Pilgrims From the West Make Trek to the Holy Land
SISTERSVILLE – The Rev. Bill Dawson was busy Friday making last minute plans and packing for his two-week trip to Israel.
Dawson’s plane was scheduled to leave the United States early Monday morning so that by the time this article is published today, he will be in the Holy Land. Dawson joins seven other people from Tyler County who will be touring familiar Biblical places such as Bethlehem and Jerusalem.
“I look forward to the trip,” said Dawson, pastor of Sistersville’s United Methodist Church. “Every trip you make, you learn something. I like watching first time visitors when they have that awe inspiring moment seeing places they’ve already read about.”
Among the highlights, the tour group will visit include Western Wall that was part of the fortifications associated with the Temple Mount. A highly religious site, the wall has been the place where people have prayed for a very long time.
“We’re going to make sure we visit the wall,” Dawson said. “I have a lot of prayer requests.”
Among other places the tour group will visit include Qumron, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered, and while at the Dead Sea, tourists will have the opportunity to take a dip in the mineral laden waters of the Dead Sea.
Dawson said during the trip, he will post updates and photos at travel blog.org/North-America/United-States/West-Virginia/blog 919596.html
The tour group will visit the baptismal site of Qasr el Yehud, where tradition says Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist. The group will journey to Jericho (the oldest city in the world) to visit the ruins of the ancient city Joshua conquered. Dawson said that in the distance from Jericho, “You can see the traditional site of the Temptation of Jesus.”
The group will explore one of the most exciting archeological digs in Israel-Herodion, the palace-fortress and final resting place of Herod the Great, Dawson said. In Bethlehem, they will visit the cave where Jesus was born and where the Church of the Nativity built and gaze out over Shepherds Field, where angels first proclaimed the news about the Savior.
“This is where history and religion come to life,” Dawson said.
The tour group will visit the Roman Aqueduct and Theatre at Caesarea, a center of the early Christians and where Paul was imprisoned for two years and view Mount Carmel, site of Elijah’s victory over the prophets of Baal, Dawson said. The group will travel the ancient caravan route through the Jezreel Valley to Tel Megiddo, an exciting archeological dig with its layers of twenty different cities built on top of each other.
The group will enjoy a scenic drive to Capernaum, center of Jesus’ ministry in the Galilee. On the Mount of Beatitudes, contemplate the text of the Sermon on the Mount that Jesus preached there. Dawson said the pilgrims will experience a special onboard worship service as you sail across the Sea of Galilee.
“We’ll sing both the national anthems for the United States and Israel,” he said. “Singing the anthems like this this sends a message from the people of Israel that they stand in solidarity with the United States. And we play “Country Roads” everybody loves that song.”
Dawson said the group will visit the Church of the Fish and the Loaves in Tabgha, the traditional location of the feeding of the 5,000. And the pilgrims will get a chance to stand on the Mount of Olives so as to enjoy a remarkable view of Jerusalem.
“When you see Jerusalem for the first time, you get goose bumps,” Dawson said. “As we ascend the the road into Jerusalem, the tour guide welcomes you ‘home'”.
Pilgrims will get a chance to walk to the Garden of Gethsemane and pray beneath the ancient olive trees. On Mount Zion, they will visit the Upper Room, revered as the site of the Last Supper and St. Peter in Gallicantu, where some say Jesus was held after His arrest.
Tourists will get an opportunity to do a walking tour of the Old City of Jerusalem along the Cardo, once the main street of the city. At Herod’s Antonia Fortress, they will get a chance to see where Jesus was brought before Pontius Pilate, walk the Via Dolorosa (“the Way of the Cross”) and remember the Lord’s sacrificial love at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Dawson said the group would be offered an opportunity to share communion together at the Garden Tomb in celebration of His Resurrection.
“This trip is a great experience for everyone,” Dawson said.