Tuesday, October 14, 2014


(27 July 2014, Kottayam)
Joseph K Alexander

I came into the MGOCSM as a school student, through the advice of my father and teachers of the Thiruvalla MGM High School, Mr. C O Oommen and Mr. C M John. Both were General Secretaries of MGOCSM. After attending the 1942 Annual Conference at Thiruvalla Balikamadom GHS and the 1944 Conference as a religious retreat-ant at the M D Seminary Elias Chapel my further education and employment lead me out of Travancore. The return in 1966 to the University College Trivandrum as HOD of Economics and principal of Government College, Kottayam in 1972, prompted H G Philipos Mar Theophilos, President, to reinvent and induct me back into the MGOCSM. Since then, I am in the Movement in one or another official capacity and a resource person.

Knowing the Movement and the nature of its work from the days Rev. Dn. K. Philipos (later H G Philipos Mar Theophilos) was its General Secretary in 1942. and through the period of its Presidents; H.G. Philipose Mar Theophilos, H G Philipos Mar Eusebius, and H G Geevarghese Mar Coorilos, present President who joined the Movement as a young Deacon and General Secretaries; Mr. Philipos Thomas, Rev Fathers P C Cherian, George Kurien, John Thomas, Dr M C Cherian, .Dr. V.M Abraham and now Rev Fr. Dr.Varghese Varghese. I felt it my duty right and honour as a senior member, to be an active volunteer in the Movement.

As Senior Vice President of the MGOCSM for 11 years (1978-“89), its director of the Trivandrum Complex and hostel 19 years (1983-2002), Chairman of the constructions at Trivandrum center second phase 1983-1985  and  member of the CHAIROS Committee 2004- 2012, I did what I could for the Movement. The prestigious Education Orientation Course of the MGOCSM, 1981, its journal 2004-2006, and Website 2004-2007 were started by me with support of its President Thirumenis. Currently I am the Treasurer of MGOCSM from 2002.

I, Retd. Director, Collegiate Education, Kerala Govt. Service is an economist. Was President of the Kerala Dhana Sasthra Academy 1970-1972, Head of the Department of Economics of the Victoria College, Palghat 1962-1966, HOD of the University College Trivandrum 1966-1972, Founder-principal of Govt. College, Kottayam, 1972-1980, member of the Kerala University Senate 1961-1964 and Academic Bodies1965-1983; Hon-Director of the prestigious Christian Study Center of Kerala University1994-1996 and research fellow of University Grants Commission1983-1987. I have published ten books and 20 research papers. Was emeritus professor of economics in the Marthoma St. Thomas College, Kozenchery1985-1987; was examiner and expert member in the PSC of Kerala and Karnataka States, Southern Railway Board, New India Assurance Company, and Staff selection of PSC and Private Colleges in Kerala. After retirement; was a Faculty Member of the Civil Service Academy, Trivandrum for over a decade, was a member of the MOC official bodies including the Church Planning Committee, member of the Corporate Colleges and later of the Schools Governing Bodies of the Church and  three times Chief Election Officer of the Malankara Association of MOC, I am now active as chairman of Kerala Regional Branch of Indian Institute of Public Administration from 2004 and member of its Executive council at Delhi. Being a founder member of the Mar Gregorios Rehabilitation Center Munnammoodu Trivandrum in 1981, is its Vice President for the last couple of decades. I have been a resource person for most of the projects started by the then new Bishop H G Geevarghese Mar Dioscorus of the new Trivandrum Diocese of the MOC in the last quarter of last Century from 1980.
A galaxy of eminent leaders nurtured the MGOCSM in its hundred years from 1908. Despite, it has an irregular history. In some of the years it blossomed like a fresh flower in youth, well watered, weeded and nourished by the mentors; and in others, it looked as if, about to wither for want of their involvement. In the days of H G Philipos Mar Theophilos the Movement developed many wings and branches and Rev Fr P C Cherian took it to outside Kerala to cities of India. He made it a National Movement. In the days of H G Philipos Mar Eusebius the Movement became international especially through the efforts of the President, General Secretary Rev. Fr. M C Cherian and the Education Orientation Fraternity who started units of MGOCSM in churches in every part of the World where they worked. The present President H G Geevarghese Mar Coorilos is spreading the Movement to more Indian areas outside Kerala to take its message to all the diaspora by organizing its Annual conferences in different parts of India
.During my heavy duty as founder principal of the Kottayam Govt. College, I contributed all my spare moments for the growth of the Movement. I thank all the Presidents, General Secretaries, Executive Committee members and the General Assemblies of the Movement, its Officers and managers of its various wings for the hearty co-operation they rendered to my role in the MGOCSM and giving me all help in writing its history of 100 years. I will be ninety on 25th November 2014. Recently I had difficulty in travelling from TVM to Kottayam to attend the meetings of the Movement or take active role in its work more because of the illness of my wife. She and my children were a great support for enabling me to work in all social services I ventured. Besides you all, I thank them also for their cooperation in making my work easy. May I now appeal to all of you to work hard and contribute your might to make MGOCSM an effective arm of MOC all over the World? I Pray to God to shower blessings on all of you.           
Prof. Joseph K Alexander; DOB-25-11-1924;
TC 14/2144, Kanianthra, PRA. B.20- Medes Lane. Palayam TVM-695034.
Spouse        : Annamma Joseph; House Wife; DOB-29-01-1927
Phone         0471-2321955;    Mobile--9447811811
Children      1. Alex Jose F C A; Retired from Bahrain
2 Stephen Jose Bsc Agr.; MEP-IIM-Ahmedabad; Retd
3. Alexy Jose F C A (daughter); Director General Finance, Keltron TVM.


tImtf-Pn \n¶pw kvIqfn-te-¡p.                                                                     s{]m^.-tPm-k^v sI.-A-e-Ivkm-­À
        ae-¦c HmÀX-tUmIvkv k`-bpsS hnZym-À°n {]Øm\w tImtfPv hnZym-À°n-I-fmb ]pXnb Xe-ap-d-bpsS Bßo-b-þ-k-ap-Zm-bnI hfÀ¨¡p th­n 1908  Øm]n-X-am-bn.- P-\p-hcn 1-3\mfp-I-fn Xncp-hà _men-Im-aTw kvIqfn h¨p \S¶ B tIm¬^-d³-kn hfsc Npcp¡w hnZymÀ°nIsf D­m-bn-cp-¶p-Åp.- hmÀjnI tIm¬^-d-³kp-IÄ \S-¯p-I, kt­kvIq-fp-Ifpw  anjy-\-dn-th-ebpw kPo-h-am-t¡­ ktµiw {]N-cn-¸n-¡p-I Ch-bm-bn-cp¶p XpSÀ¶p-Å- hÀj§-fnse apJy ]cn-]mSn. Ch c­pw k`-bpw Éo_m-Zmk kaq-lhpw bYm-{Iaw Gsä-Sp¯ tij-amWv tIm¬^-d³kp-I-fn hnZymÀ°n-I-fpsS ]¦m-fn-¯-¯n\p Du¶Â In«n-b-Xv. C¶v hnZymÀ°n {]Øm\w hfÀ¶v ]´-en¨v Hcp henb kv]ocn-Nz _\n-b³ {So (Spiritual Banyan Tree) Bbn hfÀ¶p. AXnsâ tIm¬^-d³kp-IÄ hnZymÀ°n-I-fpsS henb kwKa-§-fm-bn.
{]mtZ-inI bqWn-äp-IÄ        
        hnZymÀ°n {]Øm-\-¯n\v {]mtZ-inI bqWn-äp-IÄ D­m-I-W-sa¶ Bibw 1910  Dcp¯ncnªp F¦nepw 1934  BWv AXv \nb-am-h-en-bn tNÀ¯Xv. B hÀjw ]Xn-½q¶v
{]m: bqWn-äp-IÄ \ne-hn h¶p. Ah-bpsS `mc-h-ln-I-fmb hnZymÀ°n-IÄ {]Øm-\-¯n kPoh {]hÀ¯-I-cm-bn.
        ]¯\wXn« tImtf-Pnsâ {]n³kn-¸-fm-bn-cp¶ Xp¼-a¬ `{Zm-k\sa{Xm-t¸m-en¯ A`n-hµy Um\n-tb amÀ ]o-e-Ivko-t\mkv {]Øm\¯nsâ {]kn-U-­mbn.  B 1953-67  Ime-L-«-¯n tImtfPv hnZymÀ°n-IÄ¡v {]Øm-\-¯n ]s¦-Sp-¡p¶Xn\v IqSp-X Ahkc-§Ä D­mbn. Cu {]m: bqWnäv hÀjw apgp-h³ ^e-{]-Z-ambn {]hÀ¯n-¨Xv amXr-I-bm-bn. ]pXnb Cu Xcw tImtfPv bqWn-äp-IÄ \ne-hn h¶p. sslkvIqÄ hnZymÀ°n-Isf (knIvkvXv t^md-¯nse) AwK-§-fm¡p¶ \nb-a-t`-Z-KXn 1955  D­mbn. A§s\ kvIqÄ bqWn-äp-Ifpw D­m-bn. 1955  22 {]m: bqWn-äp-IÄ D­m-bn-cp-¶p. Ch-cpsS {]hÀ¯\w aqew hmÀjnI tIm¬^-d-³kn ]s¦-Sp-¡p¶ hnZymÀ°n-I-fpsS kwJy hÀ[n-¨p.
        1958 se k`m-sF-Iy-t¯msS Ah-cpsS hnZymÀ°n {]Øm-\-§-fpw sFIy-s¸-«p. 1960  C§s\ H¶n¨p \S¶ BZy-tIm¬^-d³kv hfsc hnZymÀ°n-I-sfbpw apXnÀ¶-h-scbpw BIÀjn¨p; ]s¦-Sp-¸n-¨p.
        1968 Â {]Øm-\-¯nsâ {]kn-U-­mbn A`n-h-µy ^n-en-t¸mkv amÀ sX-tbm-^n-temkpw
P\-d sk{I-«-dn-bmbn bphsshZnI³ ]n.kn sNdn-bm\pw Npa-X-e-tb-äp. {]m: bqWn-äp-IÄ kµÀin¨pw Ah-cpsS ]cn-]m-Sn-I-fn ]s¦-Sp¯pw ChÀ bqWn-äp-Isf t{]mÕm-ln-¸n-¨Xv
hnZymÀ°n-IÄ¡v DÕmlw ]IÀ¶p.- {]-tXyIw \S-¶n-cp¶ s]¬Ip-«n-I-fpsS tIm¬^-d³kv
B¬Ip-«n-I-fp-tS-Xn-t\mSv tbmPn-¸n¨v H¶m¡n 1968 apXÂ \S-¯n-bXv hnZymÀ°n-IÄ¡v IqSp-XÂ BIÀj-I-am-bn.
        {]Øm\¯n\v 1968 Â \mep-Xcw {_m©p-IfmWp-­m-bn-cp-¶-Xv: tImtfPv bqWn-äp-IÄ, kvIqÄ bqWn-äp-IÄ, saUn-¡Â hnZymÀ°nI-fpsS bqWn-äp-IÄ, sSIv\n-¡Â hnZymÀ°n-I-fpsS
bqWn-äp-IÄ. CXn-\p-tijw hfscb[nIw {]m: bqWn-äp-Ifpw {]Øm-\-¯nsâ {_m©p-Ifpw
Øm]n-X-am-bn. hnZymÀ°n-IÄ¡v Xma-kn¨p ]Tn-¡m-\pÅ ÌpUâv skâdp-IÄ tIm«bw,
Xncp-h-\-´-]pcw, Bep-h, tImX-aw-Kew F¶n-hn-S-§-fnepw, anjy-\-dn-t^mdw, enäddnÂt^m-dw,
HmUn-tbm-þ-hn-Un-tbm- hnw-Kv, sslkvIqÄ tIm¬^-d³kv, kvIqÄ Sot¨Àkn-sâbpw tImtfPv 
A²ym-]-I-cp-tSbpw kwL-S-\-IÄ, doP-\-dÂ-þ-tkm-WÂ, GI-Zn-\-tIm¬^-d³kp-IÄ F¶nh 
DZm-l-c-W-§-fm-Wv. 1990 Â 300 {]mtZ-inI bqWn-äp-IÄ tIcf-¯nepw thsd 300
bqWn-äp-IÄ C³Uy-bpsS CX-c-`m-K-§-fnepw, C\n-bp-samcp 200 bqWn-äp-IÄ C³Uy¡p ]pd¯qw D­m-bn-cp-¶p -F¶pw, Dt±iw
50,000 hnZymÀ°n-IÄ Ch-bn IqsS hnZymÀ°n {]Øm-\-¯n AwK-§-fm-bn-cp¶p F¶pw Hcp dnt¸mÀ«n sk{I-«dn hmbn-¡p-I-bp-­m-bn.
kvIqÄ tIm¬^-d³kv
        hÀjw tXmdpw hnhn[ tIm¬^-d³kp-I-fn ]s¦-Sp-¡p¶ hnZymÀ°n-þ-hn-ZymÀ°n-\n-I-fpsS ssh]p-eyw, hmÀjn-I -tIm¬^-d³kns\ hn`-Pn-¡m³ t{]cn-¸n-¨p. kvIqÄ hnZymÀ°n-IÄ¡mbn Hcp Pq\n-bÀ hmÀjnI tIm¬^-d³kv \S-¯p-¶-Xns\]än 1973 apX Btem-N-\-bm-bn. 1977  Uo¡³ tXm-akv Ipcy³ Cu tIm¬^-d³knsâ \S-¯n-¸n-\mbn \nban X-\mbn.  At±-l-¯nsâ ]cn-{ia ^e-ambn 1979  BZys¯ sslkvIqÄ hmÀjnI tIm¬^-d³kv tIm«b¯p \S-¶p. Ct¸mÄ tImtfPv hnZymÀ°n tIm¬^-d³kpw kvIqÄ tIm¬^-d³kpw hÀjw -tXmdpw \S¶p hcp-¶p.
        ap³hÀj-§-fn do{So«n\mbn hcp¶ 20þ30 AwK-§Ä¡p ]pdsa AXn-\p-tijw hcp¶ 40-50 AwK-§Ä DÄs¸-sS DÅ-h-cpsS A©p Znh-ks¯ hmÀjnI tIm¬^-d³kn\p ]Icw, do{So«v CÃm¯ 400-600 hnZymÀ°n-IÄ ]s¦-Sp-¡p¶ alm-tafIfmWv c­p hmÀjnI
tIm¬^-d³kp-I-fpw. BZy-Z-i-I-§-fnse tIm¬^-d³kp-I-fpsS Bßo-b-Xbpw shfn-¨hpw
\jvS-s¸-«ntà F¶ Nn´ -{]-_-e-am-Wv.
Hmdn-b³tS-j³ tImgvkv
        Cu {]i-\s¯ AXn-Po-hn-¡m-\mWv 1981 Â Pre-SSLC FUyp-t¡-j³ Hmdn-b³tS-j³ tImÀkv XpS-§n-b-Xv. Xmev]-cy-ap-Å, _p²n-im-en-I-fmb, 14-15 hb-ÊpÅ 9-mw Ìm³UmÀUv Ignªv SSLC ¢mkn-te¡p Ib-dp¶ hnZymÀ°n-IÄ¡mbn Hcm-gvNs¯ ]T-\-¢m-kp-I-fmWv CXnÂ
\S-¡p-¶-Xv. Bßo-bþ`uXoI t\«-§Ä¡pÅ s{Sbn-\nwKpw Ah-cpsS Iq«mbva hfÀ¯n
FSp-¡p-¶-Xn-ep-am-bn-cp¶p {i². Cu tImgvkv hfsc ^e-h-¯mbn \S¶p h¶p. hnZym-`ymk cwK¯v D­mb ]pXnb \o¡-§Ä¡-\p-k-cWambn Cu tImgvkn\v amä-§Ä hcp-t¯-­n-bn-cn-¡p-¶p.
ss{]adn kvIqÄ tIm¬^-d³kv
        hnZymÀ°n {]Øm-\s¯ IqSp-XÂ ^e-{]-Z-am-¡p-¶-Xn\v ]pXnb Hcp t{]m{Kmw IqsS
D­m-I-Ww.- ]p-¯³ Xe apd-bnse Ipªp-§-fpsS {Kl-W-iàn sXm«p ]pd-In-epÅ Xe-ap-d-bpsS Po\p-I-fpsS hÀ[n¨ Ign-hp-I-fn A[n-jvSn-X-ambn A\p-Zn\w hnI-kn-¡p-¶p-­v. AXp-sIm­v hnZymÀ°n {]Øm-\-¯nsâ e£yhpw ktµ-i-§fpw, {Kln-¡m³ {]m]vXn-bpÅ ss{]adn ¢mkv hnZymÀ°n-I-fn-te¡pw IqSn- ]Itc­n-bn-cn¡p-¶p. H¶mw ¢mkp ap-X- I¼yq-«À ]T\w XpS-§-W-sa¶v hnZym-`ymk Nn´-IÀ Btem-Nn-¡p-¶p. H¶mw ¢mkp apX-epff ss{]adn hnZymÀ°n-IÄ¡p th­n aq¶m-a-sXmcp hmÀjnI tIm¬^-d³kp-IqSn XpS-§m-\pÅ ka-b-am-bn.
        B{K-l-§Ä¡pw kz]v\-§Ä¡pw ]cn-[n-bn-Ã. {]K-Û-cmb ko\n-tbÀkv \-bn-¡p¶
hnZymÀ°n-I-fpsS Cu {]Øm\w t{ijvS tkh-\-§Ä k`bv¡pw kaq-l-¯n\pw D¯-tcm-¯cw
sN¿m-\n-S-bm-Is« F¶v {]mÀ°n-¡p-¶p.


Monday, October 13, 2014

Mar Alvares Julius 1, Syrian Arch Bishop of India And Ceylon.

