Israel for Christian travelers

Christians are historically and religiously connected to Israel. And so, a visit to the Holy Land is often a once-in-a-lifetime experience, filled with emotion, and an opportunity to see where the events of the Bible unfolded. Christians in Israel will find that Jerusalem holds the highest concentration of biblical sites. On a Christian Day Tour of Jerusalem, you can walk in the footsteps of Christ along the Via Dolorosa, visit churches on the Mount of Olives, and see the Room of the Last Supper on Mount Zion.

The highlight of any Christian tour to Israel is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem’s Old City, which marks the site where Christ was crucified and buried. See where John the Baptist baptized Jesus in the Jordan River, visit Jericho and the Sea of Galilee where Christ spent time during his ministry. On the edge of the Sea of Galilee stop at Capernaum, Cana, and the Mount of Beatitudes. Don’t miss the Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth and make an emotional journey to Bethlehem, and the Church of the Nativity. Christians in Israel should also include some of the must-see secular sites in their itinerary including the Dead Sea, Acre, and Tel Aviv.  In this section you will discover Israel from the Christian perspective. 

How to Cover all Christian Sites of the Galilee?

Christian sites in Israel are found mainly in Jerusalem and the Galilee where Jesus grew up and where he spent his ministry traveling from village to village preaching the word of God. The Christian sites of the Galilee should not be missed! They have great Biblical significance and are surrounded by the Galilee's stunning scenery. A good way to plan a trip to the Galilee that covers all Christian sites is to spend at least two days in the region. If your time is limited then spend a day touring just the Christian highlights along the shores of the Sea of Galilee (Kinneret in Hebrew). Your trip to the Galilee will probably start with a drive up Israel's Mediterranean coast past attractions like Caesarea and Haifa. Turning inland you'll travel through the Valley of Armageddon, where the prophesized Final Battle is predicted to take place during the End of Times. From here you have a view of Mount Tabor, site of the Transfiguration.Christian Sites around the Sea of GalileeTraveling over rolling green hills and past lush farmlands you'll look down on the Sea of Galilee nestled in an idyllic valley. Starting at the southern end of the sea move up the western shore past the city of Tiberias. The Sea of Galilee is where Jesus walked on water (John 6:19-21) and where he calmed the storm (Matthew 8:23-26). Stop in Magdala, once a small fishing village and home to Mary Magdalene. Travel a little further along the shore to Ginosar, a modern-day kibbutz in the shadow of Mount Arbel. The kibbutz is home to the Yigal Allon Museum which holds the Jesus Boat. During the 1986 drought, the Sea of Galilee's water level dropped dramatically revealing the remains of this 1st-century fishing boat buried in the bed of the lake. The fishing boat would have been the same kind of fishing vessel used by the disciples. The Bible tells us how Jesus crosses the water, landing in Ginosar where the people touched the fringe of His cloak and were cured of their ills.One of the most delightful Christian sites along the shore of the Galilee is Tabgha, site of the miracle of the multiplication of loaves and fish. Originally a 4th-century chapel was built here to mark the site of the miracle. A Byzantine Nile-themed floor mosaic has been preserved in the church along with a large rock where Jesus may have stood as he performed the miracle. Nearby is the Church of the Primacy of St. Peter; the traditional site of Christ's 4th appearance after his resurrection (John 21:1-24) and where he conferred primacy on Simon Peter giving him leadership over the church. Another incredible Christian site on the shore of the Sea of Galilee is the Mt. of Beatitudes crowned by a unique church, designed by Antonio Barluzzi in the 1930s to mark the place where Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount. Also visit Capernaum, once the hometown of Peter, Andrew, John, and James. Here Jesus based himself during his ministry; exorcised demons and healed the slave of a Roman centurion. The main Christian sites in Capernaum today are the excavated Byzantine village; remains of a 1st-century synagogue and an octagonal church built around the remains of what is believed to have been Saint Peter's home.If you'd like to venture to the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee, at the foot of the Golan Heights you can stop at Kursi, site of the miracle of the swine (Luke 8:26-39). Here you can see the ruins of a large Byzantine monastery and church and see the remains of a 5th-century church mosaic floor. If you are with a tour you will probably also venture up into the Golan Heights to visit places like the Shalom Observatory; former Syrian fortifications and Katzrin where there is an excavated and reconstructed Talmudic-era (4th-8th century) village. The easiest way to see these Christian sites is to take a one or two day tour like the Sea of Galilee, Cana, Magdala & Mt. of Beatitudes Tour. At the southernmost point of the sea where the River Jordan flows out of the Kinneret is the baptismal site Yardenit. Tours stop at Yardenit where it is possible to be baptized in the Jordan as Jesus was. Also visit Kfar Cana, famed as the site where Jesus attended a wedding and changed water into wine. The 19th century Wedding Church commemorates this miracle and encompasses the remains of Byzantine mosaics from an earlier 5th-6th-century church. The church holds two ancient stone jars similar to those used to hold wine during the Biblical-era.Nazareth and other Christian Sites in the GalileeOne of the top Christian sites in the Galilee is Nazareth; the Bible tells us how Mary and Joseph originated here and how Jesus spent his childhood with his family in Nazareth. It was here that the Angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and revealed the news of her future divine pregnancy and the son that would be born. The Church of Annunciation in Nazareth marks the traditional site of this Biblical event and was built over the grotto, believed to have been Mary's home. The Church of the Annunciation is a two-story basilica built in 1969 with a modern design. The church has a high cupola shaped like an up-turned lily representing Mary's purity. One of the most outstanding features of the church is the collection of representations of the Virgin Mary created in a variety of traditions from around the world.St. Joseph's Church stands not far from the Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth. Built in 1914 St. Joseph's Church is on the same site as the remains of a Crusader church. Beneath the church is a 1st-century grotto system believed to be the former home of the Holy Family and Joseph's carpentry workshop. Visitors can descend into the grottoes and see the original grotto-home. Imagine walking into Mary and Joseph's house; seeing where young Jesus would have played and where Joseph would have worked in his carpentry. While in Nazareth stop at Mary's Well and the nearby Saint Gabriel Church of the Annunciation where the Greek Orthodox tradition believes the annunciation took place. Just outside Nazareth, you can see Mount Precipice (Mount Kedumim or Mount of the Leap) where Jesus was chased out of the city and made a miraculous leap, disappearing from the ridge.
By Petal Mashraki

