Israel and Middle East

Since Christians are only 1.5% of the population in the Holy Land, don’t you think we should support them when we visit Israel? YES! If not, we fail to do our moral duty.

Right: Personal Letter from Patriarch Twal

Christians are leaving the land in droves due to lack of opportunity, persecution and tremendous pressure from both Jews and Muslims. They send their sons and daughters to the West for a better life.

Why do so many groups use Jewish guides, services, hotels, shops…and Muslim drivers and vendors, etc.?  Why not use Christians and support them? If we do not support the Christians, there will come a day when there may be none left.

We visit the Patriarchate on every trip – along with supporting the Christians in every other way.

Here is a letter from Patriarch Twal thanking us once again for our collections and donations.

Join us and help support our brothers and sisters in the Holy Land – and it IS safe, contrary to what you hear. Visit







Join Us in the Holy Land! Ah, but is it Safe?

by Steve Ray on December 10, 2014

Touching the place where Jesus was born

December 26-January 4, 2015,   May 2015,   September 2015,   December 2015

We are leaving for the Holy Land on December 26th. We will be spending the rest of the Christmas Season there — with Mass and a day in Bethlehem where it all got started. We are expecting it to be a glorious pilgrimage like the 70 others we have led in the last 10 years. IT IS NOT TOO LATE TO JOIN US!

However, some family and friends are concerned about the safety of their loved ones. Even some going on the trip are starting to get nervous as they watch the news – which is understandable. So I would like to put a few things in perspective.

"The Team" with our new bus signs

First, there are always tensions and problems in the Middle East. If someone waits until Israel’s neighbors are showering rose petals on Jerusalem they will never go to see the land of our Lord and our Lady. If you wait until everything is quiet, you will never go.

Second, last year there were a record number of tourists and pilgrims visiting Israel. The years before had reached 3.5 million but now the the numbers have reached 4 million. Yet, not one of them has ever been hurt or impeded by any acts of violence. We took a group of 55 people in September and another group of 45 people in October and all of them felt completely safe and thanked us over and over again for not canceling the trips.

Our group in September, and another in October

My friend and guide Amer Shehadeh is leading a group of 55 pilgrims from Texas right now. I just spoke with him on the phone and he said all the pilgrims are having a wonderful time. Yesterday Jews were killed in a synagogue. Amer asked if anyone wanted to quit or go home and they all said, “No way!” Being there provides a sense of perspective, something we lose watching the nightly news in America.

Third, all of the acts of violence over the last month or two that have made the headlines here in America are perpetrated against Jews in very Jewish areas. The targets are not tourists or Americans or Christians on pilgrimage. The problems have taken place in areas we never frequent. We know areas to avoid and we will avoid them. We work with experts and the best and we know how to keep our people out of harms way.

Evening discussion group over a bottle of wine

The fighting is between two groups — a tit-for-tat situation of retaliation. Each group knows the other and we are not included in those groups. When the Hatfield’s and McCoy’s have their feuds they don’t go after the Smith’s and the Jones’.

For those who have ISIS in the back of their mind, or the fighting in Syria and Iraq — never give this a second thought. These situations are a million miles away from Israel and our pilgrimage route. Israel has one of the strongest militaries in the world and these localized wars have no effect on us in the Holy Land.

Fourth, I find it intriguing that in Detroit, Chicago and other major cities in United States there are hundreds upon hundreds of murders, homicides, rapes, drug wars and retaliations (see chart below). Yet they rarely make the evening news. I don’t know anyone who’s afraid afraid to fly into Chicago to see the sights or visit friends. But let four Jewish rabbis get murdered in a synagogue in Jerusalem and it makes headlines all over the world and everyone panics about flying into Tel Aviv, the safest airport in the world. I find this a bit ironic. Panic-by-media!

People frequently asked me, “Are you afraid to go to Israel?” To which I respond, “No, I’m afraid to go to Chicago!”

