Jordan & Israel, February 2020

By Henry Doenlen

Liz and I heard about a pilgrimage to Israel led by Monsignor Reed. Our friends, Paul and Linda Kent were going. We contacted the Catholic Travel Center and paid the deposit. Liz thought that we could visit Petra since we would be nearby.  We found a tour with Abraham Hostels which included staying at a Bedouin camp.  We tried to find flights that would not connect too far north because of potential snow delays in February. Monsignor Reed held two dinner meetings to brief us on what to expect. Chris and Liz Hrbecek would be joining us in Israel.

This web page is a combination blog and photo album. Almost all of the photos are clickable and hyperlink to a larger image. Photo descriptions are under the photos of the day, listed by row number and position (left, middle, right).

1/31/20: Overnight flight…

Friday involved travel all day. First flight was United 4487 from Pensacola to Houston. We had planned for 2 to 3 hour layovers to account for flight delays. This was a good idea, because I did not realize how much walking was involved in Houston Airport. Unfortunately, we learned that Linda Kent was sick, so she and Paul would not be with us in Israel. We planned to keep them informed about what we were doing. Next flight was delayed one hour, United 589 to Dulles. At Dulles, we were given the Israeli security check, then onto United 72 for an overnight flight to Tel Aviv.


2/1 & 2/2/20: Arrival & Jerash


Our airplane arrived roughly on time at the Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv. We had no difficulty getting though Israeli customs and we found our private driver waiting for us with a sign showing out last name. The staff at the Rothschild 71 Hotel was friendly. We were asked if we wanted to try authentic Israeli food, and were directed to the Cantina restaurant next door. We each had a dinner featuring shwarma, which was similar to a gyro. Around the corner we found the In The City grocery, and found pastry and Nutella for breakfast. After a good night sleep, woke early for the 8 minute walk for our 6 am pick up at the Abraham Youth Hostel. Our minibus took us first to Jerusalem to pick up some additional passengers, then into the West Bank to the Jordan River Crossing into Jordan. We were dropped off on the Israeli side of the border. There was a fee to exit Israel of about $30. On the Jordan side, we were met by our guide who worked us thought customs. There was no fee for entering Jordan as we were going to be there for the minimum of 3 days.


Our bus took us first to the ruins of Roman Jerash, which was one of the Decapolis cities at the time of Christ. We entered though the main gate, explored the theatre, and walked along the Cardo, which was the main north-south street, to the circular forum. We then drove to Amman, but didn't stop because traffic in the city slowed us down. It was dark by the time we arrived at the Bedouin camp, but we were in time for dinner. Afterward, we sat in the meeting tent with the wi-fi for internet, and drank warm sweet tea.


2/3/20: Petra


We left our Bedouin camp (row 1 left) to begin our big day in Petra at the Visitor Center. From there, the walk to the iconic Treasury was about 40 minutes for 1.3 miles, at first outside past the Obelisk Tomb (row 1 center), then thought the narrow canyon of al-Sig. We came upon the Treasury (row 2-3 center) and learned that it was a tomb of a Nabatean king. It came to called the Treasury because the local Bedouins believed it contained treasures. After a short rest, we walked with our guild along the main road. We passed by many tombs (row 1 right), the Royal Tombs (row 2 right), and came to Married to a Bedouin (row 3 right) after a 0.5 mile 15 minute walk. Liz talked with the author of the book and bought jewelry for herself and for gifts. We walked a 20 minute 0.8 mile trail that took us behind the Great Temple (row 4 right) before eating lunch at the Basin Restaurant. After talking to some of the younger members of our group, we decided to walk the 1 mile 860 steps to the Monastery. It turned out that the steps were 2000 year old, many of which were steep or eroded (row 3 left). It took us almost two hours to make it to the Monastery, al-Deir (row 4 left). This too, was a king's tomb, but also was used as a church by early Christians. We bought a soda from the restaurant before heading back down the steps (row 4 center).  While walking back to the Treasury, we realized that we would be late for our pick up at 5 pm if we continued to walk. We took up an offer for a bumpy horse drawn cart ride back to the visitors center. We walked over 8 miles thought Petra that day.


