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A List of Holy Land Sites in Israel & Palestine

Israel and the Palestinian Territories are generally considered only as pilgrimage destinations, as they are home to some of the world’s most recognized religious tourist destinations. After all, it is thought that some of the most significant events in the Jewish, Muslim, and Christian faiths occurred here.

The modern state of Israel and the Palestinian territories are home to a diverse range of Holy sites, collectively known as “The Holy Land.” There are also more sites in Lebanon, Western Jordan, and southwestern Syria, but the majority of the sites, as well as the most prominent, are in Israel and Palestine. 

Aside from Middle Eastern politics, this is an enthralling region to visit, with so much history to offer, particularly for Christians, Jews, and Muslims. The birthplace of Jesus, as well as his childhood town, many biblically referenced sites, and so much natural beauty that I couldn’t wrap my head around it all during my one-week visit! To help you plan your visit, here is a list of Holy Land sites in Israel and Palestine…

Table of Contents

JERUSALEM

Jerusalem is an incredible place to visit and one of those cities where you can never spend enough time, but it is not always safe to visit, so keep up to date on current events. The most important sites for Christians are the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Church of St. John the Baptist, and the Church of All Nations. Keep an eye out for the Mount of Olives as well (easily in the view from Jerusalem’s old town).

Jerusalem is regarded as the holiest city in the world, and it is unquestionably one of the best places to visit in Israel. It is visited by religious people from all over the world and is adorned with ancient buildings and majestic structures.

Take a stroll up to Yad Vashem, a Holocaust memorial dedicated to those who perished during the Holocaust. Walk across Dolorosa, the path Jesus took to his crucifixion, and you’ll see the city’s most prominent structure, the Golden Dome Mosque, which overlooks the Western Wall. With a history of over 4000 years, the city is a mosaic of art, religion, and magnificence.The Western Wall, Mar Saba Monastery, Yad Vashem, Temple Mount and Dome of Rocks, City of David and Hezekiah’s Tunnel, and St. George’s Monastery are all popular tourist attractions in Jerusalem.

BETHLEHEM (PALESTINE)

Bethlehem is the first of the Holy Land’s holy cities. When Mary became pregnant with Jesus, she and Joseph traveled to Bethlehem for a Roman census. When they arrived, the only place to sleep was on a farm. They went to Bethlehem for the census because Roman law required families to register in the hometown of the man of the family. Joseph, the Virgin Mary’s financier, and later husband were originally from Bethlehem. But Mary was extremely pregnant, and she gave birth to Jesus in Bethlehem. Because of the Roman census, Bethlehem became the birthplace of Jesus. 

It was also in Bethlehem that the shepherds and the three kings arrived to witness the birth of God’s son. Shepherds from a nearby town heard about Jesus’ birth and came to recognize him as God’s son. The same thing happened with three important eastern kings. These two visits represent the acceptance of Jesus by the common, or simple, people and the royal classes. Today, the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem commemorates Jesus’ birth. The Church is visited all year, but especially during the Christmas season in December. Before you go, keep in mind that it is easier to go with a tour group because Israeli nationals are not allowed to enter Bethlehem because it is located in Palestinian territory, so there is a checkpoint you must pass through (bring your passport!).

NAZARETH

Mary was living in Nazareth, in the community that had been established there, prior to the census. When Mary went to the spring to collect water one day. The angel Gabriel informed Mary in the spring that she was pregnant with God’s Son. It took Gabriel telling Mary twice before she believed him. Today, two churches commemorate the event: the Basilica of Annunciation and the Greek Orthodox Church of Annunciation.

After the census was completed and Jesus was born, his parents brought him to the Temple in Jerusalem. Because of King Herod’s threat to kill baby Jesus, the Holy Family travels to Egypt for a short time. They will, however, return to Nazareth once the threat has passed. He spent his childhood and adolescence there. When Jesus preached in a synagogue in Nazareth, the congregation expelled him for blasphemy. The congregation led him to the edge of a cliff with the intent of throwing him off, but Jesus escaped unnoticed. Today, the modern Synagogue Church commemorates the event.

OLD JAFFA, TEL AVIV

Jaffa, an ancient port city south of Tel Aviv, is one of the best places to visit in Israel. The city was named after Noah’s son Japhet, according to the Holy Bible. As you walk past the ancient buildings, art galleries, and cafés, you will be transported back in time. Don’t miss the magnificent view of the Clock Tower, which dates back to the Ottoman Empire.

As you walk down Marzuk Street in Jaffa, romance and fervent charm ooze from every corner. Head to Yefet and Olei Zion Streets for the best dining experiences. Attend a live arts and theater performance, grab a drink, or stroll through the neighborhood. Jaffa will keep you on your toes! Jaffa Port, Jaffa Slope Park, Clock Tower, HaPisgah Gardens, Great Mosque, Ilana Goor Museum, and music and entertainment shows every Thursday night at the flea market area are all popular tourist attractions in Jaffa.