Our Vatican-owned hotel in Jerusalem

Fifth, we are watching the news daily and pinpointing the locations where the incidents take place. We would never take anyone into harm’s way and we know how to react if there ever was a problem while we are there. In other words, there should be no worries for those joining us on this trip as we are mingling with the millions of others who are visiting the lands of the Bible safely and with no concern.

Sixth, if anyone wants to talk about this more please feel free to write me at and we can set up a phone conversation. Once we are in the land everyone on the bus will thank me over and over again for not canceling the trip. We know from year’s of experience since it has never been completely quiet in the Middle East. If anyone gets there and becomes fearful (which has never happened with the thousands we have taken) we can always make arrangements for them to return home the next day.

Learning about Mary Ark of New Covenant at Visitation

Seventh, I will be posting daily YouTube videos for your family and friends to watch so they can see you safe, enjoying yourselves, and living the Bible in the land of Our Lord. They always relax when they actually see things for what they really are.

Eighth, for those traveling with us — we look forward to seeing you at the airport in Tel Aviv. Don’t forget that this is probably the safest airport in the world and security is excellent — especially now. This may be the safest time of all to visit the Holy Land :-) We will begin our pilgrimage in the north — up in Galilee — far removed from the hustle and bustle of Jerusalem. While there we’ll keep our eye on events in the country and we can always adapt as necessary if anything escalates. Have no fear, trust us and look forward to the most amazing of life-changing journeys you’ll ever experience.

Safe in the Holy Land?










Murders and Crime in Chicago in 2013 per 100,000 population; much safer in Jerusalem

Jerusalem Post:
“The research shows that [in Israel] murders per 100,000 people was 2.35 in 1980 and 2.29 in 2006. These numbers are low compared to other countries. In Russia, for instance, the number of murders per 100,000 people in 2004 was 18, with 7.5 in the United States during the same year.”

Percentage rates remain about the same today. In other words, it’s safer in Israel than it is in most cities in the United States.

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On Sunday Pope Francis and Patriarch Bartholomew signed a joint declaration affirming their common commitment to full Christian unity as well as their support for suffering Christians in the Middle East.

“We cannot resign ourselves to a Middle East without Christians, who have professed the name of Jesus there for two thousand years,” the joint statement reads.

Sunday marked the third and final day of Pope Francis’ trip to Turkey, and coincided with the Christian feast of the apostle Saint Andrew, of special significance to the Orthodox Church. Andrew was brother to Saint Peter and the Orthodox consider Patriarch Bartholomew to be his successor.

The joint statement calls on Middle East leaders to do all in their power to enable Christians to remain in their native land. “Many of our brothers and sisters are being persecuted and have been forced violently from their homes,” the declaration reads. “It even seems that the value of human life has been lost, that the human person no longer matters and may be sacrificed to other interests.”

The two leaders describe the tragic situation of Christians in the Middle East as “an ecumenism of suffering” drawing Christians closer together. Just as the blood of the martyrs was a seed of strength and fertility for the Church, the declaration continues, “so, too, the sharing of daily sufferings can become an effective instrument of unity.”

“The terrible situation of Christians and all those who are suffering in the Middle East calls not only for our constant prayer, but also for an appropriate response on the part of the international community,” the declaration says.

Thomas D. Williams can be followed on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome


Was Jesus Really Born at THAT Place in Bethlehem?

October 13, 2014

It is often asked: how do we know these are the real sites where Jesus and Mary lived and walked. The earliest Christians realized the importance of these sites and immediately viewed them as sites to be remembered and venerated. Small chapels were built and pilgrims came from around the world to visit these spots [...]

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5000 Years of Middle East Control in 90 Seconds

October 12, 2014

No part of the world has changed hands and governments and religions more than the Middle East. This is a fascinating “moving map” of all the changes over the last 5,000 years.

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Jews as Proof of God’s Existence & Faithfulness

October 10, 2014

Winston Churchill wrote “Some people like the Jews, and some do not. But no thoughtful man can deny the fact that they are, beyond any question, the most formidable and the most remarkable race which has appeared in the world.“ He is absolutely right! I have often said they are remarkable people –gifted in a [...]