Mar Alvares Julius 1, Syrian Arch Bishop of India And Ceylon.

This attempt is to bring to light certain events and circumstances led to what we ought to know about Malankara Orthodox Church Goan Archbishop H.G.Mar Alvares Julius 1. Some of these I had brought to the notice of Late H.H. Baselius Marthoma Mathews 1st. I also posted in the ICON a message, besides publishing it in the “News and Views” a quarterly (Vol. 1. Book 7, Oct- December 2005) published by MGOCSM India, Kottayam and its copy on the MGOCSM website www.mgocsmindia.com.

It is true that some research initiated by late H.G. Philipos Mar Theophilus and H.H.Baselius Marthoma Mathews 1st prompted Rev.Fr.Dr.K.M. George and Rev. Fr.T.E.Issac, the then parish priest at Goa, to fish out the location of the burial and interned mortal remains of H.G.Alvares. That became necessary because His Grace had left his community and his palace in Brahmawar and went back to Goa, for reasons unknown to us at present. True, we can surmise and attribute reasons now for that. In any case, it is a fact that Malankara Orthodox Church lost contact of this great thinker, saint, believer in Orthodox Church and patriot

Some of us are prone to censure ourselves for the neglect we showed to His grace in his waning years 1913-‘23. Was this due to our fault or due to a willful option of His Grace? This requires further probing. I am inclined to surmise that the latter caused the neglect, because of a structural and organizational kink in our Church at that time.

To understand his change of mind we have to probe his life and beliefs. His social work as a priest during 1867-‘87, his saintly life, philanthropy, his patriotism and yearning for freedom from the foreign Portuguese yoke, his journalistic acumen and his aristocratic birth had won a good number of followers for him in Goa and South Canara. Because of political constraints and excommunication by the Goan Catholic Church Hierarchy he had to go out of Goa and to concentrate his activities among his followers in Brahmawar.                                                                                                                                .The Malankara Syrian Orthodox church captivated him, not only because it is continuation of the Original Orthodox Church, but also, had fought for its freedom and had extricated itself out of the Portuguese Yoke. So he came to Travancore in 1887, met our prelates and renounced the faith in Catholic Church to rejoin the Malankara Orthodox Church. Two years later in 1889 he was ordained as our Out-side Kerala Arch Bishop of India and Ceylon. Malankara Metropolitan Pulikottil Mar Joseph Dionysius 11nd and St. Parumala Mar Gregorios led this consecration ceremony. All other bishops of our Church participated in the ceremony.
The backdrop of Brahmawar Mission
His Grace Mar Alvares had over 5000 members as followers in Brahmawar. He wanted them to learn the liturgy and catechism of the Malankara Orthodox church and requested the Malankara Metropolitan, Pulikottil Thirumeni to send a missionary to Brahmawar. Pulikottil Thirumeni  selected a very dynamic evangelist (1) and orator Rev.Dn.K.J.Alexander, Kanianthra for the work. Because of his marriage to a very young girl of 11 years he was yearning for an out-of-home work. Rev.Dn.K.J.Alexander eagerly accepted the work. His first lap of the journey to Brahmawar by all modes of travel including bullock cart was reported in the Malayala Manorama in 1905. (I do not have with me at present the exact date of the report.)

Brahmawar mission started
QUOTE: Prof. Joseph K. Alexander & Achamma Ammini Joseph. “Kanianthra Family History”- 2000. Page 137, for a brief note on this missionary and his work in Brahmawar.

“He (Rev.Dn.K.J.Alexander) passed the matriculation examination from S.B.College, Changanacherry. Then according to the wishes of the community and family, he was ordained as a Deacon by His Holiness St.Gregorios of Parumala (Parumala Thirumeni). Then he joined old seminary at Kottayam and started learning Syriac and Theology. Deacon Alexander started publishing a magazine on behalf of the Church called ‘Suviseshakan’. To increase its circulation and for evangelical work (parish mission), he used to go to almost all the Parishes in our Church in Travancore (specially around kottayam) and deliver sermons.
In 1902, at the age of 20, Deacon Alexander married Achiamma, daughter of Shri Chandy Kunju, Marett. It is interesting to note the marriage customs of those days. The bride was only 11 years old. The girl child bride adorned with gold ornaments from head to foot was taken in a palanquin to the church. The bridegroom came riding a horse. They were married at the Orthodox Church, Kallupara.
It was at this time that Fr: Julius of the Mangalore Catholic Church joined our Church with his followers. The Orthodox Church ordained him as Bishop Alvares Mar Julius 1st in 1889 and made him the Bishop of Karnataka (Syrian Arch Bishop of India and Ceylon). When Bishop Alvares wanted to start a mission centre in south Karnataka, he appealed to our Bishops to select a suitable person for the job. Pulicottil Mar Dionysius II chose Deacon Alexander for this job. Thus Deacon Alexander went to Karnataka in 1905 (?), and started the Orthodox Mission Centre at Brahmawar. His peripatetic missionary work slowly and steadily spread to many places in Karnataka, Andhra and Maharashtra. He started to study the languages of these places, so that he could directly converse with the congregation. Bibles in Kannada, Marathi, Telugu and Hindi were there in Achen’s collection of books.
Deacon Alexander started a primary school at Brahmawar by accepting donations and conducting a lottery.(2)
Priests later continued his work at Brahmawar: - Thumpamon Koshy Achen, Kuriakose Achen, Geevarghese Achen, and Vettiyil Annamma and others. Now Rev. Fr. Lazer of Pathanapuram Dayara is in charge of the Institutions at Brahmawar.
While at Brahmawar one Fr. Noronha, a Mangalorian was his senior friend and a co-worker in the mission field. Many years later Fr. Alexander revisited Brahmawar (3) and God willed it so, because that was the date on which his friend Fr. Noronha died.” (4)

The Anglican Bishop of Bombay gave Deacon Alexander a scholarship to study theology at the Bishop’s college, Calcutta. ……………………………………………………………………………………. St. John’s Church, Mepral was re-opened after its closure a second time in June 1909. The court decided the church case in favour of Kanianthra Vathapallil Achen. But he was too old. So the Parishners recalled Deacon Alexander from Calcutta to carry on the parish work at Mepral. Thus he had to return from Calcutta in 1911 without completing his studies. He came to Mangalore and Archbishop Alvares Mar Julius ordained him as priest in 1911.”
Quote from “News and Views” cited above. The ordination Kalpana of the Archbishop, will be an eye-opener to the readers.

Archbishop Mar Alvares ordains Priests for Malankara Church

We have good information about H.G.Alvares Mar Julius, a Metropolitan of the Malankara Church and Bishop of India and Ceylon Diocese. But many of our Church leaders are unaware of the fact that His Grace had ordained two priests and a deacon from Travancore-Cochin area for the Malankara Church. They were Rev. Fr. Kanianthra Joseph Alexander, Rev. Fr. Lukose of Kannamcote and Rev Dn. David of Kunnamkulam (page 32 of XRAY, written in the 1930 s (author M. M. Varky, Trivandrum.) This Kanianthra priest later became a cor-episcopa and was the Vicar General (from 1949 till his death in 1955) of the Niranam Diocese of late H.G.Thoma Mar Dionysius of the Malankara Orthodox Church, The Diploma issued at his ordination by
H.G. Bishop Alvares is given below.
In the name of the Essential, Self Existing, Eternal and All-Powerful God. Amen.

Mar Alvares Julius

The Syrian Metropolitan of India and Ceylon.
Divine Blessings to all who come to know this Diploma.

By this We certify that, on Sunday the 15th October 1911, corresponding to 29th Kanni 1087, with the permission of Mar Dionysius, the Syrian Metropolitan of Malabar, after all necessary preparations We did perform, with great solemnity the holy sacrifice of Koorbana in which after invoking the Holy Ghost and the intercession of Virgin Mary, of all angels and Saints, We conferred the holy order of Priesthood on the deacon, Kanianthra Joseph Alexander of Mepral, Travancore, in the Saint Mary’s Church of Milagris at Brahmavar in South Canara.
In this solemnity about five thousand of our Christians took part.
Given on 15th of October 1911 at our Archiepiscopal residence at Brahmavar, South Canara.
Syrian Arch Bishop of India and Ceylon”

Brahmawar Mission continues

The background for the starting of the mission was given in detail only to highlight the main role of the Malankara Syrian Orthodox Church. The Church continued its mission work for the Brahmavar Church and the School we started. Lay workers like Vettiyil Ms. Annamma of Vakathanam worked among the women in Brahmawar till 1930, till her parents called her back for a late marriage. She has two children in that marriage. I got a narration directly from her of her work and the names of priests that worked in that mission field. It is true that there were lapses in our work, after the 1930 s, till the ecclesiasts from Pathanapuram Dayara took over the mission in 1966.This happened with the appointment of H.G. Thomas Mar Themothios as the Metropolitan for Malabar Diocese. But let us note the following facts.

  1. In 1911 when he ordained Rev.Fr.K.J.Alexander, the Arch Bishop Mar Alvares was staying in the Arch Bishops Palace in Brahmawar.
  2. In 1913 he left Brahmawar and went back to Goa.
  3. Even though H.G.Mar Alvares had left Brahmawar, Malankara Church continued the mission work in that field. This is evident from the work of Rev. Koshy Achen, Ms.Annamma and others in the  1930 s
  4. In the 1930 s girls from Brahmawar who studied in the primary school were brought for high school education to Thiruvalla Balikamadam Girls English High School. This practice was continued till the school at Brahmawar was upgraded to a high school. During the short Onam vacation these children were accomodated as honoured guests in Christian houses at Thiruvalla. I remember 3 girls each staying in my house at Mepral in 1937- 1940 period.
Thus while our Church continued our mission work, the Arch Bishop lost / relinquished his honorifics, insignia and robes and left for Goa. Why?

The structural kink in the Church

Now let us analyze the new kink in the structure and organisation of Malankara Church that I mentioned in the 3 rd Para above. By 1912-1913, H.G.Mar Alvares lost his confidence in Malankara Church in preserving its freedom.

1.His grace joined our Church in 1887 for its orthodoxy, independence, history of freedom struggle that culminated in Coonan Kurisu sathyam and its pious personalities and because he was excommunicated, by the Catholic Church in Goa.
2.The Royal Court Judgment of Mithunam 30th 1889 came soon after his consecration as Arch Bishop on 29-7-1889. It was true that our Church had an affair from 1875 (Synod of Mulanthuruthi 1876) with the Antiochan Church and its Patriarch. But with this judgment we were conceding more powers to the patriarch.
 3. Patriarch Mar Abdulla came in 1909 to Malankara and in 1911 created high handedly a rival Malankara Metropolitan trustee in the place of Vattaseril Mar Dionysius. The result was a civil case. So H.G.Alvares lost confidence in the ability of the Orthodox Church to preserve its independence.
4.His Grace might also have thought that Malankara Church may not now be able to support his poor followers in Brahmawar in the way and size he expected.

H.G.Alvares left his people and went to Goa. The Malankara Orthodox Church lost contact of him. I would rather present it this way. He eased himself out of our contact.
The Goan authorities arrested him and divested him of all insignia and robes. But his faith in our Church and its orthodoxy made him to continue to wear the black robe of the Rembans of our Church. To his last days his concern was for the poor Goans. He was  begging on the streets for food for them.
If our Church were to come to know of these developments, perhaps we could have persuaded him to come to Niranam for a retired life, though that was unthinkable in those days. Yet it is true that Malankara Orthodox church failed in its duty to actively support the Brahmawar mission after 1913 till

Note: -1. P.P.Varkey- Parethanaya Kanianthra Achen- Church Weekly.  1956 April 8

     2.I have seen the account books and receipt book-bits of this lottery in his antique box from Brahmawar days. It is this School that has now bloomed into a College owned and managed by our Church. After organizing the community under the able guidance of the Archbishop, they started the Malankara Syrian Worship and Qurbana. Thus Priests from Travancore continued Rev.Dn.Alexander’s work.
          3.Return to Note 1
            4.Another Rev.Fr.Norohna went and established an out-post of this mission in Thiruchirapally.When this writer was a student there in St Josephs college (1944-48) he visited this small community and their Church..Mr.Ponniah owner of the Ponniah School was a rich member of this community. Pathanapuram Dayara purchased this Ponniah School from him.

Saturday, October 11, 2014




Prof.Joseph K Alexander













Preface                                                                                                                        Page
1    Why the Holy Land Tour
2.   Preparations
3.   Trivandrum and other Air Ports
4.   Thirty Days in Bahrain
5.  Holy Land Tour
6.   Jerusalem
7.   Egypt and Cairo
8.   Giza Pyramids
9.   Red Sea Crossing
10. Crossing the Taba Boarder
11. Sodom the Dead Sea
12.  Jerusalem City
13.  Enter Bethlehem in Palestine
14.  Nativity Church
15.  Re-enter Israel- En Karem
16.  Gethsemane Olive Garden
17.  Mount Tabor
18.  Sea of Galilee
19. Tour of UAE
20. Dubai


When my grand daughter came to know of my tour she requested and I agreed to write about my Jerusalem pilgrimage; no our tour. I went with my wife: and my son Alex and his wife Lalitha. We went along with a tour group arranged by Rev. Fr. John Sankarathil Secretary, Martha Mariam Samajam, Catholicate Aramana, Devalokam and Mr. Cherian Kuriakose of Keli Tours, Mumbai. This pilgrimage was started by H G. Zacharias Mar Theophilos of Malabar Diocese, when he was the President of the M M Samajam.
Many have written about Jerusalem tour and many have gone there within the past dozen years. The first written “Sanchara Sahityam” in Malayalam at the end of the 19th century is the tour of Jerusalem written by Late lamented Saint Parumala Mar Gregorios. Since then a few such books have been published. I have not seen one in English. There are also very good DVDs on Jerusalem. I write in English only because I can type it on the computer leisurely.
When I started writing, my idea was only to give a description of what all we saw in the tour.  As I proceeded, I found that what I learned from guides and what I saw is not enough.  Therefore, I read the Bible, internet and books on Jerusalem monuments, archaeological research materials and the book “Holy Land” of Fr. Godfrey OFM. Hence the letter is lengthy than intended. However, it is worth.

“Personality can open doors, but only character can keep them open.”
                     -- Elmer G. Letterman

1. Why the Holy Land Tour
I should first explain why I ventured into this hazardous journey at this not very young age: nay old age. Being a Christian, Jerusalem, the place where the historical person Jesus lived and was crucified, is the “Mecca” of Christianity. Just as Muslims go to Mecca, walking through the very places and streets Jesus traversed, thinking about his teachings and his extreme sacrifice for humanity, is pilgrimage par excellence for any Christian. For him Jesus is son of the Triune God Father, son and Holy Ghost He Incarnated in flesh and lived among us as one of us. Hence re-living his incarnated life in Jerusalem is worshipping God. Walking through the streets of Jerusalem like Jesus did on the dusty roads of Judea 2000 years ago, confirms your faith in Him, His historicity and His Teachings. In other words, you acquire more faith in God and Christianity. Seeking God and His ways is what is expected of every Christian. It is the best method to ensure a better and peaceful life in this World, and after.  I think every Christian who can afford the cost of this tour must do it to lead a better Christian life. It will make him to believe in the death of Jesus on the Cross- and His resurrection, and realize the significance of His teaching of the “Universal brotherhood of man under the fatherhood of God”. Loving everyone as you love yourself is the essence of His teaching. You should also think of such a pilgrimage some when in the future to believe and to try to practice His teachings...
Frailty- weakness- thy name is man. Even before normal natural calamities and physical phenomena like thunder, lightning and floods; cyclones, and whirl winds; cold winds and frost; heat waves and moving sand dunes, man is a frail puny creature. Physical ailments and old age make him still more small and helpless. My anxiety was ailments due to my advanced age, prostrate problems and the extreme heat of Persian countries to which we were flying in. Therefore, we decided that we could undertake the tour only if our son Alex and Lalitha join us for the tour. When contacted, they agreed with alacrity and pleasure. That was the greatest booster of our spirits. In retrospect, now I know that it was only a fear of the unknown. We both went through the entire tour in perfect health.
This was my third time dream to go for Jerusalem pilgrimage. About a dozen years ago, a priest gave us an ad talk in our Senior Citizens monthly meeting at Trivandrum on this tour. That kindled in me a desire-not a demand- to go. In Economics, demand is a term with wider meaning. It is desire for a thing with resources to spend for it and thirdly readiness to spend the money for the demanded consumption item.  Mine was only a desire to go to Jerusalem. It was not backed by the readiness to spend money for that. The fact that some time later Mr. K E Cherian and wife, our relatives, went and presented us with Jerusalem souvenirs was a strong persuasion.
In the second time it was not merely a dream, but a real demand to go for the tour. But I could not make it. We four (including Alex and Lalitha) decided to go on May first with Omania Tours at Cochin and remitted Rs. 40,000/- as registration fee. They insisted medical insurance for wife and me. That created umpteen worries in getting medical check-ups and reports from the qualified doctor. Because of our advanced age, according to them, the insurance company representative imposed more detailed check-up, a second time. We underwent that too with demur. Just 3 days before we were to report to Cochin for the commencement of the tour Lalitha’s brother-in-law passed away. She and then Alex had to go for the funeral. The tour was thus got cancelled. A question you might ask. What happened to the registration fees? It was lost. They said they made all preparations for us and had spent the amount.

