You don’t have to be religious to appreciate Israel’s historic landmarks but for those who are Christian the country is special because it offers several opportunities to connect with Jesus Christ, especially during Easter.
Israel has all the trappings of an outstanding tourist destination of course – restaurants, hotels, art galleries and museums – but there are few places on earth where believers can literally walk in the footsteps of Jesus and explore the very locations he visited, prayed and died.
While we can’t name them all here, this is a list of a few popular spots in Israel that allow Christians, or people who are interested in Christianity, to walk in the footsteps of Jesus Christ.
Mount of Beatitudes
The Mount of Beatitudes is where Jesus is believed to have delivered the Sermon on the Mount. In Matthew 5:7, Jesus says “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” Pope John Paul II celebrated a Mass at this site in March 2000. (Rod Charles photo for VacayNetwork.com)
The Western Wall
The Western Wall, or “Wailing Wall”, is the western support wall of the Temple Mount. It is considered the most religious site in the world for the Jewish people. In Mark 11:15-18, Jesus became angry at people who were conducting business in the temple and made enemies in the process. Access to the Western Wall is free and is open all day, year-round. Security here is tight, so be prepared to be scanned and have your bags go through an X-ray machine. (Rod Charles photo for VacayNetwork.com)
The ruins of Capernaum, located on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee, was a fishing village. Matthew 4:13 says Jesus left Nazareth and went to live in Capernaum after being tempted in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11). Jesus also gave the Sermon on the Bread of Life (John 6:35-59). Archaeologists uncovered an early Christian home in Capernaum thought to have been the home of Peter, one of the disciples. Today, visitors can visit St. Peter’s House Church, a memorial (pictured above) with a glass floor built over the remains of that house. (Rod Charles photo for VacayNetwork.com)
The Stations of the Cross
Pictured above is the first station of the cross, the site in Old Jerusalem where Jesus was condemned to death (John 19). There are fourteen stations altogether, where tourists can walk in the footsteps of Jesus on his last day. These include station five, where Simon helped Jesus carry the cross, station eight where he fell for the third time, station 11 where he was nailed to the cross and station 14 where he was placed in the tomb. (Rod Charles photo for VacayNetwork.com)
Bethesda was a sheep gate pool. It was believed that the first person whom entered the waters when the water stirred would be healed, but there was a man who was so sick he was unable to make it in the waters in time. Jesus immediately healed the man, telling him to “Pick up his mat and walk” (John 5:8). (Rod Charles photo for VacayNetwork.com)
Yes, we know Bethlehem isn’t in Israel but it’s close enough and worth a visit if you have the time. Believed to be the birthplace of Jesus, Church of the Nativity holds a prominent religious significance to Christians of various denominations – especially at Christmas. In 2012, the church complex, which has been undergoing renovations, became the first Palestinian site to be listed as a World Heritage site. Hop on bus 231 at Jaffa Gate and you will be dropped off at Derech Beit Jala and Hebron Road. It’s a 45 minute bus ride. When you get off the bus stay south on Children Street all the way to Manger Square. If you want to touch the actual star marking the spot where it is believed Jesus was born, be prepared to wait in line 2-3 hours. (Rod Charles photo for VacayNetwork.com)
Basilica of the Agony
Featured Picture: The Church of All Nations, also known as the Church or Basilica of the Agony, is a Roman Catholic church located on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, next to the Garden of Gethsemane. It is here that Jesus is said to have prayed before his arrest (Mark 14:32-42), saying “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” (Photo Courtesy Israel Tourism)
MORE ABOUT ISRAEL
Go Israel Website: http://www.israel.travel
Before you depart
Security is intense. Your suitcase will be searched, and you should expect to be asked odd and at times intrusive questions at the airport before going through security. I felt safe in Israel.