Pilgrimage overview

JANUARY 19 – FEBRUARY 1, 2024

Led by The Rev. Richard Blackburn

The Holy Land is rich in sacred history, a place where one can walk in the footsteps of the Prince of Peace; but it’s also a land rife with conflict and injustice, a place where people are seeking to make Christ’s message of peace, justice, and reconciliation a reality. The “Peacemaker’s Pilgrimage to the Holy Land” will provide you with the opportunity to experience both the ancient stones of biblical history, as well as the “living stones” as embodied in the ministries of those working to promote Christ’s vision of peace with justice. 

As you visit sites associated with the life and ministry of Jesus, the scriptures will come alive for you in a new way. Corporate worship will be a central element of our experience as we visit the holy sites in Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Galilee, and more. Morning devotional reflections will highlight the iconography associated with the sites to be visited, as found in the great art of the past. 

Interspersed with visits to the traditional pilgrimage sites will be an opportunity to connect with Palestinian Christians and various peacemaking ministries, including: Sabeel, Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center; Community Peacemaker Teams in Hebron; Diyar Consortium, the ministries founded by Rev. Mitri Raheb; Wi’am, the Palestinian Conflict Transformation Center. 

We will also seek to hear from Israeli perspectives, including: peace organizations that oppose the military occupation; a representative of the settler movement; individuals who will help us engage with the Jewish experience. 

Along with all of the above, there will be periodic teaching sessions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, biblical peacemaking, conflict transformation, and church leadership from a family systems perspective. Such sessions will include consideration and critique of theological interpretations that relate to Christian Zionism, while also reflecting on the U.S. role in the region. 

The pilgrimage is an opportunity to deepen your faith and further empower you as you seek to follow Christ in the way of discipleship, justice, and peacemaking. I hope that you will join us for this spiritually enriching journey. 

Yours in Christ, 

Rev. Richard Blackburn

Included

  • Airfare (for details & restrictions, please download the brochure below)
  • All airport departure & passenger taxes
  • Hotel Accommodations
  • Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner
  • Entrance fees & local government
  • Modern air-conditioned tour bus

Not Included

  • Single room supplement
  • Travel insurance
  • Any item of a personal nature
Download pdf brochure

FLIGHT INFORMATION & INTINERARY

+ Scheduled flights economy class from Newark to Tel Aviv on United Airlines:

DEPARTURE: January 19
-UA84 -Newark / Tel Aviv - 3.55 pm/9.20 am (Jan 20)

RETURN: January 31
-UA91 -Tel Aviv / Newark -11.10 pm/4.25 am (Feb 1)

Connections can be arranged from any airport served by United, and should be arranged through Lightline to ensure your travel is all on one ticket (to protect against delays or missed connections). Please indicate on the booking form your preferred departure airport, and we will let you know a price for the connecting flights.

+ All airport departure & passenger taxes (US & Israel)

+ En Suite accommodation at Christian pilgrim hotels & guest houses
Ambassador Boutique Hotel, Jerusalem (A recently renovated hotel in East Jerusalem)
Manger Square Hotel, Bethlehem (A modern hotel with an excellent location by Manger Square)
The Pilgerhaus, Tabgha (An exquisite Benedictine pilgrim house)

+ Full board throughout (breakfast, lunch & dinner daily).

+ All entrance fees and local government taxes.

+ State licensed English speaking guides throughout the tour.

+ All touring in modern air-conditioned tour buses.

Day 1: FRIDAY, JANUARY 19

We fly from Newark to Tel Aviv overnight, with an optional connection available from Chicago or from other cities.

Day 2: SATURDAY, JANUARY 20

We land at Tel Aviv airport in the morning, and transfer to the Ambassador Boutique Hotel adjacent to the Christian Quarter of the Old City, which will be our home for the next four nights. We spend our first afternoon visiting the Israel Museum’s Shrine of the Book which houses the Dead Sea Scrolls and the beautiful detailed model of Jerusalem based around the time of Jesus. We then continue to the Garden Tomb which provides a tranquil environment for prayer and reflection before we finally return to our Jerusalem hotel in good time to freshen up before dinner. Overnight stay in Jerusalem.

Day 3: SUNDAY, JANUARY 21

This morning we will join the local Christian community at St. George’s Episcopal Cathedral (arrangements can be made for people who would like to worship with other denominations). After coffee with the local congregation, we hope to have a talk from a member of the Israeli Committee against House Demolition before lunch. In the afternoon we will visit the Western Wall, a section of King Solomon’s original Temple esplanade retaining wall, the holiest site in Judaism. The rest of the afternoon will be free to relax and to explore the old city. Dinner and overnight stay in Jerusalem.

Day 4: MONDAY, JANUARY 22

In the morning we will visit one or two of the Israeli settlements in the block of settlements south of Jerusalem, to meet some of the residents, and hear their perspective on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and situation. We then return to Jerusalem and break for lunch. In the afternoon we drive to the summit of the Mount of Olives where we will stop for a breathtaking view of the Old City and its beautiful surrounding medieval walls. Our afternoon will be spent tracing the traditional Palm Sunday route from the church of Bethphage down the Mount to the Garden of Gethsemane, stopping en route at the churches of the Pater Noster and Dominus Flevit. Dinner and overnight stay in Jerusalem.

