The difference between these two events is so vastly different and it is so obvious that the Muslim pilgrimage is totally devoted to focus on individual submission to Allah whereas, the Holy Land tour geared to Christians is a cultural and historical vacation the is more educational and fun. While focus is on “walking in the steps of Jesus” the participants have time to visit the spa, shop and have great dinners every night. Review the synopsis of the two extremes below:
Muslim Hajj – Pilgrimage
The Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam, a religious duty that must be carried out by every able-bodied Muslim who can afford to do so at least once in his or her lifetime. The Hajj is a demonstration of the solidarity of the Muslim people, and their submission to God (Allah in the Arabic language). It is a journey of a lifetime, during which one is reminded of death and the afterlife, and returns a renewed person. The Quran tells the believers to “take provisions with you for the journey, but the best of provisions is God-consciousness…” (2:197). So spiritual preparation is key; one should be ready to face God with complete humility and faith. One should read books, consult with religious leaders, and ask God for guidance on how best to benefit from the Hajj experience.
The Hajj is only required of those people who can financially afford to make the journey, and who are physically capable of performing the rites of pilgrimage. Many Muslims in the world save up funds their entire lives in order to make the journey just one time. For others the financial impact is minimal. Since the pilgrimage is physically grueling, it is beneficial to engage in physical exercise in the months prior to travel.
In recent years, the annual pilgrimage has drawn crowds of nearly 3 million people. The logistics of providing housing, transportation, sanitation, food, etc. for such large numbers of people require a great deal of coordination. The government of Saudi Arabia has therefore instituted policies and procedures that potential pilgrims must follow in order to ensure a safe and spiritual pilgrimage experience for all. All potential pilgrims must apply for a Hajj visa through a qualified travel agent in their home country. The Saudi embassies will not issue Hajj visas to individuals travelling alone. All foreign travel agents must be pre-approved by the Ministry of Hajj and have a partnership contract with a local (Saudi) Hajj provider. Quotas have been placed on the number of pilgrims from each country, and in some cases on the number of times any one individual can perform the pilgrimage within a certain number of years.
· On the first official day of the pilgrimage, the millions of pilgrims that have now gathered travel from Mecca to Mina, a small village east of the city. There they spend the day and night in enormous tent cities, praying, reading the Qur’an, and resting for the next day.
· On the second day of the pilgrimage, the pilgrims leave Mina just after dawn to travel to the Plain of Arafat for the culminating experience of the Hajj. On what is known as the “Day of Arafat,” the pilgrims spend the entire day standing (or sitting) near the Mount of Mercy, asking Allah for forgiveness and making supplications. Muslims around the world who are not at the pilgrimage join them in spirit by fasting for the day.
After sunset on the Day of Arafat, the pilgrims leave and travel to a nearby open plain called Muzdalifah, roughly halfway between Arafat and Mina. There they spend the night praying, and collecting small stone pebbles to be used the following day.
· On the third day, the pilgrims move before sunrise, this time back to Mina. Here they throw their stone pebbles at pillars that represent the temptations of Satan. When throwing the stones, the pilgrims recall the story of Satan’s attempt to dissuade Prophet Abraham from following God’s command to sacrifice his son. The stones represent Abraham’s rejection of Satan and the firmness of his faith.
After casting the pebbles, most pilgrims slaughter an animal (often a sheep or a goat) and give away the meat to the poor. This is a symbolic act that shows their willingness to part with something that is precious to them, just as the Prophet Abraham was prepared to sacrifice his son at God’s command.
Throughout the world, Muslims celebrate Eid al-Adha, the Festival of Sacrifice, on this day. This is the second of the two major holidays in Islam each year.
· The pilgrims then return to Mecca and perform seven tawaf, turns around the Ka’aba, the house of worship built by Prophet Abraham and his son. In other rites, the pilgrims pray near a place called “The Station of Abraham,” which is reportedly where Abraham stood while constructing the Ka’aba. The pilgrims also walk seven times between two small hills near the Ka’aba (and enclosed in the Grand Mosque’s complex). This is done in remembrance of the plight of Abraham’s wife Hajar, who desperately searched in the area for water for herself and her son, before a spring welled up in the desert for her. The pilgrims also drink from this ancient spring, known as Zamzam, which continues to flow today.
· The days and weeks after Hajj, many Muslims take advantage of their travel time by visiting the city of Madinah, 270 miles north of Mecca. The people of Madinah provided refuge to the early Muslim community, when they were being persecuted by the powerful Meccan tribes. Madinah became a center for the growing Muslim community, and was home to the Prophet Muhammad and his followers for many years. Pilgrims visit the Prophet’s Mosque, where Muhammad is buried, as well as other ancient mosques, and the many historical battle sites and graveyards in the area.
· Pilgrims from outside Saudi Arabia are required to leave the country by the 10th of Muharram, about one month after the completion of the pilgrimage. After Hajj, pilgrims return home with renewed faith and are given honorific titles.
Christian Tour to the Holy Lands
Why travel to Israel?
· It is a unique destination
· Spiritually impactful
· Rich heritage and history
· Diverse physical geography including 4 seas and 6 climates
· Wide variety of options and activities
· Excellent restaurants and hotels
· Caesarea, one of the Land of Israel’s most important cities during the Roman Period and the traditional site of the imprisonment of Paul before his trial in Rome
· Boat Ride on the sea of Galilee
· Megiddo, one of the most important biblical sites in Israel and the traditional site of Armageddon
· Nazareth and the Church of the Annunciation of Christ
· Mt. Of Olives and panoramic view of the Holy
· Garden Tomb, traditional Protestant site of Calvary
· Garden Of Gethsemane with its ancient olive grove
· Bethlehem and the church of Nativity
Why should Christians visit Israel?
