Visit The Site Of The Pentecost

In case you didn’t know, last Sunday was Pentecost. Also known as the Shavuot, the Pentecost is a celebration of which many gather to celebrate and reflect in Israel. If you’re ever planning to visit Israel during the spring season, the Pentecost or Shavuot festivities will be something you will want to learn about and engage in as it is very much a part of the Israelite culture. Here we will learn about the Pentecost, its historical site and how this historical site was named.

What Is The Pentecost

The Pentecost is a Christian holiday that is celebrated on the 49th day after Easter Sunday. In the Greek, during this time of year, the Shavuot is celebrated which is a spring harvest festival that the Israelites have celebrated for centuries. The Pentecost, in particular, commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the followers of Jesus Christ. This happened during the time that the Feast of Weeks or Shavuot was being celebrated which is why some thought that the disciples were drunk when they witnessed them being filled with the Holy Spirit.

The Historical Site Of The Pentecost

What many people know today is the traditional site of the Pentecost, the Upper Room, which is located on Mt. Zion. Here, Jesus had the Last Supper with his disciples as he often gathered here with them and of course, where the Holy Spirit fell upon them, which is what Pentecost reflects. It is also the place where the first Christian Bishops ruled the early church of Jerusalem and most of the Sacraments were instituted. Other events that took place at this site were things like the washing of Jesus’ feet, the appearance of Jesus after he was resurrected and the gathering of his disciples after he ascended to heaven. The Upper Room is considered to be the ‘Mother of all Churches’ and is presently located on the upper floor of a medieval complex that houses the Tomb of King David.

Naming The Site Of The Pentecost

There’s a story being told that there was a ‘little Church of God’ on this very site on Mt. Zion. Some think that a wealthy Christian during this time period opened up his home to be used as a church. Later in the 4th century a church was built at which point was known as the “Upper Church of the Apostles’, named after the event of the Holy Spirit falling on Jesus’ disciples. In the 5th century, this church was renamed ‘Mother of all Churches’ and was identified as the site of the Last Supper. As far as is known, both events (Pentecost and the Last Supper) took place at the same site. With all this in mind, one can see where the naming of the site of the Pentecost came from, both the ‘Upper Room’ and the ‘Mother of all Churches’.

If one wishes to visit the site of the Pentecost they need only to visit Mount Zion where they will be able to view the ‘Upper Room’ or ‘Mother of all Churches’ in its present day form. As with many historical sites in Israel, visiting such places can leave you feeling as if you are taken back in time as if Jesus and his disciples were still here today. It is a magnificent experience that one can only enjoy upon being there.

How Is Shavuot Celebrated In Israel?

Shavuot is a holiday celebrated in Israel that commemorates when the Israelites received the Torah during their desert wandering almost 3400 years ago. The word Shavuot means ‘Festival of Weeks’ but it is also known as First Harvest Festival, Day of the First Fruits, Z’man Matan Torah and the Season of Giving of the Torah. It is celebrated 50 days after the day of Passover and some believe it is one holiday with Passover. Here we will see all of the ways Shavuot is celebrated in Israel.

All Things Dairy

The world’s largest selection of dairy products is highlighted during the Shavuot with soft, spreadable, locally made cheeses and dairy products from over 1,000 farmers. It’s the only time when dairy is on the menu for Jewish holidays because of its reference to ‘the land of milk and honey’, which is Israel. When Moses spent 40 days on Mount Sinai receiving the Torah it included the commandment to keep kosher but instead of creating kosher slaughtering techniques it was easier to celebrate the receiving of law with the preparation and distribution of dairy products. Ironically enough, the word ‘milk’ or ‘chalav’ also carries the same numerical value of the amount of days Moses spent on Mount Sinai, which was 40.

israel olives

The First Fruits

Since Shavuot is a holiday where farming communities all over Israel get to show off their hard work, it’s no wonder that this time is taken to show off samples of fruits and vegetables to the President of Jerusalem. The annual pilgrimage to the presidential residence is a highlight for farmers and their communities. Traditionally, in ancient times, Shavuot was the day to bring offerings to the Holy Temple from the first fruits of the harvest and the first animals born to flocks. This tradition has carried over in modern practices with wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates being the symbolic seven species that the land of Israel is blessed with. Agricultural festivals are also known to take place during this time.

Late Nights And Water Fights

If you were to visit Israel during the time of Shavuot you would witness the many water guns, water balloons and water buckets being used in friendly wars upon the streets, parks and public squares. Children all over can be spotted joining in on this fun activity as Shavuot is celebrated. The Torah is often likened to water which is where this celebratory tradition most likely comes from. Others may even engage in water activities like walks along waterways and hiking Israel’s rivers.