Day 5: tuesday, january 23

After breakfast we drive around the partition wall to visit Bethany on the Eastern slopes of the Mount of Olives, the village where Jesus chose to stay with his friends Martha, Mary and Lazarus, on those occasions he visited Jerusalem. We will worship at the church associated with their home, and with the raising of Lazarus before continuing down Qasr Al Yehud on the banks of the Jordan River, near to the very place where it is believed Jesus was baptized by John. After renewing our own baptism we will stop briefly for a view of the Mount of Temptation before continuing to the oasis city of Jericho, the city of palms to visit the excavations of Tel Jericho. After a break for lunch in Jericho we return to Jerusalem to visit sites associated with the Last Supper, the Day of Pentecost and the Dormition of Mary, before finishing our day at the church of St. Peter in Gallicantu. Here we recall not only Jesus’ incarceration over the last night of his life, but also Peter’s threefold denial of Jesus. Dinner and overnight stay in Jerusalem.

Day 6: wednesday, january 24

We check out of our hotel and drive to the Old City’s Dung Gate to visit the Temple Mount (if permitted) to view close up the Dome of the Rock and Al Aqsa mosque. Exiting the Temple Area we visit the church of St. Anne by the Pools of Bethesda, close to the start of the Via Dolorosa. From here we will prayerfully walk the Way of the Cross through the winding alleys of the souk, until we come to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, built over what every generation has believed is the place of Jesus’ crucifixion, burial and resurrection. After a break for lunch, drive to West Jerusalem to visit Yad Vashem, the moving Holocaust Memorial Museum and pay our respects to the millions that perished under Nazi occupation. Leaving Yad Vashem we visit the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center to learn about their peace work and theological pursuits. We continue our drive on to Bethlehem and procced through the checkpoint in the 27 foot high separation wall into the city of Bethlehem and check-in to our hotel which will be our home for the next 3 nights, arriving in good time to unpack before dinner and overnight stay.

Day 7: thursday, january 25

This morning we head south to Hebron – a city of crucial importance to the three Abrahamic faiths. We will see the occupied and highly conflicted H2 zone in the city center, visiting the Tombs of the Patriarchs, and seeing for ourselves the effects of the Occupation. If possible we will have time with the Community Peacemaker Teams present in the city. When we leave Hebron, we will make our way back to Bethlehem to visit a refugee camp and hear some of the residents tell their stories. After this we will visit a Christian-run co-operative store, where we will have the chance to buy olive wood products and other souvenirs to remind us of our time in the Holy Land, confident that our purchases will help sustain a good number of Christian families in the area. We return to our hotel in central Bethlehem in time for dinner.

Day 8: FRIDAY, JANUARY 26

In the morning, we will visit both the Church of the Nativity and the Shepherds’ Fields, recalling the stories of Christ’s birth as told by Luke and Matthew. We will have lunch at the International Center of Bethlehem, founded by Lutheran pastor Dr. Mitri Raheb, and learn something of its work in the fields of culture, health and education, before going to visit the Wi’Am Conflict Transformation Center. Dinner and overnight stay in Bethlehem.

Day 9: SATURDAY, JANUARY 27

Today we journey north, leaving behind Bethlehem and Jerusalem as we head towards the Galilee. Our journey will take us through the heart of the occupied West Bank, and we will stop at the major city of Nablus. Here we will visit Jacob’s Well (a center of pilgrimage in Jesus’ own day), and have the chance to taste of the ‘living water’ it contains, and also visit the Episcopal parish in the center of the Old City to learn of its interfaith work and ministry. . Leaving Nablus, we stop at the ancient city of Sebastia for lunch. It was destroyed by Alexander the Great, rebuilt by Pompey, and Augustus bestowed it upon Herod the Great in 27 BC. It was here that John the Baptist’s decapitated body was buried. After visiting the Roman and Byzantine ruins in the archaeological site, we travel to our hotel on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee, to be our home for our final four nights of pilgrimage. Dinner and overnight stay by the Sea of Galilee.

Day 10: SUNDAY, JANUARY 28

This morning we will have a church service by the Sea of Galilee before exploring in detail the area in which we have been staying, to visit those sites around the Lake associated with particular stories from Jesus’ ministry in the Galilee. We will visit the Mount of Beatitudes, Capernaum, the Church of the Multiplication of Loaves and Fishes, and the Church of Peter’s Primacy. We will also have the chance to ride on a boat on the Lake of similar design to the fishing boats of the First Century. Afterward we will visit the newly-excavated First Century synagogue in Magdala, the home town of ‘the apostle to the apostles’, Mary Magdalene.” Dinner and overnight stay by the Sea of Galilee.

Day 11: Monday, January 29

This morning we journey to Nazareth to see where the Good News began. We will visit the Basilica of the Annunciation and the Synagogue Church, and will have lunch at Nazareth Village, learning more about the town at the time of Jesus. In the afternoon we will visit the village of Cana, the site of Jesus’ first sign, before returning to the Sea of Galilee and our hotel. Dinner and overnight stay by the Sea of Galilee.

Day 12: TUESDAY, JANUARY 30

After breakfast we leave Tabgha and drive across Jezreel Valley, the plains of Armageddon and ascend to the summit of Mount Tabor, believed to be the site of the Transfiguration, and reflect on the glimpse of Jesus’ glory experienced by Peter, James and John. We return to our lakeside hotel to spend a free afternoon in this beautiful setting. Dinner and overnight stay by the Sea of Galilee.

Day 13: Monday, January 31

After an early breakfast we bid farewell to Galilee and travel toward the airport. We will stop at the Benedictine Abbey at Abu Ghosh, the site of the biblical Emmaus, where we will have a chance to recall Luke’s Resurrection story. From here we drive to the coast to visit the ruins of the once great city of Caesarea Maritima. After a lunch by the shore of the Mediterranean, we will explore this site and remember the inspiring stories from Acts of when Peter visits Cornelius and of Paul speaking to the Governor Festus before being sent to Rome. With these heroic stories from Acts ringing in our ears, we come finally to Jaffa for a final dinner together as a pilgrim group, before making our way to the airport ready to fly back to the U.S.

Download pdf brochure