This fascinating tour of Jerusalem’s new city and Bethlehem focuses on Christian sites. Visit Ein Kerem, a village-within-a-city with quaint stone houses, and vibrant gardens. Ein Kerem is best known as the birthplace of John the Baptist. Stop at the Church of John the Baptist which was built where John the Baptist’s parents, Elizabeth and Zachariah had their home. The family also had a summer house on a hill overlooking Ein Kerem where the Church of the Visitation now stands. It was here that Mary visited Elizabeth before John the Baptist’s birth (Luke 1:24). Also, see Mary’s Spring where Mary met Elizabeth as she collected water.
Leaving Ein Kerem, the tour takes you to Israel’s most important museum, the Israel Museum for a brief guided tour. Visit the adjacent Shrine of the Book that houses the Dead Sea Scrolls; ancient religious manuscripts dating back to c.408BC. The tour continues to an observation point overlooking the Valley of the Cross in Western Jerusalem. Tradition holds that Christ’s cross was made from a tree that grew in this valley. In the valley stands the 11th century Greek Orthodox Monastery of the Cross. Next, take a drive through the streets of new Jerusalem past iconic locations such as Yad VaShem, Mount Herzl, Kyriat HaMemshela (the government precinct), and picturesque neighborhoods.
Leave Jerusalem and drive towards Bethlehem, the town of Christ’s birth. In Bethlehem visit the Nativity Church, built in the 4th century around the Holy Grotto where the nativity took place. Between Jerusalem and Bethlehem see the fields where shepherds watched their flocks on the eve of Christ’s birth. Stop at the Shepherds’ Field Chapel of the Angels. This tent-shaped chapel was designed by Antonio Barluzzi and features beautiful paintings depicting scenes from the night of the nativity.
Additional Options in the Area:
1. Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum
2. Mount Zion: King David’s Tomb and the Room of the Last Supper
3. Garden Tomb, site of Jesus’ burial according to Baptist tradition
4. Lookout point Armon HaNatziv (Haas Promenade)
5. New neighborhoods of Jerusalem
6. Mar Saba Monastery (Holy Lavra of Saint Sabbas)
7. Herodion National Park