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

STS on a Two Day Visit to Galilee


12-13 October 2013
Report by: Girmay Hailu

Early in the morning on Saturday we, the new students of the Studium Theologicum Salesianum, accompanied by the Archaeology professor Fr Joan Vernet, Scripture Professor, Fr. Eric Wyckoff and Canon Law Professor Fr. Ric Fernando started our trip to Galilee. After a few minute, as we left the city we recited our morning prayer in the bus. Following our morning prayer, Fr. Vernet gave us some information on the historical places we passed as we traveled.  Everyone was very curious to know the historical places and to see the place from the window of the bus.
We made our first stop at the valley of the patriarchs and we read from scripture Gen 12:1-7.  We also saw in the distance the valley of Alexanderion.  Our second stop was in the Land of Gilead. This was a very important place where the prophet Elisha followed the prophet Elijah. We read from the scripture the word of God which speaks about the call of Elisha 1Kings 19:19.  Another amazing thing in this place was a biblical tree called the buckthorn tree.  We found reference to it in Judges, 9:7.  The trees went out to anoint a king over themselves.  The only tree to accept kingship was the buckthorn tree.  The tree said to all the other trees come and take refuge in my shadow.  We heard this explanation by Fr. Vernet as we sat under that tree.  At our third stop we visited Mount Gilboa where David lamented because Saul and Jonathan were killed there.  Our reading of the word of God was from the book of 2 Sam 1:7-27.
Soon we arrived in Galilee.  There our first stop was the Valley of Hippos. We climbed the mountain in our bus even though the way was a bit narrow.  Then we walked along the city of Hippos, on the top of the mountain.  While we were walking we stopped to see a big mile stone.  This stone was being put along the way to indicate the distance.  Another interesting thing that we saw was the aqueducts.  These were stones that were used for creating a water supply.  They made pipes by making tunnels from the stone to pull water from a long distance.  Then we entered the ancient city.  How amazing to see such art and the hard work of the people of that time. The columns that we saw were made of granite and marble.  These were brought from Egypt.  We were all astonished at hearing this.  I would like just to mention some of the things that we viewed there; a city gate, a main colonnaded street, a defense wall with fortified towers, a sophisticated water supply system, a main square, a reservoir, a sanctuary, churches, and a baptistery.. From this city monument we were able to see a beautiful view of the Sea of Galilee.
When we left the City of Hippos, we went back down the mountain, some of us were walking and some of us rode in the bus.  We took our lunch in Ein Gev where all of us enjoyed St. Peter fish. It was wonderful to have the same kind of fish that St. Peter had pulled from the sea and had eaten.  The Fish was unique as it came with its mouth open, it looked like it was still alive.
After lunch we went to visit Kursi monastery where Jesus had performed a miracle.  He cured a man possessed by the devil.  We heard this from the Gospel of Lk 8:26-39.  We had planned to then take a boat to cross the Sea of Galilee but, unfortunately we couldn't rent the boat.  
We then went by bus to Capernaum.  In Capernaum we had a beautiful visit at the house of St. Peter and an old Synagogue where Jesus was teaching.  At the entrance of this place there is a script which says, “Capernaum, the Town of Jesus”.  In Capernaum Jesus taught about the Eucharist. and for this reason we read from the Gospel of John 6: 67-71.  Another thing of interest was the “insula”. Between the house of St. Peter and the Synagogue, there are many houses.  It has been estimated that more than 200 different people were living there in that small compound.  It shows that there was the sense of community life.
Our journey continued and we went to visit the Mount of the Beatitudes.. We went directly to the church and remained there for few minutes of personal prayer.  The compound was so beautiful and green and we were also able to get another magnificent view of the Sea of Galilee.
Finally we moved on to Nazareth, the home town of the parents of Jesus.  On our way we recited our evening prayer and we prayed the rosary.  We arrived at the house of the Salesian Sisters where we celebrated mass in their beautiful chapel.  The mass was celebrated by Fr. Eric Wyckoff, assisted by Deacon. Pedro.  It was a wonderful experience to have the Eucharistic Celebration in the home town of Jesus.  Here we spent the night.
The following morning we went to Mt. Tabor.  We had wonderful spiritual enrichment crossing through beautiful plains of Nazareth to reach Mt. Tabor.  This Mount is the place of perfect revelation and the place of the transfiguration of our Lord Jesus.  We had an inspiring celebration of Mass in the chapel of Moses where we were able to experience what it felt like to be with Jesus and to know how wonderful it must have been to stay with Him.  Our next visit was to the Holy Basilica of the Annunciation of Mary and the house of the Holy Family, the place of the great mystery of the Word made Flesh and the mystery of our salvation.  
We returned to the FMA Sisters where we had lunch.  There the hospitality was wonderful.  We very much appreciated the generosity of the sisters and their welcoming spirit.  Fr. Vernet thanked them for their generosity and for their hospitality.
Then we proceeded to the next place which was Zippori.  There we visited the remains of a magnificent city.  In this place we viewed a system of streets, public buildings, dwellings, a theater, a synagogue, a gigantic water reservoir and much more.  Here we were able to appreciate the beautiful mosaics they used to doctorate the floors.  This ancient art communicates how active and alive the people were.  It is incredible to see such an art that was done hundreds of years ago and still looks as fresh today.  Here in this place we understood from its remains that everything was very well organized and well structured.  It was amazing to see the water reservoir and was hard to believe that it was done with the power of human hands without any technology.  It was dug very deep and you are able to walk about several kilometers inside it.
And finally, back home, we recognize that we have been very privileged to see and experience exactly where Jesus was teaching, walking and performing miracles and to hear the Word of God in each of the places that we have visited.  This fantastic trip has great value in our lives and everyone on the trip treasured it.  We all thanked Fr. Vernet and all who were instrumental in arranging for the trip for giving us so much input and insights into these historical places with their biblical connections.

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