Fr. Charles Samson's
Biblical Archaeology Course
Holy Land Pilgrimage
December 28, 2019 - January 17, 2020
Caesarea Philippi · Gamla · Kursi · Caesarea Marittima · Beit Sh'arim · Beit Shean · Tzippori · Masada (with cable car) · Ein Gedi · Qumran · Capernaum · Herodion · Mt. Gerizim · Bethsaida · Muhraqa · Mount Tabor · Tel Jericho (Upper Room) · Ascension Chapel · Pater Noster · St. Peter in Gallicantu · St. Anne's · Ecce Homo · Israeli Museum · Western Wall excavations · Hezekiah's Tunnels
Make your way through the Holy Land to experience Him, follow in His footsteps, and see Him in the works He performed - your footsteps will become His. Celebrate votive Masses in the very places where these miraculous gifts became pages in the Gospel. See where He was back then, and feel how He is still there today!
Your trip includes
- Round-trip airfare from St. Louis to Tel Aviv
- Airport taxes & fuel surcharges
- Accommodations at centrally located first class hotels: (or similar)
- ~ 8 nights | Dec 29 - Jan 6: Mount of Beatitudes Guesthouse, South Golan
- ~ 11 nights | Jan 6 - 17 : Notre Dame Center, Jerusalem
- Transfers from/to Tel Aviv Airport
- Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner daily
- Mass daily
- Transportation by private air conditioned coach
- Luggage handling at hotels
- Entrance tickets for as follows:
- National Parks: Caesarea Philippi - Gamla - Kursi - Caesarea Marittima - Beit Sh'arim - Beit Shean - Tzippori - Masada (with cable car) - Ein Gedi - Qumran - Capernaum - Herodion; - Mt. Gerizim - Bethsaida - Muhraqa - Mount Tabor - Capernaum - Tel Jericho - Ascension Chapel - Pater Noster - St. Peter in Gallicantu - St. Anne's -- Ecce Homo - Israeli Museum - Western Wall excavations - Hezekiah's Tunnels
- Flight bag & portfolio of all travel documents
- Tips to driver ($4-$5 per day).
Providing you coverage for both pre-existing conditions and those that may arise during your trip, including medical and dental emergencies, loss of luggage, trip delay, and so much more.
A Cancellation Waiver - allowing you to cancel your trip and receive a refund anytime - up until 24 hours prior to departure. The Cancel for Any Reason Protection Plan expires once you are within 24 hours of departure.
Day 1, December 28, 2019 - Saturday
We depart from St. Louis, Missouri en route to the country of Israel for our three-week course on biblical archaeology. The course, as it is described in its syllabus, can be described as so: An expansive, thorough, and experienced introduction into the historical world of the Bible, with a view towards explaining-in both a classroom setting and, especially, 'in situ'-the Sacred Scriptures in the light of important archaeological discoveries and considerations that provide a uniquely fruitful context for the word of God's robust interpretation and incorporation into the seminarians' lives of study, prayer, and future priestly ministry.
Day 2, December 29, 2019 - Sunday
We land in Tel Aviv Ben Gurion International Airport and drive through the region of Galilee to the Mount of Beatitudes, at the Guesthouse of which we shall stay for the first week of our course. We celebrate in the afternoon our first Holy Mass overlooking the Sea of Galilee, and we then walk on foot down Eremos Hill to the seaside. Fr. Samson will offer an introduction to the lands of Galilee, and expound on the purpose of this pilgrimage to the Holy Land: to put the seminarians in direct, and even physical, contact with the actual places where Jesus walked, preached, and (importantly for us) called his disciples to come and follow him. The places that we shall tour this day include: the Mount of Beatitudes (where Jesus taught the Eight Beatitudes (Matthew 5); Eremos Hill (the lonely, deserted place to which Jesus retreated often in prayer (Mark 1:35), and from which hillside he delivered his famous Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), which includes the command to love your enemy, the Our Father, and various parables on prayer, fasting, and abstinence (Matthew 6); and the Ein Eyov Waterfall, where Jesus called James and John (Mark 1:19-20).
Day 3, December 30, 2019 - Monday
We visit, and celebrate Holy Mass at, the church of St. Peter's Primacy, where the resurrected Jesus fed the disciples breakfast and where Jesus asked Peter three times, in reparation for his triple denial of Jesus at the Lord's Passion: "Do you love me? Feed my sheep!" (John 21). We then tour Tabgha's Monastery of the Fish and the Loaves, where Jesus fed the crowd of 5,000 people (Matthew 14). Next we tour Caesarea Philippi (Banias), where Peter professed his faith in Jesus, who gave him the "keys of the kingdom" promised to build the Church on the rock of his confession of faith (Matthew 16).