Christian Sites at the Sea of Galilee

There are many different types of Galilee tours which take you to northern Israel. Some of these tours specifically focus on Christian landmarks around the Sea of Galilee. Most people remember the story of Jesus walking on water, well that was here at the Sea of Galilee. However not everyone knows how many other Biblical scenes took place by this inland sea.The Sea of GalileeThe freshwater Sea of Galilee (in Hebrew: Kinneret) measures about 53 km in circumference. It is about 21 km long and 13 km wide covering an area of 166.7 km². The Kinneret is the second lowest lake in the world after the Dead Sea. Water enters the lake from underground springs and the Jordan River which enters the lake in the north and flows out in the south. Today the shores of the Sea of Galilee feature small communities, kibbutzim and the largest city on the lake shore – Tiberias. The Sea of Galilee is also a vacation and recreation destination with many beaches, camp grounds, hotels and watersport opportunities.sea of galilleeChristian Sites on the Edge of the Sea of Galilee1. Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and FishIn the small community of Tabgha on the western shore of the Kinneret is the site where Jesus shared just a few loaves and fish with a multitude of followers. A 5th century church commemorates this site and features restored mosaic floors.2. Church of St Peter’s PrimacyAlso located in Tabgha is the site where Jesus appeared to his Apostles after his resurrection. Here Jesus bestowed on Peter preeminence over the church.3. The Mount of BeatitudesThe Mount of Beatitudes overlooks the Sea of Galilee and today is crowned with a beautiful church. It was on the slopes of this mount that Jesus is believed to have given the Sermon on the Mount. The church we see today was built in the 1930s and designed by renowned architect Antonio Barhuzzi.4. YardenitThis is a baptismal site on the River Jordan at the southern point of the Sea of Galilee.Although experts now believe that Jesus was baptized at a different location along the Jordan River it is still one of the traditional baptismal sites. Christians on a Galilee tour often stop here to be baptized in the same river that John baptized Jesus.The river is accessible with stairs and railings. There are many other Christian landmarks to see in the Galilee including Nazareth, Cana, Mount Tabor and Capernaum.Don’t miss a trip to the Galilee when you are in Israel.
By Petal Mashraki

