Israel Travel Blog


Emmaus

Israel is an fantastic country to visit, whatever your background and faith, but for Christians there is incredible significance in making a journey to the Holy Land. Whether wandering through the narrow streets of the Old City of Jerusalem and gazing at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, visiting the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth, where the Angel Gabriel informed Mary she was with child, or exploring the Galilee, where Jesus spent many of his later years ministering, the experience is usually a very profound one.An NRSV Bible open to the title page of the New Testament. Photo byTim WildsmithonUnsplashOf course, as well as the ‘must see’ Christian holy sites in Israel, there are also many places more out-of-the-way, which are imbued with religious significance. One of these is Emmaus and although it is not particularly well-known, it has a fascinating history. Not only is it linked to the resurrection of Jesus but, in recent times, archaeologists have excavated remains that point to it possibly being the site where the Ark of the Covenant was placed. Let’s take a look at the background of this place to try and understand more about its significance for scholars, archaeologists, and also modern-day Christian pilgrims.Etymology: What does Emmaus mean?The name ‘Emmaus’ is thought to be a Hellenized (Greek) version of the Hebrew name Hammath. The name Hammath comes from the root חמם (hamam), meaning to be warm and in modern-day Hebrew is used to describe hot springs. A spring of Emmaus (Greek: Ἐμμαοῦς πηγή), or alternatively a 'spring of salvation' ( πηγή σωτήριος) can be found in Greek sources. Emmaus is mentioned by this name in two Midrashim (Rabbinic/Biblical interpretations) - Midrash Zuta for Song of Songs and Midrash Rabbah for Lamentations and Ecclesiastes. Historically, Emmaus was a relatively common name in the Levant and even today, across the Middle East, many sites are called Hama, Hammath (e.g. Hamat Gader), and other variations on this theme.Silhouettes of man and woman near a cross. Photo byJunior REISonUnsplashEmmaus in the Christian BibleEmmaus is mentioned in the third of the Gospels (the Gospel of Luke) as the place at which Jesus appeared to his disciple Cleopas and a friend, who were walking on the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus (possibly a distance of between 10-12 km). According to Luke, the story takes place on the day of Jesus’ resurrection. The two disciples had heard that the tomb where Jesus had been buried was now empty and were discussing the matter. Luke goes on to state:And it happened that while they were speaking and debating, Jesus himself drew near and walked with them, but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him … as they approached the village to which they were going, he gave the impression that he was going on further. But they urged him, "Stay with us, for it is nearly evening and the day is declining." So he went in to stay with them. And it happened that, while he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them. With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him. Luke also recounts that after the three of them ate supper at Emmaus, Jesus scolded the two of them for their lack of belief and taught them about the prophecies of the Messiah. Emmaus is not mentioned in the Gospels of Matthew or John; in the Gospel of Mark a similar story is mentioned, but with no particular reference to Emmaus.Red Bible on a wooden table. Photo byTim WildsmithonUnsplashWhere was the exact location of Emmaus?Historians have debated this question hotly for many years and the answer is, we don’t really know because references to its precise location are quite vague and in manuscripts of the Christian Bible there are references to at least three different distances between Emmaus and Jerusalem. Among the contenders are the sites of Emmaus Nicopolis / Imwas, Al-Qubeiba / Castellum Emmaus / Chubebe / Qubaibat, Kiryat Anavim / Abu Gosh, Coloniya, El-Kubeibeh.Emmaus Nicopolis / ImwasThis site is the oldest of the possible locations and, today, many Christian pilgrims regard Emmaus-Nicopolis as the place at which the disciple Cleopas and his friend encountered Jesus after he had risen from the dead. It was Eusebius of Caesarea who first raised the idea of Nicopolis as the site of Emmaus.Eusebius was a Greek historian whose account of the first centuries of Christianity is a landmark text for historians. Jerome, who later translated Euebius’ book, insinuates that there was a church in Nicopolis, built in the house of Cleopas, and this was where Jesus and the two disciples broke bread together. Other sources that talk of Emmaus include the first book of the Maccabees, the writings of the Roman historian Josephus and accounts from the late Roman, Byzantine, and early Muslim eras.In the modern era, it was the explorer Edward Robinson who was first said to have found the location of Emmaus - he believed it was the Arab Palestinian village of Imwas, close to the Latrun Monastery. Imwas was destroyed in 1967 but before then it was situated close to the Judean hills, about 23 km from Jerusalem via the Kiryat Yearim ridge.Latrun Trappist Monastery, Israel.Photo credit: © Dmitry MishinThe Walk of EmmausToday, many of these pilgrims, as a way of recreating this journey, set out to walk the route called the ‘Emmaus Hike’. This begins at the Saxum Visitor Centre (just outside of the village of Abu Gosh), runs for 20 kilometers, and has a number of different trails. Just as interesting, part of the route pilgrims take today was once a Roman road that connected Jerusalem with the port of Jaffa, and it is more than 2,000 years old. Along the trail, there are a number of interesting archaeological sites, including the remains of a Byzantine basilica.Al-Qubeiba / Castellum Emmaus / Chubebe / QubaibatAnother possible location for Emmaus is the town of Al-Qubeiba, northwest of Jerusalem. In Arabic, it means ‘Little Domes’. In 1099, a Roman fort by the name of Castellum Emmaus was discovered there although historians do not believe it was named ‘Emmaus’ at the time Jesus lived. By the 12th century, the Crusaders had named the site ‘Small Mahomeria’ (as opposed to ‘Large Mahomeria’ which stood near Ramallah). In 1335, the site was taken over by the Franciscans, who began organizing pilgrimages there each year and in 1902 built a church there.By the Second World War, the British Mandate held prisoners of Italian and German heritage at Emmaus Qubeibeh and between 1940-1944, the archaeological Bellarmino Bagetti carried out excavations there. He found a number of artifacts from different periods - Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, and Crusader - and subsequently carried out some explorations.Olive groves around Latrun, Israel.Photo credit: ©Dmitry MishinAbu Ghosh / Kiryat AnavimThe village of Abu Gosh is situated about 12 km from Israel’s capital, in the middle of the Kiryat Yearim Ridge, with Nicopolis on one side and Jerusalem on the other. The explorer Edward Robinson (see above) estimated that it dates back to the Crusader era and considered it to be the best-preserved ancient church in Palestine. When the 1940s excavations were carried out, archaeologists found ‘Fontenoid’ which was a site the Crusaders regarded as Emmaus, before they reconsidered and accepted Nicopolis as the ‘authentic’ Emmaus.Abu Gosh itself is situated in an area of Israel where some of the earliest humans lived - excavations have shown habitation dating back to the Neolithic period. Today it is famous for its excellent hummus (many Israelis will admit to having driven long distances to eat there) and its famed choral music festival, taking place twice a year, in the spring and the fall.In this festival, choirs and musicians not just from Israel but across the world come to perform in two of the churches in Abu Gosh. As has been commented, the opportunity for Jews to visit a Muslim community and hear music in a Christian place of worship is really an excellent example of working towards peace. Judean Hills, Israel. Photo byBenjamin GrullonUnsplashEmmaus / Colonia / Motza / Ammassa / Ammaous / Khirbet MizzaSituated between Jerusalem and Abu Gosh, also on the Kiryat Yearim Ridge Route, is Colonia. It was referred to in the Hebrew Bible, in the book of Joshua, as ‘Mozah’ and in the Talmud as a place where people came to cut down tree branches to celebrate the harvest festival of Sukkot. The historian Joseph Flavius wrote in ‘Antiquities of the Jews’ about the Maccabean Revolt, and in this instance mentions a city named Emmaus, which seems to link up with the idea of Emmaus being Nicopolis (in terms of its distance from Jerusalem). However, in ‘The Jewish War’ he talks of a second location from Emmaus, where Roman legions settled after the First Jewish Revolt. Latin manuscripts talk of ‘Amassa’ and Greek manuscripts ‘Ammaous’ but once the Roman legions (‘colonia’) had arrived, these names were soon forgotten. The name ‘Colonia’ survived for a long time - the Jerusalem and Babylonian Talmud both refer to ‘Qeloniya’ (the Aramaic term for Colonia) and in Arabic, the name still exists, in the form of ‘Qalunya’. In 1881, William Birch (who was part of the Palestine Exploration Fund) identified what he called ‘Motza’ as the Emmaus mentioned in the Gospel of Luke. Less than 2km to the north is a ruin named Khirbet Beit Mizza, which some scholars believe to have been the biblical Mozah. Contemporary excavations now place Mozah at Khirbet Mizza.The Gospels set from Alabaster Co.Photo byLauren KanonUnsplashTouring Emmaus todayNorth of Emmaus’s church complex you can find a very well-preserved Roman bath complex. Archaeologists believe it is in such a good state because the structure was considered holy by Muslim conquerors, and built a cemetery around its edges over the years. It is possible to visit Emmaus today by car - the entry fee is very small and it is just off Highway 1. Alternatively, it is possible to take a private tour of Jerusalem and/or the Judean Hills area - you will be able to customize the tour exactly to your needs and visit there for as long as you desire.
Por Sarah Mann

