Israel: 6 Must See Sights for the Visiting Christian
Israel may be the homeland of the Jewish people, but many Christians visit, too. It’s a beautiful place, rich with history and spiritual connections. For the first timer, it can be overwhelming to decide what to do. But don’t worry, here are six things any Christian should check out on their first visit to the Holy Land.
The place that started it all! The gospels tell us that this is the town where Jesus was born. To get here, you can easily grab a taxi from Jerusalem. However, during the Christmas season, many Christians travel in a group on foot. Once there, you can visit one of the oldest churches in the world, The Church of the Nativity. It’s constructed on the cave where Jesus was born to Mary. You can also see Rachel’s Tomb, resting place of the wife of Jacob.
Another integral city to the life of Christ. It was here that our Savior grew up, worked, and studied. Once you arrive, be sure to visit the Basilica of the Annunciation, a beautiful church built on the site where Mary first received the news that she was with Child. Another church worth noting is the Mensa Christi Church, where Jesus dined with the apostles after his Resurrection. For an experience you’ll never forget, step into Nazareth Village. It’s an historical reimagining of the hustle and bustle of Jesus’s hometown. The reenactors are dressed in traditional clothes, and perform tasks not unlike those done by Jesus and his peers.
3) The Jesus Trail
If you want to get a sense of the geographical space while still visiting the sites of major events from the life of Christ, check out the Jesus trail. It’s a hiking route that connects towns that have a shared connection with Jesus. Stops include Cana (the site of the first Miracle– water into wine), Capernaum, and the Mount of Beatitudes, and Tabgha (where Jesus fed 5,000).
4) Qasr el Yahud
This small stretch of the Jordan River Valley holds great significance for Christians– it’s where Jesus was baptized by his cousin, John the Baptist. Some local traditions also consider it the place where the Israelites crossed the Jordan River, and where Elijah was caught up into heaven. Today, beautiful marble steps descend to the water.
This town is located in the far northwest of the country, on the Sea of Galilee. It was home to the apostles Peter, Andrew, and Philip, and may have been home to brothers James and John (sons of Zebedee). It was a bustling fishing town, so it makes sense as to why Jesus would tell his disciples he would make them “fishers of men”. Not a bad gig, because many of them were already fishers by trade!
No trip to the Holy Land would be complete without a visit to Jerusalem. There’s a wealth to see and do, so let’s just hit a few:
- Monastery of the Cross: A very small Greek Orthodox monastery. It’s completely surrounded by walls, and is built on the site of the trees from which were made Jesus’ Cross.
- The Church of the Holy Sepulchre: A site visited by Christians from all over the world! It is considered one of, if not the most, holy sites in Christianity. It’s the site that contains the site of Jesus’ crucifixion and burial, as well as the last few stations of the cross. Naturally, you can expect it to get pretty crowded!
- The Biblical Zoo: Be sure to check out this zoo in west Jerusalem that houses some of the animals described in the Old Testament.