10. Go Scuba Diving in Eilat
Eilat (/eɪˈlɑːt/; Hebrew: אֵילַת (help·info) Hebrew pronunciation: [eiˈlat]; Arabic: ايلات) is Israel‘s southernmost city, a busy port and popular resort at the northern tip of the Red Sea, on the Gulf of Aqaba.
The city’s beaches, coral reef, nightlife and desert landscapes make it a popular destination for domestic and international tourism. The coral reefs along Eilat’s coast remain relatively pristine and the area is recognized as one of the prime diving locations in the world.
9. Follow the Jesus Trail around the Sea of Galilee
Historical and religious sites in the region draw both local and foreign tourists. The Sea of Galilee is an attraction for Christian pilgrims who visit Israel to see the places where Jesus performed miracles according the New Testament, such as his walking on water, calming the storm and feeding the multitude. Alonzo Ketcham Parker, a nineteenth-century American traveler, called visiting the Sea of Galilee “a ‘fifth gospel’ which one read devoutly, his heart overflowing with quiet joy”.
In April 2011, Israel unveiled a 40-mile (64 km) hiking trail in the Galilee for Christian pilgrims, called the “Jesus Trail“. It includes a network of footpaths, roads and bicycle paths linking sites central to the lives of Jesus and his disciples. It ends at Capernaum on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, where Jesus espoused his teachings.
Another key attraction is the site where the Sea of Galilee’s water flows into the Jordan River, to which thousands of pilgrims from all over the world come to be baptized every year.
Israel’s most well-known open water swim race, the Kinneret Crossing, is held every year in September, drawing thousands of open water swimmers to participate in competitive and noncompetitive events.
Tourists also partake in the building of rafts on Lavnun Beach, called Rafsodia. Here many different age groups work together to build a raft with their bare hands and then sail that raft across the sea.
8. Visit The Holy Places of Nazareth and Stop at Any of Their Amazing Restaurants
Nazareth is home to dozens of monasteries and churches, many of them in the Old City.
- The Church of the Annunciation is the largest Catholic church in the Middle East. In Roman Catholic tradition, it marks the site where the Archangel Gabriel announced the future birth of Jesus to the Mary (Luke 1:26–31).
- The Church of St. Gabriel is an alternative Eastern Orthodox site for the Annunciation.
- The Synagogue Church is a Melkite Greek Catholic Church at the traditional site of the synagogue where Jesus preached (Luke 4).
- The St. Joseph’s Church marks the traditional location for the workshop of Saint Joseph.
- The Mensa Christi Church, run by the Franciscan religious order, commemorates the traditional location where Jesus dined with the Apostles after his Resurrection
- The Basilica of Jesus the Adolescent, run by the Salesian religious order, occupies a hill overlooking the city.
- The Church of Christ is an Anglican church in Nazareth.
- The Church of Our Lady of the Fright marks the spot where Mary is said to have seen Jesus being taken to a cliff by the congregation of the synagogue
- The Jesus Trail pilgrimage route connects many of the religious sites in Nazareth on a 60 km (37 mi) walking trail which ends in Capernaum.
Muslim holy sites the Shrine of al-Sheikh Amer, the Shrine of Nabi Sa’in, and the Shrine of Shihab e-Din. Places of worship include the White Mosque (Masjid al-Abiad) and the Peace Mosque (Masjid al-Salam). The oldest is the White Mosque, located in Harat Alghama (“Mosque Quarter”) in the center of Nazareth’s Old Market.
Nazareth is also well known for their culinary choices. Make sure to check out some of the wonderful restaurants while here!
7. Visit the Baha’i World Centre in Haifa
Haifa (Hebrew: חֵיפָה Hefa, Hebrew pronunciation: [ħeˈfa], colloquial Hebrew pronunciation: [ˈχai̯fa] Hayfa; Arabic: حيفا Hayfa), the third-largest city in the State of Israel, has a population of over 277,082. Another 300,000 people live in towns directly adjacent to the city including Daliyat al-Karmel, the Krayot, Nesher, Tirat Carmel, and some kibbutzim. Together these areas form a contiguous urban area, home to nearly 600,000 residents, which makes up the inner core of the Haifa metropolitan area, the second- or third-most populous metropolitan area in Israel. It is also home to the Bahá’í World Centre, a UNESCO World Heritage Siteand a destination for Baha’i pilgrims.
