• Israeli-Lebanese Border

    On 11 March 1978 Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) operatives, led by Dalal Mugrabi, carried out the Coastal Road Massacre within Israel which resulted in the deaths of 37 Israelis, including 13 children. In response, Israeli forces invaded southern Lebanon from which the PLO operated regularly during the 1970s. Starting on the night of March 14–15 and culminating a few days later, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) troops occupied the entire southern part of the country except for the city of Tyre and its surrounding area. This operation is known in Israel as Operation Litani.

    On 15 March 1978 the Lebanese government submitted a strong protest to the United Nations Security Council against the Israeli invasion, stating that it had no connection with the Palestinian operation. On 19 March 1978 the Council adopted Resolution 425, in which it called upon Israel to cease immediately its military action and withdraw its forces from all Lebanese territory. It also established the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL). The first UNIFIL troops arrived in the area on 23 March 1978.

    The Blue Line is based on the deployment of the IDF prior to 14 March 1978 and is a border demarcation between Lebanon and Israel published by the United Nations on June 7, 2000 for the purposes of determining whether Israel had fully withdrawn from Lebanon.

    During our driving tour we stopped at the Israeli-Lebanese Border at Rosh HaNikra on the Blue Line. This area is a grotto geologic formation on the border of the two countries located on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. These grottos are cavernous tunnels formed by the sea. A tunnel was built here for the Haifa-Beirut railroad line in 1968. The area is a popular tourist location and a cable car exists to take visitors down to the tunnels.

    We stopped to take photos at the border and had a snack and drinks at HaTsuk Restaurant overlooking the sea for a beautiful sunset. My friend Najat was with us and she is from Lebanon so we joked that we had brought her home.

  • Mary’s Well

    We continued our road trip to Nazareth. One of the most significant sites in Nazareth is Mary’s Well. Biblically, this well was where the Annunciation took place in Luke 1:26-38. This is the location where Angel Gabriel appeared to the Virgin Mary and announced she would bear the son of God. Located in Nazareth, the well was renovated twice, once in 1967 and once in 2000, the current structure is a symbolic representation of the structure that was once in use.

    The well has two sides, one is more rustic in nature where you can see down into a stone structure and the other is the front of the well that looks more ornate like a wall to mark the structure.

  • Wailing Wall

    The Wailing Wall is in the Old City of Jerusalem, a place of prayer and pilgrimage sacred to the Jewish people. It is the only remains of the Second Temple of Jerusalem, held to be uniquely holy by the ancient Jews and destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE. The authenticity of the Western Wall has been confirmed by tradition, history, and archaeological research.

    Made of ancient limestone the Wailing Wall, also called the Western Wall, and referred to as Kotel in Hebrew, and the Buraq Wall in Islam. It is considered holy due to its connection to the Temple Mount, where those of Jewish faith are forbidden from praying. Because of the Temple Mount entry restrictions, the Wall is a holy place of prayer and pilgrimage for Jewish people. The Wailing Wall is one of the great Arab-Israeli struggles. Jews and Arabs dispute who is in control of the wall and who has access to it.

    During our tour of Jerusalem, we visited the Wailing Wall. The wall is divided in half for women to pray on one side and men the other. Visitors to the wall have long followed the practice of wedging small slips of paper, upon which prayers and petitions are written, into the cracks between the stones. People also read the Torah and pray at the wall. I took time to say a prayer at the wall and insert it into the cracks. 

  • The Multiplication

    Tabgha is the traditional site of the Multiplication of the Loaves and the Fishes, is situated near the northeastern shore of Lake Kinneret (Sea of Galilee). The present Chapel of the Primacy of Peter was built by the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land in 1933. The nearby Benedictine monastery and Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and the Fishes was consecrated in 1982.

    We made a stop and were able to tour the church and walk along the paths onsite to see the location where based on the bible stories Jesus fed the multitudes. The Feeding of the 5,000 is also known as the “miracle of the five loaves and two fishes”; the Gospel of John reports that Jesus used five loaves and two fishes supplied by a boy to feed a multitude

  • Dome of the Rock

    Dome of the Rock is located in The Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem and is a holy site for Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The Temple Mount is a flat plaza surrounded by retaining wall including the Western Wall which was built during the reign of Herod the Great.

    This is the holiest site in Judaism and is the place Jews turn towards for prayer. Due to its extreme sanctity, many Jews will not walk on the Mount itself, to avoid unintentionally entering the area where the Holy of Holies stood, since according to Rabbinical law, some aspect of the divine presence is still present at the site.

    According to Jewish tradition, the stone inside the temple is the site where Abraham prepared to sacrifice his son Isaac. Muslims believe this is one the three holiest sites in their religion. They believe that this is the location where Muhammed ascended to Heaven.

    In light of the dual claims of both Judaism and Islam, it is one of the most contested religious sites in the world. Since the Crusades, the Muslim community of Jerusalem has managed the site. The Temple Mount is within the Old City, which has been controlled by Israel since 1967. After the Six Day War, Israel handed administration of the site back to the Waqf under Jordanian custodianship, while maintaining Israeli security control. It remains a major focal point of the Arab-Israeli conflict. In an attempt to keep the status quo, the Israeli government enforces a controversial ban on prayer by non-Muslims.

