We started our Holy Land Pilgrimage from Tel Aviv, to Mount Carmel in Haifa, to Nazareth, and finally to Tiberias in the Sea of Galilee, which was where Jesus started His early ministry with His disciples.
Israel has a population of 9 Million, with 6 Million Jews, 1.5 Million Muslims, and about 150,000 Christians. It is bounded by Lebanon in the north, by Syria in the northeast, by Jordan in the east, by Egypt in the southwest, and by the Mediterranean Sea in the the west.
Here’s a photo essay of Day 1 of our Holy Land Pilgrimage with Bro. Bo Sanchez…
Kosher foods are those that are allowed by Jewish Dietary Law and based on the Bible (Leviticus 11:1-47 Clean and Unclean Food, and Deuteronomy 14:3-20)
Kfar Maccabiah Hotel’s buffet breakfast was the best we had in Israel. I was excited to get my first taste of kosher breakfast.
They provide a wide variety of breads.
My favorite is the croissant with their local chocolate.
They also serve an assortment of cheeses.
Pork is not allowed, so expect different kinds of preserved fish options.
Milk and Yogurt.
Make sure to try the freshly squeezed lemonade.
Vegetables in Israel are very good — sweet, crunchy, and fresh. I love eating them with just hummus and olive oil.
My favorites are the sweet cherry tomatoes! 🙂
They offer tuna and ricotta cheese, white cheese, onion cheese, cottage cheese, kashkeval cheese, and my personal favorite, emek cheese.
There’s Greek salad already mixed together, but you can always assemble your own salad to your liking.
They also offer a lot of canned fruits as part of the buffet.
In the hot kitchen section, you can try the spaghetti in tomato sauce, the scrambled eggs, the potatoes in cream sauce, and the hard boiled egg.
NOTE: I was told Filipinos are notorious in Israel for sneaking out the hard boiled eggs and other food by putting it in napkins and in their bags. 🙁 This is not allowed.
In the cooking station, you can have freshly prepared French Toast.
The Belgian Waffles are good but if you’re looking for something different, try the Stuffed Grapevine with Cheese.
My personal favorites are the hot cheese cakes, which tastes like corn muffins, and the mushrooms.
Overall, the breakfast is light, healthy, and refreshingly energizing.
My favorite part of the buffet is the granola, seeds, and honey section.
You can assemble your mixed seeds bowl with Pishtan seeds, some bran…
The crispy rice cakes are very crunchy but bland. Best to pair these with honey or thina.
You can enjoy it with these cookies instead of the crispies.
Thina tastes like peanut butter.
Date Honey is sweet honey with a fruity date taste.
My favorite dessert – HALVA, which is like the local chocnut and the taste grows on you.
TEL AVIV to MOUNT CARMEL
Usually the hotel service helps you with bringing your bag down from the room to the lobby, and you have to bring it with you and endorse it for loading on the bus.
The Blue Bus was divided into 7 flocks and each flock serves as the co-hosts and servants for the day.
Essentially, they lead the bus in the morning prayers and worship, in praying the Holy Rosary, and the closing prayers.
Make sure to always bring your songbook with you, ready to sing and worship the Lord. 🙂
From Tel Aviv, we travel to Tiberias in the north with a stopover at Mt. Carmel and Nazareth.
We went on a 2-hour scenic roadtrip through the coastal road en route to Mt. Carmel.
It was exciting to see the different towns we passed through with houses made from limestones.
As you pass through the towns, you’ll see housing developments.
Make sure you also interact with the people on the other buses. 🙂
VERED Hasharon, the local travel agency partner, gave us a map of Israel, and travelogue booklet, cap for sun protection, and a headset receiver so you can listen to the tour guide properly.
We finally arrived at Mt. Carmel Sanctuary and Monastery, known as the MUHRAQA (The Sacrifice) by the Discalced Carmelite Order.
This is the site where Elijah triumphed over the 450 Baal Prophets (1 Kings 18, Elijah on Mount Carmel).
After a long trip, the water closets are always a blockbluster with very long lines. 🙂
We were advised by the tour guide to reserve our shopping in Cana or in Jerusalem for quality and better priced products.
