Studium Theologicum Salesianum
Salesian Pontifical University : Faculty of Theology - Jerusalem Campus
 

STS STUDY TRIP

  

 
 


19-20 April 2017   -    STS - Jerusalem
PLÁŠEK Vladimir & John Langan


Our two days study trip to Galilee started from the STS in Jerusalem on Wednesday at 7.00 am. We were 58 persons and the main leaders and organizers were Fr. Biju Michael, Fr. Karol Kulpa and Fr Matteo Balla. Our route on Wednesday was: Jerusalem – Akko – Rosha Ha Nikra – Tiberias.


Bahai Gardens

First place that we visited were these beautiful gardens on the outskirts of Akko. Bahai religion is a monotheistic religion, belonging to the youngest religions in the world with about 6 million believers in 150 countries around the world, with the centre in Haifa. It tries to connect Judaism, Christianity and Muslim religions into one religious system. It claims that God reigns through the prophets like Moses, Christ, Mohammed and the last prophet Mizra Ali Muhammed al Bab. His son Mizra Hussein Ali continued spreading the religion, living in a house near Akko, which after his death in 1892 was transformed into a museum. This museum is in the centre of the Bahai Gardens that we visited, about 3 km from today’s Akko. The Gardens are full of different flowers: roses, geranium, iris, as well as trees: pines, cedars, cypress, all organized in precise geometric shapes.


Akko

Akko was the main point of interest of today’s trip. It is called also Acre and is historically well known as a crusader fortress and the gateway into the Holy Land. It is about 23 km north of Haifa, and only about 20 km below the boundaries with Lebanon. Its age is estimated around 4000 years. Throughout the rich history of the city different civilizations reigned in the city: Canaanites, Israelites (David, Solomon), Assyrians (Sennacherib), Greeks (Alexander), Egyptians (Ptolemais, who changed its name into Ptolemais), Syrians (Seleucs), Romans (Pompeii), Byzantine, Arabs (Umayyad). The city reached the peak of its development at the time of the crusaders (1099-1292), when it became the main connection between the Europe and Palestine and also the bastion of Western Christianity in the Holy Land. The King of England Richard the Lion’s heart, the Emperor Fridrich II, The King of France Ludvik VII and Ludvik IX, as well as St. Francis of Assisi, Marco Polo and rabbi Rambam visited this important city in this period. In 1191 the Crusaders conquered the city and it became for 100 years the capital city of a Latin Christian kingdom with the new name “St. Jean D’Acre”. Many merchants, monks, architects and knights came to the city from Europe, with the biggest influence of the Genoa’s sailors. The importance of Akko grew by the presence of the monastic military orders especially Templars and the Hospitallers. The Hospitallers moved their headquarters from Jerusalem to Akko in 1191. In the Knights Palace we visited among others the Hall of Columns, impressive dining hall of the Order, as well as Sugar Bowls Hall, the Hospitallers were renowned for leading development of the sugar industry. From the boat, we could observe the beauty of the old port and city. After the lunch in the local restaurant we passed through the Templar tunnel and went to see the north-wall fortification to finally move from Akko to the north, to Rosh Ha Nikra.

Rosh Ha Nikra

It is a border control point of Israeli- Lebanese boundary, rocky headland steeply descending into the sea. Every army in the history that marched towards Palestine from the north, had to pass through this obstacle. Alexander the Great in 333 commanded to hew Tyre steps into the rock. In the present it is a nice recreation area, with a cable car, the shortest in the world, built in 1968, that covers the height of 102 m. We saw also the tunnels in the caves and wonderful views of the sea full of sea animals as we watched in the movie afterwards.


Tiberias

At the end of the first day, tired, but full of beautiful moments we reached Tiberias where we took the dinner as the last common moment of this unforgettable day and still enjoyed the evening near the Sea of Galilee, the Sea that our Lord loved.


Tabgha

The second day of our study trip started off with an early wake up and a quick breakfast at the hotel. We loaded up the bus and headed to Tabgha, or Peter’s Primacy, to celebrate mass. This is the traditional site of Jesus’ third apparition to his disciples, where they went fishing all night, but caught nothing. Jesus appears, questions them about the success of their fishing, and directs them to cast the net over the right side of the boat. It is only after their nets are filled that Peter recognizes Jesus, jumps out of the boat and swims to Jesus. They proceed to eat breakfast together and then Jesus questions Peter three times, “Do you love me?”. Fr. Jasmond, a Salesian from Malta, presided at the concelebrated Mass here and spoke in the homily about the blessing for all of us to be at that place and reflect on this event within the octave of Easter. After leaving Tabgha we prayed Morning prayer together on the bus.


Mt Hermon

Next, we drove through Golan Heights and up the slopes of Mount Hermon. The Golan Heights is a section of land that has been under Israeli control since the 1967 Six-Day war. Standing at 2,814 meters, Mount Hermon is the highest peak in all of Israel. It is mentioned a few times in the Old Testament, such as the book of Deuteronomy, and in the New Testament. Upon ascending the mountain by ski lift we listened to Fr. Karol’s explanation and then a snowball fight ensued using the remnant of the snow that was holding out on the mountain’s peak. We returned to the base and drove into the nearest town of Majdal Al-Shams for a delicious lunch.


Caesarea Philippi

After lunch, we drove over to Caesarea Philippi to allow the fourth-year students to see the remains of an ancient Roman Temple to Pan and the other remains of the city. It is here where tradition has it, that Peter confessed Jesus to be the long-awaited-for Messiah and then Jesus told Peter, “you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it”.


Kfar Blum

The last stop for the day was in the town of Kfar Blum. We started off by getting a different perspective of the Jordan river as we kayaked down on rafts underneath the warm sun. It was an exciting paddle down the Jordan that brought joy to all the students. We finished off the activities here with a zip-line down into the river.

At the end of the day the students had their spirits lifted by the opportunity to pray and have some fun together in the various events of the day. We prayed the evening prayer and a rosary to begin the bus ride back to our homes in Jerusalem. It was a quiet trip back as everyone was quite tired from the two full days of activities.
 
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