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History of Religion; Muslim Demographics, the World

October 4, 2014

Watch this 7 minute video (below) titled: MUSLIM DEMOGRAPHICS: THE TIDAL WAVE (15 million have viewed this video)   See the world your grandchildren will know–different from the world we know today. It is my opinion that Islam is maybe the greatest threat to the world, to peace and to freedom. Islamophobic, hysteric? Hardly. I am [...]

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Iraqi Nuns Slam Media Silence on Middle East Christian Persecution

September 23, 2014

Sometimes it takes a David to defeat a Goliath – or, in this case, unassuming nuns to speak where the media remain silent.  Speaking out for Christians persecuted in the Middle East, Mother Olga Yaqob and Sister Hatune Dogan slammed the American media for keeping silent. The nuns spoke with MRC during the In Defense of [...]

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Roller Coaster Day: Holy Sites and Wonderful Adventures.

September 3, 2014

Today what’s an incredible day of many adventures. We started the day with Mass at the Mount the Beatitudes where Jesus taught the Sermon on the Mount. Then we went up to the Golan Heights to visit Caesarea Philippi where Jesus said “You are Peter and on this rock I will build my church”. Lunch [...]

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Jerusalem is Safe! Our 1st Day in Israel! – Video to Show Real Life on the Ground (not on CNN)

August 31, 2014

Hello Everyone. Janet and I have settled in, made sure everything is safe and in good order. We have the 60-seater bus ready to go with our new colorful 6′ x 2′ foot magnetic signs to slap on both sides of the bus. We have Rosaries for everyone to touch on the holy sites, our [...]

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We arrived in Jerusalem and all is well :-)

August 30, 2014

We arrived at the Tel Aviv airport this morning at 5:00 AM. It is no different from the 130 times we’ve arrived in the past. We’re now at the Notre Dame Hotel in Jerusalem, went out for dinner went to Saturday evening Mass and are now comfortably settled into our hotel. Our group is very [...]

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Long Term Cease-Fire Announced between Israel and Hamas

August 26, 2014

This is good news for our pilgrims as we are leaving this weekend for the Holy Land. We are very pleased that our full bus is still full and everyone trusted us to wait and watch and still go. Now their patience and trust will pay off with a wonderful pilgrimage following in the footprints [...]

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Archbishop Sako’s Disappointment with Response to Iraq’s Disaster

August 12, 2014

Patriarch Sako: Refugee Situation Escalating, U.S. Military Action Disappointing Says Iraq’s Christians Face Hard Dilemma: Emigrate or Stay By Staff Reporter VATICAN CITY, August 11, 2014 ( – The Chaldean Patriarch of Babylon has highlighted the extent of the refugee situation in northern Iraq, warned of “escalating” humanitarian needs, and said the hardships facing Iraqis [...]

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Patriarch of Iraq YELLS at the World; “Where are You?” His Words Here – Steve to discuss this topic today on Al Kresta Show

August 8, 2014

Steve will join the Al Kresta Show on Ave Maria Radio from 5:20 – 6:00 to discuss the slaughter of Christians in Iraq and the silence of the world. Iraq’s Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako: a Voice in the Desert Catholic Leader Appeals to Pope, Brother Bishops: ‘Speeches Are Good for Nothing’ ROME, August 08, 2014 [...]

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Christians Fleeing Nineveh as ISIS Muslims Destroy their Cities – Where is the West??

August 7, 2014

UPDATE: Glad the Pope finally calls on the world to step in and “end the crisis” and help the Christians being slaughtered and displaced in Iraq. I hope this means more than just following along behind ISIS to pick up the dead bodies, feed and care for the raped and starving: (Reuters) – Pope Francis [...]

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Christians Branded before Death or Exile: the Arabic letter for “n” – Nazarene

August 5, 2014

Branded: Nazarene (CNA Catholic News Association) Have you seen this symbol? This is the arabic letter “nun,” the first letter in the word “Nazarene.” In Mosul, Iraq, it has been painted on doors to identify the homes of Christians who are then brutally beaten and often executed. A militant Sunni organization known as the Islamic State [...]

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