2. Preparations.
In August 2008, Alex phoned that Martha Mariam Samajam of the Malankara Orthodox Church is arranging a pilgrimage to Jerusalem on Sep. 15 under the leadership of Rev. Fr. John Sankarathil, its Secretary. Since it is Ramadan, it is a lean business period for his company and he will be a little more free than otherwise to go with us. We agreed. This was my chance to fulfill my dream. Then things happened in a moment. He contacted immediately Sankarathil Achen and discussed our itinerary to join the tour party at Cairo. In two days time he booked our flights to Bahrain, Cairo and return journey to Trivandrum. He requested me to remit US$ 100 each for four of us in Indian rupees to Achen at Kottayam. This amount I e-mailed to Achen on the next day and we were registered for the tour. Since Achen knew me from his student days, he was delighted to learn that I am joining his tour group and said so much to me and others.
Our itinerary was that we two were to fly on Air Arabia on 17 August via Sharjah to Bahrain, and stay with Alex for 30 days. Then the four of us are to fly to Cairo via Abu Dabi on Etihad Air lines to join the tour group. On our return, we are to leave the tour group at Amman and fly to Sharjah for a 3 days stay with Alvina. On 26 Sept., we were to return by Air Arabia to Trivandrum. Alex booked all these sector flights up to Cairo and from Amman to Trivandrum. There was no insistence on medical insurance. Again, Alex did all arrangements. He lifted the entire burden including our expenses on to his shoulders. It is true that I later paid it all back to him. All our anxiety about age, physical ailments and climate withered into thin air.
Kunjannamma and I were thence on our toes getting ready for the journey. Once again, I checked our passports issued nine years ago, for its validity. It was OK. Photocopies of passports and our photos were couriered to Sankarathil Achen and e-mailed to Alex to arrange our visas to the various countries we were to visit. We met our doctor for prescriptions and medicines for all eventualities including nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever and even sleeplessness.
Since we were to stay for more than forty days, enough dress was to be carried. My wife as usual wanted to take all the dress for the three changes she do every day. After much persuasion by Alex and me over the phone, she agreed to reduce her requirements. Still the volume was too much that compelled me to purchase a new big bag from the market. I sold away my old car. It was idle for months together as I was getting old to maneuver it in the thick traffic of the city. I was loosing touch of my vehicle. It was becoming a white elephant. My legs rose to the occasion and pumped all the distances around me. As I am staying in the very center of the City all the service centers like market, chapel, banks, post office  and even all service centers and payment counters were at the tip of my stretched hands. So clearing all the short distances proved to be good for my health also.
We got a caretaker to look after the house in our absence. Our neighbours, telephone, water and electricity authorities were all informed about our intended absence. I installed an extra light for the verandah for the benefit of the watchman. Meanwhile Alex e-mailed the minimum dress that we are to carry including a woolen sweater for each. It also contained photocopies of our visa to enter Bahrain and instructions about what to expect at the Trivandrum, Sharjah and Bahrain Air Ports. I went to Air Arabia Office and checked our flight. It was all Okayed. I went to the bank and collected some US dollars and UAE Dirham for incidental expenses. Both of us went to our parish priest Rev. Fr. Sam Kanjickal, Fr. Alexander Vaidyan and Eapen Achen to pray and bless us for safe journey. Thus by 16 August we finished our tour preparations.

3. Trivandrum and other Air Ports
We had to be at the airport at 00.00 hours for our flight at 03.00 hrs. Since the road from Petta to airport is solitary and goonda infested, the advice was to pass that area before 09 00 PM. Our night watchman Johnson came at 08.00 hrs. We locked our doors and got into a taxi at 08.30 with our bags and travel papers. At Eanchakal Junction. I wore a brave face with inner anxiety and my wife a more masked appearance.  When we came to the gates of the international airport, our face muscles relaxed and we were calm. Johnson, the watchman lifted the bags to the trolley. We sent the driver and watchman back. At the airport, they would not allow us to enter their premises so early. I approached the airport manager through the receptionist woman, and had a telephonic interview with him. We got permission to go inside on probably, considerations of our aged appearance reported by the woman.
The long hall into which we lugged in was empty, lonely and silent, except for an occasional service man/woman traversing its length. Air conditioning was off. I found out a wall fan, worked it and sat down for our small talk. Time ticked off until 01.15 AM when the entrance became live. We moved with our luggage and papers to one of the slowly becoming alive counters and got our boarding pass to wait again for checking into the security area.  That happened only at 02.15 AM, Imagine the hours wasted by waiting for the flight. We came to the airport by 08.50 PM and we could fly only by 03.15 AM.

Sharjah and Bahrain Air Ports

Air Arabia flight G9442 took us to Sharjah airport at 05.30 AM.  Armed with the copies of entry visa to Bahrain we found out a counter and got the boarding pass to the next flight G9103 at 09.00 AM to Bahrain. Leisurely I went around and purchased from Mac Donald’s a cup of morning coffee priced UAED 12 (around Rs.144). It was highly concentrated and packets of sugar stirred in could not reduce the bitterness. We shared it. I also took the sandwich brought from home. The duration of Sharjah – Bahrain flight was only one hour. Because of the difference in time zones, we left Sharjah at 09.00 hrs and reached Bahrain at 09.05 AM. Trivandrum on the east at that moment was noon 12.35 hrs. We queued out of the plane and were moving to the security counter where we had to show our original entry visit visa. We had the copy of it. It was to be exchanged at a special counter for the original by paying UAED.5 per visa. Suddenly a young man sent by Alex approached us asking the old woman in sari from behind “Are you Annamma Joseph from Trivandrum?” We turned back. He smilingly took us to the nearby counter, gave UAE D.10, and pointed us the counter to give the visa copies and the money. The clerk took them and in a moment gave us the original visas. With that, we moved into the queue to get entry visa punched in our passports. In about ten minutes, we were moving out of the airport. At the exit, Alex and Lalitha were waiting for us.
The very hot air of Bahrain struck us on our face. They whisked us in 2 minutes to the parking slot and his car. Even within that time, my skin felt the burning sensation. The urge was to remove the sweater I was wearing. In another two minutes, the air inside the car became cool and smoothing. He drove us fast to his residence some twenty minutes away. They took us to his flat. Alex without wasting much time went to his office. Lalitha served us appam and chicken curry as breakfast. After a few niceties, we two went into our bedroom for a nap. Thus, we were in Bahrain on the FN of 17 August. For the next 30 days our son Alex and daughter-in-law, Lalitha took us all over the island, pampered, and fed us well with all varieties of food made at home / available in the food courts and hotels. However, he persuaded us from not going to any small or local hotels on grounds that food in such places is too oily and acrid, hot and pungent 
I have given a fairly detailed report of the preparations of our journey and anxieties we encountered.  In fact, there are three distinct laps in our journey. First, we went to Bahrain for a 30 days stay with Alex. The second was the Holy Land tour of Egypt, Israel, Palestine and Jordan. The third sector of our visit was to Sharjah and Dubai in UAE (Unites Arab Emirates). I am trying to give a brief sketch of our tour of Holy Land and, what struck us as worth noting from my point of view. Now you can enter any search engine on the internet and get more or any information about any thing or any country in the World. So, you too can read more detailed history or writings on any feature that I mention in this letter to you. But, you would not get my view of them. That you can get only from this letter. It is thus a personal report about what I saw in the tour. It is written for reading by people like you
4. Thirty days in Bahrain
You might be wondering as to what we were doing all the 30 days. I myself was musing over it when Alex suggested to us about it a month before we went. Well, we fell into a routine to which we soon escalated.  Alex used to leave for the office at 08.30 AM after breakfast. In full suit and with an executive bag, he gets into his car. His lunch pack was dry chappathi and chicken. He returns only after 05.00 PM. Most days Lalitha and Kunjannamma would skip the breakfast for self-imposed fasts.  So, I had to take it alone. In the FN, I used to spend time by reading Manorama and Gulf News, an English daily, and my internet mails. There was Google chat / talk with Alvina and Alna, and my blogs on the internet. After lunch, we would go for a catnap. Chocolates, cookies and exotic dates stored on top of the cupboard used to enliven our taste buds. Alex, on return from the office will have a bite or two on any of them. After a few exchanges, he will change into casuals and is ready for the evening drive to show us Bahrain. We went out all the days except one, when he was indisposed and felt feverish. He drove us in different directions on each day, explaining the sights and buildings on the route. Malls and eateries or food courts were there in our daily itinerary.

Getting ready for Holy Land Tour.

On Sept.14th Sunday evening, we went to the Bahrain Church service. We had our absolution and Holy Communion. We thanked God profusely for keeping us in good health all the 29 days in Bahrain. We also prayed for protection in our Holy Land tour days lying ahead. We purchased some dress as souvenir presents to you all in Trivandrum. However, we limited the purchases in Bahrain because we have to carry them in our luggage all through the 8 days of the tour. So, we postponed our further purchases hoping to do so at Dubai on the final lap of our journey. On 15th, once again we reviewed our luggage that nothing is left behind. Our flight from Bahrain to Abu Dhabi is at 3 AM and so had to report at 00.00 hours to the airport. We locked up the flat and were on the car with all the luggage of the four of us in the dickey and in the laps of us.  Alex was to leave the car in the airport to be taken back by the company driver. 
We went through some anxious moments in the morning hours of 15th. Alex discovered that his identity card called “Akkama” is not in his wallet. He thought that he misplaced it on the bank counter on previous day when he went to purchase US $ for the journey. So, he went to the bank. But it was not anywhere there. On this information, Lalitha ransacked his belongings at home. The card was still out of sight. Without the card, he cannot go out of the country or for the tour. Therefore, he went to the office to report the matter to the Boss to manage a duplicate, which is rather impossibility in eight hours. On reaching the office his driver brought the card, saying that he found it in the car when he was sent on an errant given by Alex and failed to inform him yesterday itself. This news relieved us all. God visibly stepped in to protect us.
We are nearing the date for our pilgrimage starting on 16 Sept. The anxiety was that we have not received visa for Kunjannamma and I to visit Sharjah and UAE on our return from Jerusalem.
 We had planned a trip to UAE for 3 days. Alex and we were made to understand that the practice was to issue the transit visa at the airport. Due to terrorist outbursts the UAE, authorities changed that system in Sept. beginning. Alex was in regular touch with Raphael, his son-in-law in Sharjah. After several approaches, Raphael was made to apply for our visa in the usual way. The application was to go to the ministry to get their permission. We even thought of the possibility of not getting out of the airport and wait for the next flight to Trivandrum on the next day. Raphael was knocking at the doors.  Finally, four days before our arrival in Sharjah we were informed on the phone that the ministry has agreed to issue special sanction, as we are transit passengers holding ticket to Trivandrum. We were not sure until we got it at the Sharjah airport on 23 Sept. Thus, the anxiety continued till we were allowed to go out of the Sharjah airport to the residence of Raphael. Because the luggage of four of us on our way to Trivandrum was weighty and large, Booby brother-in-law of Raphael also came to drop us in Raphael’s flat.

5.  Holy Land Tour
Because of “globality”, fast transport and internet connectivity, now any can sit before his computer and see, talk and transact any trade or commerce with anyone in the World. In early history, caravans and goods moved out over land and sea for trade and commerce.  Israel- Canaan- the country of Jews (later called Palestine) in those days was on the main road of such movements. Its area is around 20770 Sq.Kms It lies between Europe, Asia and Africa. So, all mighty hoards. Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, Syrians, Romans and Arabs (in 639 AD) successively captured and owned it. During the Crusades, the European Christians attacked it many times (from 1099-1270 AD) to recapture it. It went again into Arabian hands and later to Turks. In 1917, it became a British protectorate. At the end of the Second World War Israel State was created for the Jews of the World to return to their ancestral home to wait for the coming of their Jehovah (God).
UNO at the end of W. War 2nd divided Palestine into two states of Israel and Palestine. Arabs rejected the proposal. The conflict between the two is the result of the ancestral and wider Zionist and Arab populations—progenies respectively of Isaac son of Abraham born to Sara and Ishmael born to the slave Hagar. God said to Hagar that her son “Would be against everyone and everyone would be against him”. (Gen.16:12) Anyway, Jews all over the World soon migrated to this Israel, their original homeland. 
Sea of Galilee and such other areas in northeast was under the control of Jordan. In the 1967 battle, Israel drove Jordan from these places and occupied those areas. The Palestinian Arabs of today got back from Israel through little skirmishes and finally  negotiation, the Gaza strip on the Mediterranean Sea coast and the West bank on the Jordan boarder in the north. After the death of their leader Arafat, HAMAS a resistance group got control of Palestinian parliament. They dominate the Gaza strip area while the late Arafat’s FATAH dominate the Palestinian West Bank area The HAMAS foment problems for Israel with drastic Israeli reactions. This is the nature of the present unrest in Israel. Series of international negotiations, conferences and peace proposals to reconcile them continue.
Israel is on the southeastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea. Its climate is temperate in the north and hot and dry in the South. Population is estimated to be 7.2 million. They are a very advanced and developed society with longevity over 80 years. Literacy is over 92 %. 76 percent of the population is Jews. Muslims account for another 16%. The rest are a few Christians of all denominations and about 3 % non-definable (Wikipedia). In 1950, Jerusalem was made the capital of Israel.
6. Jerusalem.
Jerusalem is the center of early Christianity. Our tour was mainly to this Christian center. Hence, it is worth knowing about the place and its early history. The city was founded by King David on the top of Moreah, Zion, Bassetha and Akra Hills in Judah. It has a history of 4000 years. Its famous Jerusalem temple was built on Mt.Moreah by his son King Solomon (970-931 BC). He took 20 years to build it. (1 Kings. 9:10) The temple was completed and officially consecrated in 946 BC. It was reputed for its magnificence and munificence in the use of metals including gold and all valuable stones and wood. No wonder it was attacked 50 times and plundered; was demolished 17 times and re built 18 times.
The center of ancient Judaism was Jerusalem. Babylonians destroyed the first temple built by Solomon in 587 BC. On the return of Jews from captivity, they started re-construction of the temple on its old ruins. After a break, they completed it in 515 BC. This second temple was renovated by the Roman Governor Herod to please the Jews. He did it very magnificently in 20 BC... Jesus on his way to Gethsemane, foreseeing its imminent destruction lamented.  Romans and particularly Hadrian completely destroyed the temple and the city in 70 AD Emperor Constantine and his mother Helena reinvented Jerusalem in the fourth Century (around 325 AD) and started the age of Byzantine Christianity. They built a number of churches and monuments in Jerusalem as memorabilia of Jesus’ mission in this World. The Muslim onslaught of 636 AD once again destroyed Jerusalem and its churches.  The European Crusaders re-established Christian supremacy in Jerusalem to be suppressed again by the Turks in 1517 AD. It continued under Muslim rule till 1917, when Jerusalem was made a British Protectorate.
Jerusalem is Holy to Jews, Christians and Muslims.  All the three groups come here to worship. Today the only remnants of the old temple built on Mt. Moreah by Solomon are the Wailing Wall.  Hundreds of Jews come every day to mourn over the loss of their temple and to strike their head on the wall and pray.  A more reasonable interpretation is that the Jews gather at the Wailing Wall for the thanks giving prayer for being able to come back in 1947 to their original home. It is holy to Christians, because Christ was crucified here. For Muslims Jerusalem is holy: Mohammed went to heaven on his winged steed from the rock on Mt. Moreah. This rock is also believed to be the place where Abraham prepared to sacrifice his son Isaac The magnificent mosque El-Aksa is built with this rock inside. The golden “Dome of Rock” mosque is the most significant landmark of modern Jerusalem.
Judaism, Christianity and Islam are monotheist religions claiming descend from Abraham and his God.  However, their Gods are different. According to some Talmudic traditions of Jews, Jesus is the son of a prostitute. For Islam he is only a simple prophet. But, for Christians, he is the triune God: the father, Son and Holy Ghost who came to the World and was crucified. He is to have a terrible second coming for which we all wait.
Our itinerary of the Holy Land tour was from Egypt to Israel, Palestine and Jordan. Some other tourists start their tour in Jordan and end it in Egypt. Thus, we started the journey on the route taken by Moses in the exodus of Israelites from Egypt to Canaan.
Mesopotamia and Babylonia in central Asia between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers was the cradle of the early civilizations. Now this area is Iraq. Garden of Eden (Geneses 2: 10-14), Tower of Babel (Gen. 11: 1-4), the building of Noah’s Ark (Gen. 6: 13-22) were all in Iraq.  Abraham came from Ur in Iraq (Gen.15:7) to Canaan (modern Israel) around 1900 BC. It was his grandson Jacob’s descendants who were enslaved in Egypt. The Exodus in the Bible is the story of the retrieval of Israelites (Jacob’s descendants) from Egypt by God. Moses and his brother Aaron lead them from Egypt in 1250 BC in the 40 years journey through the Sinai desert to Canaan.

