Holy Land Pilgrimage
A Holy Land Pilgrimage Tour organized by the Crossroads Initiative is a distinctive experience. Here are some of the details of this one in a lifetime trip led by Catholic Theologian, historian, and biblical scholar, Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio. For exact itinerary and other information not on this page, please scroll to the bottom and click on the links to the Pilgrimage to the Holy Land main page.
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Where are we going? What can we expect? - Click here!
Q - I am still discerning- a bit nervous about travelling to middle east- my mother told me not to come!
What are security plans like? What hotels are you staying in?
A - Everyone who ever plans to come to the Holy Land on a pilgrimage has a relative or friend intervene to say “Stop! Don’t do it. Haven’t you seen the news lately about what’s going on over there?”
“Over there” kind of means the whole Middle East! In their mind are news reports from Egypt, Libya, Syria, Afghanistan and Israel all rolled up into one! Even if “over there” was limited to the whole of Israel/Palestine itself, it would be an understandable concern, but over-generalized. I’ve led tours while there were hostilities reported by the international news media on the border with Gaza and Lebanon. Our tour was always an entire world away from trouble, unaware and unaffected by any problems.
I made my first trip in Dec 1999/Jan 2000. Remember Y2K? When the whole world was supposed to shut down? We had an incredible time! Then I went back in 2001 during the Palestinian “uprising.” Saw no problem. I’ve been back 14 times since, bringing my mother and wife 2x, and my daughters numerous times. Never once did anyone feel threatened or uneasy or insecure or in danger. Palestinian Christians and Muslims as well as Israelis were always hospitable and friendly. The Christian Holy Places around Jerusalem and up in Galilee have really never been the flash points for trouble in Israel/Palestine. Since 1971, whenever there has been unrest, it has been on the border with Gaza or Lebanon, or perhaps in a nightclub in Tel-Aviv, or at one of the settlements of Jews built on traditional Palestinian territory on the West bank of the Jordan. All these places are avoided in our tours.
Security in Israel is just about the best in the world! The reality is that the rate of crime there, violent or petty thievery, is less than most American or European cities. I’ve been to Barcelona 3 times and unfortunately my wife’s purse was nabbed while we were praying in the cathedral (by a person in the pew in back of us). With cell phone, passports, everything. I’ve led two land tours in Italy, and sure enough a gypsy tried to nab the handbag of one of my passengers. I rode “the tube” once in London, and my traveling companion had some very scary guys try to relieve him of his wallet. I’ve led 10 trips to the holy land and we’ve had absolutely no such incident! I’ve felt safer there than I feel in downtown New York or Chicago!!!!!
Our tour company is a Palestinian Christian company – they know the country like the back of their hands and get along with Palestinian Muslims as well as Jewish Israelis. They do an amazing job of keeping us safe and relaxed, making all things ultra convenient. They will not take chances with our safety. I assure you, if a situation should ever arise shortly before our trip that presented true danger to Christian pilgrims, the trip would be canceled and money refunded to passengers.
Our hotels are all modern, Western-style hotels that are full-service. We typically are in our hotels by 5 or 6pm. However, it is safe for passengers to go out if they wish and they do. I allowed my 16-22 year old children to go out one New Years Eve in Jerusalem, accompanied by a local friend of ours, to a café where there were other young people, music, etc. Obviously, I never would have allowed that if things were not safe. The Sea of Galilee is a gorgeous resort – our hotel there is right on the water. Our final hotel is on the Mediterranean. You feel as safe in the later two places as in any beach resort in the world.
The videos on www.goholyland.info should ease your concerns. But if you would feel better speaking to me or my assistant Cyndi about the safety issue, we’d be happy to talk with you via phone or Skype.
Remember – the single most often repeated sentence by Jesus in the gospels is “Do not be afraid!” I encourage you not to allow fear to rob you of this incredible opportunity for spiritual growth.
Faithfully in Christ,
Q. What class of hotels are we staying in during the Crossroads Initiative Holy Land Pilgrimage?
A. We always stay in deluxe hotels that are either almost new or recently renovated. For exact name and contact info for the hotels you will stay in, visit the itinerary pages for your pilgrimage, either the New Years Pilgrimage or the Spring Pilgrimage.
After years of very low tourism, many hotels in the Holy Land are in a bad state of repair and are desperate for guests to help cash flow and raise funds to do repairs and upgrades. We have been careful to avoid such super low-cost establishments and select only deluxe hotels. Also, keep in mind that some tour operators, in an effort to cut costs, avoid paying for a hotel on the last night of the tour. We believe that it is important to provide our passengers with a hotel for this final night so that they can freshen up and get some rest before we depart for the airport. We don’t want people arriving exhausted back in the states!
Q. That brings up a good point, what flights will we be taking?
A. We always select direct, non-stop round-trip flights from our International Gateway airport (Newark, JFK, or Philadelphia) to Tel-Aviv. This is much less stressful and has much less chance of being separated from your luggage than connecting through Europe, which many low-cost tours do.