Day 4, December 31, 2019 - Tuesday
We visit and tour Capernaum, where Jesus made Peter's home his own home-base in Galilee during his years of public ministry, where Jesus performed many healings on the sick (Mark 1-2), and where Jesus delivered (in the synagogue) his famous Bread of Life discourse (John 6), which is the source of the sacramental realism within the Eucharist and the Catholic Mass. We shall have Mass either above the ruins of the house of Peter, or at the far end of the town near the Sea of Galilee, where Jesus likely called Matthew sitting at the customs' post (Matthew 9). Here we shall introduce, formally, the course, especially in its archaeological purview. The afternoon will be free for the men to pray at whatever holy site that they would like to revisit.
Day 5, January 1, 2020 - Wednesday
We drive to Tabgha's Monastery of the Loaves and Fish, where we celebrate Holy Mass along the shore of the Sea of Galilee. Then we travel by bus to the town of Bethsaida, from where Peter originally came, as well as Phillip and Andrew (John 1), and which Jesus woe-fully criticized for its lack of faith (Matthew 11). Next we drive to Gamla, the fort of the rebellious Zealots whose resistance to Rome served to disperse widely some political and violent ideas of the long-expected Messiah, to which some of Jesus' own disciples (such as, possibly, Simon the Zealot, of Luke 6) might have initially subscribed. We take this time to discuss the religious, cultural, and social dynamics of the Judaism of the time of Jesus, so as to give essential context for the interpretation of the New Testament (especially the gospels). Lastly, we drive to Kursi, where Jesus exorcized the Gersane Demoniac (Mark 5), the subtle anti-Roman polemic of which account helps to suggest that Mark's Gospel was written in Rome for Roman Christians undergoing persecution after the crucifixion of Peter, Mark's source for his gospel.
Day 6, January 2, 2020 - Thursday
After an early Mass in the Guesthouse, we drive to Mount Carmel (Muhraqa), where Elijah contested with, and conquered, the prophets of Ba'al (1 Kings 18), and where human beings have been living since prehistoric times. We here renew our devotion to Our Lady, especially under the patronage of Carmel. Then we drive to Caesarea Maritime, where King Herod built the (at the time) largest port in the world and made several breakthroughs of engineering (such as developing the precursor to modern concrete). Here lived Cornelius, who received a vision (and was received by Peter!) to the effect that the Gentiles, too, were heirs of the Holy Spirit (Acts 11). Paul, who traveled and preached here often in his missionary journeys, was imprisoned here and put on trial before Felix, Festus, and Agrippa, before whom he, a Roman citizen, made his famous appeal to the tribunal of Caesar, which got him sent to Rome (Acts 23-25), where he would be martyred. Many Christian missionaries later set out from this very port to carry out Jesus' final command: "Go and make disciples of all nations" (Matthew 28). We shall discuss here the urgency, and effective means of, evangelization. We shall also visit the Roman ruins of the hippodrome and theater, the ruins of a church built there by St. Louis IX (our patron) and the Crusaders-whose history and influence (social, architectural, cultural, etc.) have left their even visible marks on the Holy Land-and finally the stone on which appears the name of Pontius Pilate, which figure we shall study from the biblical text and from the writings of the historian Flavius Josephus, the Zealot-turned-historian of the Jews from the time of Jesus.
Day 7, January 3, 2020 - Friday
We journey to Beit She'arim, a park that contains numerous impressive tombs that span many centuries. We discuss here the Jewish belief in the afterlife and their burial practices, and we visit and closely examine several family tombs that resemble exactly the tomb in which Jesus was laid (John 19). Here we pause and discuss the nature of history and the proper literary genre (an insistence of Vatican II's Dogmatic Constitution of Divine Revelation Dei Verbum) of the Gospels, which tend to differ in some of the details that they provide over the accounts of the resurrection of Jesus. Next, we drive to Beit She'an, an ancient (5th millennium B.C.!) settlement later ruled by the Egyptians and then the Philistines, who there hung on the wall the conquered Hebrew King Saul and his sons (1 Samuel 31). King David reconquered it, and King Solomon made it the administrative center of the north of his kingdom. The Assyrians destroyed it in the 8th century, and it was eventually made into one of the Decapolis cities of Jesus' time, some of which the Lord visited and in which he performed various miracles so as to include the Gentiles into God's plan of salvation. Along the impressive Roman ruins beneath the imposing archaeological mound, we discuss the importance of the 'tel' in archaeology, and the process of excavating. After this tour, we drive to Mount Tabor, the location of Jesus' Transfiguration (Mark 9), where we shall celebrate Holy Mass.
