Surrounded by ancient stone city walls, it is easy to get lost in the winding alleyways of Old Jerusalem — lost in another time, another place, another world. That is what is so special about the place: outside of being of utmost sacred significance for Jews, Christians and Muslims, the Old City maintains its historic feel and tangible spirituality. The Western Wall, Temple Mount, Dome of the Rock, and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre are all located within its walls. The Via Dolorosa, where Jesus is said to have walked to his crucifixion, can still be traced here. There is both a sense of chaos — with bustling souks and busy streets — as there is a deep sense of calm and peace.
Built by King David in 1004 B.C., the Old City of Jerusalem has one of the most fascinating histories in the world. Its walls were constructed in the 16th century by the Ottomans.
Set within the Christian Quarter of the old walled city of Jerusalem – which it itself the larger World Heritage Site -- this church is considered by many Christians to be the site of Jesus’ crucifixion, burial and resurrection. A popular stop on the pilgrimage trail since the 4th century, the church itself is now the headquarters of the Greek Orthodox Church.
Commissioned between 325-6 by Emperor Constantine I, and his mother, Saint Helena, the church was built on the former site of a temple dedicated to Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and war; initial excavations for this construction, according to Helena, revealed the Holy Sepulchre, or the tomb of Jesus. During a Muslim uprising in 1009, the church was razed to the ground, an act that provoked Europe to begin the Crusades. It was eventually rebuilt via collaboration between the Muslims and Byzantines, and additions were later made by Crusaders, Franciscan monks, Greek Orthodox and Armenian Apostolic elders.
An easy day trip from nearby Jerusalem, the Ein Gedi Nature Reserve is located in the Judean Desert, close to the Dead Sea coast, and is one of Israel’s most popular hiking areas. Ein Gedi is a natural playground for outdoors enthusiasts, with several well-marked hiking trails traversing its wadis, waterfalls and desert oases, and linking landmark sights like the atmospheric Dodim’s Cave (‘Lovers’ Cave’) and the photogenic David Waterfall.
Covering 6,250 acres and fed by four natural springs - David, Arugot, Shulamit, and Ein Gedi - the park hosts a wealth of tropical flora and native wildlife, with endemic species including Nubian ibex, Syrian hyrax, Afghan fox and striped hyena, as well as a large population of migratory and resident birds. The reserve is also dotted with archeological sites, with key attractions including the Chalcolithic Temple of Ein Gedi and a village dating back to the 1st century AD.
In Jesus’ day, the Garden of Gethsemane at the base of the Mount of Olives was an olive grove, and according to some botanists, some of the ancient olive trees still growing in the gardens likely predate Christianity itself. While the word “gethsemane” means “oil press,” the Garden of Gethsemane is much better known for its prominence in New Testament scripture as the site where Jesus was betrayed and arrested after the Last Supper.
In the center of the garden sits the Church of All Nations, a mosaic-covered church built in 1924 by architect Antonio Barluzzi. Within the church sits the Rock of Agony, believed by some to be the place where Jesus wept and prayed for the city of Jerusalem.
Just east of the Old City, separating Jerusalem from the Judean Desert, sits the Mount of Olives, one of the city’s most famous scriptural sites. The famous mountain is referenced in both the Old and New Testaments, first as the escape route David used during his son’s rebellion, and again by the prophets. The New Testament recounts Jesus addressing his pupils from the Mount of Olives.
Apart from its religious importance, the Mount of Olives is historically significant as well. On the lower slopes of the mountain, you’ll find the Jewish cemetery, believed to be the oldest cemetery in the world still in use and burial place of many prominent Jewish figures, including Zechariah and philosopher Nahmanides. The foot of the mountain is also home to the Gardens of Gethsemane, the Church of All Nations and the Russian Orthodox Church of Maria Magdalene.
The Church of All Nations is a prominent Roman Catholic church perched on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. It is also known as the Basilica of Agony, with its walls golden mosaics depicting the suffering of the world as assumed by Jesus. Tradition has it that Jesus kneeled on a rock here in the Garden on Gethsemane prior to his arrest by the Romans. The slab of rock is now encompassed by a circle of iron thorns.
Historically the site of a Byzantine church, it was converted to a basilica in the 4th century by Crusaders. The present stone structure has domes, walls, and pillars built in Byzantine style although built from 1919 to 1924. Its construction was fueled by donations of Catholic communities from all over the world. Symbols of each nation that donated were built into the glass of the church’s ceiling.
Sitting halfway up the Mount of Olives, Dominus Flevit is a prominent Franciscan church in Jerusalem. The name translates from Latin to “The Lord Wept,” with the structure shaped like a teardrop to symbolize the tears of Jesus. It is said to mark the spot where Jesus looked out onto Jerusalem and wept, knowing the city was bound to be destroyed.
