The modern day state of Israel and the Palestinian territories are home to a great range of Holy sites, known to be part of “The Holy Land”. There are also more sites in Lebanon, Western Jordan southwestern Syria, however most of the sites and those most prominent are located in Israel and in Palestine. Middle Eastern politics aside, this is a fascinating area to explore with so much history to offer, especially for Christians, Jews and Muslims. The birthplace of Jesus is here, as is his childhood town, many biblically referenced sites and so much natural beauty that I just couldn’t fathom all that was happening throughout my one week trip! Here’s a list of Holy Land Sites in Israel & Palestine to help facilitate your visit…
Jerusalem is an incredible place to be and is one of those cities you could never spend enough time, however it is not always safe to visit so be sure to keep yourself updated with current events. For Christians, the most important sites are the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Church of St. John the Baptist, and the Church of All Nations. Also be sure to look out for the Mount of Olives (easily in view from Jerusalem old town).
Church of the Holy Sepulchre – Believed to be the site of Jesus’ crucifixion.
Church of St. John the Baptist – This is where Jesus is believed to have said his last prayers before being betrayed by Judas.
Church of All Nations – The birthplace of St. John, known for having baptized Jesus.
Bethlehem is perhaps the most important place to visit in the Holy Land, as it is the birthplace of Jesus and home to the Church of Nativity (under which Jesus was born, marked by a 14-pointed star set in the ground). Before visiting, do note that it is easier to visit with a tour group as Israeli Nationals cannot enter Bethlehem given that it is located in Palestinian territories, so there is a check point you will need to cross (bring your passport!)
The name, “Jesus of Nazareth” is of course due to the city of Nazareth being where Jesus spent his childhood days, making this another very popular site for Christians visiting Israel. The main attraction in Nazareth is the Basilica of the Annunciation, the largest Christian Church in the Middle East.
Believed to be the world’s oldest city, Jericho is a whopping 10,000 years old and a major tourist destination for visitors to the area. Jericho is renowned for its’ biblical references, such as when Joshua fought Jericho “and the walls came tumbling down!” Remember to bring your passport if planning to visit Jericho, as it is located within Palestinian territories (Image via Tamar Hayardeni).
Old Jaffa, Tel Aviv
In modern day Tel Aviv it might be difficult to envision an old historic town like Old Jaffa (also known as Japho or Joppa). This old port town is referenced throughout the bible in stories of Jonah, Solomon and Saint Peter. It is busy and full of life on weekdays or choose to visit on Shabbat (Saturdays) for a deserted Jaffa.
Other Holy Land Sites in Israel
Israel is full of biblical references everywhere you go. Because I was only there for a week, there simply wasn’t time to see and do it all. Here are some other highlights:
Qasr el Yahud – the site where John the Baptist baptized Jesus.
The Jesus Trail – follows in Jesus’ footsteps in the Galilee, running from Nazareth to Capernaum. Now a hiking trail for visitors.
Capernaum – “The town of Jesus”, how to a few churches and a museum celebrate the life of Jesus.
Tabgha – the site where Jesus fed five thousand people (with five loaves and two fish).
Bethsaida – home to the three Apostles, Peter, Andrew and Philip, and a number of miracles by Jesus.
I visited Israel with Go Israel, however all opinions are my own.