Last night's sunset over the Sea of Gallilee was just about picture perfect! We were at the site on the east side of the lake that marks the feeding of the 4000 in the Gospels of Mark and Matthew.
This morning we packed the bus and headed down the coast to Mount Carmel, where we had Sunday Mass. The Church in the Carmelite Monastary is dedicated to Our Lady under the title of "Stella Maris". Mount Carmel is near the port city of Haifa and the view from just outside the Monastery Gates featured a spectacular vista of the Mediteranean Sea, the city and the port facilities. As we continued down the coast we came to Caesaria Maritema, where Herod the Great had built a thouroughly Roman city in the first century. Paul was imprisoned here for two years while awaiting the final trip to Rome, where he was martyred. The ruins we visted are extensive, including an Ampitheater that is used for concerts to this day. The late Luciano Pavorotti sang a concert there just before his death.
After this we turned from the coast and headed inland toward Jerusalem. The photos you've seen don't begin to do justice to the terrain of the Holy Land. The central mountains are quite beautiful and the mountain pass between Ceasaria and Jerusalem was the Los Alamos "front" road on steroids! The view was again spectacular and the ride was exhilerating.
West Jerusalem is, in every way, a modern city. The roads are well built and well maitained and the traffic has the furious pace of any big city--and we arrived during the evening rush hour! We took the road to Bethlehem where we stopped at the Store of the Good Shepherd to do some shopping. After this we made our way to the Intercontinental Hotel in Bethlehem--our home base for the next four nights.
Tomorrow we begin what could be considered the heart of our Pilgrimage with a visit to the Mount of Olives. We will have Mass at the Church of the Pater Noster (the traditional site where Jesus first taught his disciples the "Our Father") and the rest of a very busy day will be spent at Holy sites in and around the city of Jerusalem. If you've been following the itinerary in the bulletin you will note that the order of events is not the same--our tour guide, George, has actually added some places not in the originally published itinterary because he wants us to see as much as possible of this land that he so loves.
Stay tuned--obviously MUCH more to come!
A special note: Last night some of the group were able to "call home" from our hotel in Tiberias. The international rates are also much cheaper here in Bethlehem so some families may be getting calls that they didn't expect! :-) Since the change from Daylight Savings back to Standard Time in the states, we are now NINE hours ahead of you.