We four, I, Kujannamma, Alex and Lalitha landed in Cairo, the capital of Egypt on 16th Sept. noon by the Etihad Air lines. The agents of the Keli Tour operators received us. Soon we found out that Alex lost his bag in transit, most probably at Abu Dhabi airport... Four of his pants—pieces of his suits--, mobile phone, chargers of movie and still camera were all lost. Luckily, his wallet, passport, etc was in his pocket.
 Cairo Airport-waiting for the tour group
He ran around to register his complaints while we three waited in the airport anxiously for over an hour.  The rest of the tour party of 47 arrived from Cochin via Muscat. KELI tours of Cherian Kuriakose, Mumbai and Rev. Fr. John Sankarathil, Devalokam Aramana, Secretary Marthamariam Samajam of our Church were the tour conductors. Including them, our group consisted of seven priests, two nuns, fifteen couples, eight women, and four men
. We all got into a chartered coach and traveled through the Cairo city roads along the banks of the river Nile. Nile is the longest river on earth, very wide and deep; navigable for big barges loaded with commercial goods. We saw not only barges and boats, but also very fertile riverbank all along. Dates and even plantains stooping heavily with fruits, and plants and trees lined our way.
7. Egypt and Cairo.
Egypt is a vast country. Most of it is uninhabitable. They get less than two inches of rainfall per year. The Egyptian civilization developed around 5000 BC along the 4000 long Nile River. The Pharaohs and their animal gods and later sun god gave the basis for their civilization. They strongly believed in life after death and used to preserve the dead man’s mortal remains and his wares in life, for use in the life after death. The pyramids were such storehouses.  The banks and delta areas of Nile are very fertile. So, agriculture, fishing and river transport of men and materials comprise their main economic activity. They developed cuneiform writing on papyrus (paper) -- called hieroglyphics. Now, political leaders rule the country. After Gamal Abdul Nasser, Anwar-al Sadat and now since 1981, Muhammad Hosni Mubarak is the ruler of the country.
Coptic Church.
First, we went to St.Mary’s church MAADI. This is built on the  site where the Holy family; Jesus, Mary and Joseph, first stayed a few days before going further on the boat to south of Egypt. They were fleeing from Bethlehem and King Herod, on instructions of the Angel. Herod had ordered the massacre of all children below two years.  Inside the church there is an old well covered with an iron mesh. It is supposed to be the well from which the holy family quenched their thirst. The church is on the bank of the Nile. Just in front of the church and to its right, very much on the riverbank is a shrine, where an open holy Bible is kept in a glass case. The tell-tales of water soaking is evident on the showpiece. The story is that the Bible was found floating on that spot in the river in 1976.  A shrine and altar is built on that place. In these two churches candles and incense burn. Some of us went down a few steps to get their hands or feet wet with the Nile water.
The Holy family stayed in Egypt for two years until the death of Herod. After that, they returned to Nazareth in Galilee, away from Bethlehem and vicinity of Herod’s successor... Jesus grew up in Nazareth as the son of carpenter Joseph. His public life started in Capernaum and places near Sea of Galilee.
The next site we visited was the shrine of St. Mark, the author of second Gospel.  He was executed by Romans in Alexandria. The holy relics are now entombed in this shrine. We prayed at his sepulcher. He was the originator of the Coptic (Egyptian) Church. Oriental Orthodox Churches with which Malankara Indian Orthodox Church has Holy Communion are: Coptic, Ethiopian, Armenian, Eritrean and Syrian (Antiochan) Church. The supreme head of the Coptic Church is Pope Shenuda III. His cathedral church is very near. It is a magnificent building. We went in. It was being renovated. Pope was out of station.

Tomb of St. Mark in the shrine
We could not meet His Holiness and pay our respects. From there we were to go to the Hotel Delta Pyramid for night rest.
When we were boarding the bus a very fat Egyptian woman in her forties accosted Alex with a folded palm “namasthe” and pleaded by gestures to take her photo with our V. Rev. Remban Gabriel. Alex agreed and had to call him back from the bus. Probably because of the Masnapsa (special head cover) he was wearing, she perhaps presumed that Rembachan is a bishop from India and desired a photo with him. She seemed extremely happy when a couple of photos were taken, and thanked Alex profusely.
On our way back to the city we noted that most of the buildings were unfinished and with unplastered walls. The city corporation levy property tax only on buildings after its completion. Therefore, owners keep it outwardly unfinished to escape the tax.  Egypt is not a rich country. We were warned that Egyptian pipe water is not potable and we should use only bottled mineral water. It is costly. One 1.5-liter bottle cost US $ 3. We rested at the Hotel for the night.  It is a three or four-star hotel. They gave us a buffet dinner of rice, meat, fish and many other palatable and not so, items.

8. Giza Pyramids.
On 17, we were to be ready at 6.30 Am for breakfast and to bus by seven Am. Elders like me in the party were awakened by phone bell in the room. We all came down on time for breakfast. Bread, eggs, and a number of sweet and sour items, tea / coffee were the buffet menu. We had it quickly and entered our bus. We three had heavier luggage because we were on our way to Kerala and Alex was to Thailand. Wheeling them out of the bus to lifts and our rooms and back again to the bus in the next morning was a task. With our little help, Alex did it for us. Thanks to God for him.
We were warned that we will be making a 6 ½ hour-long journey by bus through the Egyptian Sinai desert and that the bus will not stop for rest or for easing us. So, we were to take as little water as possible in the morning and to carry mineral water for use on the way. After ascertaining that all our things are in the bus, we started at 7.45 Am to the Red sea coast. The Egyptian guide who joined us the previous day and the bus driver comprised the 53 of us in the bus.  While we were going through the streets of Cairo Fr. Sankarathil led us in the Morning Prayer. We also sang a few Christian songs, making the tour really a pilgrimage of the faithful.
Our coach stopped at Giza pyramids on the outskirts of the Cairo city. It was 9.25 Am and the hot sun was blazing on us. . In my College days, I was a student of Ancient History: particularly of Greece and Rome. Hence, Nile River Basin, Giza Pyramids and Sphinx were all familiar to me. I had read extensively about the Roman-Egyptian wars, Cleopatra and the earlier Pharaohs who constructed these pyramids. Seeing them was reliving my studies. I had brought two senior citizens P-cap. For our women, Alex purchased despite their protests, two costly plastic net caps from the vendors. But Lalitha and my wife refused to wear it. They covered their head with sari ends. Thus, the hats turned out to be inconvenient item in our luggage

There were a few other tourists coaches unloading the passengers. We wanted to be the earliest to avoid the crowd.  We were in front of the three biggest of the 80 and odd pyramids so far discovered. Pyramids are funeral chambers. Egyptians believed in life after death. Those who had money, used to arrange for embalming their corpses and preserve them in chambers, along with articles used by them for future use. Mummified corpses of their chief aids also used to be entombed with the master’s Mummy. The process of embalming a corpse is explained in the “History of Herodotus” Vol. I.Bk 2. Para 86. (Written around 460 BC) translated by George Rawlinson, 2 Volumes, Herodotus toured in Egypt and gathered as much information as possible to write this part of the history.  On Para 124-133 he also describes the method adopted for the construction of the pyramids of Cheops (Khufu), Chephren and Mycerinus. They were constructed around 2600 BC. Around there were a number of basements and remnants of smaller pyramids of lesser chieftains.
Cheops pyramid

Cheops pyramid is the biggest occupying 13 acres of land, 450 ft high and using 3 million stone blocks, each weighing about 2.5 tons. Herodotus says that they used some kind of a machine made from wooden planks for lifting these blocks. Our guide said of a different method. After the first ground layer of stones, mud banks were built around to haul the stones to the next higher level. This was repeated till the top was reached. It took 20 years to construct and another 10 years to scrape off the mud bank crust. The middle pyramid of the son of the emperor is small compared to the third one. The coffins containing mummies and other articles were in the inner chamber at the center of the pyramid. I am leaving out other stories about pyramids given in Herodotus.
Our leaders allowed us enough time to go up the stairs to the door to the inner chamber of the big pyramid.  As we had less time, none of us was allowed to enter the inner chamber.
Entrance to inside of the pyramid

People are allowed to enter the chamber of the second small pyramid on payment of an entrance fee of US $5 per head. Now there is nothing to be seen inside. It is all empty. Thieves have ransacked all the valuables centuries ago. The mummies have also gone into the museums in Egypt, England, USA and other places.
Sphinx is a statue on a pedestal with a human face and the body of a lion in resting position. This also is a massive structure. Most of us took photos: still and movie, with these pyramids and Sphinx in the background. A photographer came and arranged all of us into a group with the pyramids and the Sphinx in the background for a photo. Those who wanted copies for US $ 4 per copy gave their names. These copies were given later when we were in the herbal perfume shop. We had taken a number of photos and movie pictures of all pyramids and Sphinx. Yet I purchased two copies—one for Alex.
As instructed by our leaders, we boarded the bus at 10 Am for our next destination, Suez Canal. The Egyptian tour guide told us that we are about to go through a long tunnel road under the Suez Canal. If we are lucky, we may see ships crossing the Suez Canal just before we enter the tunnel. We were all looking with outstretched necks like cranes to see the ship. None came to our view. We continued our eastward journey.

9. Red Sea Crossing.
Our next destination was the Nuwebia Village Resort in the Gulf of Aqaba in the Red Sea. The bus was cruising towards the east on more or less straight road through the desert. Both sides it was arid land of ash like top soil.  It reminded the moon surface shown on TV.
By about 11.30 Am we reached an herbal shop for a stopover. They seated us in a small hall and gave us a welcome drink of grape juice. Then a sales man around forty in age started explaining the medicinal value and use of each of the perfume. Meanwhile another attendant smeared each perfume on the hands of each of us to smell it. This went on for an hour because they had 15 or 20 varieties of perfumes for sale. One of it, he explained as midnight perfume. He also told us where to smear it- the shoulders / mountains, the thighs and the fifth spot being between the thighs for women and on the machine-gun for men. The smuttiness of his description made us laugh. Anyway, he was able to sell a good number of small perfume bottles to us. Alex also purchased a few bottles worth US $ 130 for all his relatives.
From the shop, we walked up to a nearby hotel for lunch. Around 2 Pm, we were back in the bus. Though it was very hot outside, air-conditioning everywhere, except the open public road, saved us from the heat.
Further, on our tour, we stopped again at a wayside shanty for our evening Tiffin. We brought Tiffin packets on the bus. They gave us seating space and demanded in return purchase of soft drinks or mineral water. Most of us obliged. Our packets contained chicken fry; potato filled bonda balls, two unusually large ripe dates, and guava or pear fruit. It was too heavy for my stomach to do justice to the contents. In another 30 minutes, we continued our eastward journey on bus.
Red Sea has two gulfs jutting into the Eastern desert in Egypt: Gulf of Suez and Gulf of Aqaba. In between the two Gulfs is the Sinai wilderness—an extension of the Sinai Desert. We were going through this hinterland. The left of the road we were going was the Egyptian Eastern desert continuing into Sinai. On the right there is the Sinai little hills. It was an eight hours journey with two stopovers at herbal shop and tiffin break.
All the way through from Suez Canal to Aqaba Gulf, the road appeared reddish in the sun with apparently life less soil on either side. Nearing Aqaba Gulf, we sighted greenery, plants, and trees. We now entered the town of Nuweiba. Our aim was to reach the Nuweiba Village Resort in South Sinai, in Egypt early enough for a dip in the Sea. It is a beautiful expansive village resort on the Aqaba Sea front, with gardens of well-maintained shrubs and trees. We reached the resort only at 7.30 Pm. So, our plans to have sea bath at this point on the Red Sea could not materialize. Nevertheless, me and few of us rolled up our pants and entered for a couple of feet into the Red Sea, until we were in calf deep water. For me the division of water into two walls and its closing on the Egyptian army to destroy them was a real happening. So getting into the Red Sea at this point was very significant for me. The resort had boats and diving gear for those who wanted. But, we had no time for such pleasure.

Nuweiba Village Resort on Red Sea

The name Red Sea comes from the red colored corals in the sea. Even from the Aqaba Gulf shore, we could observe the red tinge of the Sea. The main part of the Red Sea is further down south in the map.
In Bible Exo. 13, the Red Sea crossing of Israelites happened in the Suez marshy place. It is also presumed to have happened at the Nuweiba beach on the Gulf of Aqaba. A third opinion is that crossing was on Red Sea: but where? I am inclined to believe Ron Wyatt, the archaeologist that it happened at the Nuweiba beach: exactly at the location of the Resort where we were staying.
The Aqaba gulf of Red Sea is very shallow at the Nuweiba point.  It is also slightly narrow—less wide—at this point. It is here that Moses crossed the Red Sea in 1210 BC with his Israelite hoard of 2 to 3 million people. The opposite side of the beach in Aqaba gulf (north end) is partly in Jordan and the rest in Saudi Arabia. Moses and his people after crossing the Sea went into the Sinai desert in Saudi Arabia. They camped there in the foothills of the Sinai Mountain. Ron Wyatt asserts that it is here that God appeared to Moses and gave the Ten Commandments... The Catherine Monastery at the foot of the small mountain and a thorny bush there is pointed out as the place of God’s appearance to Moses. The Biblical Median and Mt. Sinai are in Egypt. We could not go to either of these locations
There are people who question this miracle of water moving to either side to form a wall to open a Dry Land Bridge for Israelites to cross the sea. Moses had miraculous powers from God. (Exo. 4: 3- 5). We know how difficult it is to keep a few people under one’s command. Moses exhibited his miracle powers given by God a few times to keep the 2 million within his ranks. The Israelites were fleeing from the chasing Egyptian Emperor’s army. God devised this scheme to destroy the entire Egyptian army by drowning them in the Red Sea. When all the Israelites crossed over to the other side, Moses stretched his hand over the Sea.  The water wall closed on the chasing Egyptian army. Men, horses and chariots were all drowned. The very high water walls on either side of the land bridge under the sea miraculously fell on the Egyptian army drowning and burying them in deep waters of Aqaba Gulf of Red Sea. (Exo.14:26-29)
With archaeological and documentary evidences Ron Wyatt, proves that the crossing took place at the Nuweiba beach. With sonar depth measurements, Ron Wyatt shows the land bridge under the Sea. He went to this spot in 1978 and 1984, conducted scuba diving to the Sea bottom, and took photos of wheels of the Egyptian chariots and bones of drowned army men.  (Ron Wyatt- Moses & the Red Sea Crossing Truth or Fiction- a power point presentation—Source Internet) With hundreds of evidences, he also states that Bible is “one of the most accurate books in the World”.
Israelites took 40 years in their “Exodus” to travel from Ramese (Cairo) to Canaan (Jerusalem). We covered the distance in 32 hours on bus from 10 Am on 17th to 6 Pm on 18th. We had enough rest on the way and an overnight stay in Nuweiba Resort. They were on foot and had little idea about the destination. The map below shows the route we took from Cairo through the Sinai Desert. The line of arrows marks it.
Tour route- From Cairo-through Sinai desert-to Suez Canal –to Nuweiba Beach- to Taba boarder of Israel- to Eilat town -to Dead Sea- to Jerusalem Town-to Bethlehem-to Tel Aviv- to Haifa- to MT. Carmel- to Sea of Galilee- toMt. Nebo- to Jordan Boarder.

At Nuweiba, each pair of us was given a cottage in the village resort for stay. The attendants wheeled our luggage to our respective cottages. I got cottage 311 and Alex 312. It was fully furnished to four-star facilities. We were asked to be in the dining hall before they close at 8 Pm. So we postponed our bath and washing to a post-dinner time.
After a good sleep, Alex and me packed our things and waited for the attendants to take our boxes to the bus in front of the Resort. When they took the boxes and left, we locked our cottages and moved through the gardens to the dining hall on the sea front.  It was only 6.30 Am and the sun was blazing hot from the eastern horizon. Alex took a number of photos of the gardens and sea front. Two pleasure boats and a fishing boat were seen at a distance. The gentle morning breeze was lovingly caressing the Sea to wake it up from the night sleep. Small wave like movements on the Sea surface was the sign of awakening sea. A couple of priests and two nuns among us entered the sea to wet their feet by the lapping ripples of the partially awoken Red Sea.
At 7 Am, the dining hall opened. The buffet breakfast menu were too many including four or five sweets and cakes, cookies, fruits including pears, figs and very ripe black giant size dates, kebabs, steak,  eggs, soft drinks, coffee, tea and so on. We went after breakfast to the bus just in time and gave back our room keys to the receptionist. Suddenly Alex noticed that I was not having my walking stick.  He took back the key, and rushed to the room. He returned with the walking stick.

10. Crossing the Taba Border.
We started at 7.45 Am for a one-hour drive northward to the Taba Boarder of Egypt to Israel. On our right side of the road was the Aqaba Gulf and left, the Sinai desert. At Taba, we were to leave the Egyptian bus and guide for new ones on the Israel side. We lugged our bags to the emigration counter of Egypt and then to the security check and immigration counter of Israel. It was 200 yards away and the checking was meticulous. We waited in queue for our turn. Lalitha’s passport and photo were old, much used and full of entries due to her regular travels. The officers conferred with superiors and finally got convinced. She was then permitted to go forward.
There were three immigration counters, one for Israelites only. The checking was slow at the two counters.  Therefore, Kunjannamma and I went to the vacant counter. Disregarding us, the girl officer took the papers from one who came after us and processed it. Was I a bit irritated? The officer then took our passports and papers and remarked that it is a counter for Israelites only. Yet she punched our papers and permitted us to go into her country. The special counter was only for the speedy disposal of incoming Israelites. We had instructions to request to the officers at the counter not to punch our passports. Instead, they were to issue a punched special slip with our name and passport number. The officers at the counter also had instructions to put the Israel entry stamp only on the slip and not on the passport. The enmity between the Jews and Arabs is such that if by mistake Israel stamps a passport, that passport holder cannot get in into any Arab country. Our tour itinerary included Arab States, Palestine and Jordan. We were to preserve that punched slip—our passport to get out of Israel. One by one, we checked into Israel and went with our luggage to the other side where the Israel bus was waiting for us.
Israel is like a cone. It is narrow at the South end and wide on the North at the Mediterranean Sea coast. In South West, it has Egypt, in the west Mediterranean Sea, Syria and Lebanon in the north and Jordan in the east as its boundaries. Israel is 350 Km from north to south and only 50 to 80 Km from west to east. The Mediterranean Sea coast gives it access to sea trade. The hinterland is hilly desert in the south and highly fertile low-lying lands in the north. The eastern side of Israel is a rift valley formed by geological movements of earth plates in the long past. Judea is in the south of Israel and Canaan and Galilee in the north. The south end of Israel is on the north tip of the Aqaba Gulf. We entered Israel and into the port city of Eilat. An important business of Eilat is imports of all brands of motor vehicles manufactured in East, including India and export them to Europe. The city is prosperous and has an airport and a busy Seaport.
Eastern Israel from Eilat up to Syrian boarder in the north is in the rift valley and lies far below the sea level The Dead Sea, the Sea of Galilee and river Jordan are along this valley. Dead Sea is 411 meters below the sea level. The south west of Israel is the Hanegeve desert. From King Solomon’s days, copper was mined from this area. Movement of caravans from Jerusalem to Alexandria in Egypt was through this desert. Well-developed cities and towns like Memphis and Beersheba came up wherever wells and water were available. Remnants of these ruined cities are seen in the archaeological excavation sites.


