Haifa, Israel’s third largest city, is also one of the most underrated. Where Jerusalem gets the lion’s share of attention as a religiously significant destination, Haifa flies under the radar with multiple faiths living in relative harmony -- most notably the headquarters of the Baha’i faith. As the country’s largest and busiest commercial port, Haifa can dock three ships at once.
Haifa Port is conveniently located right in Haifa’s city center, making for an easy walk from your ship to pretty much all the top attractions. Wear your walking shoes though, as Haifa is very hilly. If you’d rather not walk, taxis wait outside the terminal when ships are docked, or you can hail them around town. The closest international airport is Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv -- a 75-minute train ride from Haifa. From the passenger terminal, walk through the historic German Colony to the base of the Baha’i Gardens and World Center on the northern slope of Mount Carmel.
The Via Dolorosa is the path within the Old City of Jerusalem that Jesus is said to have took carrying the cross to his crucifixion. Known in Catholicism as the Stations of the Cross, the entire path is marked on the streets and major landmarks it passes through in order for pilgrims to retrace.
Although the path has changed several times over the course of history, today the main route is taken with 14 stations along the way, as it was done by early Byzantine pilgrims.
Perhaps the most significant landmark of the Jewish people and symbol of the Old City of Jerusalem, the Western Wall (or the Wailing Wall) is the last remaining remnant of the Second Temple built by Herod the Great around 19 BCE.
Jewish pilgrims from all around the world visit the site and pray to the embodied spirit of the holy presence while mourning the fall of the temple by kissing the wall and putting notes into its crevices. The plaza in front of the wall is divided into 2 sections, one for men, the other for women and is the staging for various Jewish rituals.
This particular section of the wall is merely 187 feet (57 meters) however the entire wall stretches more than 1,600 ft (488 m), most of which in accessible and hidden within residential Jerusalem.
The Temple Mount ("Haram ash-Sharif" in Arabic) is an elevated plateau located in the Old City of Jerusalem that houses some the most important structures and relics in the history of religion, including Dome of the Rock, the retaining wall of Herod’s temple, the Western Wall, and one the oldest and most beautiful mosques in the world, Al-Aqsa Mosque.
In Judaism, the area is considered the center of the world, and the point from which all humanity originated. For Muslims, the mount carries a similar significance, as the location where Muhammad ascended to heaven.
Although the area has been under Israeli sovereignty since the Six-Day War, the Temple Mount is still controlled by the Islamic Waqf, making it a high tension point in the Middle East.
Bursting at the seams with produce, nuts, seeds, spices, wines, meats and cheeses, baked goods, fish, housewares and clothing, Mahane Yehuda Market, informally called The Shuk, teems with locals and tourists who come for a bargain or simply to take in the frenetic atmosphere. The history of the market dates back to the Ottoman Period, when locals began selling produce there in the early 20th century. It soon expanded into an organized market thanks to its convenient, centralized location. The local government attempted to add much-needed infrastructure — proper sewage, running water and garbage disposal to start — to the market during the British Mandate period, but it wasn’t until the 1930s that conditions began to improve. Hungry travelers will find plenty of street food stands in and around the Mahane Yehuda Market, including some of Jerusalem’s best burekas. The market also offers a Shuk Bites card, which includes a self-guided tour map of the market.
Neve Tzedek (נְוֵה צֶדֶק) is one of the most charming neighborhoods in all of Tel Aviv. The first Jewish neighborhood to be built outside of the ancient Jaffa walls, it enjoyed a prosperous beginning as the first modern city in the Hebrew world. Today, it is stylish and full of life. Galleries and restaurants dominate the area's streets, and the small cafes and artist studios make the colorful streets look like a sort of Bohemian haven. For great shopping, be sure to visit Shabazi Street (ברחוב שבזי) for lovely boutiques and specialty stores.
Be sure to visit the Nachum Gutman Museum (נחום גוטמן במוזיאון), devoted to the famous Israeli artist, as well as the Suzanne Dellal Center for Dance and Theatre (מרכז סוזן דלל למחול ותיאטרון), an incredible cultural center surrounded by beautiful gardens. Neve Tzedek is one of the most enthralling, beautiful, and culturally blooming area in Tel Aviv, and is certainly not to be missed.
Damascus (Shechem) Gate, considered the largest and most beautiful entrance to Jerusalem’s Old City, has served in this capacity since Agrippa ruled during the first century BCE. As it stands today, the gate dates back to 1537. Crusaders referred to it as St. Stephen’s Gate, as it’s located not far from the site of Saint Stephen’s martyrdom.
Flanked by two towers, the gate serves as the main access point to the Old City from East Jerusalem, and once inside, visitors find themselves amid an authentic market in the Muslim Quarter where locals shop for clothing, crafts, spices, baked goods and other food items.
The oldest continuously operating church in the world, the Church of the Nativity was commissioned in the year 327 by Emperor Constantine I and his mother, Saint Helena, built over the site considered by most Christians to be the birthplace of Jesus. Destroyed by fire and then rebuilt in the 6th century, the church was used until 1131 as the coronation site for European Crusades-era kings, and has since been widely expanded.
The 4,000-foot complex now includes the main basilica, run by the Greek Orthodox Church; the Roman Catholic, Gothic Revival-style Church of St. Catherine; the Grotto, an underground shrine to the birth of Jesus; and a bas-relief sculpture of the Tree of Jesse, a symbol of Jesus’ genealogy, bequeathed to the church by Pope Benedict XVI in 2009. Listed as a Heritage Site in 2012, this is first UNESCO site to be set in Palestine; its nomination sparked fierce opposition from both the United States and Israel.