Why Go on a Pilgrimage?

Ancient Christians would sometimes call the Holy Land, “The Fifth Gospel,” to capture how the sacred sites of Our Lord’s earthly life seemed to preach the Good News afresh to all who visited them.  

Truly, there is nothing like walking in the footsteps of Jesus, seeing the cave where he was born and the cave where his body was interred, and the caves that made up his home in Nazareth.  As G.K. Chesterton said, we Christians are worshipers of the great Caveman.  For it was caves rather than European-style houses and building that served as shelters for the ancient people of Israel.  That is one of the striking lessons from visiting the Holy Land. 

Of course, there are many other sites as well: mountains, like the Mount of Beatitudes, the Mount of the Transfiguration, and the Mount of Olives, each marking a strategic point in Our Lord’s career.  And there are plains and valleys: the Valley of Sharon, so beautiful and verdant it was a symbol of heaven; of the Valley of Gehenna, a burning garbage dump symbolizing hell.  Or the Kidron Valley, where Jesus waded the Kidron brook on the last night before his Passion.  

We will also visit the joyful sites like Cana, where the famous wedding took place; and Bethany, where Our Lord frequently stopped to enjoy the hospitality of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus.

And let’s not forget the remarkable site of Qumran, where we will walk through the ruins of that ancient Jewish monastery that left us the Dead Sea Scrolls, and possibly take a dip in the Dead Sea, floating high on salt brine as thick as motor oil!

Why go on a pilgrimage?  Because you will never read the Gospels the same again.  Every Gospel at Mass will take on fresh color and verve because you can see the very lay of the land and smell the breeze in your mind’s eye.  Because you’ve been there and touched the rocks, the olive trees, and eaten the fish.  

This pilgrimage is special, because it coincides with the anticipated release of my new book, Jesus and the Dead Sea Scrolls: The Jewish Roots of the Church.  I’ve been deep in the Dead Sea Scrolls and other ancient literature for months, putting together a book that I hope will show Christians how thoroughly Jewish and biblical the Church really is.  I’ll have a lot to share with you as we travel through the sacred sites!

One of the most powerful aspects of a pilgrimage for Catholics is that fact that, when you are on pilgrimage, you don’t move through liturgical time, but liturgical space.  For daily Mass, every sacred site has its own liturgical readings!  So it’s like moving through the Liturgical Year and the major feasts in nine days rather than twelve months!  The Gospel speaks powerfully when we celebrate Mass on the site where Jesus multiplied the loaves, for example—or where he was nailed to the cross!

I hope you can join me for this pilgrimage in May 2019! I promise you I’ll be “on duty” and at your service 24-7 for nine days, ready to answer any questions you may have about Scripture, the sacred sites, and how it all fits with our Catholic Faith.  We will also have arguably the most experienced native Catholic guide in the business, Amer Shehadeh, who has guided for Steve Ray, Scott Hahn, and other well-known authors and speakers.  You will love Amer, whose family clan has been Latin-Rite Catholics for centuries, going back to medieval times, and whose home parish is the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth!  Imagine your home parish being built above the site where Gabriel spoke to the Blessed Mother!

So please make use of the forms below to sign up for the pilgrimage.  We have provided all the details below. You can also email me as well for further information.  The core of our pilgrim group will be coming from Fr. Michael Bower’s parish in greater Indianapolis area, which is why our main body will be flying out of Chicago O’Hare, the closest airport with good connections to Israel.  

Sincerely yours in Christ --- John Bergsma

Dr. Bergsma at the famous Qumran Cave 4, where most of the scrolls were found.

Dr. Bergsma at the famous Qumran Cave 4, where most of the scrolls were found.

Dr. Bergsma Pilgrimage to the Holy Land May 2019
10 Day program

3 nights Tiberias / 5 nights Jerusalem

May 16 - 25 , 2019

Day 1 Thu. May 16:  Departure from USA Departure from the United States on overnight flights to Tel Aviv.

Day 2 Fri. May 17:  Arrival in Israel | Galilee | Tiberias Arrival in Tel Aviv’s modern Ben Gurion Airport. We meet our local Catholic guide and transfer to Galilee. Mass and dinner on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. Overnight in Tiberias. D

Day 3 Sat. May 18: Mount of Transfiguration | Cana | Nazareth | Tiberias Ascend the Mount of Transfiguration (Mount Tabor) early for Mass to miss the crowds; then depart for the Wedding Church in Cana for Renewal of Wedding Vows. After lunch in Nazareth, visit the Church of Annunciation. Visit the House of the Holy Family.  Dinner and overnight in Tiberias. B,D 

Day 4 Sun. May 19: Mount of Beatitudes | Tabgha | Tiberias Mount of Beatitudes for Mass. Continue on to Caesarea Philippi where Jesus said, You are Peter.  Drive through Golan Heights; view the Syrian border and pray for our persecuted brothers and sisters. Lunch at Druze restaurant. Visit Tabgha where Jesus multiplied loaves and fishes. Visit the Primacy of Peter where Jesus said, “Feed My sheep”. B,D  

