By Isaías A. Rodríguez
a joy when they said to me: "Let's go to the house of the Lord", that's how
the psalmist sang (s. 122) a long time ago. So my heart rejoiced when I knew that
I would go to the house of the Lord. It is a blessing for every Christian to set
foot in the Holy Land that Jesus, the Nazarene, stepped on.
in Tel Aviv, a biblical city mentioned by Ezekiel. The first impression was of
order and cleanliness. New city, and of Jewish predominance. From there we went
to Jaffa and Cesarea Maritima, both cities endowed with extraordinary beauty for
being bathed by the Mediterranean Sea.
But it is necessary to turn back.
The country of Israel (and Palestine), of time undated in the past, has been a
crossroads and cultures, peoples and races, which have left their legacy walking
through it. The most outstanding culture was due to the Hellenizing impulse given
by Alexander the Great in the Greek Empire conquered by him. That culture taught
the world how to think and live democratically, to maintain a balance between
body and spirit, and above all, to taste beauty in art, sculpture, and architecture.
The cities saw theaters, amphitheaters and temples, all of extraordinary beauty.
And cities in Palestine that were encumbered in hills descended to the valley
to accommodate temples, recreational and sports buildings.
created by human beings, contributed to enlarge with great beauty a country endowed
already with extreme beauty. A country of varied landscape with mountains and
valleys, lakes and seas, fertile and desert lands.
Thus, we have the case
of Herod the Great who, before Jesus was born, was raising a monumental kingdom,
beautifying cities like Cesarea Maritima, Tiberias, Sepporis, Masada, the Herodium
- palace fortress-, and above all, the temple of Jerusalem, very large of 36 acres;
today stands out the Dome of the Rock, a Muslim monument built in 691. This confirmed
Herod as one of the great builders of antiquity. However, now we saw everything
in ruins with the only recourse to go to the imagination and contemplate everything
in its moment of splendor.
Now, the pilgrim does not go to the Holy Land
to enjoy the beauty created by the human being. The pilgrim wants to see the mountains
that Jesus saw, the waters that he crossed in a boat, the roads he walked, the
arid deserts where he meditated, and, mainly, the city he loved so much, Jerusalem.
"Now our feet are standing within your gates, O Jerusalem," continues
the psalmist. There we climbed after having crossed Galilee and Samaria. We ascended
at night to the "compact city" of Jerusalem, where, in other times, the tribes
of the Lord ascended.
How beautiful it must have been in this time of
Jesus, this holy city! But in it, there was hardly any peace and quiet in any
time. So the psalmist prays, "Pray for the peace of Jerusalem." And today
more than ever, this city, badly damaged and mistreated by Romans, Muslims and
Crusaders, needs our prayer.
In the Garden of Olives, where Jesus sweat
blood, we also, the pilgrims, prayed and contemplated before us the eternal city,
divided today in four parts, because human madness has divided it to maintain
an artificial peace.
The history of this town began when Abraham, by divine
mandate, left his land and went to the promised land, where he settled and, with
himself, began a series of patriarchs, Isaac and Jacob, of leaders Moses and Joshua,
of kings Saul, David and Solomon, of major prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel
and Daniel, and a list of twelve other minors. All of them happened, in flashback,
for our memory.
The pilgrims ate in the biblical cities of Bethlehem and
Jericho. This one, we were assured, is the oldest city in the world, at least,
of the Middle East. However, it was the collapse of the walls before the resounding
sound of Joshua's trumpets, which came to mind. And more recently, was pointed
out the sycamore that Zacchaeus climbed on, because of his diminutive stature,
to see Jesus pass by him. Today Jericho is a city without personality and very
In Capernaum, we sat in the synagogue erected over the one in which
Jesus would have probably once taught, to listen now to our learned guide Sam.
A few steps away, he assured us, was Peter's house and his family. There Jesus
resided whenever he was in those parts.
Other sites visited: the Golan
Heights, Megido, Caesarea Philippi, the Church of the Annunciation, the Garden
of Gethsemane, the Mount of the Beatitudes, the Transfiguration, Masada, Qumran,
the Dead Sea, the Church of the Gallicantu, the Via Dolorosa that took us to the
Holy Sepulcher, -and a lot more places. For me, a Carmelite at heart, was emotional
the visit to Mount Carmel, the origin of the Order of Carmen and it assumed the
zeal of the prophet Elijah, who in a clear contest defeated the 450 prophets of
Baal, with help of fire from heaven…
Anyway, what can we think of these
holy places where we are told that Jesus lived, taught and preached? We must remember
that it was the mother of the Emperor Constantine, Helena, who in the fourth century
built monumental churches in these places. Later, many were destroyed by Muslim
fanaticism and later rebuilt by the Crusaders. Today it is not possible to determine
the exact historical point of the same, but a certain approximation.
trip was an authentic pilgrimage, with time to pray and reflect, to the tune of
the deliberate and realistic meditations directed by Father David Roseberry, spiritual
guide of the group. We had three Eucharistic celebrations: on the lake of Galilee,
in the Garden of Gethsemane, and in the desert of temptations, we even renew our
baptismal promises and carry out two baptisms in the Jordan River.
most important star of the entire trip was the guide Samuel Macarios. Sam, an
Arab Christian, knows the Bible in detail and the history of this country. He
speaks Arabic, Hebrew, Aramaic, English and Spanish, thus illustrating us with
the origin of certain technical words. The passion with which he taught us flowed
from his heart. He conquered all our admiration.
We recommend this pilgrimage
to anyone who wants depth in the knowledge of the Bible, and especially in love
of Jesus. Without a doubt, it will be beneficial.