Haifa has over a dozen museums. The most popular museum is the Israel National Museum of Science, Technology, and Space, which recorded almost 150,000 visitors in 2004. The museum is located in the historic Technion building in the Hadar neighborhood. The Haifa Museum of Art houses a collection of modern and classical art, as well as displays on the history of Haifa. The Tikotin Museum of Japanese Art is the only museum in the Middle East dedicated solely to Japanese art. Other museums in Haifa include the Museum of Prehistory, the National Maritime Museum and Haifa City Museum, the Hecht Museum, the Dagon Archaeological Museum of Grain Handling, the Railway Museum, the Clandestine Immigration and Navy Museum, the Israeli Oil Industry Museum, and Chagall Artists’ House. As part of his campaign to bring culture to Haifa, Mayor Abba Hushi provided the artist Mane-Katz with a building on Mount Carmel to house his collection of Judaica, which is now a museum. The Haifa Educational Zoo at Gan HaEm park houses a small animal collection including Syrian brown bears, now extinct from Israel. Wןthin the zoo is the Pinhas House biology institute. In the close vicinity of Haifa, on the Carmel, the Northern “Hai-Bar” (“wild life”) operated by Israel’s Parks and Reserves Authority for the purpose of breeding and reintroduction of species now extinct from Israel, such as Persian Fallow Deer.
6. Explore the Templar Tunnels in Akko
Acre (/ˈɑːkər/ or /ˈeɪkər/, Hebrew: עַכּוֹ, ʻAkko, most commonly spelled as Akko; Arabic: عكّا, ʻAkkā) is a city in the northern coastal plain region of the Northern District, Israel at the northern extremity of Haifa Bay. The city occupies an important location, as it sits on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, traditionally linking the waterways and commercial activity with the Levant. The important land routes meeting here are the north-south one following the coast and the road cutting inland through the Plain of Esdraelon; Acre also benefits of one of the very rare natural harbours on the coast of the Land of Israel. This location helped it become one of the oldest cities in the world, continuously inhabited since the Middle Bronze Age some 4000 years ago.
Acre is the holiest city of the Bahá’í Faith, and as such gets many Baha’i pilgrims.
Al-Jazzar Mosque was built in 1781. Jazzar Pasha and his successor, Sulayman Pasha al-Adil, are both buried in a small graveyard adjacent to the mosque. In a shrine on the second level of the mosque, a single hair fromMuhammad‘s beard is kept and shown on special ceremonial occasions.
The current building which constitutes the citadel of Acre is an Ottoman fortification, built on the foundation of the citadel of the Knights Hospitaller. The citadel was part of the city’s defensive formation, reinforcing the northern wall. During the 20th century the citadel was used mainly as Acre Prison and as the site for a gallows. During the British mandate period, activists of Jewish Zionist resistance movements were held prisoner there; some were executed there.
Built in 1795 by Jazzar Pasha, Acre’s Turkish bath has a series of hot rooms and a hexagonal steam room with a marble fountain. It was used by the Irgun as a bridge to break into the citadel’s prison. The bathhouse kept functioning until 1950. Under the citadel and prison of Acre, archaeological excavations revealed a complex of halls, which was built and used by the Knights Hospitaller. This complex was a part of the Hospitallers’ citadel, which was included in the northern defences of Acre. The complex includes six semi-joined halls, one recently excavated large hall, a dungeon, a refectory (dining room) and remains of a Gothic church. Other medieval European remains include the Church of Saint George and adjacent houses at the Genovese Square (called Kikar ha-Genovezim or Kikar Genoa in Hebrew). There were also residential quarters and marketplaces run by merchants from Pisa and Amalfi in Crusader and medieval Acre.
There are many Bahá’í holy places in and around Acre. They originate from Bahá’u’lláh’s imprisonment in the Citadel during Ottoman Rule. The final years of Bahá’u’lláh’s life were spent in the Mansion of Bahjí, just outside Acre, even though he was still formally a prisoner of the Ottoman Empire. Bahá’u’lláh died on 29 May 1892 in Bahjí, and the Shrine of Bahá’u’lláh is the most holy place for Bahá’ís — their Qiblih, the location they face when saying their daily prayers. It contains the remains of Bahá’u’lláh and is near the spot where he died in the Mansion of Bahjí. Other Bahá’í sites in Acre are the House of `Abbúd (where Bahá’u’lláh and his family resided) and theHouse of `Abdu’lláh Páshá (where later ‘Abdu’l-Bahá resided with his family), and the Garden of Ridván where he spent the end of his life. In 2008, the Bahai holy places in Acre and Haifa were added to the UNESCO World Heritage List.
5. Hike Masada
Masada (מצדה metsada “fortress”) is an ancient fortification in the Southern District of Israel situated on top of an isolated rock plateau, akin to a mesa, on the eastern edge of the Judaean Desert, overlooking theDead Sea 20 kilometres (12 mi) east of Arad.
