Magdala's Virtual Pilgrimage Amidst Holy Land Conflicts

Magdala's Virtual Pilgrimage Amidst Holy Land Conflicts

Migdal, Israel - Amidst the ongoing conflict in the Holy Land, the Magdala Tourist Center, nestled in the historic town of Magdala along the picturesque shores of the Sea of Galilee, has devised an innovative solution for pilgrims unable to physically visit during this Advent and Christmas season.

Dubbed the "Star of Wonder Advent Pilgrimage of Peace," the virtual pilgrimage is set to commence on Sunday, Dec. 3, and will extend throughout the Advent season. Each Sunday, a video will be unveiled featuring a holy site, discussing its biblical significance, and incorporating daily reflections.

Basilica of the Nativity

The virtual pilgrimage will encompass sacred locations such as Magdala, the hometown of Mary Magdalene; Nazareth; Ein Karem, associated with the Visitation and birth of John the Baptist; Bat Sahour; and Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus. Kathleen Nichols, the director of Magdala’s English media team overseeing both in-person and virtual pilgrimages, explained in an interview with CNA that the virtual pilgrimage was “inspired by the conflict here in the Holy Land.”

Nichols and her team ventured into the Palestinian Territories to film at now-vacant sites linked to Christ’s birth. Their aspiration is for virtual pilgrims worldwide to infuse these places with prayers for peace.

“People cannot come in person, and everyone wants to help by praying for peace,” she said. “And so I wanted to fill the holy sites with peace.”

“We hope people can fill the holy sites, especially the site of the birthplace of the Prince of Peace, with prayer for peace,” she added. The Magdala Tourist Center, established in 2009, comprises an archaeological park, guest house, and worship center. During construction, workers unearthed a first-century synagogue, including the significant Magdala Stone, considered a groundbreaking archaeological discovery.

Basilica of the Annunciation

The site also features structures identified as mansions of affluent Magdala merchants, a marketplace, and four “mikvaot” (ritual baths). Additionally, the Duc In Altum, named after Luke 5:4 where Jesus instructs Simon Peter to “launch into the deep” or “put out into deep water,” serves as a place of prayer and worship for Christians of all denominations.

Grotto of the Annunciation in Nazareth (Grotto of Mary's "neighbors")

As pilgrims cancel their planned visits to the Holy Land due to the conflict, Nichols anticipates that the virtual pilgrimage will enable participants to “fully understand what true peace is by encountering the Prince of Peace” and hopes that they "will be encouraged to return soon to the Holy Land once the conflict is resolved."

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