Staying up all night is another popular tradition during Shavuot that is not just for the youth. In biblical times, the Israelites were known for oversleeping in the morning when they were supposed to receive the Torah. Therefore, staying up all night is a way to give honor where some believe the Israelites did not. The nightly engagements are known as Tikkun Leil Savuot or Repair of Shavuot Night where many denominations come to visit synagogues, community centers, theaters and schools; all dressed in white as a symbol of purity. This modern day tradition has become so popular that nightly lectures are presented from all walks of life on the night of Shavuot.

Let’s Not Forget About The Food

If you live in Israel then you are privy to all the recipe booklets and pamphlets that one receives before Shavuot actually arrives. Weeks before Shavuot takes place, newspapers begin to be flooded with recipes that make even the most ‘challenged’ cook feel confident in the kitchen. Recipes for the quickest and easiest cheesecake or best blintzes in town are promised to knock anyone’s socks off! Even social media platforms are flooded with posts sharing star quality recipes for dairy pastries and foods of all sorts.

Whether it’s water wars on the streets, eating your favorite dairy pastry or sampling all the many cheeses that stores have to offer, Shavuot is active in festivities and traditional roots that give patronage to ancient times. Israel is a land that loves to celebrate and seeing how Shavuot is celebrated in Israel is just one example of their rich Jewish culture and nature as a people.

What Does Easter Look Like In Israel?

For Christians, Easter is a time of celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ which brought freedom from sin and death. There are many traditions and celebrations around this holiday; one that reflects on Christ as the Savior of all mankind. In Israel, however, this celebratory week in springtime is considered a Holy week for the Jews. It is the Holy week of Passover which celebrates the early Israelites exodus from Egypt and their freedom from slavery. Easter and Passover are a time when both faiths of Judaism and Christianity meet together with the centerpiece of the celebration being in the city Jerusalem. Here we will look at what Easter traditionally looks like in Israel.

Palm Sunday in Israel

Palm Sunday marks the beginning of this celebratory Holy Week. Thousands of Chrisitians climb to Jerusalem’s Mount of Olives to revisit Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem when palm branches were placed on the path before him as he rode in on a donkey. Palm branches are symbolic of goodness and victory because of this. After descending the Mount of Olives many continue on to Saint Anne Church, St. Steven’s Gate otherwise known as The Lions Gate, the Old City and then further down the Via Dolorosa. As Christian pilgrims take part in this procession there are still many others that line the route to greet those participating with songs and blessings. Before heading into Good Friday, people can join in on a daily mass held in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the Garden of Gethsemane Church or the Basilica of the Agony.

Good Friday in Israel

Good Friday is significant for Jesus’ journey up to Golgotha where He was crucified. For Christians, it marks the death of Jesus at Calvary and the day He was buried at the tomb. During this part of the week in Israel, the Old City of Jerusalem is packed with people making it worthy of noting in case one desires to beat the crowds. If you do plan to visit, this will surely be one of the most amazing experiences to behold where thousands upon thousands follow the same path that Jesus once walked.

Good Friday in Israel

Holy Saturday in Israel

The following day is of course, Holy Saturday where many typically gather in the Old City of Jerusalem at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Here, the annual miracle of the Holy Fire can be seen which is the lighting of the Patriarch’s candle from within the tomb that occurs every year.

Easter in Israel

For many Christians, the highlight of this week is Easter Sunday where services take place come sunrise. In Israel this service takes place at the Garden Tomb where people can gather to celebrate the resurrection of Christ. Not all Jews and Christians, however, agree that Christ was resurrected but the celebrations in reference to Passover are still honored and by all.

Regardless of the differences between religions, the Old City of Jerusalem is lavishly decorated in preparation of Easter. The monks and priests are known to wear all white robes while chanting the liturgy and burning incense above the tomb where Christians believe Jesus Christ was buried and resurrected. All over the city, shops and stores celebrate by having their own decorated displays with many traditional delicacies prepared in honor of this time, though the daily commemorating of the week is considered more significant than any of the feasting or parading celebrations. As Christians celebrate Jesus during this time, the Orthodox Jews celebrate Passover and here one ends up with what Easter looks like in Israel.