    In order to reach the plaza and the Dome you must enter thru security gates. There are 11 gates into the area. Ten of the gates are reserved for Muslims and one gate for non-Muslims. We entered after waiting in line at the Non-Muslim gate. We walked around the complex but we were not allowed to enter the actual temple as non- Muslims.

  • Abbey of the Dormition

    The Abbey of the Dormition is right outside of the Old City of Jerusalem near the Zion gate. The church commemorates the memory of the Virgin Mary and is on the site of her death. This is also the area where Jesus spent time during his last days.

    We visited the Abbey and some of the most dramatic scenes were in the basement where visitors lit candles and said prayers to the Virgin Mary around a tomb.

  • Last Supper Location

    Located on an upper floor of King David’s Tomb, the Room of the Last Supper, also called the Cenacle, is considered one of the holiest sites for Christianity in Jerusalem, since according to the tradition, it was the place where the last supper took place. The word “Cenacle” is derived from the Latin word for “dining room”, in memory of the festive Passover meal, which Jesus shared with his apostles on the eve of his death.

    According to the new testament, Jesus gave his students wine- a symbol of his blood, destined to be spilt, and distributed bread among them-a symbol for his body, which would be sacrificed for the sake of his believers. In one of the hall’s corners, under a small dome built above a staircase, stands a pillar with a decoration that depicts a pair of pelican fledglings pecking into their mother’s heart. The female pelican, who is ready to sacrifice herself for her fledglings, symbolized in medieval Christian art Jesus’ sacrifice for mankind.

    According to the Christian tradition, significant events took place at this site: During the Pentecost holiday following the crucifixion, Jesus’ apostles gathered in this site along with his mother. The Holy Spirit entered them, and they started speaking different languages that were, until then, unknown to them. They then made use of these languages to travel abroad and spread Christianity among the nations. The day the Holy Spirit entered the apostles is commemorated on the Christian Pentecost holiday (the 50th day between Passover to the Jewish Shavuot holiday).

  • Garden of Gethsemane

    According to all four Gospels, immediately after the Last Supper, Jesus took a walk to pray. Each Gospel offers a slightly different account regarding narrative details. The gospels of Matthew and Mark identify this place of prayer as Gethsemane. Jesus was accompanied by three Apostles: Peter, John and James whom he asked to stay awake and pray. He moved “a stone’s throw away” from them in the garden, where he felt overwhelming sadness and anguish, and said “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass me by. Nevertheless, let it be as You, not I, would have it.” 

    Then, a little while later, he said, “If this cup cannot pass by, but I must drink it, Your will be done!” (Matthew 26:42). He said this prayer three times, checking on the three apostles between each prayer and finding them asleep. He commented: “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak”. An angel came from heaven to strengthen him. During his agony as he prayed, “His sweat was, as it were, great drops of blood falling down upon the ground” (Luke 22:44). 

    At the conclusion of the narrative, Jesus accepts that the hour has come for him to be betrayed.  

    We walked through the Garden on our tour of Jerusalem. Rocks spell out the word PEACE under a tree.

    Photo by Bryan Busovicki

  • Path of the Cross

    The Via Dolorosa in the Old City of Jerusalem believed to be the path Jesus walked on the way to his crucifixion. The specific path of this route has varied over the centuries and continues to be the subject of debate. The traditional route starts just inside the Lions’ Gate (St. Stephen’s Gate) in the Muslim Quarter, at the Umariya Elementary School, near the location of the former Antonia Fortress, and makes its way westward through the Old City to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Christian Quarter.

    It is today marked by nine Stations of the Cross; there have been fourteen stations since the late 15th century, with the remaining five stations being inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Station one is used to mark where Jesus was condemned to death. Popular tradition has it that Jesus stumbled three times during his walk along the route; this belief is currently manifested in the identification of the three stations at which these falls occurred. Stations three, seven and nine mark the fall locations. 

    The fourth station marks where Jesus met his mother Mary. The fifth station refers to the biblical episode in which Simon of Cyrene takes Jesus’ cross, and carries it for him. The Eighth station commemorates an episode described by the Gospel of Luke, in which Jesus encounters pious women on his journey, and is able to stop and give a sermon.

    This walk is often re-enacted and done by pilgrims and believers who visit the old city. We walked the route and toured each of the stops as well. It was surreal to walk this path in person. Some of the path is even through a modern-day market with small markings to side chapels for some of the stops along the path.

  • Church of the Holy Sepulchre

    The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is a church in the Christian Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem. It contains the two holiest sites in Christianity, the site where Jesus was crucified known as Calvary and the site of his Empty Tomb where he was buried and resurrection took place.

    Just inside the church entrance is a stairway leading up to Calvary, traditionally regarded as the site of Jesus’ crucifixion and the most lavishly decorated part of the church. Bryan and I waited in a long line of visitors to move into the area and place our hand on the rock marking the location where the crucifixion took place.

    The church also has the last five stops for the path of the cross leading to the crucifixion of Jesus.