Walking in the footsteps of Jesus, deepened 69-year-old Sally Wiley’s faith.
The Gardnerville resident took a nine-day pilgrimage to Jeruselum with a group from St. Gall Catholic Church.
“I wanted to go and see all the sites where Jesus was to expand my knowledge of the Bible and my faith,” Wiley said. “Being and walking in the steps Jesus and Moses walked was surreal. It brings to life what I’ve known and read. It gave me a deeper understanding. I feel I can relate more to what happened to Jesus and Moses.”
Wiley left Aug. 4 for Tel Aviv, having layovers in Phoenix and Philedelphia.
Although the area has been plagued with violence, Wiley said she wasn’t worried.
“I felt very peaceful about going, that it was something that was meant to be,” she added. “You were aware of the danger, but not afraid.”
On their first full day of sightseeing, the group visited Caesarea, Mt. Carmel and Nazareth.
“The buildings were not from the time of Jesus,” Wiley said. “They were mostly rebuilt over the holy sites.”
That night they celebrated Mass in the Church of the Annunciation where Mary received a message from an Angel telling her she was going to give birth to Jesus.
Wiley joked that it took flying all the way to Jerusalem for her to discover that she really liked figs and dates.
“Everywhere we ate in Jordan and Jerusalem they had buffets set up with a lot of vegetables and a lot of hummus. I don’t know most of what I was eating, but it was real clean,” she said. “There’s very little meat. They had lamb and chicken, but we would never get a steak.”
The pilgrimage also took Wiley to the River Jordon, the Garden of Gethsemane, Bethlehem, Lazareth’s tomb, Mount Zion, the tomb of King David, the city of Petra and many other historical Jerusalem sites.
Taking a boat across the Sea of Galilee was her favorite part of the trip.
“It was misty and beautiful. It’s not a sea, it’s really a lake,” she said. “The people on the boat reenacted Peter fishing. There was a feeling of peace and awe to be in the Sea of Galilee and know all the Biblical things that happened there.”
The group’s guide was an Israeli man named Mark.
As Mark told of the history of an area, Father Nathan Mamo would explain the religious side.
“The Israeli people have lots of kids and lots of families,” Wiley said. “They seem very intense to me, and I think that’s because they live in constant fear of being annihilated.”
While sightseeing in Petra, their guide warned them not to purchase souvenirs from local children who approached them.
“The country wants to keep them in school,” Wiley said, “and if they’re making money, they’ll want to skip school.”
Visiting the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem was eye-opening for Wiley.
“It’s very quiet and respectful. You feel very reverent, very quiet and very sad,” she said. “It drew out more of my empathy for the Israelis. To see the tearing apart of families and lack of respect for human life is heart breaking.”
Wiley has traveled to 23 different countries in her lifetime, but Jerusalem stands out in her top two favorites alongside Russia.
“The beauty of a pilgrimage is that you’re with like-minded people,” she said. “I enjoyed the group we were with, the food, the people, the historical sites and bringing to life what I had learned. It put my religion into perspective.”