Day 8, January 4, 2020 - Saturday
Today we take a boat tour on the Sea of Galilee, so as to better envision the accounts of Jesus' calming the storm at sea (Mark 4) and his walking on water (Mark 6). We then drive to Magdala, where we celebrate Holy Mass, and tour the recently-excavated ruins, where we shall pause to discuss the figure of Mary Magdalene and the importance and role of women in the New Testament texts and early Christian ministry.
Day 9, January 5, 2020 - Sunday
We tour Nazareth and the Basilica of the Annunciation, where the "Word became flesh and dwelt among us" (John 1:14) in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary, whom Archangel Gabriel visited (Luke 1:26-38) there on site in the Lower Basilica. We tour, also, the synagogue of Nazareth, where Jesus interpreted the prophecy of Isaiah in reference to himself as the Messiah, sent to announce good news to the poor-to which preaching the townspeople reacted in anger and attempted to throw Jesus off of a cliff (Luke 4:16-30). We celebrate Holy Mass in the Church of St. Joseph, built over what is believed to be his home or workshop. Then we drive to nearby Tsipori (Sepphoris), the ancient city that became a center of commerce-and, so, where Joseph the carpenter (Matthew 13) probably sold his handiwork, and to where he likely took Jesus with him-and also an epicenter of rabbinic Judaism, since the Sanhedrin stayed here after their expulsion from Jerusalem by Rome (135 AD) until the second half of the 3rd century AD. Here, Jesus would have encountered the Greek language, which was the language of commerce in ancient Rome and which was spoken at the large theater, from which linguistic arena Jesus later adapted the language of 'hypocrite' in his public ministry. Hence, we here discuss the languages of Jesus and the knowledge of Jesus-two historical and theological issues that loom largely over any New Testament interpretation. We also discuss here the importance, and (paradoxically) relaxing, of the First Commandments prohibition against making graven images, examples of which abound in Tsipori, where Jewish faithful crafted several impressive mosaics (such as the "Mona Lisa of Tsipori) and even adopted to that purpose various pagan imagery.
Day 10, January 6, 2020 - Monday
After an early Mass, we depart Galilee and the Mount of Beatitudes today, heading south along the Jordan River to the Dead Sea. We stop at the Baptism of Jesus site (Qasr el Yahud) and renew our Baptismal Promises in the waters of the Jordan, into which our Lord himself was baptized by John (Matthew 3). Next, we drive to Jericho, the oldest city in the world, and tour the ruins of the city whose walls God crumbled at the shouts of the Israelite army-a feat that archaeology contests, and which hence merits a discussion on the historicity of the Bible. At Jericho, as well, Jesus healed the blind man Bartimaeus (Mark 10) and mercifully promised salvation onto the house of Zacchaeus, who had climbed a sycamore tree to see Jesus (Luke 10). Finally, we then drive to Jerusalem and check in to our hotel, the Notre Dame Center. After dinner, we shall take an evening walk into the Old City of Jerusalem.
Day 11, January 7, 2020 - Tuesday
After a morning Mass at the Notre Dame Center chapel, we drive back to the West Bank near the Dead Sea, and head south to tour, Masada, the rock fortress built by King Herod the Great and later held by Zealots as a last resistance against the conquering Roman legions in the early 70s A.D. There we discuss the ponderous figure of Herod the Great as he relates to the history of Israel at the time of our Lord (Matthew 2). Next we drive to Ein Gedi Nature Reserve, one of Israel's most popular national parks. There David hid from his rebellious and powerful son Absalom (1 Samuel 24), the Moabites and Ammonites gathered to fight Judah's King Josaphat (2 Chronicles 17), and-according to the Protoevangelium of James-Mary's father Joachim came to pray, avowing to God that, if he were to have a child, the child would be presented to God in the Temple of Jerusalem. This wadi is mentioned as early as Genesis 14, with its lush greenery and desert oasis being used as imagery in the Song of Songs (1) and the book of Sirach (24). Ein Gedi is also the location of a hideout of Jewish rebels against Rome during the disastrous Third Revolt of Bar Kokhba (130's AD), who wrote to the lazy rebels holed-up here several angry letters in Hebrew, not (as expected) in Aramaic. We shall here discuss, hence, this final rebellion against Rome that led to the destruction of Jerusalem, the expulsion of Jews and Jewish Christians from Jerusalem, and the definitive differentiation of Christianity from Judaism. We then visit the Dead Sea, the lowest point on earth, and which was mentioned in the Book of Joshua (3 and 12). We then visit Qumran, where the Dead Sea Scrolls (the oldest manuscripts of the Bible that we possess!) were found, and where a community of the Essenes lived; we shall there discuss textual issues and early Messianic expectations that were alive and active in the time of Jesus.