Easter in Jerusalem

For Christians, there is no doubt that Easter is the most spiritual holiday in their religious calendar - yes, it even trumps Christmas in the sacred stakes! Why? Because this is the time of the year that the crucifixion, burial and resurrection of Jesus, the son of God, is commemorated and celebrated. They last for a period of time known as ‘Holy Week’ commemorating the events before and after the crucifixion.Easter celebration.Photo by freestocks on UnsplashIn late March or early April each year (depending on the calendar), thousands of pilgrims from all denominations descend upon Jerusalem for a period like no other. Taking place within the walls of the Old City, and at the Garden Tomb (which is open for visits throughout Holy Week (8:30 am to 12 noon and 2 pm to 5:30 pm) they recreate scenes from the last week of Jesus’s life, culminating in a solemn procession on Good Friday and a great celebration on Easter Sunday. Let’s take a look at how the week unfolds and some of the rituals the make Easter in Jerusalem so special and moving for Christians…Palm SundayPalm Sunday always falls one week before Easter. It is the first day of’ ‘Holy Week’ and is a festival that commemorates Jesus’ triumphant entrance into Jerusalem. According to all of the Gospels, Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey and was greeted by his followers who all waved palm branches to celebrate. Historically, the palm branch may have been a symbol of victory and triumph and the donkey seen as an animal of peace (not war, as would have been a horse).Today, in the Old City, pilgrims recreate this scene as part of the Jerusalem Palm Sunday Procession Tour Beginning at the Mount of Olives, descending into the Kidron Valley and Gethsemane Garden, pilgrims walk solemnly through the Lions' gate and into the Old City. They proceed along the Via Dolorosa where Jesus walked his last steps before arriving at the cross. All along you hear cries of ‘Hosanna’ from the crowds. The procession is led by leaders of the Catholic Patriarchate (in brown robes), the Latin Patriarch (in purple robes) and the Greek Archbishop (in black robes). All along the way, the route is lined with Christian pilgrims (both local and those who have travelled from across the world) reciting blessings and singing songs. It is a very colourful and interesting ceremony, which culminates at St. Anne’s Church.Palm Sunday Procession. Photo by Brady Leavell on UnsplashMaundy ThursdayMaundy Thursday is also known as Holy Thursday and its name derives from the Latin ‘mandatum’ which means ‘command’. This ties up with Jesus’ commandment to his disciples “Love one another, as I have loved you.” This day, in essence, commemorates three major events:1. It is the day Jesus and his disciples sat down to eat the Last Supper. During this meal, Jesus took bread and wine and shared them with everyone at the table. Today, Christians around the world of all denominations continue to use bread and wine in their services of worship (such as the Eucharist and Mass). 2. Furthermore, on Holy Thursday, according to the Gospel of John, Jesus washed the feet of his apostles. This act has different meanings - to show that as an important person, Jesus practised humility and love to others. Some Christians also regard it as a way of seeking reconciliation with someone before taking communion. Today, there is a traditional Washing of the Feet ceremony carried out in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.3. Finally, this is the day in which Jesus was betrayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, after being betrayed by Judas. This was, for sure, a pivotal moment in Christianity.Today. In Jerusalem, pilgrims celebrate Maundy Thursday at the Room of the Last Supper (the Upper Room), located on Mount Zion. Some even hold an all-night vigil there, remembering Jesus’ hours in Gethsemane. In terms of the churches themselves, a Pontifical Mass (Supper of the Lord and Mass of the Chrism) is held at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre early in the morning. In the afternoon, in and around the Old City, there are pilgrimages from one church to another followed by services of the Washing of the Feet. Typically, the route of procession passes by the Church of All Nations, through the Lions' Gate, into the Old City and along the Via Dolorosa. All along the way, pilgrims sing songs in a number of languages and pray. Room of the Last Supper. Photo credit: © ShutterstockGood FridayGood Friday (also known as Holy Friday and Great Friday) is a very solemn - and incredibly important - day in the Christian calendar, marking the death of Jesus by crucifixion at Calvary (Golgotha). Many members of the various Christian denominations attend church services, abstain from eating meat and even fast. In the Roman Catholic, Lutheran and Anglican tradition, there is a service held between 12 and 3 pm, called ‘The Three Hour’s Agony’ (alluding to the hours Jesus was on the cross).In Jerusalem, each year, thousands of pilgrims descend on the Old City early in the morning, either to be part of the procession itself (tickets are numbered, limited and much sought after) or to pack the streets for a view. The procession itself is a recreation of the route Christ took, retracing his final steps on his way to the cross.The procession begins at the Mount of Olives, entering through the city walls and tracing its way along what is known as the Via Dolorosa (in Latin, ‘The Path of Sorrows’). Known as ‘the Way of the Cross’ it begins at 11.30 am at Station.1. The Stations of the Cross (14 in all, 8 en route and 6 in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre) refer to various images relating to Christ’s journey and his suffering as he walked this path.Mount of Olives. Photo credit: © ShutterstockIn the Old City, many pilgrims carry wooden crosses, sing hymns as they walk and often stop to recite prayers at each station. This is to symbolically offer ‘reparations’ for the insults and suffering that Jesus had to endure on his last journey which is estimated to have lasted 1.5 km (from Gethsemane to Calvary). The atmosphere is solemn and charged - many Christians, afterwards, describe it as one of the most moving moments of their lives. At the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the service is broken down into several parts: the Liturgy of the Word (carried out in silence). The Great Intercessions, the Adoration of the Cross, Communion (or Mass). Within this time, the liturgy will also include readings of the Gospel Passion narrative. After the ‘Three Hour’s Agony’ service - between 12 midday and 3 pm - vespers are read, to commemorate the time Christ’s body was taken down from the cross.Traditionally, on Good Friday, many Christians in Jerusalem will not eat meat or even fast entirely (to show their sorrow), will not perform any work, including washing clothes, breaking ground or playing with children. Since сhurches of the Old City of Jerusalem are open for the entire day, some pilgrims will spend much of the evening or night in contemplative prayer.A pilgrim in Via Dolorosa. Photo credit: © ShutterstockHoly SaturdayFor Orthodox communities, this day is known as Holy Saturday (‘Saturday of Light’) and each year in Jerusalem, it is commemorated with a ceremony named the Holy Fire Ceremony. This is held in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre - it is a popular ritual that is well attended by Christians from across the denominations.According to Orthodox tradition, at this time a blue light emanates from the tomb of Jesus and rises up from the marble slab (upon which his body was placed for burial). It is believed that the light forms a column of fire and, as a result, candles can be lit from it, both for the clergy and pilgrims in attendance. It is also thought that this ‘Holy Fire’ will not burn them and can be used to spontaneously light other candles and lamps in the church.In the darkness, the Patriarch kneels in front of the stone, and the crowd waits anxiously. When he emerges, with two candles lit, his audience breaks into applause and cheers with joy. The dome of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.Photo credit: © ShutterstockEaster SundayThe final day of the Holy Week culminates in enormous celebrations - commemorating the day that Christ rose from the dead. In Jerusalem, celebrations begin early - at 7 am - with the entry of the Latin Patriarch into the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. An hour later, the Mass of Resurrection is held and this includes a procession around the Rotunda. The service begins in darkness and one by one candles are lit. The Priest will state ‘ Christ is risen’ and the congregation will respond "He is risen indeed". All heads of the various Churches in Jerusalem will wear their brightest robes, in celebration, and bells will peal out. People pray individually and collectively. Protestants celebrate with an Easter sunrise service at the Garden Tomb.The week following Holy Week the Orthodox Christians (including Armenian, Coptic, Ethiopian, Syrian and Russian Orthodox) celebrate Easter with similar ceremonies and services. Without a doubt, if you are thinking of making a trip to Israel, a visit at this time of the year is highly encouraged. Springtime is beautiful in the Mediterranean and, combined with the rituals enacted in this special week, you will have the opportunity to witness something quite unique in Jerusalem - something that is sure to stay with you for the rest of your life.The best wat to visitholy Christian sites in Jerusalemis to join one ofChristian Day Tours.Inside the Church of Holy Sepulchre.Photo credit: © Shutterstock
By Sarah Mann


