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Going on a Christian pilgrimage to the Holy Land has been popular since the Middle Ages. People of that time regarded pilgrimages as the ultimate spiritual act, believing they would cleanse them of all their sin. Of course, going on a pilgrimage during the Middle Ages was a very different undertaking to doing so today! A trip to the Holy Land was an incredibly difficult journey, requiring both physical and mental strength. Many pilgrims travelled distances of up to 5000 kilometres on foot, never spending more than one night in one place. These trips lasted many years, and cost a significant amount of money. Many people had to sell their land to the Church in order to fund their pilgrimage.

Over and above the financial cost of the journey, it was also a physcially arduous and highly dangerous undertaking. There was the very real possibility of dying from illness or injury, or being killed by roadside bandits. For these reasons, pilgrims had to make a will, pay off all their debts, formally apologise to everyone they had ever offended, and make a vow in front of the priest before being allowed to start their journey.

Fortunately for modern-day travellers, a pilgrimage to the Holy Land requires none of these preparations. Nor will it put you in mortal danger.

Why Go On A Pilgrimage To The Holy Land?

Many Christians say that once you’ve been to the Holy Land, you’ll never be able to hear the Gospel preached, or read the Bible, without reflecting on the places where Jesus lived, healed, taught and was ultimtely crucified. A pilgrimage brings life to the stories of places you’ve previously only read about.

Of course, the Holy Land is not only significant for Christians. There are many shrines deemed holy by Jews and Muslims too. In fact, the area is where all three religions intersect. In addition, it’s common, then thinking of the Holy Land, to think only of Israel. But, while it’s true that Israel is the centre of the Christian faith, there are also many sites in Egypt that help bring the Gospels to life. This is why many people, when planning their pilgrimages to the Holy Land, travel to both countries.

Sites in Egypt

Mount Sinai is undoubtedly one of the most popular, and significant, sites in Egypt for pilgrims. It is where Moses is said to have received the Ten Commandments from God. Many pilgrims make a special effort to see the sun rise from the top of the mountain. Scaling this sacred peak is quite tricky, but it can be accessed by one of two routes. The first is via the “Steps of Repentance,” a steep flight of 3 750 steps, said to have been cut into the rocky gorge as an act of penitence by a monk. If this sounds too strenuous, you can choose a less steep route that can be ascended by camel – except for the final 750 “steps” that have to be completed on foot.

Near the foot of Mount Sinai, there’s an Orthodox Monastery, St Catherine’s. It is built over the traditional site of the Burning Bush, where God told Moses to lead his people out of Egypt.

Sites in Israel

Naturally, there are numerous sites you may want to include in the Israeli part of your pilgrimage. The ones you choose depend on your personal beliefs, and what is most important to you. Some sites have different significance for different faiths. For example, some evangelical Anglicans and Protestants believe that the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem is the site of Jesus’ burial and resurection. Catholics, however, recognise the Church of the Holy Sepulchre as the actual burial site.

Notwithstanding this difference, Jerusalem – on of the world’s oldest cities – is a holy city in Judaism, Islam and Christianity. As such, it is divided into quarters – Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Armenian. There are, however, sites of Christian significance in each quarter. The Christian quarter is in the north east of the city, and is the location of the aforementioned Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The Jewish Quarter is where you’ll find the Western Wall and the Church of Saint Mark. The Muslim quarter forms part of the Way of the Cross, and is also where you’ll find the Crusader Church of Saint Anne, the Pool of Bethesda and the Convent of the Sisters of Zion. The Armenian quarter is home to the Cathedral of Saint James.

Bethlehem is always must-see place on any pilgrimage to the Holy Land. This small and somewhat primitive town hasn’t actually changed much since the times of Jesus’ birth. Many of the houses are built in the same style used over 2 000 years ago, making Bethlehem the town most resembling what life looked like around the time Jesus was born.

Planning Your Pilgrimage To The Holy Land

With so many places to visit, and sacred sites to see, a pilgrimage to the Holy Land may not be something you want to plan on your own.

Why not let the travel experts at Zilko Travel take care of it for you? We’ve been taking care of our clients’ local and international corporate, leisure and incentive travel since 2009. In addition, we’re a member of the S.I.T.A Worldwide Group, which is IATA and ASATA accredited, so you know you can trust us to make your Holy Land Pilgrimage everything you hope it will be. Come and chat to us about the places you’d like to see, and we can help make it all happen.

Author: Liz Kariuki-Konzolo

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