UNESCO Site: Biblical Tels – Megiddo, Hazor, Beer Sheva

Tels are prehistoric settlement mounds predominantly found in the Middle East. Megiddo, Hazor and Beersheba are three of 200 such tels in Israel, which contain significant remains of cities which have biblical connections. Excavation has found large multi-layered settlements which existed over the course of several millennia. The locations were probably chosen as settlement sites due to their strategic positions along important ancient trade routes and because of the available water supplies. The three tels are referred to as “biblical tels” as they appear in the Old Testament.Tel Hazor National Park, Israel. Photo credit: © Yuval Gassar. Published with permission of the Israel Nature and Parks AuthorityIn 2005 UNESCO declared these mounds as having outstanding universal value according to 4 criteria:1. The tels show an interchange of ideas and values between the east and west through trading, this can be seen in the many styles of building including those of Egypt and Syria;2. The tels offer a rare insight into the living conditions and lifestyle of the Canaan cities of the Bronze Age and the biblical cities of the Iron Age; 3. The development of Levant (Israel, Lebanon, Syria, and eastern Turkey) urban development evident in the tels had a great impact on future historic developments in the region;4. Having been mentioned in the Bible the three tels have spiritual and religious universal value.The findings at these tels show us that there was a centralized authority that controlled the important trade routes through the region. Thankfully the remains at each site have retained their integrity and have been left untouched for centuries. Over the course of time, the tels have become conical-shaped mounds with a flat top. The tels show evidence of sophisticated, geographically responsive, engineering in the ancient underground water systems designed to bring water to the cities. Ruins at Tel Megiddo National Park. Photo credit: © Avi Bahari. Published with permission of the Israel Nature and Parks AuthorityTel HazorTel Hazor is located in northern Israel near the Sea of Galilee and boasts one of the best examples of ancient ramparts in the Middle East. The ramparts enclosed the city with 9 meter high walls and there were two monumental gates. Its late Bronze Age palaces and temples stand out as some of the best in the Levant and the most complex in Israel. Excavation began at Tel Hazor in 1928 and later in the 1950s the well-known archaeologist Yigal Yadin led further excavations; in 1990 work was once again resumed on the site. A six-chambered stone gate was found which can be attributed to the time of King Solomon. The complex water system involved a 30-meter descending tunnel and a cave with a vaulted corridor. As with the other two tels, Tel Hazor held an important position at a major ancient crossroad. Tel Hazor National Park. Photo credit: © Doron Nissim. Published with permission of the Israel Nature and Parks AuthorityTel MegiddoTel Megiddo is just 50km southwest of Tel Hazor at the northern point of the Kishon River and has an unparalleled number of temples in its early Bronze Age temple compound, which shows that there was a continuity in the ritual activity on the Tel. This mound was the site of a powerful Canaan settlement that controlled the Via Maris, a route connecting Egypt with Syria, Anatolia, and Mesopotamia.Megiddo is referred to as Armageddon in the New Testament. The site was first excavated in 1903-5, then again in 1925-39, and again in the 1960s – 70s. Archaeologists uncovered around 30 different cities built one on top of the other on at least 20 levels. Another major archaeological find was an 80-meter long aqueduct that brought water from a spring at the foot of the mound up a vertical shaft to supply the city with fresh water.Tel Megiddo Archaeological Park. Photo credit: © Avi Bahari. Published with permission of the Israel Nature and Parks AuthorityTel BeershebaTel Beersheba is in southern Israel near the Negev Desert and the archaeological findings show an elaborate, oval-shaped and walled, Iron Age town plan unparalleled in the Levant. The well-planned town has a central square and an underwater drainage system as well as a well 69 meters below the ground. Excavation of Tel Beersheba only began in the 1960s. They discovered the remains of a 9th-century Judahite settlement which continued into the 8th century until it was destroyed by a fire during the Assyrian campaign. Among the remains is the Governor’s Palace with three long halls and several ancillary rooms.Tel Beersheba, Israel.Photo credit: © Nadav Taube. Published with permission of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority
Por Petal Mashraki

The Churches of the Mount of Olives

The Mount of Olives overlooks Jerusalem’s Old City it is home to some of the most beautiful and historic churches in the city. This mountain also plays an important role in the last week of Jesus ' life and encompasses the sites connected with his Ascension.The Russian Orthodox Church ofMary Magdalene, Jerusalem. Photo credit: © ShutterstockChurch of Mary Magdalene (The Russian Orthodox Church)The distinctive seven gold onion domes of the beautiful Church of Mary Magdalene shine out on the landscape of the Mt. of Olives. The building was constructed in 1888 in honor of the Russian czar’s mother. The church has a traditional Russian 17th-century tent structure and within the church are exquisite mosaics.Russian Orthodox Convent and Church of the AscensionThe 64-meter tall tower of this site stands out from its location in the village of A-Tur located on the Mount of Olives. According to Russian Orthodox tradition, this was the site of Jesus’ ascension. The church and convent were built in 1870-1887 and there is also a chapel dedicated to John the Baptist.Augusta Victoria Lutheran Hospital, Church and TowerThe Augusta Victoria Lutheran Hospital (AVH) tower is a prominent feature of the Mount of Olives' skyline. The AVH was established in 1950 and since then has been involved in helping Palestinian refugees and providing services to the Palestinian community in cooperation with UNRWA and the UN. The building was constructed in 1910 and was the first in Jerusalem to have electricity.Chapel of the Ascension (Dome of Ascension)Situated at the highest point in Jerusalem, the small octagonal Сhapel of Ascension has a distinctive dome and was constructed in 392AD; it marks the place where Jesus is thought to have ascended to heaven (Acts 7-11). A stone with an embedded footprint is believed to be the footprint of Jesus as he stepped up to heaven. TThe original structure was destroyed by Persians in 614AD and reconstructed by the Crusaders. In 1198 it was purchased by Saladin and functioned as a mosque. Today it belongs to the Islamic Waqf of Jerusalem and a mosque has been constructed adjacent to the Chapel which draws many Christian visitors.Church of All Nations (Basilica of the Agony)This is theMount of Olives’most prominent and most beautiful church, it is recognizable by the stunning gold mosaic on the church façade. The church is adjacent to the Garden of Gethsemane and marks the place where Jesus prayed on the night of his arrest. A large rock near the high altar is said to be where Jesus prayed. The church’s construction was funded by 12 nations, hence the name of the church. Within the Church of All Nations, each of the nations is remembered by a mosaic inlaid in the gold ceiling of the church's 12 cupolas.Church of All Nations, Mt. of Olives.Photo credit: © ShutterstockDominus Flevit (The Lord Wept)This church was designed by Anton Barluzzi and constructed in 1955; it resembles the shape of a teardrop in memory of the moment when Christ wept as he foresaw the destruction of Jerusalem. The Dominus Flevit Franciscan church is located between the Tomb of the Prophets and the Church of St. Mary Magdalene.Pater Noster (The Church of the Lord’s Prayer)The Church of the Pater Noster is built on the site where Jesus is thought to have taught his disciples the Lord’s Prayer (Luke 11:2); the cave adjacent to the church is the actual site where the biblical event is thought to have occurred. The present church was built in 1874 after the destruction of earlier churches on the site. The church is run by the Catholic Carmelite Cloistered Sisters who reside in the adjoining convent.Other sites on the Mount of Olives include the Tomb of Mujir al-Din al-Ulaymi; the Tomb of the Prophets; Mary’s Tomb; Brigham Young University – Jerusalem Campus; Burial Crypt of Rabiya al-Adawiyya, Pelagia, Hulda; the Ibrahimieh Community College; Garden of Gethsemane; International House of Prayer; Jerusalem Princess Basma Center for Disabled Children and the Little Family of Resurrection.To visit the churches of the Mount of Olives join Jerusalem In the Footsteps of Jesus Tour. For a customized itinerary book Mount of Olives Churches Private Walking Tour.Pater Noster Church. Photo credit: © Shutterstock
Por Petal Mashraki

