A Visit To The Holy Land

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Many years ago I was on an around-the-world tour that worked its way from Los Angeles west through the Orient, Middle East, into Israel, Egypt and Greece before returning to Los Angeles. By the time we were to fly into Israel I was so tired of travel and flying that I almost wished that we weren’t going to Israel. However, as the aircraft approached the shores of Israel to land at Tel Aviv airport, I began thinking of my Sunday School days and the Holy Land. By the time I had deplaned I was anxiously looking forward to visiting the places I had studied in the Bible. You will too.

Yes, it’s a long flight from the United States but, by the time you have a good night’s rest in your hotel, you will be ready to visit all the exciting locations you read about in the Bible and studied in church.

There are many tour companies offering tours to Israel and your minister, priest or church leader will be able to recommend the company they feel has the best reputation. Your travel professional may have knowledge in this area as well. I would suggest your booking at least a nine-day tour or longer that will allow time for seeing the major, important landmarks and areas you should be visiting. There are historical, archaeological and religious sights you should not miss. A tour rather than doing it yourself is important because they have scheduled itineraries that include these important sights and they do all the driving for you. You won’t have to hunt endlessly for places to park your car.

Israel is a modern country that combines a rich, illustrious history, with glorious beaches, interesting towns and villages and bustling cities. You will find nature reserves, health spas, religious shrines, shopping malls, markets, and artist colonies. I found the people of Israel friendly and always willing to answer questions and point directions. The language of the country is Hebrew, but many speak English.

After arrival at the airport, you will either be taken to a hotel in Tel Aviv or driven for one hour to Jerusalem for your first hotel stay. In Jerusalem your sightseeing will include an immersion in Biblical times. You will visit the “upper room” just outside the Zion Gate where the disciple whom Jesus loved laid his head on His breast and where later Thomas cried “my Lord & God.” Then you’ll have an opportunity to see the Israeli Museum. Here you can walk through collections of centuries-old Israeli artifacts including the Dead Sea Scrolls. Then, a guided walk through Biblical Jerusalem that will help prepare you for what you will be seeing in the next days in this city. You may even visit the Holocaust Museum should you choose.

Another day in Jerusalem you will walk in Jesus’ steps, the last days.

You’ll get a panoramic view of the city such as Mount Moriah and the Dome of the Rock from atop the Mount of Olives and then the Garden of Gethsemane. In fact, I stayed at the Intercontinental Jerusalem Hotel which was located at Mount of Olives, a beautiful sight especially in the early morning hours. You’ll also see the Judgment Hall of Pilate and visit the Pool of Bethesda, and Stephen’s Gate and St. Ann’s Church. You may also be allowed to visit the Islamic Museum and if you are lucky, one night will include a cultural festivity.

While you are in the area, you will be driven to nearby Bethlehem to see and visit the important sights there including the cave where it is thought Christ was born. You will also have a chance to visit Nazareth, the boyhood home of Jesus.

Your tour will allow you to walk the famed Via Dolorosa as well as see such sights as Caesarea, Capernaum, Dan, Philippi and Mount of Beatitudes. I’m quite sure your tour will include a visit to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

Some tours will include Golan Heights, Haifa, Acre, Safed, Upper Galilee, Masada and the Dead Sea, as well as a visit to the Knesset and Supreme Court Building.

Speaking of the Dead Sea, this area served as a place of refuge for fugitives like King David and the prophet Elijah. Communities lived here. The healing properties of the Dead Sea and the nearby mineral springs have been known for millennia. Visitors flock here year-round to enjoy the relaxed, pollen-free atmosphere created by the high barometric pressure and filtered sunlight. Modern hotels, shopping centers and beauty treatment centers have created a major health and beauty spa.

When you enter the Dead Sea you will float unsinkably on the highly saline water, and you can immerse yourself in the sulfur pools. (Take a clothespin to place over your nose when you do this.) Some coat their bodies in the natural black mineral mud. After a bath, there are places to see and things to do such as taking a cable car up to Masada, Herod’s mountaintop palace that became a stronghold and symbol of Jewish heroism in the revolt against the Romans.

Perhaps you can even visit Qumeran, the Essene settlement in whose caves the Dead Sea Scrolls lay undiscovered for 2,000 years.

If your tour allows two or more days in Tel Aviv-Jaffa you will enjoy the bustling city with its riches in culture, clubs, pubs and piano bars. The picturesque port of Jaffa is a treat on its own. It contains some of the finest fish restaurants in the country. And be sure to take in the reconstructed Old City, with its art galleries, craft workshops, nightclubs and eating places. The Jaffa Flea Market is a bargain-hunters delight.

Tel Aviv offers the multimedia Beit Hatfutsot Museum of Jewish Diaspora, located on the Campus of Tel Aviv University, which houses a large collection of information about Jewish life. The Ha’aretz-Land of Israel Museum focuses on different aspects of Israel’s past. The entire complex is grouped around an excavation site where a Philistine city has been unearthed. Tel Aviv’s pride and joy is the Golda Meir Center for the Performing Arts, home to the Israel Opera and dance companies, theater companies and concerts. The world-famous Israel Philharmonic Orchestra performs at the Mann Auditorium, next to Israel’s Habima National Theater.

I am quite sure you will spend some time in the Galilee area. You’ll travel through the Galilee Mountains and immediately find peace within yourself. The Lower Galilee is dominated by the Jezreel Valley, the scene of battles since earliest times as Egyptians, Mesoptamians, Assyrians, Persians and Romans claimed it for its strategic value. You’ll visit Megiddo (Armageddon) with its layer upon layer of history and perhaps even visit a Kibbutz, a communal farm system which was established at the turn of the 20th century that played such an important role in developing Israel’s agriculture.

Your base will probably be picturesque Tiberius, on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee. Anywhere you travel here you will see green. The Israelis work hard to preserve the plants, trees and flowers that grow in the area. It is even illegal to pick wild flowers!

Some longer tours will travel far south to Éilat on the Red Sea. This is where the Queen of Sheba arrived on her historic visit to King Solomon, and this is where sun-worshippers, diving enthusiasts, and desert aficionados now find a special lure. Here are water sports, glass-bottom boats, yachts, underwater observatory, marine park, and dolphin reef where you can swim with them in their natural habitat. You can enjoy jeep trips into the depths of the desert or just sunbathe and relax.

The hotels in Israel range from budget to five-star. It’s up to you and your pocketbook. You can fly non-stop from several cities in the United States direct, which I would suggest. El Al, the Israeli Airline has the safest record of any airline in the world. Your tour might use this carrier.

However you travel and wherever you go, this will be a most memorable trip.

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