By Noam Matas/America Israel Tours/JNS.org
Thousands of Christians travel to the Holy Land each year to walk in the footsteps of Jesus and discover the land of the Bible. Israel is undeniably the ultimate destination for those seeking to embrace a deeper connection to their faith. The country is full of sites that are significant to both the Old and New Testament, historically and religiously. Here is a list of 10 must-visit sites for Christian tourists in Israel.
Also known as the Way of Sorrows, the Via Dolorosa follows the path Jesus took from his trial to his crucifixion, and finally to the tomb where he was laid to rest. Today, there are 14 Stations of the Cross that mark this route. Pilgrims can stop at each point and reflect on the pain of Jesus’s journey.
Church of the Holy Sepulchre
Located in the Christian Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre was built upon the site of Jesus’s crucifixion, known as the Calvary or Golgotha. For this reason, it is considered one of the holiest sites by the many Christian pilgrims who visit each year. The church also contains the last four Stations of the Cross as part of the Via Dolorosa.
The Garden Tomb is one of several sites considered by many to be the location of Jesus’s burial. The tomb was discovered in 1861 and contains a double chamber where visitors are welcome to explore. The surrounding gardens are a peaceful place to reflect and pray. Communion is offered in the garden as well.
The highest point in ancient Jerusalem, Mount Zion is also located in the Old City of Jerusalem. Those who visit Mount Zion can see the Tomb of King David as well as the Upper Room, where Jesus and his disciples held the Last Supper.
Mount of Olives
Once covered in Olive groves, the Mount of Olives is a ridge just outside of Jerusalem mentioned several times in both the Old and New Testaments. This is the site of Jesus’s ascension into heaven as well as a place that he would often go to pray and rest during his life. The ridge commands stunning views of Jerusalem and is the ideal spot to contemplate the miracle of Jesus’s ascension.
Though it is located in the disputed Palestinian territories and security should be considered before visiting, Bethlehem is a must-see for any Holy Land tour as it is the birthplace of Jesus. Highlights of any visit to Bethlehem include the Church of the Nativity as well as Shepherd’s Field, where the angels appeared to a group of shepherds to announce the birth of Jesus.
Sea of Galilee
Jesus spent quite a bit of time on the Sea of Galilee with his fisherman disciples, and this is where some of his most well-known miracles took place. Today’s visitors can enjoy sailing on the Sea of Galilee in a replica of the type of fishing boat that Jesus and his disciples would have used. This is a wonderful opportunity to enjoy the beauty of the lake and imagine what it would feel like to watch Jesus approaching the boat as he walked on the water.
Described by all four gospels as the center of Jesus’s public ministry, Capernaum is located on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. Today the village is also known by its nickname, “the town of Jesus.” It was in the town of Capernaum where Jesus performed the miracles of healing the Centurion’s servant, driving out an impure spirit, healing Simon Peter’s mother-in-law, and healing the paralytic man. Visitors to the town can see the House of St. Peter as well as the town’s restored synagogues and churches.
The town of Nazareth, near Mount Tabor, is Jesus’s childhood home. Those visiting Nazareth will see Mary’s Well, where Mary was visited by the Angel Gabriel to announce that she would give birth to the Son of God. There is also the opportunity to visit the Church of the Annunciation, a church built in honor of this significant event.
Yardenit is the famous site of Jesus’s baptism by John the Baptist in the Jordan River. Today, visitors can take the opportunity to follow in Jesus’s footsteps and be baptized in the river. There is also a nearby Visitors Center where travelers can shower, change, and obtain white robes for their baptism.