Jerusalem, Dome of the Rock

Jerusalem, Dome of the Rock

Day 5 Mon. May 20: Sea of Galilee | Capernaum | Jerusalem Today enjoy a boat ride on Sea of Galilee. Arrive by boat to Capernaum for Mass at St. Peter’s House and the synagogue where Jesus said “Eat My Flesh!” Drive to Jerusalem stopping along the way at Ein Kerem to visit the Church of the Visitation. B,D 

Day 6 Tue. May 21: Bethlehem | Jerusalem Today we will support our Christian brothers and sisters by shopping in the local Olive Wood stores.  We will celebrate Mass at Shepherd's Field and visit the Church of the Nativity where Jesus was born. B,D

Day 7 Wed. May 22: Via Dolorosa | Calvary | Western Wall | Jerusalem Depart early this morning and travel along the Via Dolorosa. Arrive at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Touch the top of Mount Calvary. Mass at the tomb of Christ (subject to confirmation.) Return to the Notre Dame for breakfast. Depart for prayer at the Western Wall. Spend the remainder of the afternoon at your leisure. This evening we will have the opportunity to spend some time in meditation in the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus prayed the night before he was crucified, pending confirmation. B, D

2000-year-old Olive Tree in Gethsemane

2000-year-old Olive Tree in Gethsemane

Day 8 Thu. May 23:  Gethsemane | Mt. Olives | Mt. Zion | Jerusalem Begin today with Mass at the Garden of Gethsemane. Drive to the Mount of Olives to visit the Church of Pater Noster.   Enjoy lunch at Jewish kibbutz. Drive to Mt. Zion to visit the Church of the Dormition and the Upper Room, ending at the Church of St. Peter in Gallicantu. B, D

Day 9 Fri. May 24: Dead Sea Excursion | Jerusalem  Start the day with a visit the the Israel Museum to look at the Model of Jerusalem at the time of Christ. We visit the section of the Museum called the Shrine of the book, home of the Dead Sea Scrolls. We then leave Jerusalem and drive down to the Judian desert and visit the site of Qumran where the Essene community dwelt and wrote the scrolls.  Mass at the Good Shepherd Church in Jericho. Continue on our Excursion to  Jericho and Mass at the Good Shepherd Church in Jericho. Time for swimming in the Dead Sea. We will renew Baptismal vows at the authentic baptismal site of Jesus.  Dinner and overnight. Depending on flight schedule we may leave this evening or very early in the morning for the airport for our return flight home. B

Day 10 Sat. May 25: Early departure from the Hotel to the Airport for our flight back home.

NOTES: While no changes are anticipated, there may be occasions when certain alterations become necessary to this itinerary due to changes beyond

Quote :

Price Per Person in US American Dollars based on minimum of 25 people:-   $3730
Single Supplement  $885

 The above rates include:

 -8 nights Accommodation on HB basis (Breakfast & Dinner). 
- Round trip airfare  ORD - TLV - ORD
-Tour  guide  throughout
-Transportation in deluxe buses .
-All entrance fees
-Special Farewell Dinner
-Audio guiding system in Holy Land.
-Porterage fees at all hotels and airport.
-Mass reservation as per Itinerary
-Taxes on all services, including hotel taxes
- Dead Sea excursion including Qumran and Israel Museum

The above rates do not include:

-Tips for guide , bus driver, restaurants and hotels staff.  ($140 Per person to be collected seperately) 
-Any personal expenses such as telephone calls, beverages, laundry, and medical insurance.

Payment Schedule:

50% Due Oct. 20, 2018
Remainder Due Feb. 20, 2019

Flight Itinerary:





Once a deposit or partial/full payment has been made, cancellations will only be accepted in writing. Cancellation terms will be applied based on the date that the written cancellation is received. In addition to a $500 per person administration fee, the following charges apply:

60 - 46 days prior to departure 50%

45 - 22 days prior to departure 80%

21 - days prior to departure or less no refund

Additionally, once tickets are issued the ticket value is non-refundable. Requests for a refund must be in writing (mail, fax or e-mail). Phone calls cannot be used as a form of cancellation. Refunds will be issued within 30 to 60 days of receipt of written notice No change of names or substitutions are permitted. No refund or cancellation fees will be waived due to death or sickness.

Pilgrimage Registration Form

Please print out this form, fill it out, sign it, and then scan it and email it to amerguide@gmail.com and johnbergsma3@gmail.com in order to register for the pilgrimage:


Pilgrim ONLINE Payment form

Use this form to pay online by credit card.  There is a 3% transaction fee for this service.  The transaction fee can be avoided by mailing a check made out to Amer Shehadeh directly to:

John Bergsma May 2019 Pilgrimage
1217 Maryland Ave.

Steubenville OH 43952

Name *
Suggested Amounts: $1920.95 (1/2 payment with 3% cc transaction fee; due October 20, 2018 and February 20, 2019) $3,841.90 (full amount + 3% cc transaction fee) $2,376.25 (half amount + single supplement with 3% cc transaction fee; due October 20, 2018 and February 20, 2019) $4,753.45 (full amount + single supplement with 3% cc transaction fee) Custom Amount

*  Once you click submit you will be contacted and sent an invoice to pay online securely with a credit card.