Bethlehem is the place of Christ’s birth but also a thriving modern Palestinian city. Today visitors can travel to Bethlehem to see the exact place where Jesus was born. To reach Bethlehem tourists in Israel must go through a border crossing into the Palestinian Authority of the West Bank and travel past places like the Inn of the Good Samaritan and Shepherds’ Field where shepherds watched their sheep on the night of Jesus’ birth. Once in Bethlehem tourists can visit historic churches built to mark specific biblical sites.Bethlehem rooftop view. Photo credit: © ShutterstockAccording to an ancient Hebrew saying, “a man is the fruit of his home’s landscapes.” The Christ is no mere man, of course, but as God sent His only begotten son to walk among us, we should feel blessed for having the opportunity to know Him and walk in his footsteps, as well as witnessing with our own eyes the environment in which He was born.For that reason, many Christians choose to take a tour of Bethlehem. In order to provide themselves with the best and most convenient tour possible, many Christians choose to take guided Israel toursand receive information about the place from experts who know all there is to know about Jesus Christ, the city, and its connection with Christianity throughout the generations.When the word Bethlehem rises to mind one could not be held guilty if he or she thinks of faraway biblical times, but as we know Bethlehem is not just a city of the past. Adorned with amazing churches built by many congregations during many different periods, filled with many significant museums and artifacts and containing beautiful natural surroundings, while Jesus’ birth is of course the city’s main attraction, it is far from being the only one. A good tour of the city will not only enlighten you as to what the city was but also show you what it is today.Bethlehem in the BibleBethlehem features in the Old Testament as the birthplace of King David; it is also where Rachel was buried when she died in childbirth giving birth to Benjamin (Genesis 35:19). In the Bible, the city is referred to as Beth Lechem – House of Bread; the City of David and as Ephratah. Bethlehem is mentioned many times in the Bible, for example in Ruth; Genesis; Joshua; Samuel I; Judges, and John.The New Testament’s Book of Luke and of Matthew tells the story of the Nativity. Joseph and Mary, who was pregnant, traveled from their hometown, Nazareth in Galilee to Bethlehem, near Jerusalem. They made the journey because of a census that required each citizen to return to their ancestral town to register. As Joseph was from the House of David he needed to return to Bethlehem, the City of David. When the couple arrived they found the city overflowing with visitors and no accommodation was available. As Luke tells us: “Mary laid Jesus in a manger as there was no room in the inn.”The Shepherds' Field Chapel.Photo credit: © ShutterstockBethlehem HistoryLess than a century after Jesus’ death tradition had established a site in Bethlehem that was believed to be the place of Jesus’ birth. Many houses at the time had an adjacent cave that was used for storage and to house animals and so a cave became the venerated site of the nativity. In the 4th century St Helena, the mother of Emperor Constantine took it upon herself to travel through the Holy Land authenticating biblical site. In 326 she commissioned a church to be built in Bethlehem around the nativity cave. A part of the floor mosaic of this original church can still be seen in the present Church of the Nativity. St Helena’s church was replaced in 530 by a larger structure that has survived. Under the Crusaders two kings were crowned in this church and it was completely redecorated in 1169. Despite later looting under the Ottomans, fires, and an earthquake the Church of the Nativity has survived.In modern times Bethlehem came under the British from 1920 to 1948 when the British Mandate was in place. The UN 1947 partition resolution included Bethlehem in the international enclave of Jerusalem which would be administered by the UN. However, just a few months later Jordan captured the city in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War and controlled the region until the Six-Day War in 1967 when Israel captured the West Bank including Bethlehem. Israel administered the city until 1995 when the Oslo Peace Accord placed Bethlehem within the Palestinian Authority West Bank and Israel withdrew from the area.Bethlehem TodayToday Bethlehem is home to Muslim and Christian Arabs who live mostly in harmony. The city’s economy depends largely on tourism as well as traditional products and handicrafts like Middle Eastern jewelry, olive wood carvings, olive oil, marble, and religious objects.Silver Star Marker of Jesus' Birth Site, Grotto of Nativity, Bethlehem.Photo credit: © ShutterstockBethlehem AttractionsManger Square – This is the first stop for Christina visitors to Bethlehem.Manger Square is bordered by the Nativity Church; the Mosque of Omar and the Palestinian Peace Center. Manger Square is the site of a festive gathering each Christmas Eve of Christians from across the globe who come to celebrate Christ’s birth.Church of the Nativity – Also known as the Basilica of the Nativity this church is built around the Holy Grotto of the Nativity, the oldest continually worshipped Christian site. Although originally built in the 4th century the present structure dates back to 565 with additions made later by the Crusaders. The earliest mention of the manger site in Bethlehem was by Justin Martyr in c.160 AD followed by a mention by Greek historian Eusebius of Caesarea.The structure we see today was commissioned by Christian Roman Emperor Constantine and his mother St. Helena in 326 AD. The church was built around the Sacred Cave. The original structure was replaced in 530 AD by a larger church but parts of the Constantinian floor mosaics can still be seen. Miraculously the church was not destroyed when the land came under the rule of the Persians and later Muslim rulers. During the Crusader era of the 11th century, Baldwin I and II were crowned in the Church of the Nativity.Under the Crusaders the church was renovated and redecorated. The church remained untouched under the Mamluks and Ottomans although precious marble was removed by the Ottomans for use in construction on Temple Mount Today the church is shared by the Roman Catholics, Greek Orthodox, and Armenian Churches. Church of Nativity, Bethlehem. Photo credit: © ShutterstockHighlights of the church include the Door of Humility; a small entrance to the church that requires visitors to bow down as they enter. It also served a practical purpose during the Ottoman era when looters couldn’t fit their carts through the doorway. The church’s wide nave is flanked by 44 columns painted with Crusader images and the walls are adorned with murals. There are two Greek Orthodox altars and an Armenian altar dedicated to the Three Kings (three wise men). The Chapel of the Manger is a Roman Catholic shrine with 12th-century mosaics. The Grotto of the Nativity lies beneath the church and is reached down a flight of stairs. A silver star marks the place where Jesus was born. A door connects the Church of the Nativity to the Church of St. Catherine.Church of St Catherine – Alongside the Church of the Nativity stands another historic church marking the site where Christ is said to have appeared to Saint Catherine of Alexandria. It was here that Christ is said to have predicted Catherine’s martyrdom when she was burnt on a wheel (hence: Catherine Wheel) at Mount Sinai in c.310. The church was dedicated in 1347; mentioned in records in the 15th century and enlarged in 1881. Manger Square, Bethlehem.Photo credit: © ShutterstockThe church is flanked on two sides by a Franciscan monastery where there is a beautiful cloister restored by Barluzzi using 12th-century capitals and columns from the monastery. Visitors to the church can descend a flight of steps to caves where there is the Chapel of the Holy Innocent; St. Joseph’s Chapel; Chapel of St. Eusebius; the Tomb of St. Paula and her daughter Eustochium and the Tomb of St. Jerome. Jerome is said to have translated the Bible in one of the church’s subterranean caves in 386 AD.Milk Grotto – Also called the Grotto of Our Lady and the Chapel of the Milk Grotto. It was here that the Holy Family took refuge when escaping from Herod’s decree to kill all newborn males (Massacre of the Innocents). As Mary nursed baby Jesus a little of her milk is thought to have dropped to the ground turning the cave surfaces white. A 5th-century Byzantine chapel once stood here and the present chapel dates back to 1872.PracticalitiesWhere to eat: Ha’agala, a country café located a short car drive or a beautiful bike ride away from Bethlehem, is a charming place for those who want to combine great food with relaxation. Ha’agala, Ha’Horesh 3, Alonei Aba.Where to sleep: Talitha Kumi Guest House is known for high standards and great service and is just five minutes walk from the most important destinations. B’eit Jala 7.A street in Bethlehem.Photo credit: © Shutterstock
By Petal Mashraki

