Things to do in Israel
Every country has its outstanding and special attractions. Goway has selected its top 17 things to do in Israel (not in any particular order) for you to enjoy on your visit to this destination.
The Old City, Jerusalem
This is the heart of the city of Jerusalem as well as the centre of Judaism and the holy city to Islam and Christianity. Totally surrounded by a thick wall which is 4 kilometres/2.5 miles around its perimeter, it is divided into 4 quarters, each pertaining to 4 distinct religious beliefs. They are the Christian Quarter, the Jewish Quarter, The Muslim Quarter and the Armenian Quarter. The walls and current structures within the Old City date back to the 16th Century. Enter through one of the 8 gates to find a place inhabited by people who live and work there and not just a historical site. A Cardo (market street) runs north-to-south down the centre of the Old City. This road has been excavated and re-opened with modern shops side by side with ancient columns with about two stories going underground. On an Israel vacation, you will find many cafes and restaurants in some of the sectors.
Church of the Holy Sepulchre
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Old City is the holiest Christian site in Jerusalem, the site of Jesus' crucifixion, burial and resurrection. First constructed in 335 by Emperor Constantine, persistent damage has been inflicted on the structure over the centuries and subsequent repair work has been undertaken by the religious communities that administer it. The Church contains the Chapel of Golgotha and three Stations of the Cross where Jesus was crucified. Another important landmark on trips to Israel is the Via Dolorosa, said to be the path along which Jesus walked from the time of his arrest to the site of his crucifixion. It is marked by the 14 Stations of the Cross of which 5 are within the Christian Quarter.
Temple Mount/Dome of the Rock
Temple Mount is a site of tremendous religious importance to Muslims, Jews and Christians alike. It is one of Jerusalem's most famous landmarks and can be found within the walled section of the Old City. The glinting golden dome of the Dome of the Rock rises impressively from Jerusalem's skyline and has become the city's most distinguishable feature. Temple Mount is of Jewish and Christian historical importance on two accounts. The large rock is believed to be the place where Abraham offered his son Isaac up for sacrifice and the First Temple is the place where the Ark of the Covenant was housed. For Muslims, the same rock is the place from which Muhammad, in a dream, ascended to heaven. In commemoration, the Dome of the Rock was built over the site in the 7th Century.
The Western Wall or Wailing Wall
The Western Wall, known to non-Jews as the Wailing Wall, is the most sacred Jewish site of prayer in the world, the place where thousands of worshippers gather year-round to pray and even leave prayers folded into its crevices. The 584 metre/1916 foot wall is all that remains of the Second Temple of Jerusalem built in 30BC by King Herod. It is made up of enormous stone blocks and serves as a tribute to the scale of workmanship in past eras. Following Orthodox Jewish practice the praying sections have been separated for men and women. On Fridays, the Jewish Shabbat or Sabbath, the men's section is filled with the songs and prayers of the faithful. The wall is also sacred to Muslims who believe that it is where the prophet Mohammed tied up his winged horse, Al Burak, before ascending into heaven.
Yad Vashem is Israel's official memorial to the victims of the Holocaust and dedicated to preserving the memory of the dead. It was established in 1953 on the western slope of Mount Herzl, also known as the Mount of Remembrance. The memorial consists of a complex which includes the Holocaust History Museum, memorial sites such as the Children's Memorial dedicated to the 1.5 million Jewish children who died in the Holocaust and the Hall of Remembrance where an eternal flame burns near a crypt containing the ashes of victims brought from the death camps, the Museum of Holocaust Art, a collection of works created in ghettos and camps and much more on an Israel vacation. Yad Vashem is the second-most visited site in Jerusalem after the Western Wall. Nine underground galleries give details of the events leading up to the Holocaust as well as the disturbing, deep-rooted history of anti-Semitism in Europe.
The Israel Museum
The Israel Museum opened in 1965 as Israel's national museum and contains a variety of totally unique treasures such as the Venus of Berekhat Ram, a pebble found on the Golan Heights, the interior of a 1736 synagogue from Surinam, necklaces worn by Jewish brides in Yemen and a mosaic Islamic prayer from 17th Century Persia These give you an idea of the museum’s diverse artifacts. There is also a Fine Arts wing which contains European, modern and Israeli art. Above all, the museum’s most famous item is the Dead Sea Scrolls, the oldest biblical manuscripts in the world discovered in caves near the Dead Sea. Because of the age and fragility of the scrolls, it makes it impossible to display them all on a continuous basis. Therefore they are rotated every 3 to 6 months.
Garden of Gethsemane
Gethsemane is a garden at the foot of the Mount of Olives and known as the place where Jesus went with his disciples to pray the night before he was crucified. Beside this garden is the Church of All Nations built over the rock and is where Jesus is believed to have prayed before he was betrayed by Judas Iscariot and arrested. Close by is the Grotto of Gethsemane where Jesus and his disciples met and prayed. Next to this is the Tomb of Mary where the mother of Jesus was believed to be buried. The Mount of Olives gets its name from the fact that there used to be many Olive trees that grew here. The view of the old city from the Mount of Olives is worth the visit on an Israel tour.
Bethlehem is just 10 kilometres/6 miles south of Jerusalem and a major tourist attraction for pilgrims and visitors alike. The birthplace of Jesus, this is a charming town despite its tourist-centred commercialism. The Church of the Nativity is the focal point for a visit to the town, erected over the site of Jesus' birthplace. Bethlehem is also a wonderful place to experience the variety of Christian monastics that represent every permutation of Christianity. Christmas is celebrated on three separate dates in accordance with the Catholic and Western Churches calendars, the Eastern calendar followed by the Armenians and the Julian calendar followed by the Greek Orthodox and Eastern churches.
