Things to Do in Israel - page 2
Located where the Jordan River flows from the Sea of Galilee into the Dead Sea, Yardenit (Jordan River Baptismal Site) is one of the world’s most important places of Christian pilgrimage. It's believed to be where John the Baptist baptized Jesus Christ.
An ancient city in the West Bank in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Bethlehem is home to many significant religious sites, including the Church of The Nativity in Manger Square, believed by Christians to be the birthplace of Jesus.
Just east of the Old City, the Mount of Olives is one of Jerusalem’s top scriptural sites—a major pilgrimage spot for Christians that was used as a Jewish cemetery for more than 3,000 years. The Acts of the Apostles describe the Mount of Olives as the place from where Jesus ascended to heaven.
Within Old Jerusalem’s al-Haram al-Sharif, or the Noble Sanctuary, lies the third holiest site in Islam, after Mecca and Medina. The al-Aqsa Mosque, which translates to “the farthest mosque,” sits beside the Dome of the Rock, and it is believed that Muhammed ascended to heaven from this spot after being transported from Sacred Mosque in Mecca.
Over the centuries the silver-domed mosque has been destroyed in several different earthquakes and subsequently rebuilt. With four minarets, the present day structure is characteristic of early Islamic architecture. The interior contains 121 stained glass windows, its massive dome painted with 14th-century designs. The dome was recovered in lead in 1985 to replace the aluminum cover with its original cover. Though Israel maintains control of the space, it is overseen by the Waqf, a Jordanian and Palestinian authority of the Muslim holy sites in Israel.
Jerusalem’s Armenian Quarter dates back to the fourth century and remains the oldest Armenian diaspora on earth. Centered around the St. James Monastery, the quarter is ripe with religious, cultural and historical monuments that make it worthy of a visit.
Travelers can explore the Cathedral of St. James and the halls of St. Toros Church—two of the oldest structures in the quarter, or wander the grounds of Alex and Marie Manoogian Seminary—a modern school for those studying holy traditions. The Helen and Edward Mardigian Museum of Armenian Art and Culture highlights the artistic contributions of Armenians and the St. Toros Manuscript Library is home to the second-largest collection of Armenian manuscripts in the world.
During Byzantine Jerusalem a sunken north-south thoroughfare was built across the city, from what is now the Damascus Gate southward toward the Zion Gate. The general term for such a main street in Ancient Roman cities was cardo maximus, and today, the street is simply called the Cardo.
Today the Cardo begins just south of David St. and is only half its original width — it was once as wide as a six-lane highway — and passes into the modern-day Jewish Quarter. A walk along the Cardo will reveal a strip of high-end shops selling souvenirs, Judaica, jewelry and artwork. A southern portion of the Cardo has been restored with colonnaded walkways, much like it had during the sixth century.
Some consider King David’s Tomb, on the holy site of Jerusalem’s Mount Zion, to be the burial place of King David of Israel, but whether he was actually buried there is debated. Regardless of the tomb’s existence, the place has deep significance for Jews, Muslims, and Christians, and many pilgrims journey to pay their respects each year.
During the twentieth century ancient church ruins in Tabgha were excavated, uncovering a stunning mosaic basilica floor from a Byzantine era church, hidden for some 1,300 years. In 1936 a replica of the Byzantine basilica was built on the same site, believed to be the ‘solitary place’ where Jesus miraculously multiplied five loaves and bread and two fish to feed 5,000 listeners.
These loaves and fish, which give the Church of the Multiplication its full name (the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes), are depicted in the mosaic just in front of the altar. Other parts of the tile mosaic show a variety of birds and plants from the Galilee region.
A 2015 arson attack badly damaged parts of the church, but luckily the fifth century mosaics remained unharmed.
During the sixteenth century the Ottoman Turkish sultan Suleiman rebuilt the Old City walls of Jerusalem and included six different gates into the Old City. Jaffa Gate (Bab al-Khalil) is one of the originals, named after its orientation, pointing toward the harbor of Jaffa in Tel Aviv.
This gate on the western wall comprises the original dog-legged pedestrian tunnel leading into the Old City, as well as a car-friendly passage constructed in 1898 to allow German Kaiser Wilhelm II to ride into the city.
As the main entrance into the Old City, the gate makes a perfect starting point for modern-day explorations. Just inside the gate sits a lively souk which leads into the Christian and Jewish quarters.