Israel Christian Tours to Jerusalem

All Christian visitors to Israel should include Jerusalem in their itinerary. There are Israel Christian tours which take you to the most important Christian landmarks in Jerusalem as well as giving you an overview of the city. If you have seen the most famous Christian attractions in Jerusalem and would like to see other sites you have a few options. One of your options is to take a private tour of the city. With a private tour you can tell the tour guide what you are interested in seeing. You can plan your private tour according to the Christian sites you have not yet seen. There are also a number of group tours which take you to unique attractions in Jerusalem.Special Christian Tours of JerusalemThe most important Christian landmark in Jerusalem is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. There is a special tour which focuses exclusively on this church. You spend your time in the church getting an in-depth look at the many shrines, historical sites and art work within the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.Church of the Holy Sepulchre.If you happen to be in Jerusalem over the Easter period you can join a tour which follows the Palm Sunday procession. This emotionally-charged event sees hundreds of Christians retracing Jesus route as he entered Jerusalemin c.33 ADfor the Jewish Passover celebrations. He was greeted as the Messiah then. This event is mentioned in all four of the Gospels (Matthew 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19:28-44 and John 12:12-19). Today the Palm Sunday event is recreated with Christianscarrying palm fronds, placards and musical instruments.The procession is accompanied by leaders of the church and there is singing, chanting and praying along the way. Palm Sunday 2021, Jerusalem. Photo credit: Jenny EhrlichThere is a Jerusalem tour titled “In the Footsteps of Jesus”. This tour includes sites on the Mount of Olives which are not included in a classic Jerusalem tour. You get to visit the Church of the Pater Noster, the Dominus Flevit Church, the Church of All Nations and the Garden of Gethsemane. Within the Old City this tour visits more sites that are usually not included in a standard tour of Jerusalem. You will visit the Church of St Anne, the Pools of Bethesda and the Convent of the Sisters of Zion.The Dormition Abbey,Jerusalem. Photo credit: Dmitry MishinIf you are in Jerusalem over the Christmas period you could join a tour to Bethlehem forMidnight Masson Christmas Eve at the Church of the Nativity. Whichever of the Israel Christian tours you choose you will see authentic location where biblical events took place. Jerusalem is truly the most fascinating and interesting of the destinations in Israel.Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Photo credit: Dmitry Mishin
By Petal Mashraki