Experience The Passion Play While Visiting The Holy Land

The Passion Play is a dramatic presentation depicting the trial and suffering of Christ Jesus that eventually led to his death. Held in Oberammergau, Germany where many travel to from Israel after guided tours through the Holy Land; it is an experience worthy of the trip.

What Is The Passion Play

Many have heard of ‘The Passion’ because of the movie that Mel Gibson created but there is a play that runs from May through October only every ten years, that is just as dramatically inspiring and bringing thousands to recognize the message of the crucifixion of Christ. The Passion ‘play’ depicts the trial, suffering and death of Jesus Christ and in the Catholic tradition, it is a part of lent and even in several other Christian denominations. The oldest of these plays was first presented around 1350-1381 by Canon Baldemar von Peterwell in Frankfort. This particular production required two days as it was profusely more elaborate than the modern day play we know today. Today the play runs approximately five to six hours with an intermission of three hours in between. A meal is traditionally prepared and served during this time and people from all over the world gather to view this play which is often a part of tour packages exploring the Holy Land of Israel.

Where Can You See It

The Passion Play can be seen in the small Bavarian town of Oberammergau, Germany where it is put on in an open air stage. This play is only put on every ten years and operates during the months of May through October. This year, in 2020, will be the 42nd production of The Passion Play. Many who come to see this play come after guided tours in Israel; flying from Tel Aviv to Munich, Germany and then onto Oberammergau. The guided tours in Israel will take you through varying areas of the Holy Land, many sites where Jesus and his disciples walked and lived, allowing you to get a birds eye view of these historic times. Touring the Holy Lands brings back to life what many have read about in Scriptures and reveals a tangible context of the stories they have heard from years past. Being able to explore these lands and then view the dramatic reenactment of the trial and sufferings of Jesus Christ places a perspective on one that can be life changing.

What A Tour Of The Holy Land Looks Like

What A Tour Of The Holy Land Looks Like

A tour of the Holy Land can consist of visiting many different sites and stops but often times a tour is comprised of strategic sites and places that are known amongst most visitors. Places like the Sea of Galilee, Nazareth, Bethlehem, the Jordan River, the Dead Sea, Jerusalem and Golgotha are all places and sites popular among visitors. Many Christians  will also time their trip to experience Easter celebrations in Israel. Guided tours not only take you to these varying spots but speak of the rich history and culture of each site while still allowing for time in certain places for shopping and dining. Even baptisms are a part of some of the tours where visitors themselves can get baptized in the Jordan River! Though tours can be customized or added to, most tours provide an itinerary where travelers know what to expect upfront and can prepare accordingly.

Whatever your tour consists of, you are sure to be enamored by the beauty and culture of the Holy Lands and all it has to offer. From land to sea, to market places where one can dine or shop; the Holy Lands are an experience of a lifetime that no one should miss out on. If you are planning a tour, look into experiencing The Passion Play while visiting the Holy Land. You won’t be disappointed!

Top 10 Archeological Discoveries Found In Israel

When visiting Israel, you’ll soon discover the richness of history that is before you. Israel is marked with historical finds and discoveries almost daily. Everywhere you look, you will surely see something that dates back from a time long ago or at least tells the story of it. This makes is nearly impossible to narrow down the top 10 archeological discoveries found in Israel because almost everything that is discovered confirms or contradicts what we have known for centuries. How can one assess which is the most significant? Here we will narrow down and share the discoveries that stick out amongst the rest and what we find to be the most interesting.

1. A Corner Piece of the Ark of the Covenant

According to the Bible, the tabernacle housing the Ark of the Covenant once stood in the area of the West Bank town of Shiloh. In 2019, an excavation took place at Tel Shiloh, where a team of 200 archeologists and volunteers underneath Dr. Scott Stripling, head of the Associates for Biblical Research, turned up a horn that appeared to be the corner of the altar. This horn was purported to be one of the four corners of the Ark of the Covenant as recounted in the book of Kings. In 1Kings 2:28 it tells of Joab fleeing to the tent of the Lord and taking hold of the horns of the altar.

(1Kings 2:28 “ When the news reached Joab, who had conspired with Adonijah though not with Absalom, he fled to the tent of the Lord and took hold of the horns of the altar” NIV)

2. A Wall Fit For A Giant

In the Philistine city of Gath, a recent discovery was made dating back to the 11th century in the time of King David. Layers of walls 13 feet thick were discovered in a previously excavated area which dated back to the 9th and 10th centuries. These original findings were half as thick as the recent findings. Archeologist, Aren Maier was part of this discovery and called the extra thick layers, ‘Goliath layers’ after the city’s most infamous resident ‘Goliath the Giant’. (in 1Samuel 17 the story of ‘pre’ King David is mentioned slewing the giant Goliath) It makes sense that a giant may have sprouted from this recent giant sized discovery but there is still much to unearth and learn about this ancient era.