We went to the rooftop for the vantage point…
…and our first orientation about the 4 geographical regions of Israel — the Coastal Plain, the Mountain Ranges, the Jordan Valley, and the Negev Dessert.
The view from the Mt. Carmel Hill.
This is the Valley of Armageddon, which is the location of the last battle as prophesized in Revelation 16:14-16.
Trivia: The Israel Airforce strategically setup their airforce base here and you can see the runway in the distance.
Our Jewish tour guide Ronin was awesome, providing just the right info at the right time, with good jokes and trivia to give us a good perspective of the place.
All of us were equipped with the headset so that we could hear the tour guide clearly. Check out Ronin in action in the video above.
This is the small chapel where we reflect on the triumph of Prophet Elijah.
Rache and Elijah in the distance.
Meet the awesome people of the Blue Bus group. 🙂
After Mt. Carmel, we drove for another 45 minutes to reach Nazareth in time for lunch.
You have to pass through this tunnel to reach the town of Nazareth.
Welcome to modern city of Nazareth, the childhood home of Jesus.
Most of the houses use limestone to preserve the look and feel of the city.
It is the largest city in the north and considered to be the Arab Capital of Israel.
The bus dropped us off and we had a great opportunity to walk along the town of Nazareth.
It was very interesting to see Arabic bread cooked on the street.
There were a lot of shops that sell religious items and souvenirs…
…like these Camel stuffed toys. But we’re glad we waited to buy in Jerusalem.
One of the things we love on this trip is the freshly squeezed pomegranate juice.
Pomegranate is a superfruit naturally high in polyphenol antioxidants, which is good for the heart, aids in resisting damage from free radicals, and helps prevent cancer.
One fresh cup sells for 15 Shekels or 4 Dollars. It was a bit expensive in Nazareth and in other touristy locations. It’s better to pay in dollars since they round off the amount equivalent in Shekels.
As we were walking to the restaurant, it was pleasant to see lemon-bearing trees along the way.
HOLY LAND RESTAURANT
The Holy Land Restaurant is the most popular restaurant for Holy Land pilgrimage groups visiting Israel.
The restaurant is 20 years old, but the building has been there since 1860.
It was able to accommodate the 140+ pilgrims. They serve the same yummy menu everyday for $15/person.
Meet Allan, Irma, Werner, and Luz Torress, the happy Filipino family based in Australia who were celebrating Irma’s 50th birthday. They visited Rome in Italy before this pilgrimage and came via a direct flight to Tel Aviv.
I love the cute nooks…
…and the antique memorabilia throughout the restaurant.
Every meal we had in Israel starts with a thick Arabic Pita bread.
They serve a simple lentil vegetable soup that is light and a bit bland.
Make sure to buy Pomegranade juice for your lunch.
The sodas sell for $3 each.
The restaurant is known for serving the best Spaghetti pasta in town. 🙂
We had a great lunch with the Torres Family. I must say, it’s best to go to the Holy Land Pilgrimage with your entire family. 🙂
A vegetable plate before the main course.
The Jabali family who owns the restaurant are Christians and they serve meat. 🙂
Beef with carrots and potatoes on the side.
For dessert, they serve Cocos, which taste like big macaroons.
It’s great to celebrate your birthday during the pilgrimage and get a nice birthday cake. 🙂
The cakes in Israel are just OK.
Don’t forget to visit the nice clean water closets here.
A happy and satisfied Blue Bus group. 🙂
After lunch, we walked to the Basilica of the Annunciation.
BASILICA OF ANNUNCIATION
Welcome to the Basilica of the Annunciation, where the Angel appeared before Mama Mary (Luke 1:26-38: Birth of Jesus Foretold).
Around the Basilica, there are different artworks as a tribute to Mama Mary.
The Basilica is a two-story building constructed in 1969 over the Grotto of the Annunciation, which is the childhood home of Mama Mary.
The door depicting the significant moments in Jesus’ life.
You enter via the lower level of the church.
The altar was constructed on the location where Christians believe the Angel appeared before Mama Mary.
As you look up from the altar, you’ll see a beautiful conical rooftop composed of the M symbol.
