In the land of the gospel amazing holy places visited

EDITOR’S NOTE: In celebration of the Christmas Season the author recalls his weeklong journey to Holy Land to retrace Jesus’ Footsteps in Jerusalem in the observance of 2000th year of His Incarnation.

We then drove to the Mount of Temptation which tradition considers the place where Jesus was tempted by the devil. This episode is described in Matthew (IV, 1-4 and 8-10):Then Jesus was taken up by the Spirit into the wilderness. And when he had fasted 40 days and forty nights, he was very hungry. And then the tempter came and said to him: “If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be turned into bread.”

But Jesus answered and said: “It is written, man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceedingly high mountain, and showeth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; and saith unto him: “All these things I will give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me,” Then saith Jesus unto him: “Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou Shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve”.

This quotation from the Gospel of Matthew gives the impression that at the foot of that mountain was a city “with the glory of the world”. As we surveyed the area today there is no more city around but ancient ruins and lunar-like landscape.

I am happy to note that during our pilgrimage, there were also moments of fun and leisure. We were “thrilled to the bone” as the cliché goes when we took a cable car ride to the summit of Mount Carmel of the prophet Elijah in Haifa marked by the Carmelite Church the biggest monastery of the Carmelite Order. As we descended from the mountain aboard the cable car we had a better view of cave openings said to be the home of Elijah.

Adam’s Travel Express also allotted time for us to shop for some religious and souvenir items at bargain prices.

But the most memorable experience we had was when we bathed in the Dead Sea and tested its healing powers. As we sat on the beach we put mud on our faces as in mudpack, and all parts of our body that our hands could reach and put mud on our skin hoping that it will become smooth as when we were teenagers and had picture taken of our funny faces.

The Dead Sea is so salty that you can literally float on the surface; it is impossible to sink in it.

There’so much mineral available and little, if any, wildlife that makes it a Dead Sea. It lies on the border between Israel and Jordan. Our guide said it is 1,292 feet below sea level and it is situated in  part of a great depression that stretches north from the Dead Sea to the Sea of Galilee, making it the lowest part on earth.

The sea is fed by Jordan River but has no outlet. It is therefore, like the Sea of Galilee, not a sea but a lake.

By the way, another highlight of the visit to the Dead Sea is the nearby mountain in Quoram where visitors can view several cave openings made famous by the discovery in 1947 of the Dead Sea Scrolls, mostly parts of the Book of Isaiah. Cornelio de Guzman

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