The site went unmarked until the Crusader era, when a small chapel was built that eventually fell into ruin. The present day structure was built in 1955 by Italian architect Antonio Barluzzi, standing upon centuries of history and ruins — including the Byzantine era monastery and an ancient necropolis. Today the church has a panoramic, often-photographed view of Jerusalem. The window at the altar provides an overlook of the city focused on the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
The remains of Israel’s famous King David sit on the holy site of Mount Zion. Pilgrims flock to pay their respects to the Old Testament king who is credited with writing many of the Psalms. At nearly 1,000 years old, it is highly debated whether or not King David is actually buried here. Nonetheless, the place remains highly significant, particularly to Jews. Before the state of Israel was founded, Jews did not have access to the Western Wall (Wailing Wall) and would instead visit the Tomb of David to pray.
The tomb can be seen on the ground floor of what remains of the Byzantine church Hagia Zion. It is estimated that parts of the structure date back to the time of the Crusaders. Men and women must visit the stone tomb separately, though members of all faiths are welcome.
As both the oldest and most famous Islamic shrine in the world, the Dome of the Rock is one of the most sought pilgrimage destinations in the world. Constructed on top of the site of the Second Jewish Temple around 690 CE, its historical and religious value is unprecedented.
The exterior detail of the dome is in the shape of a Byzantine martyrium, built for the purpose of housing holy relics. It is also jacketed in over 100,000 melted Dinar gold coins, covering the entire done and making it a gem of middle Byzantine art. The Dome of the Rock’s famous wooden dome has a diameter of about 60 feet (20 meters) and is mounted on a drum consisting of 16 piers and columns circularly placed beneath. The entire shrine has a 66.27 ft (20.20 m) diameter by 67.19 ft (20.48 m) in width.
It is still possible to visit the supposed site of the Last Supper, known to some as the “Cenacle” (Latin for ‘dining room’) and also the “Upper Room.” The Last Supper is the Passover meal Jesus and his disciples shared the night before his death. The New Testament of the Bible writes that the Apostles gathered in the upper room here to pray after Jesus’s ascension into heaven.
The room then became a gathering spot for first-century Judeo-Christians. Some consider it “the first ever Christian church.” The room became known as the Church of the Apostles after it was spared in the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. The stone structure that now stands was built by the Crusaders in the 12th century, though parts of the original wall can still be seen. The great hall is divided into three naves by large Romanesque pillars, imbued with a true sense of Biblical history.
Meer dingen om te doen in Israël
This chapel on Jerusalem’s Mount of Olives is a sacred site for both Christians and Muslims. It claims to be the oldest of three churches located on the Mount. Though Jesus is believed to have taken his final steps before ascending to heaven here (there is even a footprint impression on a stone slab that is believed to be from Jesus’s right foot), the site has since been converted to a mosque, after being captured by the Muslim sultan Saladin in the 10th century. It remains under the control of an Islamic group, though all faiths are welcome.
Many believe Jesus’s Assumption, 40 days after his resurrection, had taken place inside a cave. Nonetheless a church was built in this spot in the 4th century. Its exterior is marked by archways and slim marble columns, built in a Romaneque style.
Within Old Jerusalem’s al-Haram al-Sharif, or the Noble Sanctuary, lies the third holiest site in Islam, after Mecca and Medina. The Al Aqsa Mosque, which translates to “the farthest mosque,” sits beside the Dome of the Rock, and it is believed that Muhammed ascended to heaven from this spot after being transported from Sacred Mosque in Mecca.
Over the centuries the silver-domed mosque has been destroyed in several different earthquakes and subsequently rebuilt. With four minarets, the present day structure is characteristic of early Islamic architecture. The interior contains 121 stained glass windows, its massive dome painted with 14th-century designs. The dome was recovered in lead in 1985 to replace the aluminum cover with its original cover. Though Israel maintains control of the space, it is overseen by the Waqf, a Jordanian and Palestinian authority of the Muslim holy sites in Israel.
At the base of the Mount of Olives lies the site believed by Eastern Christians to be the final resting place of the Virgin Mary. Her tomb there, embedded in rock, commemorates Mary’s Assumption and ascension into heaven. Following a dark, winding staircase down to the burial site, the walls are decorated with historic art depicting Mary, the mother of Jesus. In the crypt itself, hanging lamps and burning candles and incense create a low lit, peaceful atmosphere.
Tradition states that her body was received on the third day following her death, leaving her tomb empty. Traditions following her death here are said to taken place since the 2nd and 3rd centuries. The church that sits above is believed to have been built around the time of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, making it one of the oldest near-complete religious buildings in Jerusalem.
Having a predominantly Haredi and Hasidic population, the Orthodox Jewish neighborhood of Mea She’arim is a world of its own within Jerusalem. The insulated neighborhood is one of the oldest Jewish areas in the city and accordingly, life revolves around the many strict religious rules and traditions. Men can be seen wearing the traditional black frock coats with white shirts and stiff black hats to cover their heads. Women usually dress in black, long skirts and blouses and cover their heads with a headscarf or a wig. Additionally, the households in Mea She’arim reject most technology, including computers, televisions and radios as well as newspapers and magazines. Instead, important messages and news are glued onto walls or one of the numerous billboards that can be seen everywhere. Next to the messages, there are also the so called “modesty posters”, big notices with bold print that urge visitors to wear at least knee length clothing as well as tops with sleeves.