Jews are not only intelligent, but also very industrious. Many of the University professors and scientists of USA and other developed countries are Jews. Most of the financial institutions of the Western World are owned / controlled by Jews. The migrant Jews who came in after the formation of the Israel State in 1947 made the deserts of Israel into good arable lands and gardens. From the Bible they identified the trees that were grown in different parts of Israel and are now replanting them to make Israel green. Similarly, the wells of Biblical times are also being dug out to water Israel. Before 1948, there were only a few Jewish families in Jerusalem, Haifa and Tel Aviv towns in Palestine. The migrant Jews who came in since then were housed in community homes called Kibbutz. They adopted sprinkle irrigation and green house cultivation to make intensive use of all possibly arable land around their Kibbutz. Now they have converted all these lands into fertile areas and made themselves prosperous. Kibbutz is communal living that combines socialism and Zionism. It started as plantation communities owning everything in common.  Later they entered into industrial endeavors. In course of time individualism cropped in to the decline of Kibbutzim. Some of them encourage tourism. We went on our route to two Kibbutz’s' common dining hall for food.

Green Houses

We saw on our way to the Dead Sea, Green houses covered with plastic roofs, cultivating all kinds of fruits, vegetables and flowers in controlled humidity and temperature. Their sprinkle irrigation to economize water is now copied by dry land cultivators everywhere. It is said that they grow and export fruits and vegetables demanded by the Europeans in seasons when European climate do not allow cultivating them. Extensive date palms, banana and olive farms were seen in the rift valley on the right side. The left side was barren hill country. The hills near the Dead Sea are salty containing a variety of salts and minerals. The very rare rains wash down the outer crusts of the salt hills and drain it to the Dead Sea to make it more and more salty.


We were traveling from south to north along the western shore of the Dead Sea. Abraham came from Ur in Babylonia to Canaan. Because of too many sheep to graze, Abraham and Lot, his nephew decided to separate.  Lot preferred the very fertile Jordan valley and Abraham went to Hebron hills in the west.
Hebron is called the city of Abraham. He built an altar here for God near the sacred trees of Mamre (Gen. 13:18). After his meanderings with his flock, he returned to this place.  His wife Sara died. Abraham purchased the Machpelah cave from Ephron the Hittite and buried her.  Later Abraham, Isaac, his wife Rebecca, and Jacob and his wife Leah were buried near this place. A legend is that Adam and Eve coming out of Eden (in Iraq) was buried here. It is a holy place for Jews. David was installed as king at this place. For the first 7.1/2 years, he ruled with Hebron as his capital. Then he captured the northern areas and made Jerusalem his Capital city. Hebron is 35 Km south of the modern Jerusalem

11. Sodom and The Dead Sea
The fertile Jordan valley of Sid dim and Sodom selected by Lot were full of tar pits (Gen.14: 8). In due course, the sinfulness of Sodom and Gomorrah forced God to destroy them by a rain of burning sulphur. Everything was destroyed. (It became the Dead Sea.) Lot and his family were spared. They were asked to run for life to the western hills and not to look back. (Gen.19:12-21).  Lot’s wife looked back at what she had to forgo and was turned into a pillar of salt. (Gen. 19:26). Our bus stopped for a couple of minutes for us to see a solitary salt pillar among the hills on our left side of the road. It is said to be Lot’s wife.

Ein Gedi.

We also passed Ein Gedi—an Oasis on the western shore of the Dead Sea in the Old Testament times. Ein Gedi is between Hebron hills and the Dead Sea. The Dead Sea has receded eastward due to evaporation and has become more salty. New modern roads have now come up further down near the Seashore. So, the towns and cities of old times are now on the left side of the new road and away from the Dead Sea. Near the road on the left, there are many small salt hills. Further left in the interior there were little rocky mountains, caves and hot and fresh water springs. During rains fresh rain water gush down, as a spread out river, to the Dead Sea. Even now, tourists may face such roadblocks of rushing water.
David hid fleeing from King Saul’s wrath in the hill caves in Ein Gedi (1 Samuel. 23:14). David instead of cutting off Saul’s head cut off a piece of his coat while he was easing in a cave (1. Samuel. 24:4) He did this to prove to Saul that he (David) is not an enemy, but a friend of Saul. King Saul thus reconciled to David. (Ibid. 24: 7-22). After Saul’s death David became king of Judah (1010-970 BC)
Another area we passed on our route was Masada.  Guide told us the story of this Desert fortress overlooking Dead Sea. On the eastern side, it is a steep rocky fall of 450 meters to the Dead Sea. Hearing the harrowing story, I looked up the internet for more and correct information. King Herod constructed this fortress during 37 to 31 AD to protect himself from Jews. The only written account of this incident is of Josephus Flavius, a Roman Governor at that time in Galilee. In 66 AD, there was Jewish rebellion against the Romans. Romans routed the Jews. So some Zealots ran into the fortress and stay put there.  They stocked enough food, water and other supplies. Then they raided Jerusalem and harassed Romans. Therefore, Flavius Silva the Roman Governor marched with a large army and made a siege of the fortress. 930 including children under the leadership of Eleazar realized their plight and decided to kill themselves than be killed by Romans. Ten of them were chosen to kill all others and to commit suicide. Two women and a child hid in a cave and survived the massacre. Josephus got the narration from them. Archaeologists have dug up the beautiful hill palace, rooms and storehouses, water ducts and tank constructed by Herod.  Two skeletons of a young couple and that of a little child with the pleated long hair have been dug up and are preserved in the Rockefeller Museum. Now Masada is a term that springs a fountain of patriotism in Jews. They vow that Masada will never again be allowed to be repeated.

Qumran and Essenes monks.

Further up, on the shore of the Dead Sea is Qumran where the religious sect of Essenes scribes copied the famous Dead Sea Scroll. A Bedouin boy named Muhammad rearing his sheep discovered this scroll of the books of Bible in 1947. In search of one of his sheep, he threw a stone into a cave.  A tinkling sound came from the cave. He with a friend explored the cave and found a jar. There was this scroll in papyrus neatly rolled and preserved in skin. They sold it to an antique merchant for a small sum. He took it to the Antiochan Syrian bishop Jesu Samuel Mar Athanasios of Markose Dayara. . Experts told the bishop that it is a very old hand written Hebrew book of Isaiah of the Bible. Realizing its antique value, he sailed to USA and conducted a series of its exhibition. Thus, he sold it to the highest bidder, a Jew for US $ 0.25million.  This discovery leads to a series of searches of the caves (nearly 200) in Qumran. Practically all the books of the Bible were recovered. They are now kept in the museums in Israel.
These books were hand copied by the Essenes monks. These monks were a group of Jews who returned from Babylonian captivity. Finding that Judaism has deteriorated, they started their puritan version of it some when around 150 BC. The community was of monks devoted to spiritualism. They lived in the desert caves waiting for their Messiah. By around 70 AD, this community disintegrated.
Dead Sea.
We stopped for lunch and then moved to a Spa in the Dead Sea. This Sea is the lowest spot on earth. Hence, the oxygen content of its air is the highest. The Seawater is rich in minerals and salts. It is nearly 40% salty and 10 times more salty than the ordinary seawater.  This high density of the water makes you to float in it. No one can be drowned in the Dead Sea. You will only float. However, we have to be careful that even a drop of its water should not get even accidentally into your eye. The eyeballs and cornea may be bruised and wounded by the salt crystals. You may even loose eyesight. Persons with high blood pressure may aggravate it by bathing in the water or sea mud.
We had instructions to bring towels and dress to change for bathing in the Sea. Alex, Lalitha and me floated in the sea for about 10 minutes. Then I joined a group taking fresh water bath under an overhead pipe system fitted with many taps on a circular pipe. Each opened by a hanging chain. Pull the chain. Water gushes on to your head. We were a medley: men, women, Indians, Westerners, and yellow skinned; and even Negros. I went into an enclosure for changing while Alex and wife went up the steps to the spa‘s changing rooms.
14 different kinds of salts are extracted from the salt farms in the area. Powdering of rocks and stones of the sea and nearby salt hills to extract the salts is a major industry. Potash used for the manufacture of fertilizers is an important export of Israel. Dead Sea water is said to be medicinal for curing skin diseases. Plenty of multi-storied hotels have sprung up to lodge people from all over the World to come and stay for one day to weeks, to be cured by bathing in the sea. Some smear the body in the black mud of the Sea and wash it off after hours. I saw a few completely smeared in this dark mud, along with me on the shore. Dead Sea resources are encashed by Israel in many ways. Seawater and its mud are processed as cakes, soaps, creams and what not. They are beautifully packed in colourful cartons to lure the customers. After bathing, the bus took us to a nearby medicinal shop, which has a stock of these soaps and creams. Some of us purchased a few items from that shop.
It is feared that in another 50 years the Dead Sea may dry up and become history. Daily three million tons of its water is evaporated. During the last 50 years, the sea level has gone down by three meters or more. The roads and luxury hotels have all come up on such sea drained new land. Jordan River originates in the spring of Banias at the foot of Mt. Hermon and flows into the Sea of Galilee. From there it flows to Dead Sea. The river is 251 KM long. Now the latter part of the river has dried up. However, Government is diverting water from Sea of Galilee to an artificial canal to keep Jordan River and the Dead Sea alive. This project is not a success. They are now scheming to bring water from Aqaba Gulf to Dead Sea
We left the Dead Sea around 5 PM to Jerusalem. Jericho the oldest city was very near our bus route. Joshua, the leader of the Israelites in their Exodus to Canaan in 1210 BC, conquered it.  Modern Jericho is a little south east of the old Jericho and north of the Dead Sea. In the 1967 war, Israel wrested from Jordan, Jericho and the areas around. But, in the peace talks, they gave West Bank area to Palestine. Jericho is now in the West Bank area of (Arab) Palestine. We passed it twice on our tour, but could not go in. It was on this road from Jerusalem to Jericho that robbers as referred to in the Bible attacked a man. (Lk. 10:30-36). It was in those days a rugged country place of winding roads. While the priest and the Levite saw the wounded man and left on their way, the Good Samaritan (of the Biblical parable) attended to him and took him to the nearest inn to be nursed and cured.
12.Jerusalem City

We were coming down a steep road from the east through a valley to climb up the Jerusalem Hill. “The deepest darkness” of King David’s Psalm 23.4 came to my mind. In those days, the narrow way in this valley must have been dark with thick forest and beasts to frighten any sheep. The golden dome of the mosque El Aksa (Dome of the Rock) glittered in the evening Sun inviting us to Jerusalem—the “Mecca” of Christendom.  The left turn in the road took us to be between the Sun and the Dome. The golden dome dazzled in the evening rays of the Sun.
Jerusalem –A general view
Because of the roadblock, we slowed down. This gave us an opportunity to see the whole Jerusalem city on the slope on our left. On our right side was the highest point of the Jerusalem Temple. Satan tested Jesus on this pinnacle and asked Him to jump down to prove that He is the son of God. (Luke. 4:9-11; Mat. 4:5-6). The bus moved and stopped at the Dung gate of the walled city of Jerusalem.
Jerusalem, the capital city of Israel is a cape-promontory—into the Palestinian West Bank area of Arabs. About 40 % of the population is Christians. The rest are mostly Muslims. The old city has four quarters and eight gates. On the western side of the Temple Mount is the Wailing Wall and the Jewish area. The Muslim quarter is the commercial center of the city. The Christian quarter has the famous churches, monasteries and the Holy Sepulcher. The Israel parliament Knesset, museums and hospitals are in the new expanded city area.


Jerusalem is a small crowded city with every kind of business activity related to religious tourism. All incidents and locations in the life and mission of Jesus are highlighted and venerated by specially constructed churches, alters, grottos and memorabilia. Some incidents are claimed to have happened at a different place.  Four places are claimed as Emmaus where Jesus met two of his followers after resurrection. (Lk. 24:13). Two places are claimed to be the place of the Last Supper Room. Two places are pointed as Calvary. In all these places churches or alters have been built by one Christian denomination or other. Seeing all of them in chronological sequence is difficult. The monuments are so many and close to each other that we have to pass from one to another nearby, rather than the next one in the sequence.  So, we saw each church / monument often as an independent item by itself.  For example, the last five stages in the Way of the Cross are in the same Church of Holy Sepulture. We saw the tomb of Jesus and later climbed to the Calvary and the Golgotha inside the church as the last item. Similarly seeing all the monuments and churches and alters is also not possible. For that, we require more time and leisure. Again they are scattered in Arab controlled Jordan, Syria, Palestine, Egypt and the Jewish Israel. So one has to enter and renter these countries to view all of them. Those who start from Jordan often stay more days in Arab countries and areas than those who go for the tour from Egypt.  In short, this travelogue is not a chronological tracing of the events in the life of Jesus. It is only a narration of all what we saw and experienced on each day of our tour. I have added more information on topics I got interested from guides and friends by collecting them from my reading of books and internet

Dung Gate.

At the Dung Gate there was very heavy rush. We queued and edged forward for about four hundred meters into the Wailing Wall square. It was the western wall of the old Jerusalem temple. Muslims constructed their mosque over its ruins. So now, it is part of the “Dome of the Rock” complex. The lowest seven rows of huge cut stones of the wall were part of the original wall of the temple. Jews were praying with forward shaking heads near this wall. Jewish guards insisted every one to wear a cap to go near the wall. Those not having cap were given free paper caps. Women were allowed to cover their heads with cloth or sari ends. There is a belief that your prayers scribbled on paper and tucked in the crevices of this wall will be answered by God. Therefore, some were doing this and others were reciting their prayers. Batches of tourists go near the wall to be edged out after a few minutes, by other batches.
The Wailing Wall
A large number of Jews were viewing a passing out parade of young Israel military cadets. The army had temporarily cloth-fenced an area in the square for the parade. Their announcements on the microphone, drums, band music and the din and bustle of the pilgrim crowd created pandemonium. A couple of hundred military chaps in uniform and rifles were also on the scene. In the wake of the Palestine, Israeli conflict, and the jostling of Jews, Palestinian Arabs and Christian pilgrims and tourists, instilled anxiety as to what may happen next.
A roll call of our badge numbers was then heard from our leaders to ensure that all of us are present to return to our waiting bus. On behalf of the tour operators, our Israel guide had given us booklets and maps of Israel and a green P-cap on the start of the Israel tour. Locating us in the crowd was easy with the green P-cap. The bus took us around 7.30 Pm to the four star multi-storied Tower Hotel of Jerusalem. 18th and 19th nights, we were to stay in the same hotel. Some tourist groups stay 2 or 3 days in Palestine and visit Jerusalem and other places in Israel. We stayed for 3 days in Jerusalem and visited Bethlehem in Palestine. Some of the pilgrim centers visited by them, we could not go and vice versa.

Hanging lights.

Alex and I went out after dinner for a stroll. From the hotel, we turned left and I was struck by a stunning sight of thousands of bright lights in the sky. I was wondering at it and storming my brain for a reason. Then Alex said it is the street and buildings lights on the hanging slope of the city. The road level we walked was so beneath them that the scene was magical.
We were seeking an IT shop. Alex wanted re-chargers for his movie and still cameras. He also wanted to download our tickets from internet for return journey from Amman. We were to leave the tour group at Amman in Jordan to be on our own itinerary to Trivandrum. After a long walk in the night we located a shop, got the things we wanted and returned by 11Pm.

13. Enter Bethlehem in Palestine.
Friday 19th Sept. 2008 was the fourth day of the tour; we started around 8 Am on our bus with the routine prayers and singing. Being the Ramadan month and Friday, holy for Arabs, the crowd during daytime was scanty. Therefore, we changed our tour route to go first to Bethlehem in Palestine.
Bethlehem is a very important place for Jews and Christians. During his return journey from Mesopotamia to Canaan. (Genesis. 48:7) Jacob buried his wife Rachel in the Hebron Hill area. This site is on the side of the road to Ephrath (Bethlehem). It is also the birthplace of David. (1 Sam.17:12) and of Jesus (.Mat.2:5) It is only 10 KM due south of Jerusalem. Bethlehem, being inside Palestine, we had to leave our bus on the boarder and go through the security check to board a Palestinian bus. Even the tour guide had to be changed.
We were to celebrate Holy Qurbana in a Bethlehem church. But, the time allotted to us was 12 Noon. Therefore, we went first to a Syrian shop for Religious Souvenirs. Bethlehem is a city of artisans. They manufacture souvenirs.  It is a cottage industry. Many are engaged in the manufacture of crosses and artifacts with olive wood. Our group including priests and nuns purchased a number of items. Metal and wooden crosses  in all sizes, from one inch to table top size, vestry items, jute bags and tea shirts with souvenir prints on them, costly icons and a number of souvenir trinkets were for sale. They were all very highly priced and offered at a 5% discount hoax.  I purchased a few one inch wooden crosses and two red T-shirts for casual ware.

Authenticity of sites,

The crowd was thin and so we moved after the shopping to the front of the World renowned Nativity Church in Bethlehem- the birth place of Jesus (Mt.2:1). The Roman emperor Augustus Caesar ordered a population census for fixing tax on the citizens. Joseph being in the lineage of David had to register his name in Bethlehem. Joseph and Mary went from Nazareth. They could not find a room in Bethlehem to stay. Jesus was thus born in a manger-stable. The church built over it came to be known as the Nativity Church. We see in the picture Alex and Lalitha sitting inside the Nativity church.