· Discover the land of the Bible in person
· Learn about biblical events where they actually happened
· The Bible comes alive, giving new insights into God’s Word and His character
· Experience personal spiritual impact
· Gain a deeper understanding of the Bible
· Show support for Israel
What are more reasons to travel to Israel?
· The Holy Land is transforming
· You’ll walk in the footsteps of Jesus
· The sights, sounds, smells, history, culture and people all make the Bible come alive
· New levels of understanding and appreciation for the Scriptures
· Enjoy the warmth and hospitality of the Israeli people
· History, geography and culture come together
Day 1 – Fly to Tel Aviv
Day 2 – Check into hotel, have an informal gathering and an opportunity to take a leisurely stroll down the beach. Feel free to use the rest of the day on your own, resting and recovering or getting to know your travel mates.
Day 3 – visit the House of Peter in Jaffa (Acts 10) where we will hear a teaching about a leader’s calling to stand up and walk when the Lord calls. Then, onto Caesarea through the Mediterranean Coast and seashore. This is where Peter went in Acts 10-11 by the command of the Lord and because of this, many were baptized for the first time. Later in the afternoon, we will arrive at the Kibbutz Hotel where we will enjoy dinner and overnight.
Day 4 – visit an area known as the “holy or evangelical triangle” where Jesus performed His miracles in the multitudes along the northwestern shores of the Sea of Galilee. First, a visit to the Mount of Beatitudes where the Sermon on the Mount took place (Matthew 5-7). This scenic stop provides a fascinating view of the Sea of Galilee. Next, we will journey to Tagbah; the place where the resurrected Christ met the apostles. Then, onto Capernaum, the “town of Jesus,” – a small village near the Sea of Galilee where we will see the remains of the House of Peter. This afternoon, we’ll have the opportunity to experience an authentic Jewish fishing boat from Jesus’ time and then cruise the lake by boat where we’ll have an opportunity to worship on the Sea of Galilee.
Day 5 – start the day with a visit to Tel Dan at the northern border of the Israelite kingdom. Then we will move on to Caesarea Philippe where Jesus asked his apostles who they thought that He was. Here He will ask us the same question! During the afternoon, we will visit the river Jordan where we will learn about the baptism of Jesus and enjoy a St. Peter’s Fish Lunch. You will also have the opportunity for full immersion baptism or the reaffirmation of your baptismal vows in the River Jordan – a moment many look forward to during the tour. Then, we will head back to the hotel for dinner and overnight.
Day 6 – go to the fascinating ruins of Megiddo called “Armageddon” in the book of Revelation. High up on the ruins of this intriguing site, there will be teaching about the role of Armageddon in the end-times. We will have the opportunity to drive to Nazareth to visit the well of Mary and hear about Nazareth – the city of the Messiah. Next, we will visit the Church of the Annunciation, and stop at Qumran. This archaeological site is located in the West Bank about 1 mile northwestern of the Dead Sea. It is best known as the location where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in 1947 deep inside a cave. The scrolls are the oldest scriptures of the Bible ever found. The Dead Sea is also known to be the lowest point on earth at 1300 feet below sea level. The quantity of water that evaporates from it is greater than that which flows into it. That being said, this body of water has the highest concentration of salt in the world which provides you the opportunity to float like a cork! Enjoy the evening on the Dead Sea and perhaps enjoy a mud bath while you are at it.
Day 7 – Take your time getting ready this morning and in the afternoon (have some free time in the spa at the hotel), we will travel by cable car to the mountain top fortress of Masada. Built by King Herod, this was the last strong hold of the Zealots in their final battle against the Romans. We’ll explore the ruins of Herod’s lavish getaway. After lunch, we’ll visit Ein Gedi before we leave for Jerusalem for dinner and overnight.
Day 8 – start the day at the south side of the temple wall where we will visit the very stairs Jesus walked to the temple. We will explore the remains of the original city of Jerusalem that King David made his capitol over more than 3,000 years ago. We will walk a marketplace more than 2,000 years old. At the Burnt House, we’ll view an audio-visual presentation concerning Jerusalem’s destruction by the Romans. We’ll continue to the Jerusalem Archaeological Park/Davidson Center. In the Davidson Center we’ll view a wonderful audio-visual presentation that provides a virtual tour of the Second Temple as archaeologists believe it appeared to Jewish pilgrims of that period. We’ll explore monumental ruins of the Second Temple complex built by Herod the Great and stand on the broad staircase, likely used by Jesus himself for approaching the Temple. Dinner and overnight in Jerusalem.
Day 9 – Take a day to relax or explore Jerusalem on your own. Do some window shopping, book some personal activities in the city or feel free to relax and enjoy the hotel facilities. We will also provide suggestions of additional religious sites to visit on this rest day.
Day 10 – Take in the panoramic view of the Holy City today from the Mount of Olives to the Garden of Gethsemane. Here, the story of Palm Sunday will truly come to life as you can reflect on the deep anguish of Jesus as He was facing the cross. We will visit Bethlehem – Nativity Church and Shepherds field. Back at the hotel, we will enjoy a farewell dinner.
Day 11 – We will visit Basilica of St. Anne and the Pools of Bethesda where Jesus cured a man who had been lame for 38 years. Then, we will walk along the “Via Dolorosa” – Jesus’ road to the cross. After lunch, we’ll continue following the Stations of the Cross until the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the site of Calvary/Golgotha (Crucifixion of Jesus), and the Garden Tomb. Leaving the Christian Quarter, we’ll walk through the Arab market and exit the Old City at the Jaffa Gate. Dinner and overnight in Jerusalem
Day 12 – Fly back to Seattle.