Easter in Israel

Easter is, by far and away, the most important festival in the Christian calendar, celebrating the events surrounding the crucifixion, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. Being able to spend Easter in Israel is an incredible experience for any visitor, let alone a pilgrim. For Christians, a trip to the Holy Land has no equal, and being able to make a pilgrimage here, particularly at the time of Easter, where Christ’s last days on earth took place, is always very moving and emotional.Easter eggs. Photo by Michal Balog on UnsplashThe actual dates of Easter are not ‘fixed’ (as is the case with Christmas) and the week itself, beginning with Palm Sunday and ending exactly a week later on Easter Sunday, are based on the lunisolar calendar (which is the solar year plus the Moon phase - actually similar to the Hebrew calendar).Whilst the ‘central events’ of the week take place in Jerusalem, both on the Mount of Olives and the Old City, there are many ceremonies that take place across the country, in Haifa, Nazareth, and Jaffa, which are very interesting to watch, as well as participate in. Let's take a closer look at some of the events taking place in these cities to commemorate the last days of Jesus’s life, followed by the jubilant celebrations marking his resurrection. Easter in JerusalemEaster in the Holy Land is a time like no other, and no more so than in Jerusalem, the capital of the Holy Land. In the days preceding Palm Sunday, Jerusalem begins filling up with tourists arriving with Christian tours of Israel, many of whom will not just be witnessing the events but taking part in them personally (having obtained tickets for the Palm Sunday Procession Tour). Easter Sunday in 2022 falls on 17th April, but special services will commence and continue the entire week, commencing on Palm Sunday, on 10th April culminating on Easter Monday on 18th April. If you do decide to attend these celebrations, be prepared for large crowds and a fair bit of pushing and shoving in the Old City, as spectators jostle for the best places to see the view of the processions. Of course, it’s worth it - it’s a moving and often overwhelming experience to be in the city - and walking the Via Dolorosa (the ‘Way of Sorrows’) - where Jesus took his final steps.From Palm Sunday (commemorating the moment Jesus rode into Jerusalem, riding on a donkey), Maundy Thursday (where you can see Priests and Ministers washing the feet of their parishioners, emulating Jesus washing the feet of his disciples) to Good Friday (a solemn experience, to say the least), Holy Saturday (with the extraordinary spectacle of the ceremony of the Holy Fire in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre) and the jubilation that accompanies Easter Sunday (with pilgrims crying out ‘Christ is Risen), this will be a week you will never forget. For more of an in-depth look at what happens in Jerusalem at this time, take a look at our article ‘Easter in Jerusalem.’Via Dolorosa, Jerusalem.Photo credit: © ShutterstockEaster in Tel Aviv-JaffaThere are several churches - both Protestant and Catholic - in Jaffa, (which sits next to Tel Aviv) and events celebrating Easter week are held throughout the week at Tel Aviv’s largest Catholic and Protestant Churches, based in Jaffa in the South of the city.St. Peter’s Church - there are services held in English, Polish, Spanish, and Hebrew on Holy Thursday, Good Friday, the Easter Vigil, and Easter Sunday. This is a Franciscan church that sits at the top of the Jaffa hill (which has served as a strategic point for thousands of years). The church is large and beautiful, built at the beginning of the 20th century in baroque style. According to historians, Napoleon stayed here during his 1799 campaign. The church faces towards the Mediterranean Sea and on the walls are paintings depicting the fourteen Stations of the Cross that Jesus trod, en route to Calvary on the day of his crucifixion. St Anthony’s Church - this Franciscan Catholic church, located on Yefet Street, is built in a Gothic revival style and is noticeable because of its bell tower. Built in 1932, it is Jaffa's largest church and has an active community. Easter Services are held in English, Arabic, and Philippine throughout the week. St. Anthony's overlooks the harbor and many of its nuns, in the past, worked in the nearby French hospital. Today, the church is popular with migrant workers, especially those from Asia, and the priest is said to be very welcoming.The Immanuel Church in Jaffa is of the Protestant denomination. It was built in 1904 to serve the local German Evangelical community but after 1940 it remained empty, until 1955 when the building was transferred to the control of the Norweigan Church Ministry. Today, it is popular with different Protestant groups but also used by Messianic Jews. Over Easter, services and concerts are held continuously - for more specific information, check their Facebook page.St. Peter’s Church, Jaffa.Photo by Jeremy Zero on UnsplashEaster in NazarethNazareth holds a special place in the hearts of Christians since it was the city where Jesus spent much of his childhood. There is a number ofNazareth churches, all of which celebrate Easter in their own style.The Basilica of the Annunciation - According to Catholic tradition, this was the spot at which the Angel Gabriel appeared before Mary and announced that she would bear a child (i.e. Jesus). Built in 1958, over the remains of what were once Byzantine and Crusader houses of worship, today, it is the largest Catholic church in the Middle East. Inside, there are beautiful mosaics of Jesus and Mary, located in the portico, as well as a spiral staircase at the top of which is a beautiful Dome.Over Holy Week, a number of services are held including mass, reconciliation, and solemn prayer, as well as an Easter Vigil and sunrise service. When the church is at capacity, it is even possible to follow on live stream!Interior of the Church of the Annunciation, Nazareth.Photo credit: © ShutterstockSt. Gabriel’s Church - Also known as the Greek Orthodox Church of Annunciation, it is of Eastern Orthodox origin and is located in downtown Nazareth and is the largest Christian church in the East. Built in a modern style, Inside it boasts beautiful stained glass murals and lovely murals. Its old stone steps lead down to a beautiful spring. Holy Week is celebrated at St. Gabriel’s with prayers, homilies, services, and a Vigil.In Nazareth, visitors can walk through the city’s alleyways on Palm Sunday, accompanying the local residents and many other devout Christians in a procession. What is very nice is the special musical compositions that are played at this time. Easter week in this northern Israel city is a good example of how Easter is celebrated as a colorful grassroots religious festival.Easter in HaifaHaifa is actually home to a number of Christian communities and any visitor spending time there over Easter will be able to enjoy the traditional procession there, where locals and pilgrims walk through the streets, waving palm leaves and passing by the city’s churches. The annual procession begins at the St. Elias Greek Orthodox Church. This Melkite Cathedral was designed by architect Sammihom Atallah and built between 1938 and 1939. It then continues onto St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, administered by the Carmelites, and members of this congregation join the procession at this point. It then passes by the Latin Church (looked after by three Carmelite friars), moves onto the St. Luke Maronite Church, and concludes at the New Orthodox Church.Haifa aerial view.Photo by Shai Pal on UnsplashEaster in BethlehemBethlehem is a special place for Christians, being the birthplace of Jesus. Holy Week there, as everywhere else, begins on Palm Sunday and ends on Easter Sunday, during which quite a number of church services and religious processions are held. The three most special days before Easter Sunday are Maundy Thursday (when Jesus practiced humility by washing the feet of his disciples). Good Friday (the date Jesus walked to his death, through the Old City, to Calvary (Golgotha) where he was crucified, and also Holy Saturday (known locally as Sabt El Nour). Then, religious communities are given candles lit by a ‘Holy Light’ which has traveled all the way from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.During the Roman Catholic Holy Saturday, crowds gather in Bethlehem at the entrance to Star Street to welcome the large procession, which moves down to the Catholic Church of the Annunciation (also known as Al Bishara). Moreover, at the time of the Greek Orthodox Easter (which can be up to a week or so later), you will always see crowds standing at the city square in Beit Sahour and at Al Sahel Street in Beit Jala, ready to welcome the procession arriving from Jerusalem. As day turns to night, an Easter Vigil will begin and will continue for many hours. The following day, of course, is Easter Sunday and is marked at every Church in Bethlehem, including the Nativity Church and the Church of St. Catherine with sunrise services and enormous celebrations. To explore Bethlehem it is recommended to join one of numerous Bethlehem tours.Church of Saint Catherine, Bethlehem.Photo credit: © Shutterstock
By Sarah Mann

