magdala: The Magdala Center
Masada (coming soon)
Mount Carmel: Stella Maris Monastery and Elijah’s Cave
Mount Tabor: Church of the Transfiguration
Tabgha: Church of Peter’s Primacy
Mount Sinai: Mount Sinai and Saint Catherine’s Monastery
Bethany Beyond the Jordan: the Baptism of Jesus
Mount Nebo: Church of Moses