Château d'amour in Saumur

2/4/20: Wadi Rum


We left he Bedouin camp and drove south to Waldi Rum. We were told, "Welcome to Mars," as this area was used for the filming of The Martian. The area was also the base of operations for Laurence of Arabia and was know as part of the desert through which the Israelites wondered 40 years after they were freed from Egypt.  We sat on benches in the back of a 4x4 pickup truck for a 1 hour 40 minute drive thought the Waldi Rum desert. We drove by other camps and took in the starkly beautiful scenery. We stopped at the base of Laurence of Arabia at the bottom of the map between the two mountains. After the drive, we at lunch at the Wadi Rum camp, then drove to Aquaba before turning north to pass the dead sea.


It was dark by the time we arrived at the Allenby Bridge border crossing into Israel. Once again, we had to pay an exit fee, which was 10 Jordanian Dinar. The Israel side was crowded with luggage inspections. On the door on the Israeli side, we found our Abraham Tours minibus, which drove to Jerusalem to drop off most of the tourist, then to Tel-Aviv to drop us off. At the Abraham Hostel, we grabbed a cab to take us to Dan Panorama Hotel. On the way, we sent Chris Hrbecek a text. Chris and Liz met us at the hotel and kept the dinner service open for us. We shared our adventures in Jordan and learned what had been going on with the rest of the group.


2/5/20: Caesarea Maritime & Mount Carmel


The Dan Panorama Hotel gave us a great night's sleep and a wonderful breakfast. Before boarding out bus, we looked for the beach in front of the hotel, to find there was only large rocks going into the Mediterranean. The first stop on our bus was Caesarea Maritima. (Row 1 & 2, center & right.) This was a city and harbor built by Herod the Great and was a launching point for Paul the Apostles missions. Next stop was outside the Baha'i Gardens where we could get a bird's eye view of Haifa (row 3 right). After lunch we went to the Stella Maris Monastery, which was built on the grotto where Joshua had lived (row 3, left & center). We celebrated Mass in one of the chapels. It was dark by the time we arrived at the Mount Beatitudes Guesthouse.


2/6/20: Nazareth & Cana 

The next morning we made our way into Nazareth and arrived at the Basilica of the Annunciation. We first visited St. Joseph's Church (row 1, left & center), then walked to the Basilica (row 1 right). Inside the Basilica, we celebrated Mass (row 2) and walked downstairs to see the chapel built around the place where Mary lived (row 3). After lunch at the Casa Nova Franciscan House, we drove to Cana to visit the Wedding Church (row 4 left). This church  commemorates the wedding feast of Cana, and we renewed our wedding vows (row 4 center). We then celebrated with a little glass of wine from a local shop (row 5 right). Returning to the Guesthouse, we found time to take photos of the Sea of Galilee (row 5).



2/7/20: Caparnum & Magdala

We first drove to Tabgha to visit the Church of the Primacy of Saint Peter (row 1), at the site were Jesus reinstated Peter. Then we went to Capernum for Mass at St. Peter's Church (row 2). There we had time to look over the excavations of Capernum and the 4th century synagogue (row 3, left & center). For lunch, we had St. Peter's fish, a tilapia (row 3 right).

We drove to Kibbutz Ginnosar on the Sea of Galilee. We saw the remains of an ancient boat from around the time of Jesus (row 4 left). We then did a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee (row 5 center & right). After lunch, we drove to the archaeological site at Magdala. We saw the synagogue and the chapels (row 6). We had dinner at a restaurant near the site.


2/8/20: Benias & Mt Beautitudes

After morning Mass, we drove to the Golan Heights to visit Banias Nature Reserve, at the foot of Mount Herman. This was the archeological site of Caesarea Philippi. We walked around the grottos for the shrines of Pan and Echo (row 1) and waited thought a heavy rain storm. On the way back, we could see Mount Herman thought the bus window (row 2 left). Later that afternoon, we had time to explore the Mount Beatitudes Guesthouse (row 2 center & right) and the Church of the Beatitudes (row 3).


2/9/20: Jordan River, Dead Sea & Qumram

After morning Mass, we drove south along the Sea of Galilee and the Jordan River. We entered the West Bank and made our way to Qasr al-Yahud, the traditional baptism site of Jesus (row 1, center & right). There, we renewed our baptismal vowels. The Jordan was swollen from the previous day's rain in Galilee. We then drove into Jericho to see the Mount of Temptation (row 2center) and the Zaccheus tree (row 2 right). The archeological site of the city of Jericho was not much to look at.