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

Tels are prehistoric settlement mounds predominantly found in the Middle East. Megiddo, Hazor and Beer Sheva 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 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 Bible.In 2005 UNESCO declared these mounds as having outstanding universal value according to three 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 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 of 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 which 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.Tel 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 Yigan 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 cross road.Tel Megiddo is just 50km southwest of Tel Hazor at the northern point of the Qishon 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. the mound was the site of a powerful Canaan settlement which controlled the Via Maria,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 finds was an 80 meter long aqueduct which brought water from a spring at the foot of the mound up a vertical shaft to supply the city with fresh water.Tel Beer Sheva 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 meter below the ground. Excavation of Tel Beer Sheva 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.
By 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
By Petal Mashraki

Bethlehem’s Top Attraction

One of the most popular tours to Israel is to the city of Bethlehem. This sacred Christian city is one of the top things to do in Israel. Visitors usually choose to take an organized tour to Bethlehem rather than traveling independently due to the fact that Bethlehem is in the West Bank. Reaching Bethlehem involves crossing a border and heightened awareness of security. The Church of the Nativity is Bethlehem’s top attraction and one of the most popular places to visit in Israel.Site of the Nativity, Bethlehem The Church of the Nativity marks the place believed to be where Jesus was born. It was on this spot that the nativity story unfolded. Arriving in Bethlehem for a national census Joseph and the pregnant Mary found no room available. Eventually they were offered to spend the night in an inn keeper’s manger where he kept his animals.In the 1st century animals were often kept in caves near or behind the family home. For this reason the “manger” which is encompassed by the Church of the Nativity is in fact a grotto. People often envision the manger as a barn and are surprised to find that it was a small cave or grotto. In the heart of the Church of the Nativity is the Sacred Grotto. A silver star marks the site on the ancient stone floor within the grotto.History of the Nativity SiteThe earliest mention of the manger site in Bethlehem was by Justin Martyr in c.160 AD followed by mention by Greek historian Eusebius of Caesarea. The structure we see today was commissioned by Christian Roman Emperor Constantine and his mother St. Helena in 326 AD. The church was built around the Sacred Cave. The original structure was replaced in 530 AD by a larger church but parts of the Constantinian floor mosaics can still be seen.Miraculously the church was not destroyed when the land came under the rule of the Persians and later Muslim rulers. During the Crusader era of the 11th century Baldwin I and II were crowned in the Church of the Nativity. Under the Crusaders the church was renovated and redecorated. The church remained untouched under the Mamluks and Ottomans although precious marble was removed by the Ottomans for use in construction on Temple Mount. Today the church is shared by the Roman Catholics, Greek Orthodox and Armenian Churches.Highlights of the Church of the Nativity, BethlehemFeatures of the church to notice include the Door of Humility, a small entrance floor designed so that you have to bow to enter, thus showing respect. The Ottoman doorway was also intended to prevent looters entering with their carts. The church nave is lined with 44 columns each with paintings of saints and Mary with baby Jesus. The paintings date back to the Crusader era. The majestic columns are made of pink-hued limestone and date back to the 4th century structure. Also see the remains of 12th century wall mosaics and the 6th century baptismal font. Before leaving the church see the 6th century bronze gates at the southern and northern entrances to the Grotto.
By 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
By Petal Mashraki