HARAM AL-SHARIF (TEMPLE MOUNT)

Enter one of the world’s holiest sanctuaries, following in the footsteps of millennia of pilgrims. The site where Abraham (father of all three monotheistic faiths) is said to have offered his son as a sacrifice to God, where Solomon built the First Temple for the Ark of the Covenant, and where the Prophet Muhammad is said to have ascended to heaven during his early years of preaching Islam is revered by Jews, Christians, and Muslims.

It’s a sacred site for believers (and a source of controversy over ownership).The vast plaza, which rises above the Old City, is centered on Jerusalem’s most famous feature, the magnificent Dome of the Rock. The precious stone, which both Jews and Muslims believe was where Abraham offered his son to God and where Muslims believe the Prophet Muhammad began his journey to heaven, is located beneath the golden dome. The Al-Aqsa Mosque, which is claimed to be one of the world’s oldest mosques, is located on the mount’s southern slope.

MONASTERY OF THE CROSS

The vast fortress-like bulk of the medieval Monastery of the Cross is said to be erected on the spot where the Prophet Lot dwelt, according to mythology. The wood for Christ’s cross is thought to have come from the trees he is reported to have planted in the vicinity. Empress Helena, according to Greek Orthodox tradition, was the first to build a church here.

The church was held by Georgian monks until the 18th century when it was returned to Jerusalem’s Greek Orthodox community. The monastery was located to the west of Jerusalem until a few decades ago, but the city’s expansion has now encircled it. Israel is full of biblical references everywhere you go. The Holy City of Jerusalem, which once housed the Temple, is now home to hundreds of Christian holy sites associated with the Christian world. After all, it is to Jerusalem that Jesus brings his disciples to challenge the Judean status quo, where the Last Supper occurs, and where Jesus is arrested, crucified, and resurrected. With so many sites to see on a Christian Holy Land tour, read our guide to the top ten Holy Land sites in Jerusalem.

CHURCH OF THE HOLY SEPULCHRE

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre contains the two holiest sites in Christianity for Christian pilgrims: the site where Jesus was crucified, known as “Golgotha” or “Calvary,” and Jesus’ empty tomb, where tradition marks his burial and resurrection. Until the conversion of Emperor Constantine in 312 AD, when his devout mother St. Helena commissioned many churches to be built in Israel, the church was built over the ruins of a pagan temple. The most important of these was the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the world’s largest and possibly most complex structure. The church houses the last five Stations of the Cross, including the 14th and final station, and is shared by six Christian denominations: Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Armenian Apostolic, Coptic, Syriac Orthodox, and Ethiopian.

THE GARDEN TOMB

The Garden Tomb is a site discovered in 1867 that some Christians believe is an alternate location for Jesus’ crucifixion, burial, and resurrection. The Garden contains a skull-shaped rock formation, possibly the one mentioned in the Bible as Golgotha or also known as “Calvary.” The Garden Tomb offers a peaceful and beautiful setting for prayer and reflection. There are places to sit and rest along with the Garden, as well as drinking water and pleasant tourist facilities, including provision for the disabled, with excellent wheelchair access throughout the grounds. The Garden Tomb site has grown in popularity, particularly among Evangelical and Protestant Christians.

VIA DOLOROSA

The Via Dolorosa (Way of Sorrow) is a spiritual highlight for many Christian pilgrims who visit Jerusalem. The traditional walk follows Jesus’ path after his condemnation as he carries his cross to Calvary to be executed. Daily guided tours are available, and tourists can easily follow the route on their own; however, if you visit on Friday, you can join the Franciscan monks in procession along the Via Dolorosa. The route is marked by 14 Stations of the Cross, some of which are based on the Gospel, while others are based on pilgrim and local tradition.

The walk begins in the Muslim Quarter, with the first station near HaPrakhim Street, and continues west for eight stations until you reach the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which houses the last five Stations of the Cross. The Church of the Flagellation, a Franciscan complex with a monastery located in the Muslim Quarter and adjacent to the Church of the Condemnation and Imposition of the Cross, is a must-see along the route. The location is traditionally designated as the location where Roman soldiers flogged Jesus after he was convicted and sentenced to death by crucifixion 

MOUNT OF OLIVES

The Mount of Olives is a prominent location mentioned in the Scriptures, first as King David’s escape route during his son’s rebellion, later in the prophets, but it is most known and referred to in the New Testament, where Jesus taught his disciples, wept over Jerusalem (Matthew 26:36-39), and ascended into heaven (acts 1). The Mount of Olives is home to several important churches and holy sites, including the Chapel of the Ascension, which is built at the summit of the Mount of Olives and offers breathtaking views of Jerusalem. Dominus Flevit Church is Latin for “The Lord Wept.” The Church of All Nations, also known as the Basilica of the Agony, and the Garden of Gethsemane adjacent to it.