Q. Do you have a downloadable information sheet I can give my family so they can contact me if they need to?
A. Yes, Please click here!
Q. What will our guides be like on this Holy Land Tour?
A. Good question. A tour of holy and historical places is only as good as your guide. Many local guides leave much to be desired in terms of their knowledge, their ability to comment on the spiritual significance of a particular site for Christians, and their command of English. Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio has twin academic specialties make him an extraordinary guide to the Holy Land—he is an expert in the interpretation of Scripture and Church history. Furthermore, his commentary, however informative, is always understandable and spiritually uplifting. He will be assisted by local guides as well. These men are Arab Catholics who are knowledgeable but also spiritual. Their English is very good and clear. It has taken me years to identify Catholic guides of this caliber -- of the hundreds of local guides available for tours, these are the cream of the crop.
Q. Will this be a tour or a spiritual pilgrimage?
A. Both. We will have wonderful times of prayer, liturgy & music daily, with Mass in one of the holy places that we visit each day! Each person who wishes will have the opportunity to serve as a lector in one of our special masses. If you are a properly authorized extraordinary minister of the eucharist, there may be an opportunity to serve in that capacity as well. But the information and insight you will get into the places we visit as well as the biblical texts that talk about them will be extraordinary.
Q. Who is arranging all the practicalities of the tour?
A. Consolidated Tour Organization out of Atlanta is the exclusive Holy Land tour company of Fr. Mitch Pacwa (of EWTN) and Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio who have used them many times for Holy Land pilgrimages. They are a unique company because though they have a US office in Atlanta, they have a subsidiary company in Jerusalem called Jordan Tours which is staffed by Palestinian Christians. This means that we will be hosted by a company that knows the ins and outs of the Holy Land like no other. Should any problem arise, we don’t need to call the States for help. The local office of Jordan Tours will be in constant touch with us.
Q. Can I take your Holy Land tour but arrange for my own air transportation? I’d like to use Frequent flyer miles.
A. Absolutely. The price for the land only package is listed on the itinerary pages for the New Year's Pilgrimage and the Spring Pilgrimage. But remember, you’ll have to arrange for your own transfers from airport (Tel-Aviv) to hotel (Jerusalem) and final hotel (Tel Aviv) to the airport. Our tour company can help you with this.
Q. What is the weather like in the Holy Land?
A. In December and January, most days will probably be Spring-like temperatures and gentle sun with a day or two of possible rain and colder temperatures. In March and April, it will be springlike with lower chances of showers but a chance of a day or two of early summer temperatures in the afternoon. Generally, the climate in Israel is more pleasant for touring at in winter and spring than during summer when the heat can be withering. Temperatures in the mountains around Jerusalem tend to be a bit cooler in winter and spring. The lower elevations on the Sea of Galilee and Dead Sea generally have ideal sunny weather. The best approach is to bring layers. You may need a jacket and/or sweater in the morning which you may choose to take off midday and put back on after dark.
Q. Is much walking required?
A. Generally much less than on other tours that I’ve organized, such as to the Vatican, for example. Most of the time, our bus gets quite close to the sites we are visiting. The most walking we’ll probably do will be the way of the cross in the Old City of Jerusalem on the Via Dolorosa and our visit to the site of Mary's Visitation of Elizabeth. We have had both elderly and young participants (pre-teens) on this tour and they have done just fine. People with canes and needing some assistance have done fine on this tour but we regret that those requiring wheelchairs outside the airport cannot be accommodated. If you are in doubt whether your particular state of health is adequate to enjoy the pilgrimage, please call Consolidated Tours and discuss the situation with them. They will give you candid advice.
Q. Do you visit where Jesus is said to have carried His cross?
A. Absolutely, we will walk the Via Dolorosa, the original stations of the cross, on the day we tour the Old City of Jerusalem including the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.
Q. What sort of reading should we do to prepare for this trip?
A. The very best thing to read is the Bible itself. Top priority would be to read the Gospels of Luke and John from beginning to end, and then the Acts of the Apostles, noting the places as well as the words and deeds spoken in those places. If you have more time, read Genesis and Exodus as well as Joshua, Judges, I & II Samuel and I & II Kings. I & II Maccabees would also be great. All this would give you the historical framework to appreciate more deeply the places we are visiting and the works of salvation the Lord did for us in these places. In terms of movies, it would be awesome to watch Franco Zeffirelli's Jesus of Nazareth or Mel Gibson's Guide to the Passion before you depart or after you return.
For more information please -
Where are we going? What can we expect? - Click here!
Click Here to visit the Holy Land Pilgrimage Page for the complete Tour Itinerary!
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Itinerary of the Crossroads Initiative Holy Land Pilgrimage is subject to change
$300 deposit is required to reserve each passengers reservation!
Patricia D'Ambrosio talks about her Holy Land Experience with her family!
Do you have questions about safety in the Holy Land?
What was it like traveling with people of all ages?
So - What exactly will the Holy Land Pilgrimage be like?!