Churches of the Old City of Jerusalem

The Old City of Jerusalem is home to some of the most beautiful and unique churches in Israel and certainly the most important church of all, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. This is, according to the Orthodox and Catholic church, the place where Jesus Christ was crucifed, burried and resurrected. In 1982, the Old City was put on the List of Worldheritages in Danger by UNESCO. The site is at risk due to urbanization of its surroundings, mass tourism, and geopolitical issues.Church of the Holy Sepulchre.Photo credit: © Dmitry MishinChurch of the Holy SepulchreThe largest and most important church in Jerusalem’s Old City is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. It holds the 10th to 14th Stations of Cross along the Via Dolorosa which Jesus took on his route to his crucifixion. On this site Jesus was stripped (10th Station); nailed to the cross (11th Station); died on the cross on the Rock of Golgotha or Hill of Calvary (12th Station); taken down off the cross (13th Station ) and Jesus was laid to rest in his tomb or Sepulchre at the 14th Station. An early church on this site dates back to 333 AD but it was destroyed by the Persians about 300 years later and a new structure was constructed. This too was leveled in 1010 AD and under the Crusaders the church was rebuilt and inaugurated in 1149 AD. The church is shared by the Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Ethiopian, Coptic, Armenian, and Syriac Orthodox churches. The vast church is adorned with many stunning works of liturgical art, there are many small altars and individual chapels within the church but the focus of the structure is the large Rotunda where Jesus’ tomb is located. At the entrance to the church is the Stone of Anointing where Jesus’ body was laid after being removed from the cross. All major Christian events and festivals are celebrated in the church.Church of the Holy Sepulchre.Photo credit: © ShutterstockLutheran Church of the RedeemerThis German Lutheran Church of the Redeemer is in the Christian Quarter and was constructed in the 19th century on the site of a Crusader church; the Crusader gate was incorporated in the side of the present church. At one point the church functioned as a hostel and hospital for Crusaders. The first Chapel of St. John was constructed here in 1871 and in 1898 the Church of the Redeemer was built by Friedrich Adler. Above the entrance is the sign of the lamb of God and on one side is an eagle, the symbol of Imperial Germany while on the other side is the Maltese Cross, a symbol of the Crusader order of St. John. The church’s white square bell tower is 48 meters high making it the tallest tower within the Old City walls. It is possible to climb a spiral staircase within the tower for views across the city.German Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, Jerusalem.Photo credit: © ShutterstockChurch of St. John the BaptistThis Greek Orthodox Church and monastery of St. John the Baptist in the Christian Quarter consists of a 5th-century Byzantine church on a lower level and an upper dome and a double bell tower from the 11th century Crusader era. The lower church holds relics of John the Baptist and was destroyed in the 7th century. The Knights Hospitallers took over the site in the 11th century and used the space as a hostel and hospital. The Hospitallers were a military group of Christians charged with protecting the Holy Land. They saw the renovation of the church site. Again in 1839 the church and monastery were renovated.St. Anne’s ChurchSt Anne's Church, Jerusalem - believed to be the birthplace of Mary. This is a large building close to the Lions’ Gate adjacent to the Pools of Bethesda. The church was built during the Crusader era over the ruins of a 5th century Byzantine church. It is dedicated to the Virgin Mary’s mother Anne and father Joachim; Mary is believed to have been born in a cave-dwelling now located beneath the church in the church crypt. An inscription above the entrance dated 1192 tells of how Saladin converted the church to a school. The interior is divided into three halls by thick pillars supporting a vaulted ceiling.St Anne's Church, Jerusalem.Photo credit: © ShutterstockChapel of the FlagellationThis Catholic Franciscan church complex is situated at the 2nd Station along the Via Dolorosa where Roman soldiers flogged Jesus. The first chapel on this site was constructed in 1832 on land given to the Franciscans by the conquering Egyptians. It was rebuilt in the 1920s and designed by well-known Italian architect Antonio Barluzzi. A sealed gate entrance on the outer wall of the monastery is topped with a metal seal bearing the 5 cross symbol of the Franciscans and the arms of Jesus and St. Francis crossed over a crucifix. The church’s best features are the large stained glass windows on three sides of the church. The church of Condemnation is also accessed from the inner courtyard, it commemorates where Jesus was condemned and where he took up his cross. This church has 5 white domed roofs and large stained glass windows. The church interior is predominantly white with a colorful mural behind the altar and pink marble columns supporting the ceiling. Archaeological findings are displayed on the western wall outside the chapel and in the garden courtyard.Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Photo credit: © Dmitry MishinChurch of Our Lady of the SunLocated at the 4th Station along the Via Dolorosa this Armenian Church marks the place where Mary saw her son pass by carrying the cross. Within the church is a beautiful 5th-century mosaic floor, imprinted in the floor is the outline of two sandals said to be the footprints of Mary.Church of the Holy FaceChurch of the Holy Face - JerusalemThis small church is run by the Little Sisters, a Greek Catholic order, inside you can see restored Crusader arches.Monastery of St. CharalambosThis is a Greek Orthodox monastery located at the 8th Station along the Via Dolorosa.; it marks the place where Jesus comforted the lamenting women.Near the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem. Photo credit: © ShutterstockSt. James CathedralLocated in the Armenian Quarter,St. James Cathedral is dedicated to James the Great, one of the apostles, and James the Less, Jesus’ brother who was also the first bishop of Jerusalem. It is thought to have been built on the site where Herod killed James the Great. An inscription above the main entrance features the date 1488 but earlier churches on this site date back to the 6th century. The Armenians are famous for their intricate artwork, ceramics mixed with metals and stone and the church displays many stunning examples of their talents. This is also the site of the Armenian library where there are more than 4,000 illuminated manuscripts and the Church of St. Toros which is covered with brightly colored glazed tiles. The cathedral complex has several inner courtyards.Dei res-Sultan Ethiopian ChurchThe Ethiopian Christians have been a part of Jerusalem since the 4th century, this church which is situated on the roof of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre was the only Ethiopian church in the city until 1888 when the land was acquired outside the Old City walls and the Debra Gannet Monastery was built. The chapel is dedicated to St. Michael and the walls are adorned with brightly colored exotic pictures of the saint which date back 100 years. One of the paintings is of King Solomon meeting the Queen of Sheba who is believed to have come from Ethiopia. The ceiling of the church is covered with a starry night in blue, silver, and gold.Dei res-Sultan Ethiopian Church.Photo credit: © Dmitry MishinChurch of Saint Alexander NevskyThis Russian Orthodox Church is located near to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the church is built over the remains of what is thought to have been the Judgment Gate where Jesus passed on his way to Golgotha. The church structure incorporates a section of the ancient Herodian city wall and a pagan temple constructed after 70AD. The plain stone structure is decorated with pictures of saints and icons, it is possible o see the remains of the Judgment Gate at the church.St. Mark’s Syriac Church and MonasteryLocated in the Armenian Quarter this church belongs to one of the oldest Christian denominations in the world. The Syriac Church practices the earliest known form of Christian liturgy and uses the Syriac language, which is a dialect of Aramaic, the language spoken by Christ. They believe that the church is located on the site of Mary of Jerusalem’s house, she was St. Mark’s mother, and the house features in the New Testament. The church is associated with the Last Supper, an appearance by Jesus following his resurrection and the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Here you can see a Byzantine painting on the leather of Mary and Jesus; inscriptions on the walls and the rich embellishments of the church decoration. The 12th-century church was constructed on the site of a 4th-century place of worship which is located in the church crypt.To see the churches of the Old City of Jerusalem join one of multiple Jerusalem tours.Church of Saint Alexander Nevsky. Photo credit: © Dan Porges
By 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 Church this 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
By 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
By 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
By Petal Mashraki
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