Every pilgrimage is different, but if we were to outline one which included many of the well-known sites, it might be something like this:
Around 9.00am we take an Aer Lingus flight from Belfast City Airport to connect with the main El Al flight from London Heathrow, leaving at around3.30pm. It takes approximately five hours to reach Ben Gurion International Airport at Tel Aviv, and Israel is two hours ahead of us, so we arrive around 10.30pm and we are then transferred to a hotel in Jerusalem, very close to the Old City.
Our coach takes us to the top of the Mount of Olives, where we enjoy a staggering view of the Old City. We then descend on foot, calling at the Church of the Ascension, Pater Noster, Dominus Flevit, and into the Garden of Gethsemane. From here our coach crosses the Kidron Valley to St Peter in Gallicantu, the site of the High Priests's house, where Jesus was taken before his trial, and where Peter denied Jesus in the courtyard. A short six-mile trip to Bethlehem takes us to the Church of the Nativity, the Shepherds' Fields, with a stop for lunch, then on to shopping for olive wood products.
Today is usually a walking tour of the Old City of Jerusalem. We begin with the Tomb of King David and the room of the Last Supper and continue with the Western Wall. From here we visit the Pool of Bethesda and the Crusader Church of St Anne, passing the Stations of the Cross on the Via Dolorosa, which ends in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, containing the place of our Lord's crucifixion and the tomb of the Resurrection.
We drive to the Judean Wilderness to see Masada, the fortress of Herod the Great, which we ascend by cable car, then we continue to Ein Boqeq where we float in the Dead Sea. On our trip back to Jerusalem we take in Qumran where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found in 1947.
Today is usually called a "free day" where pilgrims have the chance to re-visit places of special interest around the Old City, or spend some time shopping in the souks.
We drive into the Wilderness to celebrate the Eucharist at a place called Wadi Qelt, then we continue to Nebi Musa (Tomb of Moses), then on to Jericho where we lunch in the Al Rawda Garden Restaurant. Then we proceed to the Tomb of Lazarus in Bethany, and we spend some time at Jeel al Amal, an orphanage for boys which we support throughout the year.
In the morning we leave Jerusalem and make our way to the Galilee via Caesarea Maritima and the Mediterranean Coast. We continue to the spot where, on Mount Carmel, Elijah called down fire on the altar to confound the Prophets of Baal, and after lunch in a Druze village we arrive in Tiberias wheer we relax in the outdoor pool or swim in the Sea of Galilee.
In the morning we visit Yardenit, then drive around the lake to Capernaum, our Lord's Galilean base. We continue to Tabgha, the traditional site of the Feeding of the Five Thousand, where we celebrate the Eucharist on the Lakeside. Other visits here might include the Mensa Christi Chapel and the Mount of the Beatitudes. At the end of the day we enjoy a boat trip back across the Sea of Galilee to our hotel, which is on the lakeside.
Today we drive up the Golan Heights to Banias (Caesarea Philippi) where we enjoy a walk through the nature reserve and have time for meditation and reflection. In the afternoon we visit the ancient Jewish city of Safed, seeing the synagogues and shops.
Today we spend time in Nazareth, which we reach through the town of Cana, and we take time to visit Nazareth Village, a living history of 1st century of Galilean life. From here we walk to Mary's Well and the Church of the Annunciation. In the afternoon we ascend the Mount of Transfiguration in taxis, where we evaluate the spiritual side of our pilgrimage.
An early start takes us back to Tel Aviv for our flight to London Heathrow, and afterwards for our connecting flight to Belfast City Airport.