Catholic Christmas Tour, 8 days, 2015


Merry Christmas to you all

Merry Christmas from Israel

A beautiful tour for Catholic (also for Christian) Pilgrims, who want to celebrate Christmas in Israel. You will visit the Jerusalem, Nazareth, Bethlehem, Jericho and the surroundings of the Sea of Galilee and celebrate the actual Christmas in Bethlehem, complete with Christmas Mass, dinner and gifts.


This tour is scheduled from the 22nd until 29th of December 2015. For registration and pricing, click here.


Tour itinerary

  • Day 1, 12/22 Tue: Arrival
  • Day 2, 12/23 Wed: Follow the Footsteps of Jesus in Jerusalem
  • Day 3, 12/24 Thu: Nazareth
  • Day 4, 12/25 Fri: Bethlehem … where it all Began with a Birth
  • Day 5, 12/26 Sat: Path to the Crucifixion
  • Day 6, 12/27 Sun: Jericho, the World’s Oldest City and Northwards to the Sea of Galilee
  • Day 7, 12/28 Mon: Sea of Galilee and Jesus’ Miracles
  • Day 8, 12/29 Tue: Departure

Hotels in the following locations

You are staying in different hotels throughout your stay in Israel. Here follows the list where those hotels are located. The final list of hotels depends on the size of the group and the actual date and time of registration.

  • Day 1, 12/22 Tue: Jerusalem
  • Day 2, 12/23 Wed: Jerusalem
  • Day 3, 12/24 Thu: Nazareth (Christmas eve)
  • Day 4, 12/25 Fri: Bethlehem (Christmas)
  • Day 5, 12/26 Sat: Jerusalem
  • Day 6, 12/27 Sun: Tiberias
  • Day 7, 12/28 Mon: Tiberias
  • Day 8, 12/29 Tue: n/a

Note You have the choice in the following types of accommodations. Certain accommodations are more expensive then others!

  1. Hostels – where you share a dorm with 4-8 beds. But it’s the cheapest option.
  2. Guest Houses/Inns – a normal type of hotel, mostly managed by a family, but some of the Guest Houses don’t have a private bath in the room. This option is more expensive then the hostels, but cheaper then hotels.
  3. Hotels (3-5 stars) – We have a assortment of hotels, which are more expensive then the hostels and guesthouses, but they are decent in price and quality.
  4. Apartments, villas, houses – This option can be expensive, or even cheaper! Apartments, villas, houses are all supplied with a kitchen and if the group cooks for themselves, it will be indeed cheaper.

What will you see?

  • Day 1 – Ben-Gurion, Neot Kedumim Biblical Nature Reserve, Mini-Israel
  • Day 2 – Dominus flevit, Pool of Shiloah, Cenacle, Last Supper of Jesus, King David’s tomb, Church of All Nations, Church of St Mary Magdalene, Galli Cantus, Gethsemane, Via Dolorosa, Notre Dame of Zion Ecce Homo Convent, Church of the Holy Sepulcher, Mt. of Olives, Tomb of St. Pelagia, Church of Pater Noster
  • Day 3 – Nazareth city tour, Christmas market, Churches Tour, Christmas Parade, Fireworks, Christmas dinner, Mary’s spring, bath house of Nazareth, Nazareth City Hall, Moscowbiya, Bishop Square, Greek Orthodox Diocese, Writers’ House, Sebat Qa’war alley, Folklore House (Beit al-Sebat), Casa Palestine, Serava, White Mosque, Old City’s market, Basilica of Annunciation, Salesian Church, Convent of the Basilian Sisters, Mensa Christi Church, Maronite church, Anglican Church
  • Day 4 – Church of the Nativity, Manger Square, Manger Cave, St. Jerome’s Chapel, St. Catherine’s Church, Shepherd’s Field, Israel Museum, Ein Karem, Church of John the Baptist, Church of the Visitation
  • Day 5 – Old City, St. Stephen’s Gate, Via Dolorosa, Sisters of Zion, five stations of the Cross, Church of the Holy Sepulcher
  • Day 6 – Bethany, Home of Simon the Leper, Inn of the Good Samaritan, Jericho, cable car ride to Quarantal, the Mount of Temptation, monastery carved into the cliffs, Jordan Valley, Mount Tabor, Nazareth, Basilica of the Annunciation, Church of St. Joseph, Cana, Tiberias
  • Day 7 – Sea of Galilee, Tiberias, Capernaum, synagogue, House of Peter, House of the Centurion, Mount of Beatitudes, Tabgha, Church of St. Peter’s Primacy, “Galilee Boat”
  • Day 8 – Departure