Day 12, January 8, 2020 - Wednesday
We celebrate the Holy Mass inside the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the Crusader church rebuilt in 1099 and then consequently mostly destroyed, save the hill of Mount Calvary and the perambulatory in the center of which remains the Tomb in which our crucified Lord was placed (John 19) and from which he gloriously rose from the dead (John 20). Mass will be on Calvary, at the Latin Altar, which stands where Jesus' Mother, Mary, stood next to her son at the foot of the Cross. We then tour the church and study its history, discussing ancient as well as recent archaeological findings relating to the reliability of these holiest of locations. We then walk through the Old City suqs (markets) into the Jewish Quarter, where we visit the ruins of the Roman Cardo, one of the hinge roads with which Rome rebuilt Jerusalem into its regional capital, Aelia Capitolina. Here we discuss the Roman phase of Jerusalem's history, as well as its early Christian history, which we find traced on the famous Madaba Mosaic. Next we head to Mount Zion and visit the Upper Room (in which occurred the Pentecost Descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and Mary (Acts 2), and possibly also the Last Supper (Mark 14), the supposed tomb of King David (a Crusader tradition, but which current building contains, in its wall, a niche from the first synagogue-church built by the Jewish Christians after Pentecost), and the Dormition Abbey, where tradition has it that Mary both lived with the early Christian community in Jerusalem and fell asleep at the end of her earthly life. Finally, we then visit and tour the Church of St. Peter in Gallicantu where Peter denied Jesus as the cock crowed three times (John 18), and where Jesus was kept overnight in the depths of the house of Caiaphas before his trial in the presence of Pontius Pilate (Matthew 26-27).
Day 13, January 9, 2020 - Thursday
We drive to the top of the Mount of Olives and visit the Eleona/Pater Noster Church, where tradition, shifted during Crusader times, has it that Jesus delivered the Our Father here (Luke 11 and Mark 11), though it is also believed that, due to the Constantinian basilica built here in 392 A.D. on top of a cave, that Jesus here delivered apocalyptic sermons about the end of the world and the need for repentance (Matthew 24). We next descend the hill to the Chapel of Dominus Flevit, built on the spot where Jesus wept over Jerusalem's lack of repentance and faith (Luke 19), and where we have Mass overlooking the whole Old City of Jerusalem. After a group photo at that panoramic view, we descend to the Garden of Gethsemane, and tour the Church of All Nations, in which is contained the stone on which Jesus sweat blood on the eve of his Passion while his disciples slept (Luke 22). After praying there, so as to "keep watch" with him, we visit the Austrian Hospice, the roof of which offers a sweeping view of the Old City that displays not only the city's structure on three hills, but also the fact that Calvary is at a high point of the city. We hop across the street to the Church of St. Anne/Bethesda, a gorgeous Crusader church (with perfect acoustics!) built near the pool in which Jesus healed a crippled man (John 5). Finally, we walk through the Muslim Quarter and the various suqs.
Day 14, January 10, 2020 - Friday
We travel to Bethlehem, where we first visit the Shepherds' Fields, in which the angels announced the glorious tidings of great joy: the savior has been born for us, who is Christ the Lord! Then we tour the Justinian Basilica of the Nativity, built over the grotto in which Jesus was born (Luke 2). We pray in the Church of Saint Catherine, and explore the Grotto of Jerome, where the exegete-saint chose to end his earthly years, and where we celebrate Holy Mass. After lunch and olive wood shopping in Nativity Square, as well as a visit to the Milk Grotto, we drive to Beit Jala, Palestine, and visit the Latin Patriarchate Seminary, where we meet the young men studying in the Holy Land for the priesthood.
Day 15, January 11, 2020 - Saturday
We drive to Evan Sapir and tour the Church of John the Baptist and the Church of the Visitation in Ein Karem, where both John the Baptist was born and where Mary famously visited her cousin Elizabeth (Luke 1). We celebrate Holy Mass in the latter church. We then drive the Jaffa Gate of Jerusalem, and visit the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem.
