Christianity began as a movement within Judaism at a time when foreign powers dominated virtually all aspects of Jewish life. Over the years, the two religions diverged. Visiting the Holy Land, namely, Israel is paramount for every Christian as it helps them get closer to God. There are seemingly endless places infused with deep religious meaning and historical significance. Most importantly, these Christian sites are open and receive visitors with arms wide open. Holy Land tours are organized all year round, but visiting Israel during spring and fall is best because the weather is mild and the crowds are thin.
Numerous awe-inspiring Christian sites in Israel are worth checking out. If you seek a connection to the roots of your faith, here’s a list of the top biblical sites in Israel.
The Yardenit Baptismal Site
Yardenit, commonly referred to as the Yardenit Baptismal Site, is located along the Jordan River, at the southern tip of the Sea of Galilee. It’s believed to be the place where Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist. Each year, millions of Christians from around the world come to Yardenit to be baptized because of its spiritual significance. You, too, can experience the tranquility and beauty of the waters in which Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist. You’ll see pilgrims in inspiration ceremonies, often in white robes touching the waters of the Jordan River and praying.
The Yardenit Baptismal Site is in close proximity to Kibbutz Kinneret, who owns and manages the site. Kinneret was founded in 1911 as Israel’s second kibbutz. The cemetery includes the grave of Rachel Bluwstein, also known as Rachel HaMeshoreret, and has a stunning view of the Sea of Galilee, Golan Heights, and Mount Hermon. Back on topic, Yardenit offers a fresh glimpse of the baptism of Jesus, which is recorded in all four Gospels (the harmony of the Gospels). At present, biblical scholars view Jesus’ baptism as a historical event to which a high proportion of certainty can be attributed.
The Church of The Holy Sepulchre
As you continue your spiritual journey, stop by the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which can be found in the Christian Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem. It’s believed to be the site of Jesus’ crucifixion (and where he was buried and resurrected). The architectural complex encompasses several smaller chapels. Upon entering the church, there’s a modern staircase divided into two sections: east and west. The stone lintel is carved with decoration in low relief, portraying scenes from the Bible. Soak up the atmosphere and stories with your eyes, ears, and hearts open.
Two Muslim families are entrusted with the authority, i.e., the Office of the Keys; one keeps the ancient cast-iron key, while the other opens the gate. A little bit of Jewish history lies buried away in this spot, dear to the hearts of Christian pilgrims. More exactly, in the Chapel of St. Nicodemus, there’s a two-body tomb, a representative case of a Jewish burial from 2000 years ago. It was allegedly the tomb of Nicodemus, a Pharisee and rules of the Jews, an early follower of Jesus Christ. The small tomb, with only two chambers, is a typical example of Jewish burials in antiquity.
The Mount of Olives
As stated by the Gospels, Jesus spent the night in the Garden of Gethsemane praying until the authorities arrested him and near where he ascended to heaven in the Book of Acts. It’s hard, if not impossible, to identify the exact location. The Bible indicates the Garden of Gethsemane is located on the Mount of Olives; it’s mentioned frequently in the New Testament as a place of hope. No visit to the Mount of Olives is complete without a stop at the Dome of Ascension and the Olive Trees. It’s a great place to sit down and reflect, but many tourists buzz around.
As a tourist in Israel, you won’t be expected to speak Hebrew, but learning a few essential words and phrases will help you find your way around the Holy Land. Hebrew book First and Foremost is aimed at learners of the beginner level. There’s always something new ahead of you, including new vocabulary, not to mention much reading and listening comprehension. You’ll learn the behaviour of society and its cultural customs. The world is filled with amazing people, and if you have the necessary language skills for daily communication, you can make friends for life.
The Via Dolorosa
The Via Dolorosa is Latin for the Way of Suffering or the Sorrowful Way. It’s a ceremonial walkway in the Old City of Jerusalem, supposedly the path that Jesus took, forced by Roman soldiers, on the way to his crucifixion, stemming from the Antonia Fortress to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. It’s marked by 14 stations immortalizing the different events that occurred along the way. Needless to say, it’s one of the renowned Christian sites. Many visit Via Dolorosa to follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ, catch sight of the historical and religious Christian sites along the way, and take in the diversity and richness of Jerusalem’s culture.
Walking the Via Dolorosa can be easily included in your itinerary. It’s a good idea to reserve about 60 minutes for the route itself and at least half an hour for the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. If you want to avoid the heat and humidity of the summer, winter is a good time to visit. Indeed, the weather can be chilly and wet, but Via Dolorosa is less crowded. If you don’t mind the crowds, you’ll enjoy the festive atmosphere and sense of community. Make sure to watch out for pickpockets.
Israel, the Holy Land, should be experienced first-hand by every Christian. You’ll leave speechless and in awe. Let the Bible be your tour guide, and be certain that, if you’re visiting with a group, you’re resting upon people who have as much faith as you.