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Outdoor News 4-12-17

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Outdoor news for 4-12-17

Outdoor News for the Week of Easter: A Pilgrimage to the Land Where Jesus Walked

Thousands of Christians travel to the Holy Land each year to walk in the footsteps of Jesus Christ and discover the land of the Bible. A group from Greenwood made the trek some years ago and included Greenwood’s Harold and Patti Smith who helped prepare this segment and shared photos and insight into the experience as they have with safari trips and sightseeing tours the world over.

The Smith’s agree, “Israel is undeniably the ultimate destination for those seeking to embrace a deeper connection to their faith. The country is full of sites that are significant to both the Old Testament and the New Testament of the Bible, historically and religiously.”

Since the birth of Christianity over two thousand years ago, this ancient land has constantly been a pilgrimage destination for the Christians throughout the world. The very word “pilgrimage” means a journey or search of moral or spiritual significance. Typically, it involves a journey to a shrine or other location of importance to one’s beliefs…often a metaphysical journey into those beliefs and one who makes such a journey is thus called a “pilgrim.”

Located at the intersection of Europe, Asia and Africa, the rich fertile land of “Milk and Honey” as it was described by GOD in Bible Book of Exodus, is the crossroads of the ancient world, both geographically and ideologically. Known throughout history as the “Promised Land” to the Jews, it is the site of one of the world’s oldest civilizations. Its location has been a much-trampled prize by the armies of the world.

Ironically, few places have been the site of as much unrest over the centuries. Two thousand years ago or so, the Romans overran the region then known as Palestine, driving the Jews from their homeland and they spent most of the next twenty centuries dreaming of a return as they scattered around the world. Over the centuries, Palestine fell into the hands of the British whose mandate over the area came to an end in May of 1948 when the “Independent State of Israel” was established in Palestine. A new blue and white flag bearing the Star of David was unfurled to mark the event. Egypt and Syria invaded immediately and Israel, with meager forces, repelled the invading armies until an armistice could be signed signaling a fractious peace in the region. Since that time nearly 90% of the population is Jewish and strides for peace have been exhausting. But, religious and political leaders realize that tourism is the backbone of the economy and safety is a must for the tourists to want to visit. And visit they do, the tiny nation at the west eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea. Israel is only about the size of New Jersey or the country of Wales…just less than 8,000 square miles.

Jerusalem is considered the “Holy City”/center of the Christianity, Judaism and Islamic worlds and today each religion enjoys the pilgrimages to Jerusalem, the world’s only Jewish state. The epicenter of biblical events, Jerusalem is also mentioned in the Torah.

Home to impressive mountains, secret tunnels, winding rivers, searing deserts and breathtaking foliage, the land is the scene of thousands of years of miracles, sacrifices-figurative and real-as well as rebirth and one resurrection. Harold Smith says of the visit, “Seeing places you’ve learned about, places where Jesus was born, where Abraham lived, where the Temple stood or touching the walls of ancient monasteries created an excitement that will stay with you long after the photos are in the album.”

Jerusalem’s signature skyline feature is the Dome of the Rock, a sacred shrine built on the Temple Mount on the site of the biblical Temple. Muslims believe this to be the site where Mohammed ascended into heaven and was given the second pillar of Islam…to pray five times each day to Allah. The site is used as such today as well as visited by Christians and Jews. One interesting aspect of the archeological preservation is the fact that churches of multiple faiths tend to be built above the sites of ancient temples and tombs. It is a way of assuring that the site is protected. But, it makes the archeological research problematic as layers of excavation are required to find the artifacts that prove the existence of the topic of research. Temple upon temple, church upon grave site, shrine upon significant site and so on. The rich history of the region is often layer upon layer.

Among the most visited sites are the Garden Tomb and Holy Sepulcher. Each thought by some to be the burial site of the Lord Jesus Christ and the site of the resurrection giving rise to the Easter holiday. The Garden Tomb is a beautiful site to visit surrounded by items significant to the resurrection depicted in the four Gospels. The Garden Tomb was identified as the site in the 19th century. Prior to that, the Holy Sepulcher had commemorated the hill of the crucifixion, burial and resurrection. While locals argue the location of the exact site, for Christians, the fact of the resurrection and not the site of it is central to our faith.

The visitors from Greenwood also experienced the Via Dolorosa, “The Way of Grief” which is a street in old Jerusalem believed to be the path Jesus walked on the way to his crucifixion.  This route of about 2,000 feet is a celebrated place of Christian pilgrimage.

The walled city of Jerusalem carved of ancient cream and caramel colored stone has portions outside the old city and within the wall of the old city. It is a tourism highlight. The Western Wall or “Wailing Wall” is considered holy due to its connection to the Temple Mount. It is the holiest place where Jews are permitted to pray, though not the holiest spot in their faith, which is behind the wall. Christians, Jews and Muslims all pray together at this holy site.

As to travel, the site is rocky and steep. A cane for older visitors might be good idea. A reputable tour guide or guided tour group from the U.S. is certain to be of benefit. Most every large church has, at one time or another arranged a tour group whose details are seen to by professionals. The flight to Tel Aviv, Israel’s largest city, arrives at be Gurion Airport for transfers to hotels. This is the area where airport security was invented.

Harold and Patti Smith and other visitors from Greenwood went to the Holy Land in April for Easter. March and April are considered to be the best times for a visit as well as the Fall. The summer there is extremely hot and the winter months can be bitterly cold.

As it is the bad news that gets reported from this troubled part of the world, some would-be visitors are reluctant. This nation thrives on tourism and they take safety seriously for visitors. Obviously, war zones should be avoided.

The Smith’s noted the armed presence of people everywhere. Off-duty militiamen and women can and do carry their weapons with them to help quell any potential violence or outbreak that disturbs the peace for visitors and locals alike. In Israel, every able-bodied male serves three years from age seventeen and females serve two years from age eighteen in the military. So, guns are everywhere and civilians carrying automatic weapons are just a part of the scenery for your pilgrimage.

“The Holy Land experience unites believers as one” says Greenwood people who have enjoyed the experience. It unites them in Christ, in their faith and in their contribution to the preservation of this historic region.

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