Day 16, January 12, 2020 - Sunday
After Mass at the Notre Dame Center, we drive into the West Bank and visit several sites of ancient Samaria. First we drive to Mount Gerizim, where the Samaritans believe the Tabernacle was located as chosen by God for His name's dwelling, and which they associated with Mount Moriah-and, so, here they celebrate the Passover each year. Moses divvied up the tribes of Israel here, and pronounced curses on adjacent Mount Ebal; Joshua gathered the Israelites here after the battle of Ai, built an altar, and wrote the law of Moses on stones (Joshua 8). Jesus passed through here frequently en route to and from Jerusalem, seeking to unite the two 'split' kingdoms in worship, he tells the Samaritan woman at the well, not on this or on Jerusalem's mountain, but rather in spirit and truth (John 4). After discussing the historical, cultural, and even textual difficulties of the Hebrews with the Samaritans, we drive to the Church of Jacob's Well, where Jesus revealed himself as Messiah to the Samaritan woman, who notes that their patriarch Jacob secured this well, and there met his eventual wife, Rachel (Genesis 29). Then we drive to Nablus, which is associated with biblical Shechem: the Israelite tribe of Manasseh's city, and the first capital of the Kingdom of Israel, under Rehoboam (1 Kings 12). Here Abraham built an altar sacrificed to the Lord near a great tree, and God confirmed the covenant he had made with Abraham, to give him possession of the land of Canaan (Genesis 12). Joshua here famously asked the Israelites what God they would serve, and he erected a memorial stone on the hillside. Jotham, Gideon's youngest son, here delivered a famous allegorical speech warning about the future tyranny of Abimelech, Gideon's son (Judges 9).The city was named Sebastios after Caesar Augustus and rebuilt by Herod the Great. It is said that John the Baptist is buried here (Mark 6), and it is believed that John and Peter preached here to the Samaritans (Acts 8).
Day 17, January 13, 2020 - Monday
After Holy Mass in the Mary Magdalene Chapel of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, where it is believed that she met our Risen Lord who called her by name (John 20), the day is free for prayer and study. An optional walking excursion, and lunch outing, to the First Station area of Jerusalem will be offered.
Day 18, January 14, 2020 - Tuesday
After Holy Mass at the Notre Dame Center, we drive to Herodion, one of Herod the Great's most ambitious building projects: summer palace, fortress, monument, district capital, and burial ground. The historian Flavius Josephus tells us that Herod was buried here. Jewish rebels took it in 66 A.D. at the outbreak of the great revolt against Rome, holding it for four years until they were defeated by the Romans. Later, in 132 A.D., Jewish rebels again occupied it during the Bar Kokhba revolt. After exploring the tunnels and fortifications, we drive to the Israeli Museum, where we visit the Tomb of Herod that was discovered at Herodion. At the museum, we shall see a miniature of the Old City in the days of the kings before the Babylonian Exile (587/6 B.C.). We also visit the Shrine of the Book exhibit, so as to see and study some of the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Day 19, January 15, 2020 - Wednesday
We walk to the Dormition Abbey, where celebrate the Holy Mass. Then we walk to the City of David and tour the archaeological ruins and excavations. We walk through Hezekiah's Tunnel, and discuss the siege of Jerusalem by Sennacherib (701 B.C.) and the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar (587/586 B.C.). Then we walk to the Western Wall and visit the remains of the Second Jewish Temple, constructed after the Babylonian Exile and fortified by King Herod.
Day 20, January 16, 2020 - Thursday
The students today take their final exams, and then have the rest of the day free for prayer time and one final visit to their favorite sites and shrines.
Day 21, January 17, 2020 - Friday
After an early Mass at the Notre Dame center, we check out of the hotel and drive to the Ben Gurion Tel Aviv airport, for our return trip to St. Louis.
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About Your Trip
- Tel Aviv
- Sea of Galilee
- Jordan River
- Mt. Tabor
- Ein Karem
- Dead Sea
- Mt. Zion
- Holy Sepulchre
The Holy Land - In the Footsteps of Jesus:
If you desire to draw closer to Jesus of Nazareth, come, as we follow in His footsteps. Each day of your pilgrimage you will have time to renew and affirm your faith; to pray and reflect. The Scriptures will come alive as you visit Our Lord's homeland. You will be inspired by the natural beauty of the landscape, in addition to its rich historical heritage It is an encounter that has changed the lives of many pilgrims, an act of faith and prayer. Pilgrims have been traveling to the Holy Land for hundreds of years, and as part of your pilgrimage, we include many of the rich traditions that have evolved over time. The maxim at the entrance to the Church of the Nativity says: "We are hoping that: If you enter here as a tourist, you would exit as a pilgrim. If you enter here as a pilgrim, you would exit as a holier one." We pray that same will occur when you join 206 Tours pilgrimage.
We promise to do all within our power to assist you with any questions or concerns you may have. Please feel free to contact us, please note should any problems arise during your trip you should first contact your local emergency contact in your destination country or the 206 Tours.Read More