The Churches of Acre

The Old City of Acre is a delight. Among Acre’s fascinating and beautiful buildings you can see several picturesque churches, each with an amazing history. As the formal capital of the Crusader Kingdom, Acre was an important pilgrimage site for Christians in the 13th century. Its old churches still keep their local charm, it feels calm and peaceful inside today even though they are in the middle of the hustle and bustle of the port city of Acre.Aerial view of Acre port. Photo by Daniel Newman on UnsplashSt. Andrew's Greek Catholic Melkite Church, AcreThis church faces seaward in the southwestern corner of the Old City of Acre. It was constructed in 1765 on the ruins of the Crusader Period Church of San Andreas which was destroyed by the Mamlukes in 1291. The shell of the two-story Crusader church survived and later stones from this original church were used in the construction of the church we see today.The beautiful interior has thick stone columns and glistening gold, richly decorated iconostasis. There is a spiral staircase leading up to the choir and a high vault ceiling. The upper story of the original Crusader church remains and is still in ruins although plans have been made to restore these rooms. St. Andrew’s has a beautiful bell tower that juts out above the houses. The bell which once hung in the tower can be seen outside the church at the base of a staircase that leads up to the as-yet not restored second floor.A picturesque facade in Acre.Photo by Shalev Cohen on UnsplashSt. George’s Greek Orthodox Catholic Church, AcreThis church was built in Acre during the Ottoman Era. The church was constructed on the remains of a Crusader church which was probably destroyed at the end of the 13th century by the Mamlukes and stood empty for 400 years before being rebuilt. The church is named after the 1st century St. George of Lod (Lydda).The church has a plain exterior with a carving of St. George’s cross above the door. Above the main entrance on the southern side is a relief depicting St. George fighting the dragon. Embedded in the wall is a symbol from 1846 depicting the two-headed eagle. Facing the church you can see a small tomb of George the Cypriot, an 18th-century martyr but not the namesake of the church.Boats in Acre Port.Photo by Ameer Basheer on UnsplashSt. John’s Church, AcreJust 50 meters from St. Andrew's is St. John’s Church. This tall building is adjacent to the Acre lighthouse and is home to the Latin Franciscan community. The church has been tentatively dated to the 18th century due to an inscription on the wall of 1737. The original structure on this site was a church built as part of the Hospitaller Center and mentioned in documents from 1149. It is the only active Latin Catholic church in Acre. The church interior is sparsely decorated with exposed stone and a high vaulted ceiling.The Maronite Church of AcreThe Maronite Church of Acre is a little over 300 meters from St. Andrew’s and St. John’s. The Maronites are an Eastern Roman Catholic church with origins in the Middle East.The Franciscan Terra Sancta Church, AcreThis is one of the Franciscan churches in the city. The Franciscans place great importance on Acre as it is believed that St. Francis of Assisi visited the city from 1219 to 1220. The first Franciscan monastery was constructed in Acre in 1217 under Father Elia Da Cortona.A street in the Old City of Acre.Photo credit: © Dmitry Mishin
Por Petal Mashraki

Churches of Nazareth

Nazareth, in northern Israel has one of the country’s largest Christian communities; it was the Holy Family’s biblical home town where Jesus spent about 25 years of his life. The modern city has about 30 Christian places of worship several built over holy sites marking where biblical events took place.Church of the Annunciation, Nazareth. Photo credit: © ShutterstockChurch of the Annunciation, NazarethPerhaps Nazareth’s most famous church, Basilica of Annunciation stands on the spot believed by the Roman Catholic Church to be where the Angel Gabriel appeared before Mary and told her she would have a son who would be the son of G-d. The Greek Orthodox and Coptic Church have alternative annunciation sites in Nazareth.The church that stands today was constructed in 1969 over Byzantine and Crusader churches which were also constructed to commemorate the site of this holy event. The church has two levels the lower level is an excavated Roman-era dwelling or grotto believed to have been Mary’s childhood home. The remains of the earlier Byzantine church and Crusader church can be seen in the grotto.The grotto has a 5th century floor mosaic and holds an 18th century altar next to two 4th century columns. There are stairs leading to a small cave called Mary’s kitchen, from there an exit leads to the courtyard. The upper level serves as the parish church. The Upper Church has a 51.8 meter high cupola which lets in natural light.Church of the Annunciation, Nazareth.Photo credit: © ShutterstockIn the church courtyard there are 43 mosaics depicting Mary and child, each mosaic comes from a Christian community in a different nation around the world. Each figure of Mary is depicted with the physical characteristics and traditional dress as the country the mosaic came from, so for example the Singaporean Mary has slanted Asian eyes.The church that stands today was constructed in 1969 over Byzantine and Crusader churches which were also constructed to commemorate the site of this holy event. The church has two levels the lower level is an excavated Roman-era dwelling or grotto believed to have been Mary’s childhood home. The remains of the earlier Byzantine church and Crusader church can be seen in the grotto.The grotto has a 5th century floor mosaic and holds an 18th century altar next to two 4th century columns. There are stairs leading to a small cave called Mary’s kitchen, from there an exit leads to the courtyard. The upper level serves as the parish church. The Upper Church has a 51.8 meter high cupola which lets in natural light.In the church courtyard there are 43 mosaics depicting Mary and child, each mosaic comes from a Christian community in a different nation around the world. Each figure of Mary is depicted with the physical characteristics and traditional dress as the country the mosaic came from, so for example the Singaporean Mary has slanted Asian eyes.Door ornament at the Annunciation Church, Nazareth. Photo credit: © Dmitry MishinSt Gabriel Greek Orthodox Church of the AnnunciationThe screen is of carved wood and decorated wood panels with brightly colored paintings of religious icons and scenes from the Bible. The spring where Mary went to draw water is located in the crypt of the church and still flows today. Visitors can see the well and 1,000 year old steps leading down to the spring. The grotto walls are cool and you can hear the gentle flow of the water and see grooves in the side of the well where the ropes holding buckets must have dug into the stone.Greek Catholic ChurchThis church constructed in 1887 stands in the Nazareth old market adjacent to the Synagogue Church. The Greek Orthodox Catholics or Melkites are a separate denomination to the Greek Orthodox having split from the church in 1724. Today the Melkites make up about 25% of Christians in Israel. Visitors enter the church through a gated courtyard; the Synagogue Church is entered through the same gate.Inside a traditional Templon or decorated screen separates the altar area from the main body of the church. Above the screen are paintings of religious icons. The interior is predominantly white with artwork and gold decoration. There are elaborate chandeliers and a gold-painted wooden priest’s chair imported from Greece. The exterior has two tall bell towers. Within the Melkite compound is a school, guesthouse, and convent.Church of St. Joseph, Nazareth. Photo credit: © ShutterstockSynagogue ChurchThe Bible tells us that it was here that Jesus proclaimed he was the Son of G-d. His claim to be the Messiah enraged the people who then led him to the Mount of Precipice where they attempted to throw him to his death. A 12th century Crusader church is located two meters below ground level and visitors need to descend seven steps to reach the simple church. The unadorned church interior has exposed brickwork and a stone altar.Church of St. JosephThe Church of St. Joseph is built over the traditional site of Joseph’s home and workshop and over a cave used in the Roman era for food and water storage. The site was identified as the Holy family’s home and Joseph’s workshop as early as the Byzantine period when it became a place of worship.Then during the Crusade period a new church was built on the site and following its destruction in 1263 it was rebuilt in 1754. The present structure was constructed in 1914 on the earlier churches. Visitors can descent into the grotto beneath the church where there is an altar and the remains of the previous structures. Church of St. Joseph, Nazareth. Photo credit: © ShutterstockChurch of Our Lady of FrightThe ruins of this Franciscan church (1882) stand on a barren hillside overlooking the city. It is said to mark the spot where Mary stood when she watched in fear as her son Jesus was led by the townsfolk to the edge of the mountain to be thrown to his death. The people were angry that Jesus had proclaimed himself to be the Messiah but they didn’t succeed in killing him as he “…passed through the midst of them went his way.” Luke 4:22.Christ ChurchThis is a Protestant-Anglican church constructed in 1871; it was the 2nd Anglican Church to be built in Palestine. The church’s original design included a tall steeple which was never completed due to lack of funds. The cross-shaped church has a traditional Gothic Revival design. Today the church has a congregation of about 40 families and there are services in Arabic every Sunday.Salesian ChurchA major part of this church’s beauty is in the breathtaking location on a ridge overlooking the city; it is possible to walk from the church down into the city center. The large white church was constructed in the French neo-Gothic style and has twin towers on the façade. Within the church is a life-size statue of Jesus as a young boy created by sculptor Bognio.There are beautiful large stained glass windows that flood the space with natural light and high vaulted ceilings supported by pillars made of clusters of columns. The church is administered by the Roman Catholic Salesians founded in the 19th century by Saint John Bosco. The cavernous church has great acoustics and is often used for concerts and recitals.Nazareth and Sea of Galilee tour by Bein Harim Tourism Services. Photo credit: © Dmitry MishinMensa Christi ChurchNot to be confused with the Greek Catholic Orthodox Churchthis church is located in downtown Nazareth near Mary’s Well and according to the Greek Orthodox tradition was the site of the annunciation. Several churches have been built and then destroyed over this holy site; the present church was constructed in 1767 on the ruins of a Crusader church. The church has a simple exterior with a tall thin bell tower while the interior is more elaborate. There is a traditional Templon, or dividing screen separating the hall of the church from the altar area.As Jesus spent part of his childhood in Nazareth, in his parent’s Jewish community, he would have prayed in a synagogue thought to have stood where this church now stands. The church is located in the center of the Old City marketplace adjacent to the Greek Catholic Church and is administered by the Melkite Greek Catholics.The Jesus Table Church was constructed in 1861 around a piece of chalk rock believed to have been the table on which Jesus ate with his disciples after his resurrection. (Mark 16). The rock bears marks made by pilgrims as early as the 17th century. The quaint dome roofed church has a stone tablet above the entrance which features the date (1861); the Franciscan symbol of the 5 crosses and another of the hands of Jesus and Francis of Assisi crossed over a crucifix. The Mensa Christi is mentioned in several places in the Bible and is also associated with a location in Tabgha.To see the churches of Nazareth consider joining one of Nazareth tours.Annunciation Church, Nazareth.Photo credit: © Dmitry Mishin
Por Petal Mashraki