3. The Story of the Loaves and Fish

A Byzantine church caught fire in the 7th century, destroying much of the church that nestled in the ancient city of Hippos. Found beneath its ashes, however, was a mosaic that depicted the miracle of Jesus feeding the 5,000. The church itself overlooked the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee and was destroyed due to invaders in AD 614. The traditional site of where Jesus is known to have fed the 5,000 is further north of the Byzantine church but the discovery of the mosaic may tell something different of where the event actually took place.

4. The Dead Sea Scrolls

One of the most infamous discoveries in Israel is the Dead Sea Scrolls. The Dead Sea Scrolls are pieces of parchment over 2,000 years old revealing ancient text. They were found in the desert caves of Qumran in the Judean desert where researchers after, have studied the pieces of parchment relentlessly. Recently, they discovered salty minerals on the Temple Scroll that may have preserved this particular scroll amongst all the others. The Dead Sea Scrolls are known to include the oldest known copies of all the biblical books as well as texts of law, cultic literature of the Judean Desert cult, certificates and more. Because of this they present a perspective into Judaism and the beginning of Christianity.

5. The Tel Dan Stele

A slab with ancient text was discovered one day by archeologist Dan Biran who was lead on an excavation in Tel Dan. At first the slab went unnoticed, until Brians eye caught text carved into the slab which later turned out to be the part of a structure erected by King Aram. The text depicts the defeat of the kingdoms of Judah and Israel and boasts of the death of Yehoram ben Ahab who was the king of the northern kingdom as well as Ahaziah, who was king in the house of David. The piece of slab is called the Tel Dan stele and its discovery has ended the debate as to whether King David was a historical figure or fable.

6. World’s Oldest Artifact

Known as the ‘Venus’ figurine, this artifact dates back over 250,000 years and is counted as the world’s oldest artifact. Based on its appearance it doesn’t seem to be much but marks of modification are discernable and tell of its more primitive timeline. Professor Naama Goren-Inbar of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem led the excavation at Birkat Ram where the figurine was discovered. It is noted as being made from a less than so called modern day human and rather from a primitive hominin, Homo erectus or other.

7. DNA Confirms Philistine Ties

Genetic analysis confirms that the Philistines descended from people who migrated to the Levant from Greece, Sardinia or the Iberian Peninsula over some 3,000 years ago. Bodies of ancient individuals were discovered at a Philistine archeological site where DNA was extracted, leading to these new revelations. In the Bible, Philistines are mentioned countless times and are amongst ancient Egyptian writings as well. These texts are what led archeologists to Ashkelon, a city known today as Israel, where artifacts were found reminiscent of those in the Bronze Age. Genetic analysis ties these cultural relics to migrants that brought them to the Levant confirming their relation to the Philistines.

8. Ancient Crucifixion

It was just outside of Jerusalem that the remains of a crucified man were discovered at Givat Hamivtar. The cross he was crucified on resembled two parts; the upright bar called the stipes crucis and the horizontal bar, called the patibulum. The crucified man was placed on his back over the stipes crucis and his hands nailed to the patibulum. Archeologists believe it was actually the wrist that the nails were driven through as human hands could not hold up the weight. The man discovered was also affixed to the cross by his feet which revealed a different method than that originally expected. Based on recent findings, archeologists now have further insight into Roman crucifixions.

9. New Understanding

Ugaritic texts were discovered from the site of Ugarit on the northern coast of Syria along the Mediterranean Sea. The Ugarit was a well known Canaanite city state in the second millennium BC. The texts themselves were found in the palace and temple areas. It’s known that Ugarit reached its height during the period where written literature flourished between the fifteenth and thirteenth century BC. Unfortunately, the city state reached its end around 1200 BC when Mediterranean enemies destroyed it. The Ugaritic texts hold significance however, because they provide material referencing the Canaanite religion giving further understanding of Old Testament context; especially parallels between the Canaanite and Israelite religious practices.

10. The Home of St. Peter

It was over 25 years ago that archaeologists discovered the first century A.D. home in Capernaum that is believed to have been inhabited by Jesus during his Galilean ministry. Based on material remains, the house appears to have been a place for community gatherings and is significant to early Christianity and its association to Jesus and his disciple Peter.