Possible venues for Mass

  • Day 1 – Basilica Of The Holy Sepulchre, Dormition Abbey, Notre Dame Center, Pater Noster (Carmelite Sisters)
  • Day 2 – Church of All Nations, Church of St Mary Magdalene, Church of the Holy Sepulcher, Church of Pater Noster
  • Day 3 – Christmas Mass at Basilica of the Annunciation
  • Day 4 – Church of the Nativity, St. Jerome’s Chapel, St. Catherine’s Church, Church of John the Baptist, Church of the Visitation
  • Day 5 – Church of the Holy Sepulcher
  • Day 6 – Basilica of the Annunciation, Church of St. Joseph
  • Day 7 – Tabgha Benedictine Monastery, St. Peter’s Latin Parish
  • Day 8 – Tabgha Benedictine Monastery, St. Peter’s Latin Parish

Additions to the tour

  • Christmas presents – At Christmas evening or Christmas day we can exchange presents to each other (depends on the culture of course). Shalom Israel has presents for everyone in the group and those will be under the Christmas tree. Everyone in the group is free to add their own. And we have this little exchange while we enjoy all the traditional food for Christmas.
  • Christmas dinner will be at Christmas eve at a good quality restaurant.

Prices

Prices are from $669. For a detailed price list, click here.


Day 1 – Arrival

12/22 Tue
Places: Ben-Gurion, Neot Kedumim Biblical Nature Reserve, Mini-Israel

Welcome to Israel, Ben-Gurion airport

Welcome to Israel, Ben-Gurion airport

You arrive at Ben-Gurion International Airport, just outside Tel-Aviv, where we, the guides and driver will welcome you in Israel and to the tour.

Neot Kedumim Biblical Nature Reserve

Neot Kedumim Biblical Nature Reserve

Depending on the time of your arrival, we have already some sights planned for you.
Enjoy a “Biblical Meal” at the Neot Kedumim Biblical Nature Reserve – home to trees, plants and fruits mentioned in the Bible – and a leisurely tour of this unique site.
Alternatively, or in addition, visit Mini-Israel, which offers you a miniature overview of the entire country, displaying replicas of each of the holy sites.

Click here to register for the tour.


Day 2 – Follow the Footsteps of Jesus in Jerusalem

12/23 Wed
Places: Dominus flevit, Pool of Shiloah, Cenacle, Last Supper of Jesus, King David’s tomb, Church of All Nations, Church of St Mary Magdalene, Galli Cantus, Gethsemane, Via Dolorosa, Notre Dame of Zion Ecce Homo Convent, Church of the Holy Sepulcher, Mt. of Olives, Tomb of St. Pelagia, Church of Pater Noster

Jerusalem beautiful

Jerusalem beautiful

Walking around these sites, Jerusalem history takes on new meaning as you imagine the city in the days of the Second Temple, as it was when Jesus saw it. Jesus came to Jerusalem with his parents when he was twelve and visited the Temple. You can still see the remains of the steps leading to the Temple and of the lively market beneath them in the Ophel Archaeological Park.
ophel archaeological garden

After that first visit as a child, we next meet Jesus in Jerusalem as an adult, already a teacher with disciples.
In Latin, Dominus flevit means “the Lord cried.” This church commemorates the spot where, upon the arrival of Jesus in Jerusalem, he stood overlooking the city and cried over its future destruction.