Following the Gospel Trail

In Israel you can literally follow in the footsteps of Jesus, visiting the many locations where he preached, lived and died. The Gospel Trail (also called the Jesus Trail) is a moderate hike route which has been devised linking several significant points mentioned in the Gospel so that those following the trail can not only enjoy the gorgeous countryside of northern Israel but also visit biblical sites.Stones With The Colorful Christian Religious Drawing.Photo credit: © ShutterstockThe Gospel Trail runs through Galilee, often called the cradle of Christianity because it was here that Jesus grew up and where he returned to preach during his ministry. Jesus grew up in Nazarethand later based himself in Capernaum during his ministry when he went from village to village preaching God’s word.The Gospel Trail opened in 2011 today it covers 60 km of signposted footpaths and roads which trace historical and biblical routes where Jesus is believed to have walked when he left Nazareth for Capernaum on the northwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee. The signposts which mark the route are hewn into basalt rock to blend into the natural surroundings. Each signpost features scriptures relating to the Biblical events which took place at that location. Along the way, there are also information stands, picnic sites, and benches.It is possible to follow the trail on foot, bike, by car, or combine those using different forms of transport on different stretches of the trail. You can choose which segments of the route you follow according to your interests and your fitness level. There are even stretches of the trail which are wheelchair accessible.The thorn crown.Photo by Samuel Lopes on UnsplashThe Gospel Trail RouteThe Gospel Trail runs from Nazareth to Capernaum. The route begins at Mount Precipice, on the southern outskirts of Nazareth, and travels through valleys and limestone hills via Beit Qeshet Oak Reserve, Magdala, Tabgha and finally reaches Capernaum on the edge of the Sea of Galilee. The route incorporates pathways that have been used by shepherds, travelers, farmers, and merchants since ancient times. The route ends at the Capernaum Center from where you can reach the Sea of Galilee where a dock has been constructed so that followers of the trail can pray at the water’s edge and enjoy the breathtaking views across the water.Gospel Trail Points of InterestNazareth – The city where the Angel Gabriel appeared to Mary to tell her of her future pregnancy and son. It is also the city where Jesus grew up. One of the highlights of Nazareth is the Church of the AnnunciationTsipori National Park – This was the administrative capital of Galilee in Jesus’ lifetime. In addition to the amazing nature, there is an archeological site dating back to the 2nd century. It is most famous for its Byzantine mosaics on an ancient synagogue floor.Cana – Here Jesus performed his first miracle turning water into wine. Visitors can see the Wedding Church and museum.Mount of Beatitudes, Israel.Photo credit: © ShutterstockIlaniya – This small Jewish community was one of the earliest farming community settlements. Today the community offers visitors a model 20th century farm, the ruins of a Byzantine synagogue, and some ancient caves.Roman Road – The route crosses an ancient Roman road that would have been used by Jesus. During his lifetime it was a major thoroughfare running east to west.Kibbutz Lavi – One of only a few orthodox religious kibbutzim; it was founded in 1949 and today is known as a major producer of synagogue furniture.Horns of Hattin – A decisive battle took place here between the Crusaders and Saladin in 1187. From the double hills, there are brilliant views across the Galilee.Nebi Shu’eib – The site of the traditional Tomb of Jethro, father-in-law of Moses. Today the site is marked by a large Druze mosque and complex.Arbel National Park – There are gorgeous views from these dramatic cliffs where the Romans conquered the Hasmonean rebels.Interior of the Church of the Multiplication, Tabgha. Photo credit: © ShutterstockMigdal (Magdala)– This is the site of the ancient town of Magdala, the hometown of Mary Magdalene. Here there are several Roman-era ruins.Sea of Galilee – Israel’s largest freshwater lake is also the site of many biblical events. It was here that Jesus walked on water and calmed the storm. Today you can take short cruises on the lake, swim and enjoy the beaches.Jesus Boat – A 1st-century fishing boat was discovered in the Sea of Galilee; it has been preserved and is on display at Kibbutz Ginosar.Tabgha – Visit the Church of the Multiplication of Loaves and Fishes and see where Jesus appeared to his disciples after his resurrection.Mount of Beatitudes – This was the site of the Sermon on the Mount. Today the mount is topped by a beautiful church.St. Peter’s Primacy, Tabgha– This church on the water’s edge was built in 1933 and marks the site where Jesus made Peter head of the church. The church holds the Mensa Christi, a slab of rock thought to be where Jesus sat with his disciples.Capernaum – Jesus based himself in Capernaum while preaching in Galilee and there are several mentions of Capernaum in the Bible. This is also where Jesus performed a number of miracles and where you can see St. Peter’s House.You can continue on from Capernaum to visit the city of Tiberias, the Jordan River, Mount Tabor, and Mount Precipice as a continuation of the Gospel Trail. Most of these sites can be covered with Nazareth and Galilee toursor Christian Israel tour packages.Sea of Galilee view. Photo credit: © Shutterstock
Por Petal Mashraki