Alex and Lalita

It was Empress Helena, mother of Constantine who identified the Holy Cross on which Jesus was crucified and other places of importance in his life. How did she locate those places? Roman Empire was divided around 309 AD into two empires with Rome and Constantinople as capitals. In due course, Constantinople became more important. Constantine was the emperor.
If some one ask 50 years after your death to a resident near your present residence, “Where did you (named so and so) lived? “. Quite probably, they will express their total ignorance of such a person. Then how is that, 300 years after His death, Helena identified the important places in the life of Jesus? She heard stories about the life and mission of Jesus and became convinced. She became a Christian. One night she dreamt that the cross on which Christ was crucified lies buried in a spot in Israel. She went in 326 AD to Bethlehem. Her workers started digging the place. At last, she found a cross deep down in a well; probably formed later by the walls erected around it other constructions of succeeding generations.  It is said that miracles happened to all persons who handled or touched it. They got convinced of the originality and sanctity of the cross. She called a meeting of forty most knowledgeable persons in the empire She deputed them to search all records and all kinds of information from all parts of the world to locate the places of importance in the life of Jesus. They were to report back in a definite period. They all returned and submitted their reports before juries. 26 of the 40 corroborated in pointing out the same locations for each incident. It is these locations that are now venerated with shrines and churches built over them in the fourth century. They are likely to be the original places. Believing them to be so, we venerate them. But, for some of the locations, now there are different claimants. Greek Orthodox Church, Roman Catholic Church and Armenian Churches are the dominant claimants.

Boswell of Christ.

Christ the teacher got St. Paul to be the “Boswell to Johnson”, to interpret his teachings. St. Paul interpreted and carried the messages and mission of Jesus through his speeches and letters. Empress Helena made Jerusalem the “Mecca” of Christendom. She identified the places where the historical person Jesus lived his sacrificial mission in this World. Thus, St. Paul and Empress Helena together erected the edifice of Christendom. Jesus, the Guru, St. Paul the interpreter and Helena the locator were the builders of the first Christendom (Byzantine).Emperor Constantine who became a Christian gave royal imprint to Christianity. By the early fourth century, Christian religion thus became not only a religion of the poor, but also of all, including the rich of the World.
The Quintessence of this World Religion is simple to comprehend, though a little difficult to practice. The Son God incarnated as man to teach humanity self-sacrifice and Universal love as the method of building a new society, which we call Heaven (Mt.20:28). He taught us to create the Heaven immediately in this World itself, by practicing his own example of “Universal Brotherhood of man under the Fatherhood of God”. His great command was “Love one another just as God loves you”. (Jon. 15:12). God loved man so much to sacrifice Himself on the Cross to absolve men for all their disobedience and sins. The essence of Christianity is “Love your neighbor, as you love yourself”. (Mk.12:31).

14. Nativity Church.

The Nativity Church is built on the birthplace of Jesus.  This church is one of the oldest and looks like a fortress. Emperor Constantine first built it immediately after the 325 AD Council of Nicaea. Huge stone blocks like that of the pyramids were used in the construction.* The Persian invaders of the 7th century destroyed every Christian church and altar. However, this church was spared. The fresco on the wall depicting the visit of the three Magi from the east had Persian dress on them. That possibly prevented them from destroying the church
Prophet Micah had predicted the birth of Jesus in the 8th century BC “God will bring a ruler for Israel from Bethlehem (Mic.5:2). The prediction became true. He was born in the stable of a cave in Bethlehem. An altar was later built over this cave.  A silver star was inlaid on the floor to mark the spot of birth. This altar belongs to the Greek Orthodox Church. Another altar below this belongs to the Latin Catholic Church. The altar on the side belongs to the Armenian Church. . Roman Emperor Hadrian (76-138 AD) closed the entrance to this church and erected a temple over it for a Heathen goddess. Later it was demolished and the church re-opened for believers
We had to wait a few minutes before the low-door-entrance to the Nativity Church. It is called the Door of Humility. You have to double bend your body and head to enter. The big Arch door constructed by the Crusaders was partly sealed in the 17th century to prevent Muslim equestrians riding in. Another tourist group before us was winding their way in. Inside, you enter into the great Justinian Basilica constructed in 530 AD. This great hall has two rows of tall magnificent columns on either side. We can see its original mosaic floor down below the present floor through an opening. The birth spot of Jesus is below the main altar.

Holy Manger steps.                  

We have to go down the narrow steps on the right side of the altar to the front of the Holy Manger. There again there is a circular shaped five stairs downwards. After that, you lower your head to enter the Holy Manger. You are now in the birth spot of Jesus and the Silver Star. It is written here, “Here Jesus Christ was born of virgin Mary”. We knelt, one by one before the Silver Star in veneration. A number of incense burners in silver and gold casing hang in the grotto.



The Star at the Birth Place of Jesus in the Nativity Church

Just on, the left side off the Nativity church is the Latin church of St. Catherine into which we emerge from the grotto.  Every year, the Latin Patriarch celebrates the Christmas Eve in this church. Pilgrims from all over the World come to attend. Under this church, there is the grotto of St Jerome where the saint spent 40 years translating the Bible from Hebrew to Latin. He is said to be buried here. We also saw another grotto of innocents close by. This is the place marked to remember the hundreds of children below 2 years massacred on the orders of King Herod. (Mt. 2:16). From there we enter into the open quadrangle. A photographer arranged us in front of the Nativity church for a group photo. He sold copies to those of us who wanted at US $ 5 per copy.

Celebration of Eucharist in Bethlehem.

By 11.30 Am, we climbed a few steps up in to a beautiful small church. Here we were to have our Holy Qurbana of the tour St. Mary’s Syrian Orthodox Church is an Antiochan Syrian parish church. The priest gives it out to tourists for celebration of Holy Qurbana for a small fee. They assist the tourists in all ways by supplying Lahamo (leavened bread) and Mass wine for the Holy Eucharist.

Our tour group included V. Rev. Gabriel Remban of Pathanapuran Dayara, six other priest and two Nuns. One priest was Fr.Dr. Joseph Thomas of Manganam Marthoma Church, Kottaym. Rembachan celebrated the Holy Qurbana. We all received individual absolution from the priests and Holy Communion from the celebrant.
We have all earlier participated in our life in Holy Qurbana. However, to have it at Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus is a lifetime chance for one from Kerala. Recalling through Holy Mass the birth and the incidents in His life, the last supper and institution of Holy Qurbana, His crucification and resurrection was all imprinting indelible Christian faith in us. Partaking in His body and blood through the Holy Communion was indeed God’s Grace showering on us. Kunjannamma, like all others were in real ecstasy. We thank God for this great blessing. From the Church we came down to a nearby hotel for a luxurious lunch. There was a small park in front of the hotel with a number of olive trees. Some of us plucked unripe fruit to feel it. It looks just like our hog-plum (Ambazhanga)

Milk grotto

We boarded the bus to go to the nearby Milk grotto and the attached church. We got out of the bus and climbed a small hill to the front of the church. This is very near the Nativity church. The grotto is much below the ground level.  Joseph and Mary in their flight to Egypt rested for a while to feed the baby. The legend is that a drop of breast milk fell on the ground. The soil became milk-white.  This is not mentioned anywhere in the Bible. However, it is a strong tradition.
Entrance to the Milk Grotto church

Through a rock cut window in the wall of the church, we could look out and see the Shepard’s field at the bottom of the hill. For lack of time, we could not go to the Shepherd’s Field church in the valley. It is here that the Angels appeared and announced the birth of Jesus (Lk. 2: 10-14). “For today there was born for you in the city of David a Savior who is Christ the Lord”. We went again down through another flight of steps to the Milk grotto.  The walls of the grotto are all chalky. The white powder that falls from the rock is collected in very small phials. It is sold for a small price to the tourists.  Tasting it is believed to make barren women to conceive. Dr. A. A. James of Chittur, Cochin, came to our residence a year ago. He vouched to us the efficacy of the powder. He brought a phial from the grotto and gave it to a neighbor woman. She delivered a child within a year. Another belief is that breast milk of the nursing mothers will increase if the powder is taken with milk. These may be superstitious stories. Anyway, the priests and Nuns in our group got into the grotto and chanted our routine prayers and songs.

15. Re-enter Israel—Ein Karem
Birth place of St. John the Baptist : patron saint of Mepral St, John’s parish church
From the Milk grotto, we surfaced and returned to our bus to re-enter Israel.  At the boarder, we left the Palestinian bus. We went through the routine security checking and boarded our Israeli bus waiting on the other side with our luggage. We entered a small town Ein Karem in Israel 7 Km southwest of Jerusalem, and only 3 or 4 Km from Bethlehem.  Zachariah and Elizabeth, parents of John the Baptist lived here. St. Mary visited Elizabeth already six months pregnant. St. Mary had only just conceived Jesus. When St Mary, mother of Jesus, greeted Elizabeth, her babe (John) leaped in her womb (Lk. 1:41). A church was built on this site in the 4th century. It was destroyed. The present Church of Visitation was built over the ruins of the old church in 1935. There are frescos of this visit on the walls. The church has a tall belfry and is in the center of the town. In the cave grotto below the church a star on the floor mark the birth place of St. John the Baptist. Our St. John’s church in Mepral, Kerala, India is in his name.

Via Dolorosa

Our next tour was to the Via Dolorosa- the way of the cross. The Catholic Encyclopedia gives 14 stations in the Way of the Cross. It is the Roman Catholic Church that developed in the 17th century, this concept of 14 stations in the path of Jesus to Calvary. The stations where the pilgrims stop and pray are:
1.   The praetorium where Christ is condemned to death by the people and Pilate (Lk.23:23-24)
2.   The cross is laid on him
3.   His first fall under the weight of the cross
4.   He meets his mother.
5.   Simon of Cyrane is made to bear the cross (Lk.23:26).
6.   Veronica wipes the sweat of his face. It is said, the face got imprinted on this cloth
7.   His second fall with the cross.
8.   Meets the wailing women of Jerusalem. (Lk. 23:28).
9.   His third fall with the cross.
10. He is stripped of his garments. (Jn.19:23)
11. His crucification at Golgotha.
12. His death on the cross. (Lk. 23:46).
13. Holy Body is taken down from the cross by Aremathea Joseph.
14. Jesus is laid in the tomb. (Jn.19:41).

The Encyclopedia says that there are other variations for this “Way of the Cross”. It can have more or less stations according to your own convictions. Anyway for the pilgrim, it is a real experience to go through, reciting prayers and remembering the sufferings Jesus had on His way to the cross.
We Followed Christ on the Way of the Cross
Since it was the Ramadan month and Friday evening there was heavy rush of vehicles blocking the road traffic. People were rushing home to break their fast. After trying to go by bus, we embarked on the roadside and walked down a few steps to the Lion Gate of the walled city of Jerusalem. We got inside into a small quadrangle. It is part of the old Praetorium where Pilate tried Jesus and handed Him over to the crowd to crucify Him. Praetorium was in the extensive Antonia Fortress built by Herod in 36 BC. Pilate lived and held his court here. Titus later destroyed it in 70 AD. The Gabatha (stone seat) on which Pilate sat and declared the verdict to crucify Jesus (Jon.19:13) was here.  This is the first station of the Way of the Cross. It is on the right side of the small quadrangle. On turning on your heel around is the Church of Flagellation. Jesus was scourged here at the pillar. He received the Cross. A Crown of Thorn was pressed on to His head. The inside of the dome above the altar of the church has a mosaic of this Crown of Thorns. From this second station, we moved a few steps left and were in the third station. Here was His first fall under the heavy weight of the cross. The fourth station was where Jesus met his mother. We came out to a narrow road and there was an avalanche of “Nombu Murickal” Muslims rushing home on their feet. We eased us to the right side of the road and edged on in single file to stations 5, 6 etc; up to 9th station of Via Dolorosa. Reliefs of Jesus falling under the cross, the number of the stations are all etched on the walls of the way of the cross. At one point, we passed an Egyptian Monastery, where the monks were chanting prayers.
First fall of Christ on Via Dolorosa.

The last five stations are inside the complex of the Holy Sepulcher Church. Emperor Constantine first built it immediately after the Council of Nicaea. (325 AD). The Empress Helena also identified the tomb of Jesus. Three buildings were built on the area. A round church over the empty grave of Jesus, a big Basilica called Martyrium and in between a shrine over Golgotha- the place where Christ was crucified  These were destroyed by the Persians in 614 AD, rebuilt and was again destroyed in 1009 by Caliph Hakkim. The crusaders reconstructed it in 1149 AD. Now it is all a single complex belonging to Greek Orthodox Church. However, it has altars of Armenian and other Christian sects. From outside, if we look, we see two arches of which the right one is the entrance. Over the roof, we find two domes. At all the five stations inside, the pilgrims stop and pray. 13th station is where the body was taken down and kept on a stone for anointing it and preparing it for burial. They keep the fragrance of the marble stone for the pilgrims to smell.
The tomb of Christ
The inner tomb of Christ in the complex is the last (14th) station of the Way of the Cross. It has an entrance called the Chapel of Angel. It is here that the Angel declared that Jesus resurrected. We had to wait there for 15 minutes because a high mass by Bishops and monks were going on. They finally came in a candle procession and showed the censer at the chapel. Only when they left we were permitted to enter into the chapel in fives. Guards control the entry into the inner tomb.
Holy Sepulcher
A marble slab covers the sacred tomb. The body of Christ was here from Good Friday to Easter Sunday. There is only just enough space to kneel at the mouth of the tomb you kneel down, one by one, at the marble slab and turn to the left to go up by the same door to the chapel of Angel.  When the former five return the next five is allowed to go in. Beneath the church there is said to be the well in which the original cross was found.
From there we went up to Golgotha and Calvary (12th station). Here they keep a glass-encased rock on which stood the original cross of Jesus.  One has to climb up a few steep winding steps to enter the small shrine to pray.  At all these stations in this building, different sects of Christians practice their religious ceremonies.
Steps to Golgotha mount

Many Protestants believe that the place of crucification and resurrection took place not here, but just outside the wall of Jerusalem north of Damascus Gate. (Jn. 19:41). This place is the Garden Tomb of Christ discovered in 1883 by the British General Charles Gorden. We could not go there. We reached the Tower hotel by 7.30 PM and rested for the night.
Mount of Olives (Ref; website Bibleplaces.com  and Microsoft internet explorer)

Mount of Olives plaque

Next day 20 Sept., was our 5th day of the tour. We moved out of the hotel with our baggage. We were leaving Jerusalem to the Sea of Galilee. First, we went to the Mount of Olives. It is a 2900 ft high hill. It is about 300 ft above the Jerusalem city. Kidron valley lies between the mount and the Jerusalem Temple. Mt. of olives had plenty of olive trees on its slope.  The Gethsemane garden is on its western slope. Even now, there are olive trees in this garden. Some of the trees are very old and said to be those that existed in the time of Jesus.  There were also small caves on the slope. From the top of the mount, one can get a complete picture of the Jerusalem city on the opposite hill.
The Mount of Olives slopes down to the Kidron valley in the west. There are thousands of Jewish tombs on this slope. Jews believed that the Lord would come on the Final Day of Judgment and stand on the Mt. of Olives. (Zec.14:4). There will be destruction all around and the righteous will be gathered for God in Heaven. The Universal resurrection of all the dead will happen. Hence, they were meticulous in preserving the mortal remains of the dead in tombs. They buried their dead on this slope to be resurrected first on the arrival of the Lord.
On the top of the mount, there is the Church of Ascension. In the morning, we first went to this Church. This is the place from where Jesus was taken up in a cloud after resurrection (Acts. 1:9). It is a small circular building with a dome on the top. There is a rock in the center of the floor on which the footprint, supposed to be of Jesus, is visible. In the early centuries, a shrine was built there. However, it was destroyed. Now it is a small Muslim mosque in an open quadrangle. But, pilgrims are allowed to enter and pray for a small fee. We went in one by one, kneeled, and touched the rock to pray.

Church of Ascension

Lords Prayer

We were now in the Mount of Olives. Jesus and His disciples often stayed here in a cave. It is here that He taught them the Lords Prayer (Pater noster). An altar was constructed on this spot. This prayer is written in 44 different languages on the walls of the cave and adjoining walls on the way.  It was a pleasant experience to read the Lords prayer in Malayalam. 35 million Malayalees is a microscopic minority of the 6500 million humanity. Their language Malayalam is only one in the thousands of the dialects used in the World. It is a matter of great pride for every Keralite and its Diaspora all over the World that, their language is one of the 44 in which Lords Prayer is displayed. Alex took photos of it and of us in front of the Malayalam version.
Patter Noster-They have written Lord’s Prayer on the wall in 44 languages. We are standing in front of the Lord’s Prayer in Malayalam.

The last Supper

The Bethany and Beth phage are just on the eastern slope of the Mt. of Olives.  They are on the other side of the mount. Jesus in His triumphant entry into Jerusalem (Mat.21:1-13) got the donkey for the ride from here. It was to this Bethany that he returned after the ride for the night rest. Again two days before the Passover, it was at Simon’s house in Bethany (Mat.26:2) that Mary Magdalene anointed Jesus by pouring a very expensive bottle of perfume on His head. It was symbolic of His preparation for the impending supreme sacrifice of death on the wooden cross.
We started our descent from the top of the mount. To repeat, Jerusalem city is on the west of Mt. Olives and the Kidron valley. The old city was only the Temple with the City of David on its south. Later the New City came up westward on the slope above the old city. The Roman Fort and Praetorium of Pilate were outside the ancient wall of this expanded city. The Jerusalem city later further expanded upwards to include Herod’s palace and Golgotha. The present city wall encompasses all these.
All Jews used to come inside the Jerusalem city only rarely. Celebrations of the Passover, and Pentecost were such occasions.  Jesus and disciples came to the upper room in Zion mount to celebrate the Passover, called the “Festival of the unleavened bread”. It was here that Jesus had the Last Supper and instituted the Holy Qurbana. (Mat.26:26-27). This incident is written in all the four gospels. Eastern Orthodox Christians believes that the institution of the Eucharist as the “inauguration of the “The New Covenant mentioned by Prophet Jeremiah and it was fulfilled at the Last Supper, when Jesus said, “Take, eat; this [bread] is My Body; which is broken for you. Partake of the cup, drink; this [wine] is My Blood, which is shed for many; for the remission of sins”.  Many other Christians view it as the new Passover communion. Jesus himself thus becomes the Passover bread and wine. We are familiar with different versions of the picture of the Last Supper. Here is an Icon of the Eastern Orthodox Church drawn by a Russian painter, Simon Ushakov taken. (Ref: Internet)

Last Supper

The exact site of the Last Supper is not known. We now only know that the Last Supper Room was on the Mt. Zion Mount Zion lies to the south of today’s city walls. It is possible that the present site stands over or near the original site of the Last Supper Room.
Sehion Malika inside the city
 The Last Supper Room and the Room of Pentecost are assumed to be the same. Later, Muslims made it into a mosque. The Catholic Church purchased it from them and retains it as a shrine. It is near the Dormition Abbey where St. Mary died. She died in a house inside the city. But, the body was carried ceremoniously to a rock cut cave outside the city far down in the Kidron Valley.
Tomb of King David (970 BC)
People believe it to be located beneath this Last Supper Upper Room in Mt. Zion. The Jews control the area. One can go to this tomb room only with a cap on the head. Free paper caps are available. We see Jews reading the Torah -in sitting and standing positions. Their body bends back and forth when they pray. The Torah is kept open to be read by any.