Well, there you have it! Our top ten archeological discoveries found in Israel. We hope you enjoyed this list of discoveries and that it prompts you to further dig into the world of Israel and all it has to offer.

Why Every Pastor Should Visit Israel

Who wouldn’t want to take a trip to Israel? The lands, the culture, the beaches; everything the eye can see gives us reason to write Israel on our bucket list. But what is it about Israel that should make every Pastor want to visit? Here we will look at key reasons why every Pastor should visit Israel.

1. To Bring the Word of God to Life

The Bible reveals story after story of Jesus’ walk here on earth. Where he was born, where he grew up, what it looked like and the many places he journeyed sharing the Gospel. Imagine though, as you read through the Word, experiencing the places, people, sights and culture. Tangibly experiencing everything you’ve read. You can begin to see that visiting Israel and seeing firsthand where Jesus walked would bring the Word of God to life! Walking where Joshua battled, where David presided and where the prophet Elijah called down fire is an experience that one can only put into words once they have been there. It’s inspirational to say the least and those who have visited will tell you that you that they have been forever changed.

Encountering the places, people, sounds and historical sites will transform you in a way that surprises you. It provides context to the Bible; giving you a greater understanding of God’s word. You’ll leave interpreting the Bible differently and therefore, teaching it differently as well. We can spend all the time we want in the classroom but often times what we learn outside of the classroom is what has the greatest impact. Visiting Israel is a real and tangible way to stand where Jesus stood and experience the Holiest of Holy Lands.

2. To Deepen One’s Spiritual Walk

Experiencing the Word of God come to life on your visit will undoubtedly deepen and strengthen your walk. It’s said for those who have visited Israel, that 99% agree that experiencing the land of the Bible has strengthened their personal relationship with God. Being that Israel is such a biblical landmark it’s no wonder that this is the case yet, it’s not just the historical roots that make an impact.

As long as we’ve known, Israel has been a place of conflict. We see it all over the news and social media platforms. Much of what we have learned about current affairs have come from these sources but what we view via a screen is nothing compared to real life. When you visit Israel you will have real life encounters with those that live and do life there. You’ll hear their stories and begin to see and understand things from a different perspective. Their testimonies will move you in ways that may lead you to intercede for their nation or pray more for your own. They may inspire you to get more involved with world missions or start small groups that focus on praying for this land and its people. Whatever the case may be, one cannot deny how active God’s hand has been in Israel. It’s a miracle that it stands today. A living story of God and His people and a story that will deepen one’s walk when they come to visit.

Inspire Your Congregation

3. To Inspire Your Congregation

If experiencing Israel leaves you inspired than imagine how that can carry over to your congregation. The impact and influence that your trip to Israel has marked you with will not only pour out as you share of your travel experience but even more so, as you share the Gospel with newfound perspective. What may have seemed to be a leisurely visit for one to personally enjoy turns into so much more!

Greater knowledge and understanding of God’s Word boosts your confidence and you’ll find yourself excited to share this with others. That excitement for the Word of God is contagious. It causes people to ask questions and yearn for more. They may find themselves wanting to visit the land of Israel for themselves after seeing how it impacted you. The just of it is, we all long for inspiration in our lives. We want to be moved. We hunger for more. Visiting Israel is not just a trip one can take as a vacation. Though it is certainly worth it, whether one visits for business or for pleasure, it Will leave you inspired!

It’s very likely that you or your Pastor has never visited the very places that are talked about from the pulpit. Bible study videos, travel videos and other places we may see Israel do not do it justice. Many who visit leave feeling the urge to already come back because there is so much to see and explore. Tours are often at least ten days because they want to encompass the best of what Israel has to offer and even these just touch on what one can experience. When you think of all the money spent on attending conferences and other things that strengthen you as a leader; why not think of visiting Israel in the same way! What you gain from experiencing Israel firsthand will enhance your knowledge and understanding and absolutely change you for the better as a leader.

Caesarea – The Site of Major Events In the Life Paul

There are actually two cities that share the name of Caesarea. One is located near springs that feed the Jordan River and the other is Caesarea Maritima, that is found along the shores of the Mediterranean. This Caesarea was a port constructed by King Herod the Great. From its earliest times, it was predominantly a Roman settlement with a Gentile majority. In 6AD when the Romans took full control, it eventually became their capital.

Caesarea is a significant site in Christian history because this is where Pontius Pilate governed during the time that Jesus walked on earth. Today it’s known as a town on the Mediterranean coast where you can find the Caesarea National Park. Here, a Roman amphitheater and the remains of Herod’s palace are present, the same place where Paul was kept prisoner for over two years. We will explore a little about Paul, his time in Caesarea and what to expect if visiting modern day Caesarea.