Nazareth the City

The modern-day city of Nazareth is the largest and capital city of Northern Israel. It is known as the Arab capital of Israel as the population is predominantly Muslim and Christian Arabs. Alongside Nazareth is Nazareth Illit with a predominantly Jewish population. However it is not modern-day Nazareth that attractions tourists to the city but the ancient biblical history. Nazareth is named in the New Testament as the hometown of Mary and Joseph and later as the town where Jesus spent his childhood. For this reason Nazareth has been a major Christian pilgrimage destination since the 6th century Byzantine era.Annunciation Church, Nazareth.Photo credit: © ShutterstockNazareth in the New TestamentThe Gospel of Luke tells us that Nazareth was the hometown of Mary and the site of the Annunciation where the Angel Gabriel appeared before her and told Mary of her future son (Luke 1:26). After Jesus was born in Bethlehem and a short sojourn in Egypt the Gospel of Matthew tells us that Joseph, Mary, and Jesus settled in Nazareth. It was here that Jesus spent his childhood.Top Nazareth AttractionsEver since the biblical sites of Nazareth were identified in the 4th century Christians have built churches to mark these locations. The most important biblical locations in Nazareth are the sites of the Annunciation and the place believed to be where the Holy family lived.Basilica of the AnnunciationNazareth’s top attraction is this magnificent church built on the site of Mary’s childhood homewhere Roman Catholics believe the Annunciation took place. A Christian altar was built on this site as early as the 4th century and since then a Byzantine and Crusader church has stood here. The church had a rough history as it was destroyed several times and Christian access was routinely denied or they were charged a fee to visit the holy site. Basilica of Annunciation in Nazareth, Israel.Photo credit: © ShutterstockFinally, in 1730 ruling sheik Zahir al-Umar allowed the Franciscans to build a church on the site of Mary’s childhood home, the site of the Annunciation. This church survived until 1955 when it was taken down to make way for a new, larger church constructed in 1967. Visitors to the Church of the Annunciation can see the remains of earlier Byzantine and Crusader churches as well as the excavated 1st-century dwelling believed to have been Mary’s childhood home and the site of the Annunciation.TheChurch of the Annunciationhas two levels; the lower level holds the excavated 1st century remains while the upper level is used as a parish church. The Basilica is topped by an unusual cement dome. One of the features of the church is a collection of mosaics from Christian communities around the world depicting Mary and baby Jesus. The church is the largest in the Middle East.The interior of Annunciation Church, Nazareth. Photo credit: © ShutterstockChurch of St. Gabriel (Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation)In the 6th century, the Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation was built near Mary’s Well over Mary’s Spring that feeds the Well. Greek Orthodox believe that the Annunciation took place here as Mary was fetching water. This is the Greek Orthodox alternative to the Catholic Church of the Annunciation. The present church was built in 1750. Visitors can still see Mary’s Spring running beneath the church altar. In the upper part of the church, there is a magnificent carved and painted wooden iconostasis from 1767. The Chapel of the Spring dates back to 1750 and features a barrel-vaulted roof and colorful marble and glazed ceramics.St Joseph's ChurchThe Church of St Joseph is perhaps Nazareth’s second most popular attraction. It stands alongside the Catholic Church of the Annunciation and commemorates the site of the Holy family’s home and Joseph’s workshop. Beneath the church are the excavated remains of a 1st-century dwelling thought to have been Joseph’s workshop and the Holy family home. the present church was built in 1914 on the site of an earlier Crusader church.St. Joseph's Church, Nazareth.Photo credit: © ShutterstockMary’s WellThe natural spring that feeds Mary’s Well is believed to have been where Mary would have gone to collect water for her family. Today the Well is a public fountain covered by a reconstruction of a 19th-century structure.Synagogue ChurchJesus returned to Nazareth twice during his ministry in Galilee. He taught in the Nazareth synagogue and it was here that he outraged worshipers by announcing his ministry and declaring himself the Messiah. The crowd chased Jesus to the top of a hill where they intended to throw him off a cliff but he miraculously disappeared. This hill is known today as Mount Precipice, or the “Hill of the Leap” located about 3km south of Nazareth. (Luke 4:16-30). The Church of Our Lady of the Fright marks the site where Mary stood as she watched Jesus attacked by the crowd. The synagogue where Jesus prayed is now marked by a Crusader-era Melkite Greek Catholic Church (Synagogue Church). Other Nazarethsites include the Coptic Church of the Annunciation; the Mensa Christi Church (1781); Basilica of Jesus the Adolescent, a large church overlooking the city from a hilltop; Nazareth Village, a recreated 1st-century village as Nazareth would have been in Jesus’ lifetime; the Anglican Christ Church; the White Mosque, the oldest mosque in the city; the gold-domes Maqam al-Nabi Saeen Mosque and the excavated Ancient bath House.To see the biblical sites of Nazareth join theNazareth and Sea of Galilee tour.Tower of the St. Joseph's Church in the Old City of Nazareth. Photo credit: © Shutterstock
Por Petal Mashraki

Tabgha

Tabgha is a small area right on the edge of the Sea of Galilee, on the western shore between Capernaum and Ginosar and just below the Mount of Beatitudes. The name Tabgha comes from the Greek – Heptapegon, meaning place of the seven springs. Tabgha has been identified as the site of the miracle of the loaves and fish (Mark 6:30-46) and the place where resurrected Christ came to meet his disciples (John 21:1-24). The seven springs of Tabgha bring warm water into the Sea of Galilee attracting fish which has made it a popular fishing area for centuries. The area has lush green vegetation, trees offering shade and the cool water just a few steps away.Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fish, Tabgha. Photo credit: © ShutterstockBiblical TabghaThe Gospel of Matthew tells us that after Jesus heard that John the Baptist had been beheaded by the Romans he withdrew in a boat to a secluded area. Crowds of followers went after Jesus and by nightfall, there were 5,000 people gathered on the hillside. Jesus took five loaves of bread and two fish and gave them the traditional blessing. Then he divided the food among the gathered crowd. The loaves and fish miraculously fed all of the 5,000 people and there were even leftovers.After Jesus was resurrected he appeared several times to the disciples; one of these appearances took place in Tabgha. Peter, Andrew, Simon, and four other disciples were at Tabgha where they had been fishing through the night but had failed to catch anything. They came ashore and as the sun rose they saw Jesus standing in front of them on the beach of Tabgha. The disciples did not recognize Jesus but he called out to them. He told them to throw their fishing nets back into the water. When the disciples brought their nets in they found them full of fish. Jesus prepared food for the disciples over a fire and lay out the food on a rock. This rock became known as the Mensa Christi and can be seen today in the Church of the Primacy of St. Peter at Tabgha.Jesus challenged Peter’s faith three times symbolically canceling out the three times that Peter denied Christ on the night before the crucifixion. Then Jesus commissioned Peter to lead the church. He asked Peter to feed his lambs, tend his sheep and feed his sheep. Jesus also told Peter that he would die a martyr. From this point onwards Peter was recognized as the head of the church and the apostles.History of TabghaFloor mosaics in theChurch of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fish, Tabgha.Photo credit: © Dmitry MishinIn the Byzantine era, the spring water of Tabgha was channeled into three water towers and taken via aqueducts to nearby Ginosar to be used for irrigation. During the 4th century, a small chapel was built by Joseph of Tiberias. It was replaced with a chapel in 480 by Martyrius of Jerusalem, the Patriarch of Jerusalem. Martyrius was originally from Egypt and he had the floor mosaics of the chapel created in the Egyptian style. The mosaic we see today of the fish and loaves has survived from this original chapel.The chapel was destroyed in 614 and remained in ruins until excavation in the 20th century. Under the Crusaders the Church of St Peter’s Primacy was constructed in Tabgha and the city was known as Mensa Christi (table of Christ) or Mensa Domini (work of the table). During the Ottoman era in 1595, a village existed on the site of Tabgha with a few houses and mills. Under the British Mandate, a community of Muslim and Christian Arabs lived here and farmed the land. During the 1948 Israeli War of Independence, Tabgha was cleared of residents and structures destroyed. Since then Tabgha’s lands and historic structures have been restored.Tabgha AttractionsChurch of the Primacy of St. PeterAfter Jesus’ resurrection, he appeared to his disciples at Tabgha where they sat down together to eat. It was at this time that Jesus chose Peter to lead the Christian church. This site is commemorated on the beach of Tabgha by the Church of the Primacy of St Peter. It is a small structure built in 1934 of black basalt rock. In the surrounding gardens, you can see a bronze sculpture depicting Jesus giving Peter his blessing. The church is literally on the water’s edge and you can take just a few steps down to the shore and even touch the water. This is a quaint and peaceful church with idyllic gardens and ample shade all around.Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and FishThe 20th centuryChurch of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fish that we see today stands on the site of the original 4th-century church and the Byzantine floor mosaic has survived. The mosaic features images of birds, snakes, vines, fish, and flowers. There are peacocks, a flamingo, swan, ducks, herons, geese, cranes, geese, and cormorants. The most significant mosaic is the one closest to the altar that depicts a basket of bread flanked by two fish. Rock in its natural state lies beneath the altar and is believed to be where Jesus placed the bread and fish as he made the blessing.To visit Tabgha, join ourNazareth and Galilee Tour.
Por Petal Mashraki