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.
About 2,000 years ago, Israel’s beautiful fishing port of Caesarea was a Roman capital, dedicated to Caesar Augustus. Today, it is one of the country’s most popular tourist sites, with archaeological ruins, beautiful beaches and an impressive Roman theater.
Caesarea was built by Herod the Great over 12 years, from 25-13 BC, and was one of the grandest cities in the area with a deep sea harbor, aqueduct, hippodrome and amphitheater, which is still utilized today. The site holds concerts and other performances, while the hippodrome, although still identifiable, is now a banana field. It is smaller than the Circus Maximus in Rome but still held 20,000 spectators for chariot races at one point. Caesarea’s harbor is an engineering marvel with both an inner and outer area. It was constructed using hydraulic concrete to create breakwaters. Caesarea Aqueduct Beach, on the other hand, is considered one of the best beaches in Israel.
The incredible fortress of Masada, located in the astonishing Judean Desert near the Dead Sea, has been symbolic to the Israeli people since the Roman era, symbolizing bravery and self-sacrifice in the face of adversity. The plateau is surrounded by rocky cliffs on all sides, and has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2001.
Upon arriving, you can either walk to the entrance or take a cable car lift. While the cable car is the fastest way to reach the site, you can walk up the two beautitful paths of either the "Snake Path" or the Roman Ramp.
When you have reached the top, explore Herod's palace complex with its amazing ancient bath houses and mosaics. There are also remnants of Roman encampments, synagogues, and homes. Combined with the breathtaking views of the Judean Desert and the Dead Sea, Masada is an experience not to be missed.
A rocky plateau straddling the borders of Israel and Syria, the Golan Heights is one of Israel’s most scenic regions, with its hilly landscape dotted with ancient ruins and biblical sites. Despite the long-standing dispute over Syrian and Israeli occupation of the territory, the Golan Heights are still an increasingly popular tourist destination, home to Mount Hermon, Israel’s highest peak at 2,284 meters, and the Gamla Nature Reserve, renowned for its population of rare birds.
Other top attractions of the Golan Heights region include the Hammat Gader hot springs, located on the Syrian and Jordanian border; the ancient Jewish town of Katzrin, where the extensive ruins include a synagogue dating back to the 6th century; Israel’s largest Byzantine monastery in Kursi; and the extinct volcano of Mount Bental, which offers magnificent views over the Golan plateau and the Syrian Quneitra Valley.
Frequently referred to as 'Akko,' Acre is situated in the Western Galilee region of northern Israel. Populated with beautiful ancient buildings, Old Akko, a subset of Acre, has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and its cultural vibrancy makes it a prime place for visitors. Hosting festivals and markets year-round, the port of Acre is lively and beautiful.
Steeped in history, you can visit the ancient walls and fortresses of the city that tell the complicated story of the area.
Further afield are the Baha'i Gardens, which are meticulously designed and gorgeously preserved. The gardens surround the Bahji mansion northeast of Acre where the Bahaullah is buried (not to be confused with the Bahai gardens on the slope of Mount Carmel in Haifa).
Be sure to visit the astounding Knights' Halls, which are comprised of 6 different joined halls that have been recently excavated from the time of the Knights Hospitallers.
When you step off a cruise in Jerusalem, you can practically feel the sense of history and spirituality that embodies one of the world’s most historic cities. Ashdod, the Biblical home of giants, is today a giant of industry and the gateway to Jerusalem, a sacred site to three of the world’s great religions.
How to get to Ashdod
Since Jerusalem sits inland, passengers must disembark in Ashdod and make the hour-plus transfer into the city to see the main attractions. Even Ashdod itself isn’t within easy walking distance, so unless you’ve been to Israel before, your best option is to join a guided tour to the major sites.
One Day in Ashdod
Even though Jerusalem is quite far from Ashdod, its Old City is the reason cruise passengers come here, and you simply must visit some of these historic sites during your stay. Just within the walled city, you’ll find the Western Wall, the most sacred Jewish site in the city.
Located within the Israeli occupied West Bank, Jericho is a city apart from the Palestinian Territories 34 miles (55 kilometers) southeast from Jerusalem, near to the Dead Sea. Although known to be a target caught in the midst of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Jericho is none-the-less one of the earliest known sites of human civilization.
If you feel inclined to visit the territory, you will find that the small city contains remnants of past settlements that date as far back as the Neolithic period 9,000 years ago, making it one of the worlds more interesting exploratory destinations. One such popular feature includes the ancient mound best known as Tell es-Sultan, where such remnants can be found. Other popular attractions on location include the 6th century Synagogue Mosiac-Floor, currently residing in the basement of a residential building.
Bezienswaardigheden in de omgeving van Israël
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