The Apostle Paul

Paul, whose first name was Saul, was a devout Jew who unabashedly persecuted the early followers of Christ. His name was later changed to Paul when he had a revelation that convicted him of the truth of Jesus Christ and from here, spent the rest of his life spreading the news of Christ the Savior; writing various letters to different church congregations around the Eastern Mediterranean region.

Paul in Caesarea

Prior to arriving in Caesarea, Paul traveled to Jerusalem where he was soon arrested by Roman troops and escorted out of the city. Upon landing in Caesarea, he appeared before the Roman governor and was kept under guard for five days at Herod’s Palace where he awaited trial. He was accused by the Jews of public disorder in Jerusalem because he was believed to have brought Gentiles into the inner courts of the temple which was considered a capital offense.

Once trial proceeded, Paul defends himself and admits that he is a follower of Jesus; presenting a powerful speech before Governor Felix, Festus and King Agrippa but still ends up under house arrest by the governor as he felt further evidence was needed. As to what happened over the two years of his imprisonment, many argue over the exact details but it is believed that this is the time when Paul wrote the four epistles.

Outside of Paul’s trial and imprisonment, Caesarea is also the site known for Paul baptizing the Roman centurion Cornelius who was the first gentile to convert to Christianity, as well as being the place where Paul set off to preach the good news in communities all over the Mediterranean region prior to his two years of imprisonment.

Modern Day Caesarea

Modern day Caesarea is a diamond in the rough with much to offer. Its well engineered structures are why sites like the seacoast theater still remain to this day. If you stand in the center of the seacoast theater and speak normally, those sitting in the surrounding seats can still hear you clearly. That’s pretty impressive!

If your visit takes you along the shores of the beach near the sea palace of Pontius Pilate, you will find a hippodrome where one can learn about Roman horse races. Here you will also learn of how this amphitheater was used to feed Christians and Jews to the lions. Some of the unpleasant stories of history’s past. A Roman administrative center, bathhouse, public toilet, moat and fortress are also among the structures that still remain in this area. The most impressive though, is the port built by King Herod called the Sebastos. It was the largest seaport on the eastern Mediterranean made from volcanic ash called pozzolana.

In conclusion, today, modern day Caesarea is a bustling city of upper class community and a popular vacation spot. Boutiques and restaurants nestle themselves amongst the archeological remains, making Caesarea a visual storybook as old stones come to life and tell of times past.

An In Depth Tour of the Holy Land

An in depth tour of the Holy Land will take you to places like Jerusalem, Bethlehem, the Sea of Galilee and the Jordan River. There is so much history to tell, which is why Christians often seek to pilgrimage these areas. Enjoy the time spent and take in every facet these significant biblical landmarks.

Tour of Jerusalem

Jerusalem is located on a plateau in the Judaean Mountains between the Mediterranean and the Dead Sea. It is surrounded on three sides by steep valleys. The Hinnom on the west and south and the Kidron on the east. You will find the golden Dome of the Rock standing on the Temple Mount, also known as Mount Moriah where Abraham set out to sacrifice his son Issac.

As a city in the Middle East, it is one of the world’s oldest cities and is considered holy by three major religions. Known as the region of Jesus’ ministry, it was also a center of religious and political affairs and a major landmark in biblical times. For Jews, Jerusalem is the city of King David and the capital of his kingdom. It is where the Temple stood and contained the Ark of the Covenant. It is also the location of the well known Western Wall. Known in recent centuries as the “Wailing Wall,” the Western Wall was built by Herod the Great as the retaining wall of the Temple Mount complex. The plaza was created as an area for prayer when Israel captured the Old City in 1967. For Christians, Jerusalem is where Christ died, was buried and was resurrected as well as being the birthplace of the first church. For Muslims it is considered holy because it is believed to be where Muhammad ascended to heaven.

Today, modern Jerusalem is a bustling city where 3.5 million visitors are known to have come just last year. A tour of Jerusalem offers different blends of sights, culture, religion, markets, synagogues, mosques and churches.