Easter Pilgrim Tours to Israel

Christians planning a special trip to Israel for Easter can opt to take a number of tours which include religious ceremonies, touring religious sites and seeing the rest of the country. The highlight of an Easter pilgrim tour is the Palm Sunday Procession. If you are taking an Israel tour during Easter then make sure the Palm Sunday procession is included in your itinerary. As Israel is a Jewish country the Easter holiday is not a national holiday – there is no school vacation or day off work for Israelis over Easter. However in the cities with significant Christian populations there are celebrations and religious services. The cities with the highest concentration of Christians in Israel are Nazareth and Jerusalem.Easter Christian Pilgrim ToursMake sure your Easter pilgrim tour includes visiting major sites in Israel like the Dead Sea, the Sea of Galilee and Tel Aviv. However you will find that most Easter activity takes place in Jerusalem. Easter celebrates the resurrection of Christ. All the events of Passion Week leading up to Jesus crucifixion and resurrection took place in Jerusalem. On a pilgrim Israel tour you will visit sites where Biblical events took place during Passion Week. If you are interested in a fantastic Christian-orientated Easter pilgrim tour which combines religious ceremonies, the Palm Sunday Procession and top attraction in Israel then contact Bein Harim Tours.The Palm Sunday Procession Palm Sunday is celebrated by Protestants and Catholics with a procession which goes from the Mount of Olives to the Old City retracing the route Jesus would have taken as he entered Jerusalem. On an Easter pilgrim Israel tour you can join in the procession and with other Christians you can wave palm fronds, sing and pray. The procession culminates at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Old city. This church was built over the site where Jesus was crucified and where he was laid to rest. At the end of the procession the Orthodox and Armenian Christians together with other denominations continue the procession inside the Holy Sepulchre.Maundy ThursdayAn Easter pilgrim tour will take you to the Room of the Last Supper on Mount Zion where Jesus and his disciples ate.church of the holy sepulchreGood FridayOn Good Friday it is traditional for Christians to join others along the Via Dolorosa where prayers are held at the Stations of the Cross. The procession is led by Franciscan Friars. Some denominations hold ceremonies at the Garden Tomb on Good Friday. On Holy Friday there is a very unique event, the Ceremony of the Holy Fire. During this ceremony one of the religious leaders goes into the Tomb of the Holy Sepulchre and lights a candle. When he emerges the light is passed from person to person in the crowd as they each light a candle.Easter SundayOn Easter Sunday and Easter Monday there are religious services in churches across Israel. The most important being those of the Holy Sepulchre. A sunrise service is held for Protestants at the Garden Tomb.
Por Petal Mashraki

Christmas in Israel

Whether you’re a practicing Christian, an amateur historian, a theology student or simply a curious tourist, we think it’s fair to say that there’s nowhere like Israel to spend Christmas. Actually, the fact is that Israel is probably the ultimate place to spend this time of the year, with cultural and religious events held throughout the country, both in the larger centres and smaller towns.Christmas tree in Bethlehem. Photo credit: © ShutterstockNow if you’re coming from North America, or Western Europe, the chances are that you’ll associate Christmas with the date 25th December, the date that many believe commemorates the birth of Jesus. However, in Israel, Christmas is actually celebrated on three different dates - December 25th, January 7th, and January 19th. This, of course, is because different denominations follow different calendars - the Roman Catholic church follows the Gregorian calendar whilst the Armenian Church (in Jerusalem) and the Greek Orthodox Church follow what is known as the Julian calendar. Which Calendar?What does that mean in practice? Well, essentially that Roman Catholics (as well as Anglicans, Episcopalians, and Lutherans, celebrate on December 25th, and actually the Greek Orthodox Church celebrates on this day too. However, according to the Julian calendar, which is about 13 days out of sync with the Gregorian calendar. December 25th actually falls on January 7th!To make things even more complicated, the Armenian Church in Jerusalem celebrates Christmas on January 6th (according to the Julian calendar) which - in real terms - ends up being January 19th according to Gregorian calculations.Surprised Santa. Photo by krakenimages on UnsplashA Unique Experience in a Holy LandOver the years, in practice, Christmas celebrations in Israel have slowly become more aligned with Western celebrations - including the putting up of Christmas trees. Decorations of light and even Christmas markets. However, let us not forget that this is the Holy Land, and prayers, worship, celebrations, and the reciting of beautiful liturgies always take center stage, both in Bethlehem (famous for being the birthplace of Jesus) and many a communal feast!Ultimately, spending Christmas in the Holy Land has to be on many a bucket list and few come away from this kind of experience disappointed. So for those of you lucky to be arriving in a few months (and, sorry, as you know there are no guarantees, thanks to COVID-19), we thought we’d fill you in. It’s been a mad 18 months and having something to look forward to always helps so here’s our complete guide to the hows, wheres, and whys of Christmas events and services all over Israel. Happy Holidays everyone! Christmas in JerusalemThere’s no more atmospheric place to be than Jerusalem at Christmas time. The festival is really quite visible in the streets - with decorations and lights on many corners - more than anywhere else in Israel - which means you can really soak up the atmosphere. Whether you want to wander from church to church in the Old Cityor enjoy something a bit more modern around the Mamilla Mall or the YMCA, you won’t be short of activities to enjoy in a city that combines old with new.There are quite a few Christmas markets, the most popular of which seem to be the one at the New Gate that runs from Saturday to Tuesday in the week before Christmas Day (free entrance). For something more young and fun, head to the Abraham Hostel for their annual party, or walk over to the YMCA which holds a lovely evening each year, complete with carols, musical performances, and sometimes even dancing. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem. Photo credit: © ShutterstockThe Church of the Holy SepulchreWithin the walls of the Old City, the most popular church to visit at this time of year is usually the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Believed to be the site where Jesus was crucified, buried, and resurrected, each year it holds a solemn Midnight Mass and the atmosphere inside the church - lit with hundreds of candles - is nothing short of spectacular.There are also many other places to enjoy liturgy - both in the Christian and Armenian quarters and also at the Church of All Nations and also Dominus Flevit) with its famous and evocative glass window) on the nearby Mount of Olives. For a more detailed look at what to do in this extraordinary city, over December, take a look at our Christmas in Jerusalem article.Christmas in BethlehemAt this time of year, this small town just a few kilometers from Jerusalem comes to life, with Christians, Jews, and Muslims all celebrating together at the city’s central area, aptly named Manger Square. There’s a huge tree lit up for Christmas in Bethlehem, and you’ll no doubt hear carols being sung and have a chance to enjoy performances. Midnight Mass is held at the Church of the Nativity but, because of its popularity, entrance is by ticket only. But fear not - the mass is live screened around the world and you can watch it happening inside the church from a huge screen installed outside, in Manger Square. This really is an astonishing experience, and many visitors enjoy a Christmas Eve in Bethlehem Tour, which includes a festive meal in the area.Church of Shepherd's Field, Bethlehem.Photo credit: © ShutterstockChristmas in Nazareth - Market Stalls and Firework DisplaysNazareth might be a small city in comparison to Jerusalem, but it’s definitely worth a visit at this time of the year. Home to Israel’s largest Christian population, historically it was the place Mary was visited by the Angel Gabriel (announcing to her that she would bear a child) as well as being the place where Jesus spent his childhood. Nazareth is also within a short driving distance of the Sea of Galilee (if you’re in the mood for an outing and want to enjoy pastoral views, the famous baptismal site of Yardenit,and beautiful churches, including those where Jesus performed miracles and gave his famous Sermon on the Mount).Within Nazareth itself, there are beautiful churches to visit, including the Church of the Annunciation and the Church of St. Joseph. The city begins celebrating Christmas in the early part of December, with the lighting of a large Christmas tree in the city center. Trees are put up in many streets and there are also outdoor markets with stalls, where you can enjoy both Christmas and Hanukkah celebrations (Hanukkah is the Jewish festival of lights). On Christmas Eve, which is December 24th, why not join the afternoon parade which proceeds through streets towards the Church of the Annunciation, where you can afterwards enjoy a lovely firework display? Christmas mass is then held inside, at the Basilica, at 7 pm.Inside the Church of Annunciation, Nazareth.Photo credit: © ShutterstockChristmas in Jaffa -Music, Lights, Artwork and MassJaffa, which sits just south of Tel Aviv is another beautiful place where Jews, Christians, and Muslims have lived peacefully side by side for years now. In December, the vibrant Jaffa Flea Market (which is always good if you’re looking for vintage finds, cheap clothes, or just some ‘treasure’) is adorned with Christmas lights. After you’ve wandered the area, you can enjoy a light bite, some traditional hummus, or a local mint tea in one of the many cafes there, before taking a walk down to the historic Jaffa Port.On the way, stop on Yefet Street and admire the huge Christmas tree that stands by the Clock Tower. There are often Hanukkah celebrations at the same time (last year, there were illuminated dreidels - the toys that children spin on this fun Jewish festival). There’s lots of artwork to see and several musical performances, as well as lots of cultural and communal activities. You can attend Midnight Mass and other Christmas services at one of the Catholic and Protestant churches around the city:St. Peter's Church - this Franciscan church in the historical part of Jaffa is where St. Peter performed numerous miracles and, perched at the top of a hill, has been a Christian center for thousands of years.Immanuel Church - built in 1904, to accommodate the area’s German Evangelical community, this Lutheran church is always happy to greet new faces and stands on the foundation of Judaism and the Jewish People.St. Nicholas’s Monastery at the Jaffa Port - built in 1 CE, and today hosting an Armenian church, this is one of the oldest structures in Jaffa and Napoleon even visited his soldiers here in 1799!St. Anthony's Church - opened in 1932 and named after the monk Franciscan Mafdobe, a Franciscan patron, this church is very popular with Catholics. It offers beautiful interiors and a serene atmosphere. At its front, there is a unique clock.And just to make it clear, the doors of all of these churches are open for everyone - so whether you’re a local or tourist, a Christian, Muslim, or Jew you’re are welcome to pop in and experience some traditional Jaffa hospitality!Old City of Jaffa, Israel.Photo credit: © ShutterstockChristmas in Haifa - The ‘Holiday of Holidays’Haifa is one of the few cities in Israel where Arabs and Jews actually live side by side, in relative harmony (and we say ‘Hallelujah’ to that!) A real Mediterranean city, situated on a hill and offering picturesque views of the surrounding Mount Carmel, it’s a wonderful place to walk around, with lovely architecture, small stores, and the famous Bahai Gardens.If you’re here in December, start with a walk around the traditional Wadi Nisnas neighborhood (a traditional and somewhat mixed area of Arabs and Jews). ‘Nisnas’ in Arabic means ‘mongoose’ and is a maze of old streets and alleyways, filled with small stores, bakeries, and artisan workshops.From there, you can head off into the German Colony, an area that has been beautifully restored in the last two decades. Look out for the famous Templar houses, built in the 1860’s - they have distinctive roofs - and stop for a coffee in one of the many bars and restaurants that line the main street.In the weeks before Christmas, Haifa loves to enjoy the 'Holiday of Holidays' with a series of events that mix up Christmas, Hanukkah, and Eid-al Adha! These include arts and crafts for kids, an antique fair, food prepared by the locals in Wadi Nisnas, music by local artists, and even a circus. And, naturally, there’s also a beautifully lit tree.Christmas tree.Photo by Kieran White on UnsplashTogether, this ‘Holiday of Holidays’ represents a marvelous idea - that of coexistence. It’s all about a group of residents that live together harmoniously, each showing respect for the other’s religious and cultural values, and understanding that their lives and destinies are truly interwoven. It represents all that is good in Haifa.You may also want to visit the Stella Maris Carmelite Monastery in Haifa and participate in carol singing and Midnight Mass or Christmas morning mass. It is a beautiful and historic church, dating back to Crusader times and actually associated with the prophet Elijah.So wherever you end up traveling in Israel over this special time of year, drink in the atmosphere, enjoy the lights, music, and festivities, and happy holidays to you!
Por Sarah Mann