There are remains of a Byzantine chapel here, but the building we see today was built in the 1955 by the famed Italian architect Antonio Barluzzi (who designed many of the churches around Jerusalem.) He incorporated a stunning view of Jerusalem as part of the architectural design and the roof is shaped like a tear.

The book of John records that Jesus restored a blind man’s eyesight at the pool of Shiloah (also Siloam or Silwan). The Shiloah pool is the end of the Shiloah channel that was dug in antiquity to bring water from the Gihon spring to a reservoir inside the city walls. When you hike through Hezekiah’s tunnel, this is where you’ll end up – by the Shiloah pool.

This marks the spot where Jesus taught his disciples the Lord’s Prayer. Accordingly, this church boasts ceramic mosaics of the text of this prayer in 44 different languages. Helena, Constantine’s mother, originally identified this location as the site of the ascension, but several decades later the site where the Chapel/Mosque of the Ascension stands today was chosen instead.

The Cenacle, on Mt. Zion, is where tradition says Jesus held the Last Supper with his disciples. The room is on the second floor of a building that is probably the only one in the world to house a tomb, a yeshiva, a church, a mosque and a kindergarten!

Did it really happen here? Nope – wherever the Last Supper of Jesus in Jerusalem took place, it wasn’t here. The Last Supper was held in a room near King David’s tomb. This traditional site of King David’s tomb, while a beloved Jewish place of prayer is not really King David’s tomb and the room above it – the Cenacle – was added to the pre-existing synagogue by the Crusaders, over a thousand years after the event. In the 15th century, the building was taken over by the Moslems and converted into a mosque in the 16th century. Jews and Christians were only allowed access to the building again in 1948 after the War of Independence.

The garden where Jesus came to pray before his arrest lies as the foot of the Mount of Olives. The Church of All Nations and the Church of St Mary Magdalene both over look this quiet place of contemplation. The olive trees here are said to be over 900 years old.

Galli cantus means cockcrow in Latin. The name of the church alludes to the Jesus’s prophecy to Peter that “before the cock crows,” Peter would have disowned him three times, which the Book of Luke tells us is what happened. This is the reason for the rooster on top of the church and on its doors.

Christian tradition identifies this location as the place where Peter heard the cock crow and repented. It is also said to be where Caiphas had his home, and where they imprisoned Jesus in Jerusalem for his last night.

There was a Byzantine shrine here, later replaced by a Crusader church in the 12th century. The church we see today is actually very recent – 1931 – and was renovated in 1977.

Underneath the church is a chapel from which you can see remains of the Byzantine chapel. Below that is a series of caves dated to the time of the Second Temple. Archaeologists have unearthed granaries, water cisterns, an olive press and ritual baths. They believe these were part of affluent homes. Christian tradition, however, claims these were prison cells where Jesus was held.

Outside the church is an ancient paved street, believed to have been the one Jesus walked after the Last Supper to reach Gethsemane.

The Via Dolorosa traces the last steps of Jesus in Jerusalem, from the palace of Pontius Pilate to Golgotha.

This is the spot along the Via Dolorosa where Pontius Pilate is said to have presented Jesus to the crowds. The arch was the central one of a three-arch gate built by the Emperor Hadrian over 100 years after Jesus died, so Pontius Pilate never actually stood in or under it, and neither did Jesus. Today, the arch is part of the Notre Dame of Zion Ecce Homo Convent. The two other arches are absorbed into the buildings on either side of the street.

The Church of the Holy Sepulcher, a sprawling structure in different architectural styles, houses both Golgotha – the place where Jesus was crucified – and the cave where his body was laid to rest.

This is the spot along the Via Dolorosa where Pontius Pilate is said to have presented Jesus to the crowds. The arch was the central one of a three-arch gate built by the Emperor Hadrian over 100 years after Jesus died, so Pontius Pilate never actually stood in or under it, and neither did Jesus. Today, the arch is part of the Notre Dame of Zion Ecce Homo Convent. The two other arches are absorbed into the buildings on either side of the street.