The descent from Mt. Olives to Jerusalem temple
Christ rode this way down on the donkey on the Hosanna day

We started from Mount of Olives on the route Jesus took for His Triumphant Entry into Jerusalem at Bethphage (Mt.21:1- 3). Jesus rode on a young donkey accompanied by a multitude-chanting hosanna. They shouted, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord”. (Lk. 19:38). It was a great procession to the Jerusalem temple. The entire riff and raff of the city and some others joyously participated in the chanting. Jesus’ mission on Earth was coming to an end. His speeches and actions enraged the Jewish priests and elders. On entering Jerusalem temple he drove out all who were buying and selling (Mt. 21:12), charging them of making the sacred temple a cave of thieves.
We move down on the Hosanna way
The descent from Mt. Olives to the temple is so steep that a miss-step may send you rolling down 50 feet below, breaking your bones.  We slowly went down systematic and holding on to the railings attached to the wall.  Prof. Mary Thomas who had a knee problem slipped. She felt it impossible to go down. After an attempt, she arranged a taxi and went down the short distance. The road then turned to the right. An Arab with a donkey stood on the way. He was inviting tourists to get on to his donkey. Jim Nanthiyattu, the only teenager among us complied. He paid a US Dollar. On request, Alex took a photo of the boy on his camera. He took another photo of us three holding on the donkey. We also paid a dollar and the Arab thanked us profusely.
On the left of our way was the Dominus Flevit (The Lord Wept) church. One could see the temple mount and the entire Jerusalem city from this slope. This is the spot where Jesus looked at the city of Jerusalem and cried.  He wept foreseeing the impending destruction of the magnificent city. It was the one rebuilt by King Herod when he was in charge of Israel area of the Roman Empire.

16. Gethsemane Olive Garden

In our tour, we then turned to the right and into Gethsemane in Olive Garden area. It is here that Jesus went to pray after His Last Supper. On the right of the road, three or four old first century tomb relics of Jews were seen preserved in a cave. In the Gethsemane garden, Jesus knelt down and prayed in agony. “He fell on His face praying “My Father, if it possible let this cup pass from Me; however not as I will but as You will” (Mt.26:39). “His sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood”. (Lk.22:44). The church built on the rock on which he prayed is the Church of Agony. It is also known as the Church of All nations. This magnificent church was built over the earlier church in 1920 with contributions from 14 nations. The rock on which Jesus prayed is built into the floor of the church. We could not get in. It was closed. We were late in reaching there. Christ was arrested and taken to Caiaphas by the soldiers from this garden

Church of All Nations

Gethsemane Olive garden
A 2000-year-old Olive tree.

The Gethsemane olive garden is now fenced and entry is controlled. It has over twenty old olive trees. Of them eight trees are very old and have massive thick trunk. They are said to be 2000 years old. Scientists have tested the cells of the tree trunks. The tests proved them to be really so old.

Down on the donkey ride road, there is a spot on the left wall to mark the place where Judas kissed Jesus (Mt.26:48) to betray him to the priests and elders of Caiaphas, the chief priest. What was the need to kiss Jesus? Though he was the leader, he was apparently one among the thirteen in dress and outward appearance. Therefore, Judas had to kiss to show him to the soldiers
Just after the garden, further down, is the Church of tomb of Virgin Mary referred above. This site belongs to the Orthodox Church.  It was destroyed and later rebuilt by the Crusaders. We have to go down from the entrance through a number of steps to the bottom floor. The interior of the crypt is marked as the traditional place of St. Mary’s tomb. It is behind an altar. Lalitha got a chance to kneel inside the crypt and pray. Monks wait there to control the crowd. There are many other alters dedicated to parents of St. Mary, and others. The Greek and Armenian Churches control main altars. Coptic and Syrians also have their altars inside the church.
We returned in quick time to board the bus to go to the other side of the Kidron valley and to the Palace of Caiaphas. On those days, it was outside the city. Now it is within the city limits.  Jesus was arrested from Gethsemane and taken as prisoner. He was led through the Kidron valley and up to this palace. The Sanhedrim tried him, charged Him for blasphemy, and condemned to execution. He was then put in a dungeon in this palace.

Peter Gallicantu.
Peter denies Christ- Cock crows three times. The cock is on top of the pillar

It was here that during the trial Peter denied three times any knowledge of Jesus before the rooster crowed twice. (Mt.26:69-75).  When “The Lord turned round and looked straight at Peter”, he felt the shock and self-pity of his life. So, Peter went out and wept bitterly. (Lk.22: 61-62).This place is called Peter Gallicantu. There is a statue depicting Peter’s denial and three cocks crowing on three sides of the statue. Standing there, one can see the way Jesus was brought from Gethsemane through the Kidron valley to the Caiaphas palace. Over that palace now, there is a church. One can go deep down into the dungeon where Jesus was imprisoned. An open Bible with Psalms 55-58 is kept on a podium. Pilgrims go down and read this portion. It gives one an idea of the mind of the “man Jesus” and the agony he went through, predicted by the Psalmist King David a thousand years before the birth of Jesus Christ. Next day morning Jesus was taken to Pilate and then to Golgotha to be crucified.

Jonah goes to Nineveh.

By11. 30 Am we bid good-bye to Jerusalem and was going by the National High way towards Tel Aviv. This city on the Mediterranean coast is 62 Km from Jerusalem. It is the cultural and financial center and the major Air port of Israel. Overlooking modern Tel Aviv port is the old biblical Joppa (modern name Jaffa). The legend about Jonah and the whale happened here. God wanted Jonah to go to Nineveh. Jonah boarded the ship from this Joppa to go to Tarshis (Jonah .1:17).God caused a great storm threatening to capsize the ship. All the sailors prayed to God. They threw Jonah to the Sea to calm it. A whale swallowed Jonah and spewed him to the beach. Jonah was thus forced to go to Nineveh. Because of his preaching people fasted and prayed to eschew their wickedness. God then desisted from punishing them and saved the city from destruction. The canonical Nineveh Fast of our Church is associated with this incident. Prayer and fasting can change impending disaster in life in good time of God. It is here that St. Peter brought back Tabitha, a woman follower, to life (Acts.9:40-41) and stayed with Simon the tanner for many days.
We moved on further to Haifa city in the north- a great seaport. It was already 2.15 Pm and we went into a Kibbutz near the city for lunch. The menu was many including fruits. However, some were unpalatable for Kerala palate. The Jews have made the area a garden of all varieties of fruit bearing plants and trees. Abundance was evident all around. We were back in the bus and moved on to Caesarea. Herod in the name of Augustus Caesar first built it into a beautiful city. Cornelius was the first converted Christian of this city. Hearing the preaching of Peter in the house of Cornelius many gentiles became Christians. Soon it became famous as center of Christian Learning. On the sea side of the road we traveled was the ruins of the old Roman city and the city later rebuilt by the Crusaders .preserved by the Archaeological Department. 
Mt. Carmel was on our right side. The head quarters of the Carmel Brotherhood are here. We went into their church. Mt. Carmel is a 1500 ft. high lime stone mountain.  We went up to the top. Monastery of the Muhraqa is at its top.

Trees abound in this very fertile area. It is a beautiful sight to see the sea on the north-west and green slopes on other sides. They maintain a good garden. The Church is a massive structure. From there we came down to the forest area on the south-west slope of the mountain. From the promontory, one can see the plains a 1000 ft below. We spent a few minutes in this area. Prophet Elijah’s victory over the priests of Baal took place here. Elijah’s prayer brought fire from heaven and consumed the sacrifice, altar and even the water. Elijah thus won the bet and the prophets of Baal were all slaughtered. All who witnessed the incident believed in Jehovah. (1.Kings.18:38-39)


Haifa is Israel’s main seaport. This seaport side of the Carmel mount is now the Bahai Center.  There are Christians, Jews and Bahais living in the Carmel area. The Bahais are akin to Muslims. Around 200 years ago Baha’U’llah, latest of the Lord’s messengers taught his followers that all religions are successive chapters of the same religion of one God. All humankind is one brotherhood. His followers are found all over the world. They purchased the seaport slope of the Carmel Mountain and built their Bahai City and golden temple. The Bahai garden overlooking the Mediterranean Sea is a beauty. One has to see it to believe its celestial glory.
The best well-kept garden of the Bahai Center on the slopes overlooking the Haifa port in the Mediterranean Sea.
Towards evening, we reached the Sea of Galeeli and the Eden Tiberius hotel. The son of King Herod built old Tiberius town. Tiberius town is on the banks of the lake called “Sea of Galeeli”.  The Sea is only 11 Km long and about 60 Km in circumference. Yet in Bible, it is referred as a Sea. After a good sleep, we woke up for the next day’s tour.

17. Mount Tabor

The 6th day of our tour was on Sunday 21 Sept. The hotel made special arrangements to provide bed coffee at 5.30 Am on the corridor of one of the floors of the multi-storied hotel. We had an early breakfast and started to Mt. Tabor. Israeli Arabs and Christians live here. The bus could not climb the steep hill because of 15 or 20 hairpin curves of the narrow road. So, we got down from the bus at a mid way taxi stand and waited in queue to go up on taxis: seven of us in each trip.  The entrance to the sacred hill at the top is through a fortified gate. On top, the “Basilica of Transfiguration” stood in all majesty.  It was rebuilt on the ruins of older churches in 1924.  This is the place where Jesus, Peter, James and John went. Jesus transfigured before them: “His face shining like the Sun and His clothing a brilliant white.” (Mk. 9: 3-4). Prophet Moses and Elijah were seen on his left and right respectively. There is a fresco above the main altar of the church depicting this scene. On the right side of the Church, there are a few steps to go up to a terrace from where one can have a panoramic view of the Jezreel valley far down below. Naboth’s vineyard was here. King Ahab confiscated it by causing the death of Ahab. (1.Kings. 21). Below Mt. Tabor is the city of Nain. It is here that Jesus performed the miracle of raising the dead son of a widow to life. (Lk.7:11-15). After half an hour, the taxis took us down to our bus.
Mt. Tabor Church

From there we rode to Cana where Jesus performed the first miracle of turning water into wine. He did this at the wedding on the request of His mother St.Mary. (Jn.2:1-11). We got into the church built on the ruins of the wedding house. The crypt of the church holds a Roman stone jar symbolic of the six jars in which water turned to wine. A little aside some other symbolic utensils used in those days are also kept. Young couples come here to celebrate their wedding. We came out of the church and went to a near by wine shop. Good Mass wine and wine of other grades are available for sale. Other souvenir items are also kept for sale. I purchased a few key chains. All items are very costly. People purchase it only as souvenirs.
The Church of Cana


Our next visit was to the Church of Annunciation. We are in Nazareth. It is a very fertile and green area full of trees and plants. In Jesus’ time, it was a small place where Joseph and Mary returning from Egypt settled down. (Lk.2:39-40). Now it is a prosperous town. Half of the population is Muslims. Christians belong to a variety of denominations. There are many churches and monasteries belonging to these Christians. The Church of Annunciation we entered is the sixth church, re-built on the spot. It is here that Angel Gabriel stood and announced that Virgin Mary will conceive Jesus. (Lk. I: 31) It was constructed by the Roman Pope in 1969. It is the biggest Christian church in the Middle East. Catholics all over the World sent icons and paintings of St. Mary to adorn the walls of the church. Therefore, we can see Indian, Asian, Chinese, Japanese, European and American St. Mary in these pictures. The church floor is below the road level.
There is another Greek Orthodox St. Gabriel church of Annunciation nearby. We went in. The baptism of a child was going on. On the side of this church, we see the St. Mary’s well from which she used to draw water for the family. Tradition is that Angel Gabriel met her while she was drawing water from this well. If this is true then the real church of Annunciation must be this Orthodox Church and not the one above. There is a stream going out from the well to the center of Nazareth. A little away, through a glass covered opening and another iron grating covered opening on the ground, we can see the stream flowing out far below the floor we were walking.
There is again the St. Joseph’s Cathedral Church close by. This is built over the house of the Holy Family. A large fresco on the alter wall depicts the baptism of Jesus and the Holy Spirit hovering above him as a dove. A painting in the church shows the carpentry of Joseph. On the floor, level of the church there is a large opening. Far down below we can see the 2000-year-old street of the time of Jesus. There is also a grotto of the Holy Family below the church. Jesus was brought up here. He lived 27 years in this house before he came out for public service.

Jordan River.

We then had our delicious and sumptuous lunch in Kibbutz Kinnerat. This Kibbutz is famous for dates and honey. Back on the bus; and it took us to the Jordan River. God did not permit Moses to cross the river to the Promised Land: Canaan. He was only allowed to see from a distance just before his death at Mt. Nebo. It was Joshua who, led the Israel horde across the River Jordan. To repeat, this river originates as a small spring from a cave in Hermon hills. We saw this spot from a distance on the last day of our Holy Land Tour from Mt. Nebo.
A hundred yards we walked through an array of date palms on either side of the road into the welcoming gates of a hotel cum tourist’s center. The outer door leads us to the banks of the Jordan River. Our expectation about the Jordan River gets shattered. Now it is just a rivulet and more or less stagnant. The water also looks murky and polluted. We walked a few yards up stream to the place where people come for mass baptism. Pentecostal Christians come here to baptize new entrants into their belief. They dip the head of each entrant in Jordan River. The place is called Yardenit.

 It is slightly wider here. Here the river leaves the Galilee Lake to wind its way to the Dead Sea in the south. The riverbank is paved and the bathing place in the river is fenced for the safety of the pilgrims. Some of us had a dip in the Jordan River. I, Alex, Kunjannamma and Lalitha went down the steps into the River in knee-deep water. After cooling our legs and minds, we came up the steps to join the group. There is a changing place for the bathers, who want privacy. However, it is priced at US $.5 per person. Souvenirs including bottled Jordan water, snacks and soft drinks were available. I saw one or two collecting water from the river into bottles. But, I am sure that they will throw it away, when it gets muddier a few hours or days later. Many pilgrims come here thinking that it is the place where St. John baptized Jesus. (Mk. 1:9). The real spot is further down on the Jericho plains where the river is zigzag, too narrow and often near dry.
Returning from the River, we entered into the sales wing of the Degania Aleph Kibbutz. Many varieties of dates fresh, ripe, cured, packed and in bulk were on display. Honey, Olive oil and a number of edible and souvenir items were there for sale. Some of us purchased some items. Our tour guide told us that those who want to purchase olive oil could do so directly from the oil press on our way.


Mount of Beatitudes.

After spending half an hour in the shop, we headed to the Mount of Beatitudes. On the right side of the uphill journey, we could see Magdala, the place of Magdalena Mariam. We soon reached the small hilltop called the Mount of Beatitudes. It is here that Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount. The church of the Beatitudes is situated on the top of the mount. The church is octagonal and the eight beatitudes are etched on the eight widow glasses of the cupola. The colonnaded verandah around the church gives a panoramic view of the Sea of Galilee and the beautifully gardened surroundings.
Alter of the church of the Beatitudes
On our way to the Eden Tiberius Hotel, the bus stopped before the oil press and a couple of us purchased olive oil by ordering it. We did not get off the bus. We then went into a Dead Sea products shop. There was a large array of beautifully packed, mud, salty water and processed products from Dead Sea. Some of us purchased the soap cakes and creams produced from the Dead Sea materials. By 5 Pm, we were in the Hotel. We were requested to be ready by 8 Pm for the “J P Honors Convocation” meeting in the Hotel.

Jerusalem Piligrim Convocation.