Herod the Great built palaces for himself on the mountain and fortified Masada between 37 and 31 BCE. According to Josephus, the Siege of Masada by troops of the Roman Empire towards the end of the First Jewish–Roman War ended in the mass suicide of 960 people – the Sicarii rebels and their families hiding there.
Masada was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2001. In 2007, the Masada Museum in Memory of Yigael Yadin opened at the site, in which archeological findings are displayed in a theatrical setting. Many of the artifacts exhibited were unearthed by Yadin and his archaeological team from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem during the 1960s.
It is within Masada National Park, and there is a park entrance fee (even if by hiking). There are two very steep hiking paths:
- The Snake Trail leaves from the eastern (Dead Sea) side at the Masada Museum and gains approximately 300 metres (980 ft) in elevation. A dawn hike up the Snake Path on the eastern side of the mountain (access via the Dead Sea Highway) is considered part of the “Masada experience”.
- The Roman Ramp trail is also very steep, but has less elevation gain, and is accessed from the western side of the mountain (with access by car from the Arad road).
Hikers frequently start an hour before sunrise, when the park opens, to avoid the mid-day heat, which can exceed 43 °C (109 °F) in the summer. In fact, the hiking paths are often closed during the day in the summer because of the heat.
Alternatively, for a greater fee, visitors can take a cable car (the Masada cableway, opens at 8 am) to the top of the mesa. A visitors’ center and the museum are at the base of the cable car. Visitors are encouraged to bring drinking water for the hike up; however, water is available at the top. An audiovisual light show is presented on some summer nights on the western side of the mountain (access by car from the Arad road or by foot, down the mountain via the Roman Ramp path).
4. Go Floating in the Dead Sea
Pro Tip: While here, make sure to take the hike into Ein Gedi Nature Reserve. It’s an oasis well worth the visit.
The Dead Sea (Hebrew: יָם הַמֶּלַח, Yam ha-Melah, “Sea of Salt”, also Hebrew: יָם הַמָּוֶת, Yam ha-Mavet, “The Sea of Death”, and Arabic: البحر الميت Al-Bahr al-Mayyit (help·info)), also called the Salt Sea, is a salt lake bordered by Jordan to the east and Israel and Palestine to the west. Its surface and shores are 429 metres (1,407 ft) below sea level, Earth’s lowest elevation on land. The Dead Sea is 304 m (997 ft) deep, the deepest hypersaline lake in the world. With 34.2% salinity (in 2011), it is 9.6 times as salty as the ocean, and one of the world’s saltiest bodies of water. This salinity makes for a harsh environment in which plants and animals cannot flourish, hence its name. The Dead Sea is 50 kilometres (31 mi) long and 15 kilometres (9 mi) wide at its widest point. It lies in the Jordan Rift Valley and its main tributary is the Jordan River.
The Dead Sea has attracted visitors from around the Mediterranean basin for thousands of years. In the Bible, it is a place of refuge for King David. It was one of the world’s first health resorts (for Herod the Great), and it has been the supplier of a wide variety of products, from asphalt for Egyptian mummification to potash for fertilizers. People also use the salt and the minerals from the Dead Sea to create cosmetics and herbal sachets.
3. Mehane Yahuda Market
Mahane Yehuda Market (Hebrew: שוק מחנה יהודה, Shuk Mahane Yehuda), often referred to as “The Shuk”, is a marketplace (originally open-air, but now at least partially covered) in Jerusalem, Israel. Popular with locals and tourists alike, the market’s more than 250 vendors sell fresh fruits and vegetables; baked goods; fish, meat and cheeses; nuts, seeds, and spices; wines and liquors; clothing and shoes; and housewares, textiles, and Judaica.
In and around the market are falafel, shawarma, kibbeh, kebab, shashlik, kanafeh, baklava, halva, zalabiya and jerusalem mixed grill stands, juice bars, cafes, and restaurants. The color and bustle of the marketplace is accentuated by vendors who call out their prices to passersby. On Thursdays and Fridays, the marketplace is filled with shoppers stocking up for Shabbat, until the Friday afternoon sounding of the bugle that signifies the market will close for the Sabbath. In recent years, the ‘shuk’ has emerged as another Jerusalemic nightlife center, with restaurants, bars and live music.