After lunch, we made our way to Kalia Beach on the Dead Sea (row 3), were some of our group when swimming. We then visited the excavations at Qumram, which was a settlement of Essenes (row 4, left & center). We could see the opening of the cave were the Dead Seas Scrolls were found (row 4 right). It was dark when we arrived in Jerusalem at the Notre Dame Center. After dinner, we took a walk through the old city with Msgr. Reed.


2/10/20:  Bethleham

We drove south of Jerusalem to Bethlehem, which is in the Palestinian area. We drove to Manger Square where we celebrated Mass in St. Catherine chapel (row 1, left & center) before visiting the Crusader chapels in the caves below (row 1 right). The entrance to the Basilica of the Nativity is the very low Door of Humility (row 2 left). Inside the Basilica (row 2, center & right), there was a crowd waiting to see the grotto where Christ was born (row 3, left & center). We could place our hands on the exact spot.  Outside, the building are made of white concrete (row 3 right).

After lunch, we drove to Beit Sahour to visit the shepherd's fields (row 4). We stopped at a Christian store before we returned to the Notre Dame Center. After dinner, we found we could walk on the rooftop (row 5).


2/11/20: Holy Thursday Sites

In Jerusalem, we first visited the Church of All Nations, also known as the Basilica of the Agony (row 1). There we celebrated mass (row 2 left) and then viewed the Garden of Gethsemane from outside the fence (row 2 center). Up the hill on the Mount of Olives was the Church of the Pater Noster (row 3, left & center) along with a view of the Temple Mound (row 3 right).

The afternoon was on Mount Zion, first visiting the Upper Room (row 4, left & center). We then walked around the corner (row 4 right) to Dormition Abby (row 5). Our last visit was to the Church of St. Peter in Gallicantu (all row 6 & row 7, left & center). Gallicantu means cock's crow. After returning to the Notre Dame Center, we took a walk along the Jerusalem streets.


2/12/20:  Way of the Cross

We left early in the morning and walked though the old city to the Antonia Palace and the Church of the Flagellation (row 1, left & center). We then walked the Via Dela Rosa, stopping at each station for prayer (row 1 right, all row 2). Some of us carried the cross in between stations. We arrived at the church of the Holy Sepulchre (row 3 left), and climbed the stairs to a small chapel on Golgotha (row 3, center & right, row 4 right). Under the small alter, we could place our hands into the hole that held the cross (row 4 left). Down the steps (row 5 left), we celebrated Mass in a chapel (row 5, center & right). After Mass, we stood in line to look inside the tomb of Christ (row 6).


2/12/20: Jerusalem

After lunch, we made our way to the Wailing Wall (row 1). We then visited the Chruch of St. Anne (row 2, left & middle), considered the birth place of Mary. Next to this church was an excavation of the Pools of Bethesda (row 2 right). We then had time to explore the old city on our own (row 3 all, row 4 left & center) and so some shopping. The photo of our group (row 4 right) was taken outside of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.


2/13/20: Jaffe

We checked out of the Notre Dame Center (row 1 left) and drove to Abu Ghosh to see the Benedictine Church of the Resurrection (row, 1 center & right) where we celebrated Mass. We had lunch at the Elvis American Diner (row 2, center & right) where they served a respectable hamburger. We then took our bus (row 3, left) to Jaffa where we walked along the beach (row 3, center & right). We visited St. Peter's Church in Jaffa (row 4). We had our farewell dinner before heading to the airport for our flights home.


2/14/20: Return home


The rest of the tour group took an Air France flight to Paris to connect with a Delta Flight to Atlanta. Liz and I were taking United flight 73 to Dulles. But first, we had to get past Israeli security. There was a cough that about half of our group developed during the last 3 days of our trip. As COVID-19 had become a world wide concern, Liz and I took medication to suppress any coughing through the security checks to the airplane. The over night flight to the United States was uneventful. With more medicine, we made it though customs and security and caught United 762 to Houston Airport. It was a very fast walk thought the airport to United 4393 for the flight back to Pensacola. I spiked a fever on that flight, but no one noticed except Liz.