Tour the Sea of Galilee

The Sea of Galilee goes by many names. Lake or Sea of Tiberias, Lake Kinneret or Kinnereth and Lake Gennesaret are among them. It is the lowest freshwater lake on earth and the second lowest lake in the world. Here the Jordan River flows to and from this body of water; bringing fresh water in as well as fresh water out. It is highly regarded for its biblical associations with Jesus’ ministry and the infamous story of Jesus walking on water. Though some names refer to it as a Sea it is not a real sea but rather, out of tradition, has been coined the term. What you will find today is not much different from Jesus’ time except that the lake has experienced years of drought and is undergoing plans to ensure that it will not dry up.

Visit Bethlehem

Bethlehem is well known for being the biblical birthplace of Jesus. In Hebrew, it means ‘house of bread’. It is located in the hill country of Judah which was originally called Ephrath, Beth-lehem Ephratah or Beth-lehem-judah and Christians are familiar with its name ‘the city of David’ as it was David’s birthplace. South of Jerusalem in the West Bank, it was first noticed in scripture as the place where Rachel died and was buried directly north of the city. To the east was the setting for the story of Ruth; the fields that she gleaned and the road that she and Naomi returned to town.

Because of its history, Bethlehem is considered a very distinguished city above others. It closely neighbors Jerusalem where a well maintained highway links the two cities. Today, Bethlehem is a thriving trade town where many come to visit its roots and tour popular sites such as The Church of Nativity and Rachel’s Tomb.

Get Baptized in the Jordan River

As mentioned above, the Jordan River in the Middle East, flows north to south through the Sea of Galilee and onto the Dead Sea where it ends. This river is regarded with major significance as Jesus is known to have baptized John the Baptist in this river. It is also where the Israelites crossed into the Promised Land. The city of Jordan and Golan Heights border the river to the east and the West Bank and Israel sit to the west. Both the city of Jordan and West Bank get their names from the Jordan River. Many who come to visit this area seek to be baptized in the River Jordan because of its significance to Jesus.

These are just some of the main areas you will tour on an in depth tour of the Holy Land. Other surrounding sites such as Qumran, Ein Gedi, the Dead Sea and Masada are also toured.

15 Travel Tips When Your Planning A Trip To Israel

Planning a trip to Israel? Do you have questions about local laws, social norms, or safety concerns? It’s always a good idea to be aware of what to expect and what you should plan for when planning a trip. Traveling tips can make a big difference in your traveling experience. From getting baptized in the Jordan river, visiting the Western Wall, worshiping in the Garden of Gethsemane to taking boat ride on the Sea of Galilee, where Jesus prayed, here are 15 travel tips when planning a trip to Israel that will aid you on your trip.

Get To Know Some Of Israel’s History And Culture

Israel is a historic land with many spiritual roots. People often visit to experience different parts of the Holy Land which is an area roughly located between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. Jerusalem itself, is known as the holiest city in Judaism and the ancestral and spiritual homeland of the Jewish people since the 10th century BCE. The city of Jerusalem is given special status in Jewish religious law.

Amongst its spiritual roots, Israel has also experienced many violent and traumatic wars. Some, like the holocaust, are not even fathomable or can be put into words. Knowing that a nation has undergone so much war, death and grief; it is only honorable to understand some of its history upon visiting.

Friday Through Saturday Is A Time Of Rest

For the Jewish community, the weekend falls on Friday through Saturday as they honor the Sabbath; the Jewish day of rest. It starts just before sundown on Friday and goes through the night until the first three stars appear in the sky. During this time, Jewish people traditionally stay indoors, putting aside weekday stressors so they can commit themselves to higher pursuits. There are a number of activities that are prohibited during this time that can affect visitors; like electricity being shut off, closing down of restaurants and shops as well as transportation not operating. Having awareness of this Jewish custom allows for visitors to plan accordingly. One may even consider this to be a good time to visit the Western Wall where the Jews mark the start of the Sabbath.

Western Wall of Jerusalem

Be Mindful Of What You Pack

Even though Israel is mostly a liberal country, there are varying dress codes and requirements throughout some of its parts. In Tel Aviv anything goes but in places like Jerusalem, modesty is expected. Shoulder coverage and covering down to the knees is appreciated in places like Jerusalem. Having a scarf or shawl on hand is always a good idea as they can be quickly used to cover oneself if the need arises.

Traveling Throughout Israel Can Be Costly

Israel is an expensive country, so know what the current currency is going for and what you plan to buy before traveling. Researching prior to your trip on the cost of general items in the areas you’ll be visiting is a good idea.