The Church of the Holy Sepulcher, a sprawling structure in different architectural styles, houses both Golgotha – the place where Jesus was crucified – and the cave where his body was laid to rest.

Some Protestant denominations dispute that the burial place of Jesus in Jerusalem is located within the Holy Sepulcher and believe this one to be the correct site. Archaeologists think the evidence points against it, but the Garden Tomb has become a popular Protestant pilgrimage site.

Christianity’s second holiest site (after the Holy Sepulcher) is a very simple construction on the Mt. of Olives. The building marks the spot where Jesus ascended to Heaven. Jews believe it is the burial site of the prophetess Hulda, Muslims believe the mystic woman Rabia Al Adawiyeh is buried here, and Christian tradition says it is the tomb of St. Pelagia.

Most Christian denominations agree that this is the site of Jesus’s ascension, but at least four other churches nearby claim the same honor: the Russian Church of the Ascension, The Greek Orthodox Church of Viri Galilei, the Church of Pater Noster, and the Lutheran Church of the Ascension (in the courtyard of Augusta Victoria hospital).

Bible IconPossible venues for Mass

Church of All Nations, Church of St Mary Magdalene, Church of the Holy Sepulcher, Church of Pater Noster.

Click here to register and see the prices for the tour.


Day 3 – Nazareth

12/24 Thu
Places: Nazareth city tour, Christmas market, Churches Tour, Christmas Parade, Fireworks, Christmas dinner, Mary’s spring, bath house of Nazareth, Church of Annunciation, Nazareth City Hall, Moscowbiya, Bishop Square, Greek Orthodox Diocese, Writers’ House, Sebat Qa’war alley, Folklore House (Beit al-Sebat), Casa Palestine, Serava, White Mosque, Old City’s market, Basilica of Annunciation, Salesian Church, Convent of the Basilian Sisters, Mensa Christi Church, Maronite church, Anglican Church, Convent of the Sisters of Nazareth

Nazareth sunset by bricolage54

Nazareth sunset by bricolage54

Nazareth city tour, Christmas market, Churches Tour
It is a short walk in, covering the most holy, beautiful and historical important places, following a path between churches and holy places.
Our first stop will be at Mary’s spring, where we will visit the church and see the famous spring. Next we can visit the ancient bath house of Nazareth, which is right next to the spring. A store (“Cactus”) stands in front of it. One can take a guided tour there. Then we will visit the famous Greek Orthodox Church, called also the Church of Annunciation as according to tradition this is where Mary was informed about delivering Christ. Later on we will go to the Nazareth City Hall and the Moscowbiya, Nazareth police station that used to be an inn for pilgrims from Russia.

Next is the Bishop Square that is adjacent to the Greek Orthodox Diocese, beautiful houses in front, all have been preserved. The house on the left is Writers’ House, an art institute. Then we keep walking along 6098 Street to Sebat Qa’war alley – Sebat is an architectonic arched building and Qa’war is the family to which this building belongs to. Then we reach the Folklore House (Beit al-Sebat), the home of Tanous Qa’war – Nazareth’s first mayor in 1875. Today in the building there is a museum showing the life in the Galilee from last century.

Next passing through streets 6132 and 6089 we will go to Casa Palestine, where we will be lectured about the history of that building as it was used for barley storing in 1810. We will continue our tour to Serava, a building that was used by the Ottoman as headquarters and after the preservation work it will become a museum describing the city’s history. Next we will go to the White Mosque and learn about its history. Then we will continue to the Old City’s market, and from there to the Basilica of Annunciation.

Market tour
If you are short on time and you want to enjoy the Old City’s atmosphere, this is an excellent tour for you.
The Old Market has many to offer, as it has a lively atmosphere and unique and authentic merchandise. The entrance to El Basharra St. (The Annunciation St.) has a famous large group of the traditional candy stores. This is the right place for you to enjoy the famous hot Nazareth kenafi. If we go through the Market’s main street, take a right at the end and then left, we would get to a small alley (6133) where you can still find craftsmen such as metal smiths. Later on, around what used to be the vegetables market, there are several smoking-bottle houses as well as the famous Nazareth Bride’s market, where wedding outfits are being sold.
In the market you can find the Synagogue Church, that is where according to tradition Jesus used to pray.