Make sure to pray for 3 wishes in each new Church you visit. 🙂
Pilgrims line up to see the cave up close…
…which is believed to be the childhood home of Mama Mary.
From the grotto, you can go up to the main church on the second level.
Love the mosaic-inspired windows with quotations along the stairs.
This is the main church of the Basilica of the Anunciation.
This is the view of Nazareth from the balcony of the church.
We had a beautiful mass offering all the prayer intentions of our family and our friends. I look forward to the every day masses with Fr. Joel and Fr. Eli, who alternate in providing the homily.
Bro. Brother usually gives a short talk and blessing after the communion.
I love this altar of Maria di Nazareth. 🙂
ST. JOSEPH’S WORKSHOP
Beside the Basilica is the workshop of St. Joseph, the father of Jesus here on Earth.
The Church of St. Joseph was built in 1914 on the site of an earlier 12th-Century church.
The church is built on top of the location of the carpentry workshop or house of St. Joseph.
You can go to the tower level to see and pay tribute to the location where St. Joseph lived.
These are the original stairs, mosaic tiles, and stones from St. Joseph’s era.
The stairs that lead to the actual home with the green light.
A view of the ancient well during St. Joseph’s time.
In the area, there’s a pay water closet. You always have to be ready with 2 shekels if you want to use clean restrooms in the touristy or pilgrim areas.
Rache and Mama Mary.
Don’t miss the opportunity to take a photo of this Filipino Mosaic Artwork commemorating the Annunciation.
A Pilgrim Group photo at the Basilica of the Annunciation.
NAZARETH to TIBERIAS
It was about sunset when we made our way to Tiberias.
It took us almost an hour to reach Tiberias, which is the town near the Sea of Galilee. 🙂
We stayed in Leonardo Tiberias near the Blue Beach, along the shores of the Sea of Galilee.
Managing your luggage is very important so make sure you have a big-wheeled luggage that you can easily identify throughout the trip.
The small lobby of Leonardo Tiberias.
We had a welcome drink of fresh lemonade.
Getting up the elevators is always a challenge. You can either bring your luggage yourself or put a sticker provided by the hotel with your room number so that the concierge can bring it up.
Our room 1401 in Leonardo Tiberias.
It was a simple room, like a room in an inn.
The bathroom with low quality towels.
I recommend bringing your own soap, shampoo, and conditioner because the ones available in the room are poor in quality.
The elevator floors are confusing so you just have to remember which buttons to press.
This is the dining area of Leonardo Tiberias where the buffet breakfast and dinner are served to all the pilgrims.
I like the fresh hot dish options available in the buffet.
Couscous with vegetables — my Mediterranean favorite! 🙂
They have chicken and other types of meat in the buffet.
My dinner for the night to close our Day 1 pilgrimage.
My morning view of the Sea of Gallilee from Room 1401…
To be continued…
HOLY LAND PILGRIMAGE with BRO. BO SANCHEZ
Disclosure: We paid for our Holy Land Trip. Read Our Awesome Planet Complete Disclosure Policy here.
P.S. The Next Holy Land Pilgrimage by Bro. Bo Sanchez is on February 10-19, 2015. For more info, you can email Tita Beckie at Beaconlighteventsfirstname.lastname@example.org
P.P.S. The pilgrimage tour costs P340,108 (exchange rate P44.65 – $1) for a couple, broken down into the following:
- Tour Cost: $2,995.00 x 2 = $5,990
- Airline/ Other Taxes: $495 x 2 = $980
- Tip Fund: $100 x 2 = $200
- Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner: $130 x 2 = $260
- Travel Insurance: $45 x 2 = $90
- Philippine Travel Tax: P1,620 x 2 = P3,240
- Airport Tax: P550 x 2 = P1,100
Note: There’s a $300/person non-refundable reservation for the trip, which is deductable from the total amount.
Overall, the Pilgrimage tour with Bro. Bo Sanchez is relatively more expensive than the other pilgrimage trips organized with Executive Resources. But it is the best experience for us because of The Feast (Community Worship Gathering) and the Feast Builders who make the trip awesome. 🙂
TIP: You can decide to book your own airfare if you plan to visit other countries after your pilgrimage.