Each and every year thousands of Christians embark on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land with a desire to walk in the footsteps of Jesus. Indeed, Israel is the ultimate destination for anyone seeking a connection to the roots of their Christian faith, as it is abundant with New Testament sites. Here is a collection of the most significant Christian sites in Israel.
1. Via Dolorosa
The Via Dolorosa, also known as the Way of Sorrows, is the route taken by Jesus from his sentencing by Pontius Pilate to his crucifixion to his burial. The route is marked by 14 Stations of the Cross. Today visitors can walk this path and find each of the 14 Stations of the Cross marked by a plaque.
2. Church of the Holy Sepulchre
Located in the Old City of Jerusalem, this church was built on the site known as Golgotha or Calvary, where Jesus was crucified and possibly buried. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is considered to be one of the most important Christian pilgrimage destinations and contains the last four Stations of the Cross along the Via Dolorosa
3. Garden Tomb
Discovered in 1861, this is one of the sites that is considered by many to be the possible site of Jesus’ burial. Visitors can enter into the tomb’s double chamber and communion is often taken outside in the garden.
4. Mount of Olives
The Mount of Olive’s ridge is located to the East of Jerusalem where Jesus would often go to pray or rest and it is mentioned several times in the Old Testament as well. Most importantly, it is the site from which he ascended into heaven after rising from the dead. Visitors can stand on the ridge and contemplate the miracle that occurred here, while enjoying the stunning views.
5. Mount Zion
Located in the Old City, Mount Zion is the highest point in ancient Jerusalem. Today those who visit the site can see the Tomb of King David and the Upper Room where the Last Supper was held by Jesus and his disciples.
While not technically located in Israel, no Holy Land tour would be complete without a visit to Jesus’ birthplace. Visitors will see the Church of the Nativity as well as Shepherd’s Field, where the birth of Jesus was announced to the Shepherds while watching over their flock at night.
7. Sea of Galilee
Several of Jesus’ disciples were fishermen, so it is not surprising that he spent a significant amount of time sailing on the Sea of Galilee with them. Today, travelers to the Sea of Galilee can sail on a replica of a common wooden fishing boat from the days of Jesus and imagine what it would be like to see Jesus walking on the water toward the boat.
Jesus’ boyhood home of Nazareth is located nine miles west of Mount Tabor. Here visitors can see Mary’s Well, where the Angel Gabriel appeared to Mary to deliver the news that she would give birth to the Son of God. The nearby Church of the Annunciation was built to commemorate this important event.
On the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee is the village of Capernaum, known also as “the town of Jesus”. All four gospels mention Capernaum as it was the center of Jesus’ public ministry. It was here that Jesus taught in the synagogue and performed several miracles, including driving out an impure spirit, healing the servant of the Roman Centurion, healing Simon Peter’s mother-in-law, and healing a paralytic man. Today visitors can see the restored synagogues and churches as well as the House of St. Peter
Yardenit is the site on the River Jordan where it is believed that the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist took place. Those who visit this site today can be baptized in the river. A nearby Visitors Center allows travelers to obtain white robes and shower.
By Noam Matas, General Manager of America Israel Tours.
America Israel Tours offers customized tour packages to Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Turkey and Greece.