Churches and Monastries tour
The walk will begin in the Salesian Church. You should keep in mind that this course is recommended for walking-lovers. After viewing the city from the church’s area and entering this magnificent church and concerts and masses area (for its amazing acoustics), we will continue this course.

From there we will take a long and narrow stairway all the way down to the city’s center, passing through some churches and monasteries not in any common tourist course. During the walk in the stairway, you can see the Convent of the Basilian Sisters. Continuing our walk on the road we will encounter the Mensa Christi Church (where Jesus’ stone table is). Its ancient paintings were recreated by the Venetian Preservation School. If one wants to enter the church, one must go to the other side of the street to the woman that maintain the church, ask for the keys, and leave a small donation when leaving.

Near it you can visit the Maronite church of the Maronite community. Even though it is the old Maronite Church, you can still enter it and learn about them. When the passageway ends you will find yourself in a square, that on its right you can see the Anglican Church, and from there it is possible to proceed to the Convent of the Sisters of Nazareth, where you can view in its lower floor some ancient finding dated more than 2000 years ago. From there we will cross the market to get to the Basilica of Annunciation.

Traditional parade of thousands of youth from youth movements, together with the leaders of the Christian communities, through the main street of Nazareth. The parade ends at the plaza in front of the Basilica.

Fireworks display sponsored by the Ministry of Tourism, to announce the opening of the festive Christmas celebrations.

At the Basilica of the Annunciation we have the Christmas Mass.

Note It depends if we can join the Christmas mass inside or outside on the time of the registration and the number of groups we organize. We have 40 reservations for this church. If you are not able to join the Christmas Mass inside, you can enjoy the Holy Mass outside on the large TV screens.

Bible IconPossible venues for Mass

Christmas Mass at Basilica of the Annunciation

Click here to register for the tour.


Day 4 – Bethlehem … where it all Began with a Birth

12/25 Fri

Christmas in Bethlehem

Christmas in Bethlehem

Places: Church of the Nativity, Manger Square, Manger Cave, St. Jerome’s Chapel, St. Catherine’s Church, Shepherd’s Field, Israel Museum, Ein Karem, Church of John the Baptist, Church of the Visitation

Visit the oldest church in the Holy Land, the Church of the Nativity at Manger Square (Matthew 1:18-25, Luke 2:1-7), built over the Manger Cave.
Explore St. Jerome’s Chapel, St. Catherine’s Church and the nearby Shepherd’s Field (Luke 2:8-20).
Return to Jerusalem to see an amazing, detailed model of First Century Jerusalem at the Israel Museum, which displays a wide selection of impressive modern and ancient exhibits.
Ein Karem, a serene, picturesque Jerusalem suburb, is also home to the Church of John the Baptist and the Church of the Visitation.

Bible IconPossible venues for Mass

Church of the Nativity, St. Jerome’s Chapel, St. Catherine’s Church, Church of John the Baptist, Church of the Visitation

Click here to register for the tour.


Day 5 – Path to the Crucifixion

12/26 Sat
Places: Old City, St. Stephen’s Gate, Via Dolorosa, Sisters of Zion, five stations of the Cross, Church of the Holy Sepulcher

Via Dolorosa

Via Dolorosa

Enter the Old City via St. Stephen’s Gate.
Literally follow in the footsteps of Jesus as he walked down the Via Dolorosa.
Hear the amazing story of the Sisters of Zion at the Stone Pavement – how the Ratisbonne brothers founded the community and their sacred work in the Holy Land.
Continue along the Via Dolorosa until you reach the five stations of the Cross at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

Bible IconPossible venues for Mass

Church of the Holy Sepulcher

Click here to register for the tour.