Maria Magdalene’s Russian Orthodox Church The Pater Noster convent, built where Jesus is said to have instructed his disciples, and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre of Saint Mary, also known as the Tomb of the Virgin Mary, are both located at the foot of the Mount of Olives. The Jewish Cemetery, the world’s oldest continuously used cemetery, is also located on the Mount of Olives.

MOUNT ZION

Mount Zion is a hill just outside the Old City walls where many important Gospel events occurred, including the Last Supper (Matthew 26:17-30; Mark 14:12-25; Luke 22:7-23; John 13:1—17:26), and the coming of the Holy Spirit on the disciples, known as Pentecost to Christians (Acts 2:1-13), both of which are believed to have occurred on the holy site of the Cenacle. 

Mount Zion also has several important churches, including the Church of St. Peter in Gallicantu, which was built atop the home of the high priest Caiaphas (Matthew 26:57-75), and the Church of the Dormition, which commemorates the Virgin Mary’s “falling asleep” on Mount Zion, as the Church name suggests.

CHRISTIAN QUARTER

The Christian Quarter within the Old City walls is located northwest of the quadrant and is the global epicenter of Christianity, housing up to 40 Christian holy sites, including the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which is perhaps the most important site in all of Christianity. The Via Dolorosa, the path Jesus walked from his arrest to his Crucifixion, is marked by the 14 Stations of the Cross and can be found within the maze of alleyways. The Christian Quarter also has hundreds of tourist souvenir shops and is a popular place to purchase Rosaries, Holy water, religious items, and other Holy Land souvenirs.

Aside from the two main holy sites already mentioned, the quarter also houses the Protestant Christ Church, which has a unique museum and a popular café. The Ethiopian Monastery, located in a corner of The Church of the Holy Sepulchre’s courtyard, houses frescoes depicting Queen Sheba’s visit to Jerusalem. Visit the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer on Muristan Road, where you can climb to the bell tower for a panoramic view of the Old City. Off Christian Quarter Street, the Church of St. John the Baptist, Jerusalem’s oldest church, is also worth a visit.

CHURCH OF ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST

The Church of St. John the Baptist, which was built in the 5th century, has an interesting history, including serving as the headquarters of the Knights Hospitallers, where injured Crusaders were cared for during the 1099 siege of Jerusalem. Following their recovery, some of the grateful knights remained in Jerusalem and dedicated themselves to the military defense of Jerusalem as well as the welcome of Holy Land pilgrims. 

The Greek church, which is not to be confused with the Franciscan church on the Mount of Olives, is easily identified by its distinctive silver dome. Although pilgrims do not frequently visit the church, it is worth the effort to see because it is the oldest church in Jerusalem and the original “Hospital of St. John,” after which the Knights Hospitallers were named.

CHURCH OF ALL NATIONS

It is also known as The Basilica of Agony. This Catholic church, located atop the Mount of Olives, houses a section of bedrock where it is said Jesus prayed before his arrest (Mark 14:32-42). 

The church was built by twelve different nations, hence the name “Church of All Nations,” and their contributions are recognized in glass ceiling decorations and mosaics. Don’t miss the fourth-century and Crusader churches that preceded the current structure.

CHAPEL OF THE ASCENSION

The Chapel of the Ascension is said to be the location where Jesus ascended to heaven 40 days after his resurrection. One of Jesus’ footprints may be found on a stone slab inside the small octagonal chapel. The original site was home to a large Christian church and monastery built by St. Helena that lasted until 1187 when it was abandoned by Christians who moved to Acre as a result of Sultan Saladin’s conquest of the area. Because Muslims believe in Jesus’ ascension, the church was converted into a mosque; however, the majority of pilgrims to the site were Christians, so the small Chapel remained.

CHURCH OF THE DORMITION ABBEY

In addition to its theological significance, this beautiful, old monastery on Mount Zion – claimed to be the location where angels took the Virgin Mary, body and soul, to heaven – is remarkable for its characteristic conical roof and rich interior decorations. According to Christian legend, after Christ’s death, his mother remained on Mount Zion until her eternal sleep; the term “dormition” refers to death and the subsequent resurrection to heaven.

The church is divided into two sections: the main church and the crypt, both of which are equally remarkable, with superb mosaics and Byzantine-style artwork covering nearly every surface, including the floor. Chapels and altars from all over the world have been contributed, resulting in a stunning tour around the church, ending in the ivory sculpture of the resting Mary in the crypt below. The small shop and peaceful cafe are the icing on the cake; a true sanctuary in the Old City’s tangled complex. The cade has comfy chairs and tables, as well as tasty coffee and cakes, and the shop sells high-quality souvenirs at low rates, such as little hand-painted Russian icons and handcrafted crosses .It’s not only about the churches in Israel. Take a stroll through this lovely Middle Eastern country and sample its vibrant nightlife, exotic beaches, rich antiquities, natural beauties, and much more!

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