Israel is in the news nonstop this week, with the pope’s visit making headlines and today being Israeli Independence Day. Inspired, IT Editor Janelle Nanos is revisiting some of her favorite holy sites from her recent trip.
I don’t tend to do much heavy reading while on vacation, but I quickly learned that along with the numerous guidebooks I brought with me to Israel, it probably would not have been a bad idea to toss a Bible into my suitcase. Luckily, my tour guide, Ziv Cohen, had one with him at all times. The heavily dog-eared tome provided us with a handy, albeit ancient, reference point which underlined the significance of the sites we visited, and spurred a favorite quote from the trip: “In Israel, the Bible is our GPS.”
Driving in the van between destinations, I’d grab the book and thumb through its thin, onion-skin-like pages. And like an onion, Israel’s history enfolds layer-upon-layer, which explains the fact that sites like the tomb of David is housed in the same building where it is said the Last Supper took place. (The tomb is on the first floor, the “upper room” as it is known, is just upstairs). As you can see from the many tabs Ziv uses as a reference, Israel’s role in the Bible can’t be covered in a mere blog post. But after the jump, I share some travel highlights from the Biblical stops along my trip.
The Sea of Galilee
Biblical Location: Site where Jesus hosted the ultimate bread-and-fish picnic and gave the Sermon on the Mount. Find the Bible passages here.
Today: When went horseback riding along the wildflower-covered hillsides, my horse partook in a dinner party of his own, completely disinterested in following along with the group. A seminary is perched on the hill, overlooking the sea.
Biblical Location: Built as a major port city by Herod, the king of Judaea, in 22 BC. Over 12 years, he created a huge palace and a complex of hippodromes, aqueducts, bathing houses, and a coliseum which thrilled its over 10,000 spectators with lion, tiger and alligator fights. Find Bible passages here.
Today: The site changed hands many times over 2,000 years, which explains why there’s a minaret from a mosque now on site, as well as the remains of a Byzantine church. If you go now, be sure to watch the Time Tower interactive show which recreates the city over time and is surprisingly less hokey than you’d expect.
Biblical Location: It was considered the “port of Jerusalem”; any pilgrim who arrived via ship would have to pass through. It’s also the site where Peter cured Tabitha in the Book of Acts.
Today: St. Peter’s Monastery now stands in this historic section of Tel Aviv, which has architecture from 4,000 years of Muslim, Christian, and Jewish influence. It’s also an artists colony with dozens of galleries and artworks hung along its stone walls. Nearby are the fantastic Jaffa flea markets and Doktor Shackshuka.
The Mount of Olives
Biblical Location: The site where Jesus predicted Peter’s denial. Find Bible passages here.
- Nat Geo Expeditions
Today: My visit was limited to little more than a stop for photo ops, and a man with a camel stood at the ready to hoist tourists between its humps for that perfect picture.
Via Dolorosa or The Stations of the Cross
Biblical Location: The 15 stations, described in John:18 depict the last hours before Jesus is crucified.
Today: We finished our tour of the underground tunnels of the Western Wall and literally came above ground at the start of the Via Dolorosa. As we started our walk, a man carrying a huge cross walked past us, startling me slightly. Ziv, our tour guide, explained that today, pilgrims often carry a cross through stations, and someone has to bring it back to the beginning. The final stations are of course located in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, including the site where Jesus is said to have died on the cross.
Photos: Janelle Nanos