Christmas in Bethlehem

Christmas in Israel can be magical and a truly spiritual experience. There are services in local churches (mainly in Jerusalem, Nazareth and Bethlehem) as well as services held at the locations where Christmas events took place. Many tour buses leave Jerusalem on Christmas Eve to services in Shepherds' Field where an angel appeared to the shepherds on Christmas Eve. The tours continue to the Lutheran Church in Bethlehem and end off at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem for the Midnight Mass.Christmas tree in Bethlehem.Photo credit: © ShutterstockOf all the Christmas celebrations in Israel, perhaps the largest and most moving is at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem on Christmas Eve, where gather in Manger Square to be a part of the celebration of Jesus’ birth on the spot where the events unfolded.Christmas in Bethlehem includes processions through the streets, carol singing, and religious services which can all be an extremely spiritual experience.Roman Catholics celebrate on the 24th of December at Saint Catherine’s Church in Bethlehem, as well as on the 5th and 6th of January when the Epiphany is commemorated. Greek, Coptic, Romanian, and Syriac Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas on the 6th of January in Bethlehem. For those belonging to Orthodox denominations, it is customary to join into one of the many religious processions that are held in Bethlehem. Armenians tend to hold their services at the Basilica of the Nativity, although this falls a few weeks later than Protestant/Catholic times (usually the third week of January). These processions always pass through Manger Square, close to the site where it is believed that Jesus was born. For Protestants, it is a different matter.Some of them, of course, will attend evening services in their local churches whilst others will make the trip to the Church of the Nativity or Shepherd’s Field. For Protestants who want to travel to Bethlehem from Jerusalem, the YMCA organizes an evening trip. In Jerusalem, popular Protestant and Anglican churches include the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer and St. George’s.Nativity scene, stained glass, Church of St. Catherine, Bethlehem.Photo credit: © ShutterstockChristmas traditions in Bethlehem tend to be in the same vein as those in Europe and North America. A week or two before 25th December lights will be put up, as well as other decorations, and flags will fly. Christians often paint crosses on the doors of their home and traditional Christmas markets are held, selling all kinds of fare associated with the holiday. If you look in the windows of peoples’ houses, you may also see miniature Nativity scenes on display.On 24th December - Christmas Eve - an afternoon parade is held in the center of the town and all of the residents, not to mention pilgrims and tourists, crowd the streets in an attempt to get a bird’s eye view of the celebrations. At the head of the Parade are officers on horses and behind them a man - also on a black horse - carrying a cross. Following him are government and church officials. Once the parade has arrived at the Church of Nativity followed by a man riding over a black steed and carrying a cross. After him comes the churchmen and government officials. After the parade has entered the Church of the Nativity, a statue of the ‘Holy Child’ is placed inside. The honored guests then descend down a long flight of stairs which leads them into a grotto. There can be seen a silver star - this is the place that marks Christ’s birth.In Nazareth, there are Christmas Eve parades and firework displays as well as church services. In all over 90,000 foreign visitors arrive in Israel annually to celebrate Christmas. Christmas is celebrated also in Haifa and in Jaffa. It is important to remember that throughout the rest of Israel you could probably not even notice that it is Christmas in Israel as unlike America and Europe the streets and stores are not decorated, there is no Santa ringing a bell outside shops, and Christmas music cannot be heard in the streets. Book a tour to the Christmas Eve in Jerusalem & midnight mass in BethlehemInside the Church of St. Catherine, Bethlehem.Photo credit: © Shutterstock
Por Petal Mashraki