2. See the Dead Sea Scrolls at the Israel Museum
he Israel Museum (Hebrew: מוזיאון ישראל, Muze’on Yisrael) was founded in 1965 as Israel‘s national museum. It is situated on a hill in the Givat Ram neighborhood of Jerusalem, near the Bible Lands Museum, theKnesset, the Israeli Supreme Court, and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
Among the unique objects on display is the Venus of Berekhat Ram a carved female figurine considered the oldest artwork in the world; the interior of a 1736 Zedek ve Shalom synagogue from Suriname; necklaces worn by Jewish brides in Yemen; a mosaic Islamic prayer niche from 17th-century Persia; and a nail attesting to the practice of crucifixion in Jesus’ time. An urn-shaped building on the grounds of the museum, the Shrine of the Book, houses the Dead Sea Scrolls and artifacts discovered at Masada. It is one of the largest museums in the Middle East.
1. Explore all of Old City Jerusalem
The Old City (Hebrew: העיר העתיקה, Ha’Ir Ha’Atiqah, Arabic: البلدة القديمة, al-Balda al-Qadimah, Turkish: Kudüs, Armenian: Երուսաղեմի հին քաղաք, Yerusaghemi hin k’aghak’ ) is a 0.9 square kilometers (0.35 sq mi)walled area within the modern city of Jerusalem. Until 1860, when the Jewish neighborhood Mishkenot Sha’ananim was established, this area constituted the entire city of Jerusalem. The Old City is home to several sites of key religious importance: the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa Mosque for Muslims, the Temple Mount and Western Wall for Jews and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre for Christians, It was added to the UNESCO World Heritage Site List in 1981.
The Old City is also home to a large variety of street vendors street food.
Traditionally, the Old City has been divided into four uneven quarters, although the current designations were introduced only in the 19th century. Today, the Old City is roughly divided (going counterclockwise from the northeastern corner) into the Muslim Quarter, Christian Quarter, Armenian Quarter and Jewish Quarter.
The Muslim Quarter (Arabic: حارَة المُسلِمين, Hārat al-Muslimīn) is the largest and most populous of the four quarters and is situated in the northeastern corner of the Old City, extending from the Lions’ Gate in the east, along the northern wall of the Temple Mount in the south, to the Western Wall – Damascus Gate route in the west. Its population was 22,000 in 2005. Like the other three quarters of the Old City, until the riots of 1929 the Muslim quarter had a mixed population of Muslims, Christians, and also Jews. Today, there are “many Israeli settler homes” and “several yeshivas“, including Yeshivat Ateret Yerushalayim, in the Muslim Quarter.
The Christian Quarter (Arabic: حارة النصارى, Ḩārat an-Naşāra) is situated in the northwestern corner of the Old City, extending from the New Gate in the north, along the western wall of the Old City as far as the Jaffa Gate, along the Jaffa Gate – Western Wall route in the south, bordering the Jewish and Armenian Quarters, as far as the Damascus Gate in the east, where it borders the Muslim Quarter. The quarter contains the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, viewed by many as Christianity’s holiest place.
The Armenian Quarter (Armenian: Հայկական Թաղամաս, Haygagan T’aġamas, Arabic: حارة الأرمن, Ḩārat al-Arman) is the smallest of the four quarters of the Old City. Although the Armenians are Christian, the Armenian Quarter is distinct from the Christian Quarter. Despite the small size and population of this quarter, the Armenians and their Patriarchate remain staunchly independent and form a vigorous presence in the Old City. After the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, the four quarters of the city came under Jordanian control. Jordanian law required Armenians and other Christians to “give equal time to the Bible and Qur’an” in private Christian schools, and restricted the expansion of church assets. The 1967 war is remembered by residents of the quarter as a miracle, after two unexploded bombs were found inside the Armenian monastery. Today, more than 3,000 Armenians live in Jerusalem, 500 of them in the Armenian Quarter. Some are temporary residents studying at the seminary or working as church functionaries. The Patriarchate owns the land in this quarter as well as valuable property in West Jerusalem and elsewhere. In 1975, a theological seminary was established in the Armenian Quarter. After the 1967 war, the Israeli government gave compensation for repairing any churches or holy sites damaged in the fighting, regardless of who caused the damage.
The Jewish Quarter (Hebrew: הרובע היהודי, HaRova HaYehudi, known colloquially to residents as HaRova, Arabic: حارة اليهود, Ḩārat al-Yahūd) lies in the southeastern sector of the walled city, and stretches from the Zion Gate in the south, bordering the Armenian Quarter on the west, along the Cardo to Chain Street in the north and extends east to the Western Wall and the Temple Mount. The quarter has a rich history, with several long periods of Jewish presence covering much of the time[dubious ] since the eighth century BCE.