Tel Aviv’s Museum of the Jewish People (Beit Hatfutsot) tells the ongoing 4,000-year story of the Jewish people from the past into the future. The permanent collection includes exhibits on trailblazers and heroes of Jewish history, Israel’s War of Independence and the past and present of synagogues.
At the heart of it all is the Core Exhibition — a story through the eras of Jewish life and history through a collection of dioramas, murals, models, film and multi-media displays on topics like family life, community, martyrdom, faith, culture and the interaction between the Jewish people and their host environments throughout the world.
More Things to Do in Israel
The term “yad vashem” comes from the Book of Isaiah and can be translated as “a place to memorialize.” Yad Vashem (World Holocaust Remembrance Center) in Jerusalem is the world’s most important Holocaust museum — a memorial to the 6 million Jewish lives lost.
The complex comprises two museums, the Holocaust History Museum and an Art Museum, as well as an exhibition pavilion, learning center and a synagogue. The centerpiece is the history museum, housed within a triangular prism-shaped structure running through the center of campus. Nine underground galleries recount the story of the Holocaust from a Jewish perspective through artifacts, survivor testimonies, personal possessions and audio-visual presentations. A visit to the museum ends in the Hall of Names, a place where the names and stories of millions of victims are recorded.
The Art Museum houses the largest and most diverse collection of Holocaust art in the world — some 10,000 works — mostly produced during the Holocaust period.
Built in the seventh century, the Dome of the Rock is one of the most famous Muslim shrines in the world. The iconic gilded wooden dome and ornate octagonal base marks the location where the Prophet Muhammad was believed to have ascended to heaven. Located on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City, the shrine is also home to the Foundation Stone and is an important holy site.
The Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City is a raised stone plateau that’s home to some of the most significant religious structures in the world, including the Dome of the Rock, the Al Aqsa Mosque, and the Western Wall. The Temple Mount covers a 35-acre area known as al-Haram al-Sharif, and is considered to be a sacred place in Islam, Judaism, and Christianity.
The stunning white and gray façade of the Church of St. Anne is one of the best-preserved Crusader churches in Jerusalem. It’s also recognized as the site of the birthplace of the Virgin Mary, and the original home of Jesus’s maternal grandparents.
This fortress-like structure was built around 450. Religious pilgrims journey to this destination, which provides quiet respite from the energy of the Muslim Quarter, for prayer and contemplation. The uniquely asymmetrical building offers up incredible acoustics, and visitors who are lucky enough to catch the small local choir performing will find their voices sound like a massive crowd inside the halls of the Church of St. Anne.
The Golan Heights, a lush, rocky region on the Syria-Israel border, has been under Israeli occupation since 1967, and is a site of political and territorial conflict. It is also a popular tourist destination, thanks to its desirable wine region, Israel’s only ski resort, nature areas with abundant wildlife and outdoor activities, and more.
The City of David National Park is known as the birthplace of Jerusalem, and it holds some of the oldest and most historically significant sites in Israel, predating the adjacent Old City of Jerusalem. Get swept back in time as you explore archeological exhibits, underground tunnels, and biblical sites dating back more than 3,000 years.
In the Gospel of John, chapter 5, Jesus is said to have miraculously healed a paralyzed man at the Pool of Bethesda. These pools were discovered and excavated during the nineteenth century when the Church of St. Anne, located on the same grounds, was being restored. This public bath was likely used during the first century BC and first century AD.
The Romanesque church was built in 1140 by Crusaders at the site where Hannah, mother of Mary, was born. It’s considered one of the best specimens of medieval architecture in Israel and is famous for its astounding acoustics. Stick around for a few minutes and you’ll often hear hymns being sung.
Bursting at the seams with produce, nuts, seeds, spices, wines, meats and cheeses, baked goods, fish, housewares and clothing, Mahane Yehuda Market, informally called The Shuk, teems with locals and tourists who come for a bargain or simply to take in the frenetic atmosphere.
The history of the market dates back to the Ottoman Period, when locals began selling produce there in the early 20th century. It soon expanded into an organized market thanks to its convenient, centralized location. The local government attempted to add much-needed infrastructure — proper sewage, running water and garbage disposal to start — to the market during the British Mandate period, but it wasn’t until the 1930s that conditions began to improve.
Hungry travelers will find plenty of street food stands in and around the Mahane Yehuda Market, including some of Jerusalem’s best burekas. The market also offers a Shuk Bites card, which includes a self-guided tour map of the market and vouchers for a variety of market products. Some write the name as Machane Yehuda Market.