Nazareth is one of the most important Christian holy sites attracting pilgrims from all over the world. It was here that Jesus spent most of his life and it was here that the Miracle of the Annunciation took place. Nazareth is home to both Christians and Muslims and is a quaint amalgamation of red roofs and white churches dotted along the slopes of the Galilean hillside. Breathtaking views can be enjoyed, on an Israel vacation, from the summit which looks out onto the Jezreel Valley. The Church of the Annunciation is one of the most important sites in the Christian world. The walls of the upper sanctuary are decorated with panels depicting scenes from the life of Mary that have been donated by Catholic communities from around the world. The nearby Church of St Joseph houses the remains of Crusader bas-reliefs, capitals and inscriptions found during the Church's construction. The Synagogue Church in Nazareth is thought to have been built over the site where Jesus preached. The Mosque Quarter is an interesting area comprising an elegant mosque within the central market area.
The Dead Sea
The Dead Sea and the immediate area are full of natural wonders. Most notable of these is the high salt and mineral concentration found in the waters of the sea which allow visitors to float effortlessly on its salty surface. The therapeutic properties of the black mud found in the region are formed by a mixture of sea minerals and organic elements. For a completely rejuvenating experience, several Dead Sea spa resorts offer a range of health and beauty treatments and the opportunity, on Israel tours, to float in the saltiest body of water in the world and the lowest place on earth.
Situated in the Judean Desert and overlooking the Dead Sea is one of Israel's most popular tourist attractions, the mountaintop fortress of Masada. This symbol of Jewish history is the site of the heroic defiance by 967 Jewish Zealots who rose against the Roman Empire in 66 AD and took their own lives when defeat seemed inevitable. A cable car ride or hike up the Snake Path takes you to the top where breathtaking views can be enjoyed over the Dead Sea and the surrounding desert.
The ancient port city of Caesarea was established 2000 years ago by Herod the Great as a tribute to the Roman Emperor, Augustus Caesar. Its rich archaeological heritage includes the remains of Roman architecture, notably an aqueduct, theatre, houses and palaces. For diving enthusiasts, Modern day Caesarea has become well-known for its fine homes, 18-hole golf course, luxury hotels, galleries and boutiques. Miles of sandy beach stretch along the Mediterranean coastline and visitors on an Israel vacation can enjoy the sun-soaked atmosphere.
Sea of Galilee and Golan Heights
The Sea of Galilee is the largest freshwater lake, in Israel. According to the New Testament, many of Jesus’ miracles occurred here including his walk on the water. Tiberias is the largest city on the Sea of Galilee. You can visit the Tiberias Hot Springs, ancient pools filled with water from 17 natural springs. , From Tiberias, it is possible to rent a bike and cycle around the Sea of Galilee. The region also has lots of hiking trails including the Sea of Galilee Trail which encircles the lake (and the Jesus Trail which runs from Nazareth to the ancient and Biblically important site of Capernaum on the northern shores.
To the north of the lake are the Golan Heights, a mountainous region with breathtaking landscapes, wonderful nature reserves and historical attractions. For hikers, the Golan region offers a variety of different paths with varying levels of difficulty. The Hermon Mountain, located in the Golan Heights, is an ideal destination for skiers.
Eilat, on the Red Sea in the south of Israel, is the perfect destination in which to relax. It offers a great variety of hotels and resorts. Visitors on an Israel tour can go snorkeling or take diving lessons among the coral reefs and enjoy the stunning underwater world of the Red Sea. Other activities include swimming with dolphins or relaxing at the pool or on the beach.
Jaffa is located immediately south of Tel Aviv. It offers years of ancient Israeli history and, in contrast, restaurants, bars and clubs. The range of attractions in Old Jaffa is startling, The mixture of activities and sights is amazing, from mosques and churches to ancient clock towers, wishing bridges, sculptures, museums, art galleries and trendy restaurants. Jaffa Port is set in the city's ancient harbour, home to various merchants and stalls.
Ein Gedi, close to the Dead Sea in the Judean Desert is one of Israel’s premier hiking spots featuring spectacular beauty, varied landscapes, and botanical gardens. The Ein Gedi Nature Reserve is one of the most attractive places in Israel. It is one of the most popular spots for Israelis to visit. It offers over nine different hiking trails, suitable for everyone from family groups to experienced hikers and lasting from just half-an-hour in length to a full day.
Haifa is Israel’s third largest city, beautifully situated on the slopes of Mount Carmel facing the Mediterranean Sea. It has been compared to San Francisco. Although traditionally a working city, there are a number of great things to do in Haifa on an Israel vacation including the Baha’i Gardens, German Colony, as well as a number of top museums. It is also known for its mixed population of Jews and Arabs who peacefully coexist. From the top of Mount Carmel, the views are spectacular across the Port of Haifa to the Western Galilee. Haifa’s crown jewel is the Baha’i Gardens, a UNESCO World Heritage site. These beautiful gardens are a place of pilgrimage for members of the Baha’i faith and are set across terraces sloping down Mount Carmel towards the Mediterranean Sea. At the bottom of the gardens is the German Colony, with its pretty streets of restored templar-era buildings. The main street of the German Colony runs directly from the bottom of the gardens towards the coast and is lined with restaurants and cafes.
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