No Need To Worry

Since July of 2018, visitors no longer need to worry about receiving the foreboding Israeli passport stamp. Instead, when you arrive you’ll have your photo taken and a barcode issued to you along with personal information on a small blue Israel visa card. This tourist card will be used at all hotels, car rental agencies and basically be your identification as a tourist. You’ll want to make sure you hang onto this card but if you lose it, don’t worry! You’ll just have to pay a tax for a new one. Upon departure you’ll be given another card similar to this but in pink. You can keep both as souvenirs, so be sure not to keep it in your passport case as it could be taken and discarded by staff upon checkout.

Expect To Be Questioned

Don’t take it personally. It’s completely normal that when you arrive you’ll be asked why you are visiting and where you are staying; along with other personal questions. On departure they’ll most likely go through your passport and question you about the stamps from countries you’ve visited if they’re wary of them. This is all normal protocol. Even being asked to step aside and dump your belongings is no concern for panic. They are just doing their due diligence in efforts to keep everyone safe.

Safety Is Important But Don’t Fret About It

Knowing anything about Israel’s history can put you on edge, however, Israel as a whole is a safe and peaceful place. Exercising natural and normal levels of caution is all that is needed. If you really want to be proactive, check in with your local government travel advisory prior to hopping on your plane to receive current news updates.

Don’t Be Surprised By Military Personnel

At the age of 18 all genders are required to serve in the Israeli Defense Force (IDF). It’s a right of passage for Israeli citizens and though once restricted, women have held positions since 1995. Today they make up 51% of Israel’s army. Seeing these military personnel on the streets should be expected. They are regarded as being a contributing factor to Israel’s economic success and safety.

Transportation

Places like Jerusalem are typically walkable cities. Most tourists expect to be on their feet much of time. But if your in need of transportation it’s good to know what’s available. Metro trams operate at different ends of the city and there is a multitude of busing options available. Shared taxis operate throughout the country as do mini bus shuttles between key destinations. For everything else there is Uber, or in this case, Gett. Its a taxi app that is the equivalent of Uber and will help you with your transportation needs.

The Dead Sea

The Dead Sea is the lowest point on earth so it’s a must visit if your in the area. Known for its high salt content, visitors can float effortlessly in the Dead Sea and for therapeutic purposes, you can rub some of the mud from the waters edge on your skin. Remember, it has an extremely high salt content so don’t shave beforehand.

Salt pillar at the Dead Sea Israel

The Best Time To Visit

It depends on why your visiting in order to answer this question. Overall, there is never a bad time to visit as Israel is a wonderful country but there are different seasons and festivals going on throughout the year that you may want to plan your trip around. Summer is considered June through September and is best for those planning to spend a lot of time at the beach. Spring comes in April through May and Autumn falls in October and November. These times are the best for touring the country. Winter lies throughout December and into March, which is perfect for those seeking to hit the highlands for skiing.

Is Tipping A Custom In Israel

Tipping in Israel is discretionary but expected like that of the Western world. The going rate is between 10-15% with 10% being the lowest, 12% average and 15% for great service. Waiters and bartenders are generally paid a low salary with the majority of their earnings coming from tips. Taxi drivers, on the other hand, are not customarily tipped.

Water Is Safe To Drink

Water in Israel is safe to drink but it does have a higher mineral content which may not sit well with your stomach. Having a bottle that you can fill or buying bottled water may be helpful if you find this to be the case. Almost all of the hotels will have a water fountain where you can fill up if you prefer to do so.

Guess What? Smoking Inside Is Allowed

Over here in the Western States we’ve grown accustomed to the ban of smoking cigarettes inside public places. In places like Tel-Aviv however, this is a normalcy, and even smoking Marjuana is allowed, so be forewarned if that’s not something you care to be around.

Tel Aviv Beach with Jaffa in Background

Beaches In Tel Aviv

Remember how we mentioned that Tel-Aviv is a lot more liberal? Well, expect that at their beaches. Most beaches around this area are themed to bring in certain people groups. Gender specific beaches, family friendly beaches and even yuppie beaches are a thing. Know what your looking to enjoy before just setting out on the water. The whole point in visiting the beach is to enjoy and embrace your vacation so don’t let the atmosphere of a specific beach ruin that for you.

All in all, almost anywhere you travel, you’ll need to have some idea of what to expect. Especially if your traveling out of the country. Israel is a beautiful country with many destinations that will fit just about anyone’s tastes. Crystal clear waters and white beaches, delectable foods, awe inspiring architecture and strong historical roots are just some of the reasons that make Israel worth visiting. But before you go, just do a little research when planning your trip, so that you can settle comfortably into your vacation. Better yet, book a group tour with an expert guide which can help to answer questions and help to make the most of your trip.

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