Sitting halfway up the Mount of Olives, the Dominus Flevit Church is a prominent Franciscan church in Jerusalem. The name translates from Latin to “The Lord Wept,” with the structure shaped like a teardrop to symbolize the tears of Jesus. It is said to mark the spot where Jesus looked out onto Jerusalem and wept, knowing the city was bound to be destroyed.
The site went unmarked until the Crusader era, when a small chapel was built that eventually fell into ruin. The present day structure was built in 1955 by Italian architect Antonio Barluzzi, standing upon centuries of history and ruins — including the Byzantine era monastery and an ancient necropolis. Today the church has a panoramic, often-photographed view of Jerusalem. The window at the altar provides an overlook of the city focused on the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
Herod the Great, King of Judea from 37 BC to 4 BC, built his palace 1,000 feet above sea level in Jerusalem during the last quarter of the 1st century BC. At the time, the palace, now known as the Tower of David (Museum of the History of Jerusalem), was the second-most important building in Jerusalem, after the Jewish Second Temple, which he also constructed. Herod's Western Palace was built along the northwestern city wall in the Upper City with exceptional views of the Dead Sea.
At 3,700 square meters, the palace was once the largest structure in the area, although it is hard to believe today as virtually nothing remains of the ancient fortress except a few sections of the citadel known as the Tower of David. This is in large part due to Rebelling Jews entering and burning the palace during the First Jewish Rebellion in 66 AD. The Tower of David museum now occupies the site of the former palace and was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2001. In its prime, the palace consisted of two main wings separated by lavish gardens and porticoes, guarded by three imposing towers. Rumors recently surfaced that the Tower of David may have been where Jesus was trialed and sentenced.
The Chapel of the Ascension on Jerusalem’s Mount of Olives is a sacred site for both Christians and Muslims. It claims to be the oldest of three churches located on the Mount. Though Jesus is believed to have taken his final steps before ascending to heaven here (there is even a footprint impression on a stone slab that is believed to be from Jesus’s right foot), the site has since been converted to a mosque, after being captured by the Muslim sultan Saladin in the 10th century. It remains under the control of an Islamic group, though all faiths are welcome.
Many believe Jesus’s Assumption, 40 days after his resurrection, had taken place inside a cave. Nonetheless a church was built in this spot in the 4th century. Its exterior is marked by archways and slim marble columns, built in a Romaneque style.
When Ottoman Turkish Sultan Suleiman was rebuilding the Old City walls of Jerusalem during the sixteenth century, the architects neglected to consider a Franciscan monastery just outside the walls. What is today the Zion Gate (Bab an-Nawi Dawud) was punched through the wall to provide the monastery access to the Old City. During the 1948 War of Independence the gate was the site of fierce fighting between Jordanians and Palmach forces; the facade still bears bullet holes.
One of eight gates in the wall, Zion Gate is situated on the south side of the city, looking out toward Mount Zion. For modern day visitors, the gate serves as one of the primary entrances into the Jewish and Armenian quarters.
The Room of the Last Supper—aka the Cenacle, based on the Latin word for dining room, Coenaculum—is a sacred religious site visited by many pilgrims each year. In the Christian tradition, believers say that in this very room, on the holy Mount Zion in Jerusalem, Jesus shared his last Passover supper with his apostles on the night before his death.
Founded in 1965, the Israel Museum, Jerusalem ranks as the largest cultural institution in Israel and one of the world’s top archaeology and art museums. The extensive collection of nearly half a million objects, which contains works spanning from prehistory to today, is divided into Fine Arts, Archaeology, Jewish Art and Life collections and includes the world’s most extensive collection of biblical and Holy Land archaeological pieces.
Within the galleries and exhibits of the recently upgraded 20-acre museum campus, visitors will find find the Shrine of the Book where the Dead Sea Scrolls are kept, as well as the Billy Rose Art Garden, considered among the best outdoor sculpture gardens of the twentieth century. Sculptures by masters like Pablo Picasso, Auguste Rodin and Henry Moore are scattered throughout.
- Things to do in Tel Aviv
- Things to do in Jerusalem
- Things to do in Ashdod
- Things to do in Eilat
- Things to do in Haifa
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- Things to do in Herzliya
- Things to do in Sde Boker
- Things to do in Palestinian Territories
- Things to do in Jordan
- Things to do in Bethlehem
- Things to do in Amman
- Things to do in West Bank
- Things to do in Red Sea
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