Day 6 – Jericho, the World’s Oldest City and Northwards to the Sea of Galilee

12/27 Sun
Places: Bethany, home of Simon the Leper, Inn of the Good Samaritan, Jericho, cable car ride to Quarantal, the Mount of Temptation, monastery carved into the cliffs, Jordan Valley, Mount Tabor, Nazareth, Basilica of the Annunciation, Church of St. Joseph, Cana, Tiberias

The Monastery of Temptation, Jericho

The Monastery of Temptation, Jericho

Say farewell to Jerusalem on your way to Jericho* via the mysterious Judean Desert.
Stop off at Bethany, home of Mary, Martha and Lazarus (John 11), where Jesus stayed at the home of Simon the Leper (Matthew 26:6) and visit the Inn of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:34).
Imagine yourself conquering Jericho under Joshua’s leadership all those years ago (Joshua 6:20.) Enjoy a stunning cable car ride to Quarantal (the Mount of Temptation, Matthew 4:1-11) and see an active monastery carved into the cliffs.
Moving northwards, drive through the Jordan Valley until you reach scenic Mount Tabor (Psalms 89:12), one of two places considered probable sites of the Transfiguration.
A short drive then transports you into another world, the world of Jesus’ childhood in the holy city of Nazareth. Experience Mass in the Basilica of the Annunciation and visit the Church of St. Joseph.
Visit Cana, site of Jesus’ first miracle, turning water into wine (John 2:1-11).
Drive to Tiberias, one of Judaism’s “Four Holy Cities.” Couples wishing to renew their matrimonial vows can stop off at a local wedding chapel.

Bible IconPossible venues for Mass

Basilica of the Annunciation, Church of St. Joseph

Click here to register for the tour.


Day 7 – Sea of Galilee and Jesus’ Miracles

12/28 Mon
Places: Sea of Galilee, Tiberias, Capernaum, synagogue, House of Peter, House of the Centurion, Mount of Beatitudes, Tabgha, Church of St. Peter’s Primacy, “Galilee Boat”

Sea of Galilee

Sea of Galilee

Cross the glorious waters of the Sea of Galilee – from Tiberias to Capernaum, home to Jesus’ Galilean ministry.
Visit the synagogue site where Jesus most certainly taught and worshipped (Matthew 4:13, Mark 3:1, 8:5 and 14), the House of Peter and the House of the Centurion.
Cross the road and walk up to the Mount of Beatitudes, with its stunning view of the Sea of Galilee. Here, Jesus delivered his famous Sermon the Mount (Matthew 5:1-12).
Next stop Tabgha, site of the Miracle of the Multiplication of the Loaves and the Fishes (Luke 9:10-17) and the Church of St. Peter’s Primacy, where Jesus instructed Peter to “feed my sheep” (John 21: 15-17).
Enjoy a view of the “Galilee Boat”, an authentic fishing boat from Jesus’ times, and a film about how it was discovered and preserved.
Overnight: Tiberias area.

Bible IconPossible venues for Mass

Tabgha Benedictine Monastery, St. Peter’s Latin Parish

Click here to register for the tour.


Day 8 – Departure

12/29 Tue

This is the day of the departure. We bring everyone back to the point where we picked them up.

Neot Kedumim Biblical Nature Reserve

Neot Kedumim Biblical Nature Reserve

Depending on the first day, we can (re)visit and have the “Biblical Meal” at the Neot Kedumim Biblical Nature Reserve – home to trees, plants and fruits mentioned in the Bible.

Mini-Israel

Mini-Israel

Alternatively, or in addition, we can visit (again) Mini-Israel, which offers you a miniature overview of the entire country, displaying replicas of each of the holy sites.

Possible venues for Mass

Bible IconThis depends again on the available time. Your check-in time at the airport or harbor must allow this of course.

Tabgha Benedictine Monastery, St. Peter’s Latin Parish.


This tour is scheduled from the 22nd until 29th of December 2015. For registration and pricing, click here.

Advertisements