The Best Ways to Spend Christmas 2019 in Israel

Christmas 2019 is just around the corner, and in Israel, the land where the events of Christmas actually took place there is excitement in the air as decorations go up, trees are erected in city centers and churches prepare for special Christmas services. You won't see Christmas celebrated in all Israeli cities but in places where there are Christian communities you can experience the holiday season in the Holy Land, unlike anywhere else in the world. To help you plan your time in Israel as you celebrate Christmas here are some of the most popular and special 2019 Christmas events in Israel.2019 Christmas Events in JerusalemYMCA Christmas Concert: 24.12.2019, 19:30-21:30The traditional Christmas celebrations at the historic YMCA building in Jerusalem include a Christmas Eve concert featuring more than 80 performers. Among those performing will be the Jerusalem Street Orchestra; YMCA Academy Orchestra; the Jerusalem Oratorio Choir and the Jerusalem Youth Choir, with youths from West and East Jerusalem. You can expect to hear all the classic Christmas songs and enjoy a festive atmosphere at this annual event.Santa’s House: Throughout December 2019, 17:00-20:00Each year Santa’s House opens its doors to excited young visitors. Situated on St. Peter’s Street in the heart of Jerusalem’s Old City, Santa’s House is a non-profit attraction supported by donations with the sole purpose of delighting young visitors. The house belongs to a family whose generations have inhabited the Old City for over 700 years. Santa’s House is decked-out with traditional Christmas decorations and although it may not be the North Pole, families can enjoy the warm, cheerful atmosphere in Santa’s house.Dormition Church Christmas Concert: 2019: 21/12/2019, 11:00Attend a Christmas concert in the beautiful Dormition Church on Mount Zion. This year’s guest performer will be the French classic organist, Maurice Clerc. The concert will include a variety of arrangements on the organ. Enjoy the music of this world-renowned performer in the surroundings of one of Jerusalem’s most exquisite churches.The Dormition Church2019 Christmas Events in JaffaHappy Market: 20/12/2019, 10:00-16:00This lively market takes place at the Art Club at 9 Shach Street. The market stalls will hold hand-made goods such as ceramics, jewelry, glassware, clothing as well as flowers and a range of Christmas items. No Israeli market would be complete without some delicious food stalls and at the Happy Market, you won’t go hungry! Free admission.Jaffa Christmas Parade 2019: 27/12/2019, 17:30This annual parade includes music; decorated parade floats escorted by Santa figures and other holiday-themed participants. The parade will travel along Yefet Street stopping at a number of points along the way including the churches along the route where kids will be treated with sweets, small gifts and other surprises. Free admission.Scouts Christmas Carnival Parade: Friday 06.01.2020, 17:30 (there may be changes)Come join this annual parade presented by more than 550 scouts, members of Jaffa’s Orthodox Scouts Club. The parade will travel from Evn Rashd Street, down the length of Yefet Street to St. George’s Church on Louis Pasteur Street. This traditional carnival includes costumed participants, performances by the scouts’ orchestra ending with a brilliant firework display. Free admission.A Christmas treeScouts Christmas Carnival Parade2019 Christmas Events in Western GalileeChristmas Run in Mi'ilya: Friday, 20.12.2019, 08:00This will the 5th year that this fun run has been held in the beautiful Galilee to celebrate Christmas and the Festival of Lights, Hanukah. Each year this Christian village is decorated with colorful Christmas lights and Christmas trees for the holiday season. The run marks a coming-together of people of different faiths and cultures. People of all faiths, persuasions and communities are invited to join in for a run through the lanes of this magical Galilee village. You’ll have the choice of a 2km, 5km or a competitive 10km run. The run has been created to suit individuals as well as families with kids. There will be prizes for the winners in categories above 5km. A fee will be charged for Participation in the Christmas run.Western Galilee Winter Festival: Thursday-Saturday, 19.12.2019-21.12.2019 (times may vary)The Western Galilee Now Organization holds an annual Winter Festival with events and happenings spread across several villages. There will be an exciting schedule of Christmas-related events. Kfar Pasuta is considered one of the best festival villages where the celebrations include a wide range of activities; musical performances; Christmas carols; family activities and tours through the quaint lanes. Kfar Eilabun is another popular destination during the festival; here there is a Christmas tree lighting ceremony in the village square and an adjacent Christmas market. The Kfar Eilabun celebrations include street performers, a parade and wonderful kid’s shows.Christmas Season in Mi’ilya:Saturday – Monday, 21.12.2019-23.12.2019, 10:00-24:00 - The traditional Christmas market in Mi’ilya has Christmas food stalls, artists’ stalls, Christmas candy stalls and sale of Christmas decorations. The market is also where you can see kid’s shows and towards nightfall musical performances for all the family.Tuesday – Wednesday, 2.12.2019-25.12.2019 10:00-18:00 – One of the most moving events in Mi’ilya during the Christmas season is the church service and choral singing held in the Greek Orthodox Holy Mary Church. Free admission.2019 Christmas Events in HaifaHaifa Holiday of Holidays Festival: Thursday – Sunday, 19.12.2019-28.12.2019, various hours throughout the day.The Holiday of Holiday Festival is one of the largest and most important festive season events held in Israel. 2019 will be the 26th year of this festival that takes place on weekends throughout December in the Wadi Nisnas neighborhood and down to the German Colony at the lower end of the Baha'i Garden. The holiday of Holidays celebrates Haifa’s multicultural communities and the principles of mutual respect; cultural tolerance and diversity. The city is decorated with colorful decorations and lights; there is a wide range of special events, musical performances, lectures, parties and markets held throughout Haifa. Many of the festival events have free admission and most of the exhibitions will be open from 10 am to 8 pm.Among the events of the Holiday of Holiday festival 2019:Opening Ceremony, Beit HaGefen Theatre, 19.12.2019, 20:30 – Join locals and dignitaries for a festive opening ceremony where there will be game tables, tours, musical performances, stand-up performances and much more.Christmas Parade, Ein Dor Catholic Church, 21.12.2019, 17:00 – the traditional Christmas parade in Haifa will travel down Ein Dor Street and continues to Allenby Street via the German Colony and back again.Family Happening, Beit HaGefen yard, 26.12.2019, 11:00-15:00 – This fun-filled annual happening for the whole family includes creative workshops; make-up stations; food stalls; circus performances; fun games where everyone can participate and more.
Por Petal Mashraki

Special Events in Jerusalem on Good Friday

Good Friday is commemorated on the Friday before Easter Sunday each year and marks the day that Christ was crucified. The Crucifixion of Jesus took place in Jerusalem (on a site now within the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Old City) so if you are lucky enough to be in Jerusalem on Good Friday you will have the unique experience of being exactly where these Biblical events took place. Good Friday is marked in Jerusalem by religious services in the many churches and by other unique events. Thousands of Christians come to Jerusalem for Good Friday to take part in the moving events of that day.Via Dolorosa ProcessionThe most major event in Jerusalem on Good Friday is a procession by Roman Catholics and Protestants which retraces the route Jesus took from his sentencing in front of Pontius Pilot to Golgotha where he was crucified. He carried his heavy cross along this route, known as the Via Dolorosa (Way of Suffering or Way of Sorrows)) and paused at 14 points along the way. The places where Jesus stopped along the Via Dolorosa are called the Stations of the Cross. Each year thousands of pilgrims carrying crosses, chanting, praying and singing hymns proceed through the streets of the Old City along the Via Dolorosa led by Christian religious leaders of Jerusalem. At each of the Stations of the Cross they stop to pray. The brown robed Franciscan friars pause at each of the stations to explain their religious significance and chant prayers in Latin. Some years there is someone dressed as Jesus bearing a heavy wooden cross that walks just behind the priests leading the procession. The person taking the role of Jesus wears a crown of thorns and has fake blood dripping from his wounds. “Jesus” is flanked by people dressed as Roman soldiers. The procession ends at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre where Jesus is believed to have been crucified, laid to rest in a tomb and later resurrected on Easter Sunday. Once the procession reaches the Holy Sepulchre where the final four Stations of the Cross are located the pilgrims pause to pray and later that day there are more special ceremonies within the church.Practical InformationEaster is celebrated on different days by the Orthodox denominations which follow the Julian calendar and by the Catholics and Protestants who follow the Gregorian calendar. Throughout the entire week of Easter there are special events in Jerusalem so if you cannot make it for Good Friday then try to be in the Holy City at some other time during the Holy Week.Special events on Good Friday in Jerusalem:7:15am – Passion of Christ on Calvary in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.11:30am – Procession of the Way of the Cross (Via Dolorosa) led by Franciscan monks from the Lion’s Gate to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.4pm – Liturgy of the Hours in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.8:10am – “Funeral Procession” in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.At the Garden Tomb there is an English Good Friday meditative service for Protestants.Roman Catholic and Protestant Good Friday Dates: 2017 – April 14; 2018 – March 30; 2019 – April 19 and 2020 – April 10.Orthodox Good Friday Dates: 2017 – April 14; 2018 – April 6; 2019 – April 26 and 2020 – April 17. In 2017 Good Friday dates for Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Protestants will coincide, this means that the Good Friday events in Jerusalem in 2017 will be even more memorable than other years. This happened in 2010, 2011 and 2014 but after 2017 it will not happen again until 2034.
Por Petal Mashraki
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