This is a magnificent city that holds a ton of history and religious significance within its city gates, making it by far one of the top spots to visit in Israel. In Jerusalem is the holy sepulcher (believed to be the place of Jesus crucifixion), the church of St. John the Baptist, and the church of all nations (birthplace of St. John).
2. Bethlehem (Palestine)
This is the birthplace of Jesus and where the Church of Nativity stands where they believe Jesus was born. Keep in mind this is in Palestinian territory, you will need your passport. There is also so much street art by Banksy about war and people on different walls that are so powerful. While technically no longer in Israel, this is a great place to visit while in Israel.
This is the town in Matthew and the rest of the Bible referred to as the city of Jesus. Jesus is referred to as Jesus of Nazareth. It is the town that his father Joseph and mother Mary moved him to when he was young because King Herod was jealous and wanted to kill him. Joseph was warned in a dream by Yahweh to take Jesus away. This is when King Herod issued a verdict to kill all baby boys 3 years old and under in an attempt to kill Jesus.
4. Jericho (Palestine)
This is a must see on a holy land tour because it is the biblical site where Joshua and the Israelites marched around the gates 7 times blowing their horns in obedience to God to bring the walls down. Ruins of the wall are still there and can be visited. On the way to this site, you are stopped with your tour group in the lake bed area outside the city where it is likely that David the shepherd boy picked up stones and fought Goliath. Your guide will let you gather a few rocks for a souvenirs from the area. This is Palestinian territory and you will need your passport.
This city sits on the Sea of Galilee and so you will tour these simultaneously as you visit. This is such a powerful place filled with history. This is the town of Jesus’ early ministry.
6. Mount of Olives, Church of the Ascension & the tombs of the prophets
7. Garden of Gethsemane
This is the olive grove garden believed to be where Jesus was praying with his disciples when he wept and bled praying so fervently on the night that he was taken to be killed on the cross. He was begging the father to take his cup, but acquiesced, saying ” your will be done.” You can see an example below of the thorn tree that Jesus’ crown of thorns would have been made from. This garden overlooks the city as a quiet and sacred holy spot. The view of Jerusalem is beauitful and there is a church of reflection and viewpoint.
8. The Garden Tomb
This is the place that exists as a commemoration to Jesus being buried in the tomb and being raised 3 days later. The tomb is a relic that is in the area assumed to be near the original location. There is a quiet and beautiful garden to pray for the peace of Jerusalem, and you can take communion here as well.
9. Western Wailing Wall
This is the western wall that is attached to the Muslim temple mount. It is a dividing wall for Jews that is seen as a prophetic violation of the holy of holies where the old testament sanctuary sat. Now the muslim dome of the rock is there. Jews intercede at this holy way praying for the messiah to come back and deliver them. There are Hebrew prayer books everywhere, and you can see prayer papers stuffed all over the crevices of the wall. The fervency of prayer is a palpable and powerful spiritual experience.
It is humbling to witness others talking to God so passionately and, if you are lucky, you will get to witness a bar mitzvah as we did of a coming of age young boy. There is a woman side and men side. You must be properly dressed respectfully and quiet with your head covered. You can see a lot of the men wearing phylacteries on their head. The leather boxes with scripture inside them.
10. The Temple Mount: Dome of the Rock
This is the holy of holies in the Old Testament tabernacle temple. Now on this land stands the muslim synagogue that borders the western wailing wall in old city jersualem. This is a very holy place for the Jews and the Muslim people. Below you can see on the opposite side of the wall the hasidic jews with their earl lcosk walking to the wailing wall to pray.
11. Via Dolorosa, the way of the cross
This is a walking pilgrimage of the path of Jesus took through the city to the hill where he would be hung on the cross. The walking tour ends at the Holy sepulchre where Jesus is believed to be buried.
12. Herod’s Palace
13. The Shepherd’s Field
This is in Bethlehem city with a field and church near where they believe Jesus was born. This is the supposed place where the angles came to the shepherds and told them about the birth of the Savior.
Qumran is significant because of the Old Testament scrolls that were found in a cave by a bedouin boy. These are the most ancient manuscripts we have of scripture that support the validity of the Bible historically. Masada isn’t mentioned by name in the Bible but is important in the New Testament. A part of Masada’s ruins is King Herod’s fortress. Herod built this out of fear of the Jewish people and to escape if there was a revolt.
15. Dead Sea
This is a phenomenon that must be experienced while you are in Israel. You can literally float in the dead sea because of the salt content in the water. The Dead Sea is only about 21 miles outside of the city of Jerusalem. The Dead Sea is 1300 feet below sea level and is filled with naturally forming minerals. This experience is said to be therapeutic and the sea salts are sold all over the world for bath salts, face masks, and skin products. When visiting the sea yourself, you can take the mud and salt content from the bottom of the sea and rub it into your skin and body for a free day spa experience.
16. Sea of Galilee
This is my favorite area we stayed in Israel because it is a quieter town outside the city. The sea of Galilee area is where 90% of Jesus’ ministry took place in the Gospels. This was the area and life of local fisherman living and working out of wooden boats. You can take boat tours out on the lake. Local guides explain the natural phenomenon of the storms that are able to roll in from this large body of water that can be dangerous. It is powerful to think about Jesus and his disciples on the boat and Jesus walking on water. This is a powerful experience and a beauitful area not to be missed on your Israel tour.
17. Jordan River
The Jordan River is where John the Baptist was baptizing people in the name of the father and the son. He was preaching the Gospel of the kingdom of Heaven. He said repent for the kingdom of heaven is near. This is also the place where John the Baptist was approached by Jesus to be baptized. The river very closely links Jordan and Israel. The river is so thin and shallow that you could cross over to the country of Jordan and there are officers guarding the other country side. You can recommit yourself or be baptized at this site which is a powerful faith pilgrimmage experience.
This is where Paul the apostle was thought to be imprisoned and sits on the beautiful mediterranean sea. There is the underground jail cell that you can see and tour located here.
19. Mt. Carmel
This mountain is found in 1 Kings chapter 18. This is where the story of Elijah facing the prophets of Baal is recorded. In this powerful story, Elijah confronts the believers of Yahweh falling to follow idols of Baal and Asherah. He calls their prophets to this mountain to test who is the one true God. He declared let us call on our gods and see who answers. The God who answers and brings fire from the sky is the true God. The Baal prophets called out from morning to afternoon, answer us! Baal would not answer or show up in fire on the sacrifice they put on the altar.
Elijah took his sacrifice to call on the lord and had pitchers of water poured all over the sacrifices. They dumped water 3 times on the offering. Answer me, Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, Lord, are God and that you are turning their hearts back again.” After Elijah called on the LORD fire fell down from heaven and lit the sacrifice. I had the priviledge of preaching this passage while I visited Mount Carmel. There is also a view of Mount Tabor from this mountain where Deborah and Barak fought in the book of Judges.
20. Mt. of the Beatitudes
This is thought to be the mountain outside the city that Jesus gave his sermon of the Beatitudes preaching Matthew 5-7 from the water on a boat to the people sitting on this hill. This is a gorgeous green jungle garden oasis with a church of the beatitudes as a tribute. It is a restful space for peaceful reflection. This mount sits right outside the city of Capernaum on the sea of Galilee. This will all be toured in the same area.
21. Church of the Nativity
This is the location where it is believed that Jesus was born. There is a church now erected there as a monument in his honor. This is the church that is at the end of the Via de La Rosa the way of the cross leads unto. This is the path that you can walk in the city of Jerusalem as a spiritual pilgrimage.