Most of us assembled after dinner in the specially arranged hall of the hotel for the ceremony of conferring on pilgrims the honorary degree J P (Jerusalem Pilgrim).  It is an A4 size black and white certificate in thick paper with the painting of the Jerusalem city on the top and signed by the minister of Tourism of Israel and the Mayor of the city of Jerusalem.  Your name is printed in very bold letters in the middle. It permits the certificate holder to bear the title”J P” (Jerusalem Pilgrim)
JP Convocation
Foreigners who come to Jerusalem have to report to the Mayor and pay one U S Dollar per head. In return, he issues a receipt in the form of this certificate. The tour operators do the formalities and distribute the certificates to the pilgrims.  We went with the Keli tour operators. Mr. Cherian Kuriakose welcomed those present in the hall, congratulated, and thanked us for being punctual on each day and at each tour spot. This enabled him to arrange the entire tour without missing any planned item of the tour. Then he called each pilgrim and gave the certificate through V. Rev. Gabriel Ramban of the Pathanapuram Dayara, the president of the meeting He also gave small cash presents to Mr. David the driver of the bus and Mr. U Ral (?) the Israeli guide who safely drove and guided us all the four days in Israel.  Rembachan the president, Fr. K V Paul, Principal St. Stephen’s College.Pathanapuram, Fr.Nathaniel Thomas of the Marthoma Church Manganam Kottyam, me and Mrs. Kunjamma  Mathai, Kozhenchery explained the circumstances that prompted us to take the tour  and thanked the organizers  Mr. Cheri an and Fr. John Sankarathil for the good and detailed arrangements that made the tour enjoyable. After some discussions and benediction, we went to our rooms for a good sleep.
18. Sea of Galilee
On 22nd morning, we boarded our bus after breakfast. Our entire luggage was tucked in the belle of the bus.  We were leaving Tiberius and Israel that day. First, we went to the area around Sea of Galilee.  In New Testament, the sea is named Lake Tiberias. In Old Testament days, it was known as Sea of Ginneseret or Lake Kinneret (in the Book of Numbers). It is the second lowest spot in the World and is 209 meters below the Sea level. Dead Sea is the lowest spot. Both are in the Rift valley caused by geological movement of Earth plates.  While Dead Sea is salty, Sea of Galilee is fresh water. Fishing is still the occupation of some people residing in the area. The lake is only 21 x 13 Km in size with an average depth of 84 ft. Even now whirl winds some times create tall waves as it happened in the time of Jesus ( Lk. 8:23)

Capernaum on the edge of the Sea of Galeeli was our first stop. This was the area where Jesus started his ministry. He collected the fishermen to make them his disciples and “Fishers of Men” (Mat. 4:19). We alighted and visited the Tabga, the Fish and Loaves church. This is a small church first built in the fourth century to commemorate the miracle of Jesus feeding 5000 men and the multitude with five loaves and two fish. (Mat.14:16-21).
Outside the church, marble benches are arranged semi circularly for pilgrims to sit and meditate. Inside the church, there is a marble table. Just under and near that is the Mensa Christi Rock- the Table of Christ. It is here that Jesus ate with the disciples on the seashore after resurrection. (Jn.21:12-14).  Pilgrims kneel and kiss the rock. The history of this church is written on a plaque with the heading “Church of Heptapegon- The Seven Springs History”. The latest reconstruction of the church was in 1982. On the night of the trial of Jesus, Peter denied Jesus thrice. After His resurrection, Jesus asked Peter thrice whether he loved Jesus to reconfirm his faith in Jesus. On getting confirmation, Jesus entrusted the care of the followers of Christ to Peter. Jesus at this place thus reconfirmed the primacy of Peter. (John.21:1-17). We then went to the seashore; some of us stepping into water. Someone was preaching outside the Tabga. We came back and sat down to rest.
In Capernaum
From there we strolled on to the ruins of the Jewish Synagogue in which Jesus preached. While other buildings are in black stone, the Synagogues were built in white limestones. The foundation, the walls and some of the columns of the old Synagogue are still majestically standing there. Alex took photos of our group with the colonnades in the background. Many of the artifacts of the old synagogue are preserved. St. Peter’s house was near the Synagogue. This house rebuilt by Queen Helena is also in ruins. It was here that Jesus cured the fever of the mother-in-law of Peter (Lk. 4:38-39). The earthquake had destroyed all these. Now the Catholic Church has built a new circular church in that place. It is opened only for the Catholic pilgrims to celebrate Holy Mass. The ruins of nearby houses and utensils used in St. Peter’s time are also preserved. Probably this is the house, the roof tiles of which were removed to drop a paralyzed man on his bed to be cured by Jesus. (Mrk.2:4). A statue of St. Peter prominently stands on this site.
From there we went by 11 Am to the boat jetty for a ride in the Sea of Galilee. We sat down in the boat and the boat engine puffed off starting us on our ride. We sang a song or two. Then the Indian National Flag was hoisted on the boat’s mast.
Hoisting the Indian Flag on the boat mast in the Sea of Galilee.
The tour managers made me to hoist the flag. We sang the Indian National Anthem when the flag was hoisted. For over thirty minutes, we were in the boat cruising in the Sea of Galeeli. It took us to another jetty of a restaurant. There we had the much-trumpeted St.Peter’s Fish lunch. We had made a special payment of 15 US Dollars for the boat ride and the special lunch. This was the only extra payment we had to give. A large plate-full fried fish looking like pomfret or tilapia was served with side dishes. It is said to be the same species of the original fish that was caught by disciples on the command of Jesus and served by Jesus. Hence, it is still known as St. Peter’s Fish. Rice and vegetables followed as second serving. After lunch, we were on our bus by 1.30 Pm moving to Jordan boarder.  We were saying good-bye to Israel and thanking God for keeping us all healthy and safe through all the seven days of the Holy Land Tour. Priests lead us in special thanks giving prayers.
We were on our last lap of the tour. In an hour, we reached the Israeli border. The usual security checking took a long time. We had to lug our belongings from the Israeli bus through the boarder land. Security checking was rather very strict. We were coming from Jewish Israel to Jordan, an Arab state.
In bus on our way to Mt. Nebo and then to Amman Airport for return to Kerala.
Both were and are at war. One by one, our papers and passports were checked and cleared. But, they detained the papers and passport of Prof. Mary Thomas. Their contention was that her name is in the internet as a terrorist.  I know her from the time she joined CMS College Kottayam as a junior lecturer in the early 1970s. She was very active in the MGOCSM and the Church. She even represented our Church once in the WCC. The tour managers had to convince the border security that Mary is from Kottayam, Kerala and is not the terrorist in the internet. We lost more than half an hour only for that argument with them. Finally, we crossed over with our luggage to the Jordan bus waiting for us on the other side. We drove through the Amman city to the Hill Side Hotel in the town for the last night stay of the tour.

Mt. Nebo.

23rd Sept. Tuesday was the last day of the Holy Land tour. We got into the bus after breakfast with our entire luggage. We were on our way to the Amman airport to go home in Kerala. The flight to Cochin via Muscat was to be at 14.30. We need to report to the airport three hours earlier at 11.30 Am. So, we went to Mt. Nebo. The entrance to the top most point of the mountain has a gate and two memorials. A pillar in memory of Moses says the place is Holy. Moses died here. Another is a modern pillar in memory of

Millennium’s first visit of Pope of Rome.
Mt. Nebo

Memorial to Moses

Memorial of Pope’s visit
From the top of the mountain, there is a panoramic view on the western side of Sea of Galilee, Jericho and the Jordan Valley up to the Dead Sea, Jerusalem and Bethlehem.  One Km to the east of Mt. Nebo we can see the spring of Moses where water gushed out when Moses struck at the rock with his staff. It is pointed out as the place where a lone tree stands far down in the valley.
Moses died somewhere on the Mt. Nebo. He was not allowed to go to the Canaan promised to be given to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Therefore, God allowed Moses to see the land from the top of Mt. Nebo. Then he died and was buried by God. None knows the burial spot. (Deuteronomy. 34:6)
However, memorial Churches were built on the mount from 4th century. The Franciscan church and Monastery built in the 18th century are now in ruins. They are being renovated. We went to the site and took a number of photos. At the pinnacle of the mount there is a Metal Serpentine Cross in memory of the bronze serpent that Moses carried to the desert and the cross on which Jesus was crucified After taking photos of all these places we returned to our bus and moved on to the Amman Air port.
Metal Serpent
.Our Holy land tour thus ended. It was a tour that filled us with more faith in Christianity and the teachings of Jesus. The tour imprinted in our minds the supreme sacrifice of Jesus for the emancipation of Mankind from the sins. Jesus was showing a new way to get immediate peace and happiness for those who seek it. Even the worst sinner can attain this peace by repentance for the sins and loving everyone and everything around him as himself. He promised instant Heaven for the thief on the cross on His right because he repented his sins. Jesus taught humanity that sacrificing oneself for the sake of others around is the supreme evidence of loving others as you. He manifested it by sacrificing himself on the Cross. Such self-sacrificing love, if practiced by any one gives happiness and solace not only to the person giving such love, but all others getting that love and peace. One need not wait for successive rebirths to get this Nirvana or Moksha... While successive rebirth is the method of escape from sins in certain other religions, Christ gave us an instant solution of repentance as the best method to relieve us from sins of commission or omission done willfully or inadvertently. Christ gave us a sure way of complete escape from our sins through repentance and penance
19. Tour in UAE
Though UAE and its Dubai is not part of Holy Land, I feel that I should not deny you my perceptions about Dubai and its “Babel-Towerism”
Our tour friends and group mangers went for security check into the Amman Air port for their flight to Cochin via Muscat. Alex and I waited. Our flight to Sharjah in UAE was at 15.30. We went in for security check by 14.00 hrs. Since the passengers that day to Sharjah were very few, Air Arabia de-routed us to Sharjah via Beirut in Lebanon. A guide took us through another door to the aircraft. It started westward to Beirut on the Mediterranean Sea Coast at 15.40 hrs.
Beirut is a big city on the seaside of the Lebanon Hills. Multi-storied clusters of buildings could be seen from the Air Plane on the slopes of the hill. At Beirut, there was a 40 minutes stay for passengers to alight and board the Plane.  From Beirut we re-started eastward at 17.30 hrs to Sharjah. We were in Sharjah at 20.30 hrs. Raphael Manjooran and Maria my grand daughter came to receive us. Since we four were transit passengers with heavy luggage, Bobu their brother-in-law also came with his car. We reached Raphael’s house by 21.30 hrs. Bobu helped us to bring our luggage to Raphael’s flat higher up in the building. Of course, the lift did all the lifting. We had a quick wash, dinner and went to bed.

U A E.

UAE (United Arab Emirates) is a federation of small states of Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm al Qaywayn, Ra’s al Khayamah and Al Fujayrah. Excepting the last one, all these are seashore city-states in the Persian Gulf. Therefore, all of them have beeches and that of Dubai and Abu Dabi are famous. Abu Dabi is the capital. Both are modern cities with many high-rise buildings and hotels. Dirham is their currency equivalent to around 12 Indian rupees.  Both are famous for duty free shopping. Dubai is the center for commerce and trade. Plenty of Indians work in the Dubai offices. Residential accommodation is very costly in Dubai. Many stay in Sharjah and commute the 20 Km distance in the morning and evening. Raphael also stays in Sharjah and work in Dubai. Because of traffic jam, it takes one and a half to two hours to reach Dubai.

20. Dubai.

On the morning of 24th Raphael went to the office and we took rest at home. He returned around 6 Pm. We got ready and went to Dubai. We first went to the Mall of Emirates, a seven-storied super market. The first four floors are the car parking area. You can take the car up to the fourth floor to find a suitable parking lot. The three upper floors are all shops operated by franchisees of internationally known branded goods. There are also plenty of food courts. Vacant shop spaces are waiting for more franchisees. When fully occupied and completed this mall is expected to be the biggest in the World. Stairs lifts and escalators move up or down carrying the visitors to the different floors. Like many others moving around, we also went sight seeing the shops. Very few were seen purchasing anything. We entered some dress shops and assessed the price of the displayed items. Most of them were priced high. On our return from there, we got into Carrefour, another supermarket and purchased a few items. After eating in a food court, we returned to our residence.
On the 25th, Raphael took leave and took us in the morning to the Sharjah aquarium. It opened recently in June 2008.  There is variety in the specimens. But, it is in its infancy. By noon, we went on special invitation to the flat of Ammukutty in Rala in Sharjah. She is Kunjannamma’s sister Sosamma’s daughter. She is a pathologist in the hospital. We had a very luxurious and delicious lunch. Then we went to Susan’s house on the south edge of Dubai. She is the Chartered accountant of a construction company. We met her mother baby-sitting for her new child. Susan returning from her shopping later joined us.
On our way home, we got into the Lulu center to make some final purchases. The aim was to give some presents to Maria, child and Raphael. We searched for some dresses. We found a few items for Raphael and the child. We also purchased some toys for the child. After ransacking our brains and discussions, we finally found out a beautiful cutlery set. Though it was a bit costly, it was worth purchasing. It was a complete set for a full table of a dozen diners. The set came in its own preserving box. We then went to the confectionery and food corner and purchased chocolates and dried fruits of different varieties to be taken to Kerala. While we were in UAE presents for Achu, Amy, Biju and Beena were purchased on all three days. We also went for two synthetic pillows that expand when its cover is broken- a novelty in Kerala. Because of the too many items including the pillows, we had to purchase a new bag. Alex persuaded us to purchases a three level folding bag costing around Rs.700. When all the folds are opened it becomes a 4 feet tall sack that can contain quite a cargo. After visiting some more places and purchases, we returned to our home in the night. Packing all our things into the bags engaged us well into the night.

Palm Jumeiraha

Burg Al Arab

Burg Dubai

Next day 26th Friday was our last day in UAE. Being a holiday for Arab countries, we went in the morning itself for sight seeing. We passed through Sharjah Gold Shook, Sharjah lagoon, Cornish center and moved on to Palm Jumeirah. We went through a street, which was a barren area in 1990. Now it is a cluster of very many high-rise structures and a very busy center. Dubai is famous for high-rise buildings. New constructions were coming up day by day. It is said that 15 to 25% of all the cranes for lifting construction materials of the World are now working in Dubai.
It is a crazy city aspiring to be the first in many aspects. Burg Al Arab, in Dubai is the World’s highest seven star hotel. It has a cross like appearance on the top. Look at the picture above. From another angle, it is a cross. This created a lot of hot blood for Arabs. The architects designed it for balancing the structure. There is a helipad on its top. It is World’s highest hotel complex.  Palm Jumeirah scheme is a grand scheme to create reclaimed islands in the sea in the shape of palm trees with leafs. On the sides of the main road and the roads on the leaf islands, modern buildings are being constructed for residential stay, hotels, entertainments and whatnot.” Palm Jumeirah has everything you need to enjoy a wonderful holiday break. World famous hotel names, amazing tourist attractions, luxury fashion and shopping malls are starting to open up. Whether you just want to relax or immerse yourself in an exciting world of leisure and entertainment, this is a truly inspirational holiday destination.” Three such palm tree islands are planned. A fourth Globe shaped islands with all the countries of the World-shaped islands and buildings on them within the Globe set up is also planned. The first palm tree has been completed. The picture on the left is the first completed palm tree. The two others are under construction. Each new palm tree construction is bigger than the previous.
On one leaf island is the famous Hotel Atlantis .It is the biggest seven star hotel just being completed. We went to the sea front of it. Suits are as costly as UAE D 2500 for a day. One such suite was completely destroyed by fire due to short circuit just two days prior to our visit. That was also the day of the formal opening of the Hotel. They spent US $ 20 million just for the inauguration of this Hotel complex
However, the most astonishing structure is the Dubai City Tower (Berg Dubai).Third picture on the right above is the City Tower. It is designed for four hundred floors in a 2400 meter high (2.4 KM high or equal to 7874 ft high) building with a central bullet train lift of 200 Km /h speed. The building has a central core tower with six outer buildings connected to the central building at every hundredth floor. The interconnection ensures stability to the building. They have already finished 800 meters of over 270 floors. Plans have been drawn to raise it to 1200 meters. The idea of the ruler Sheik Mohammed Al Maktoum is to retain it as the tallest in the world. If any building equals it in height, the plan is to add immediately new floors to the city tower to make it taller. The building is designed to withstand pendulum swings in strong wind. Now it is the tallest in the world. The World recession of 2008 is catching up. Over supply of property spaces and housing accommodations has become the central problem of the recession. People who invested in the hope of staying in these constructions are abandoning their dreams. Will Dubai end as “Tower of Babel”?
After seeing and taking a few photographs of Atlantis hotel we returned home. In the afternoon, we packed up our entire luggage and were in the Sharjah Air port at 5.30 Pm for our flight to Trivandrum. After bidding fare well and thanks to all including Ammukutty who came to see us off, we went for security check up. We two reached Trivandrum by 2.30 Am on 27th. A porter stepped in to help me to pick up my boxes from the escalator to a trolley. I did not object. I contracted and got a pre-paid Taxi. The porter then guided us to a taxi. He loaded the luggage into the taxi’s dickey and to the back seat. We came home by 03.00 Am. Johnson the watcher woke up and unloaded the bags to the house. Our foreign tour of the Middle East thus ended. We covered Bahrain, Egypt, Israel, Palestine, Jordan and UAE states of Sharjah and Dubai. We thank God for guiding us throughout the tour and safely returning us to our home without any health irritants


And in the end it’s not the years in your life that count.
It’s the life in your years.”—Abraham Lincoln

Web sites referred Christian Travel Study Program, Walking in Their Sandals, Biblewalks.com, and Catholic Encyclopedia.

Appendix -1 Tour Members

It was KELI tours of Cherian Kuriakose, Mumbai and Rev. Fr. John Sankarathil, Devalokam Aramana, Secretary, Marthamariam Samajam of our Church, conducted the tour.

These two plus 45 others of the party were:
Ecclesiasts: V. Rev. Remban Gabriel, Fr. Nathaniel Thomas, Fr. K V Paul, Sr. Helen and Sr. Persis of Pathanapuram Dayara, Fr.K.E Mathai, Fr. Simon Scaria, Fr. Dr. Joseph Thomas of Manganam,
Mr & Mrs. Varghese Mathew, Mr. & Mrs. Thomas Paul, Mr & Mrs. Sunny Thomas, Mr. & Mrs. K C John, Mr.& Mrs. Mathew Daniel,, Aleyamma Kurien, Thankamma Mathew, Shyni Jacob, Jim Nanthiyattu, Mr. & Mrs. C T Kuruvila, Mr. & Mrs.T M Varghese, Mr. & Mrs. K P Mathai, Saramma Panicker, Santhamma Jacob, Leelamma George, Mary Thomas, Renmany punnen, V T Yohannan, Mr. & Mrs. Joseph K Alexander, Mr. & Mrs. Alex Jose, Mr & Mrs. George Joseph, T C Abraham,  Mr & Mrs. Jacob Varghese, Dr. & Mrs. M A Ittyachan, Mary Varghese , Elizabeth Eapen, and Dr. & Mrs. K C George.

We with the pyramids in the back

* Bullet marks on the front wall are the remnants of the 1967 Israel-Jordan war.