Jesus spent his childhood here, though the gospels give no description of these formative years. Nazareth is not mentioned in the Old Testament and only archaeological evidence points to a village inhabited during the First Temple period. Its Jewish community was almost wiped out by the Romans during the Jewish revolt. Later, with the strengthening f the Roman Empire, the number of Christians grew.
From the fourth century, churches were built on the sites which were connected with Jesus and the Virgin Mary. Today, the population consists of Christians, represented by several denominations, Moslems and Jews. There are many churches, monasteries, convents, hostels and schools.
You are greeted by costumed “inhabitants” (the staff actually did grow up in Nazareth), and feel Jesus’ teachings come alive along the Parable Walk. You can see women spinning, drawing water and baking bread, and men tilling the soil or harvesting, and herding sheep and goats.
At the olive oil press you’ll learn that the word “Nazareth” comes from the Hebrew for a new shoot of an olive tree, the “branch” of Isaiah 11:1. An entire house has been reconstructed, along with a synagogue of the type in which Jesus preached in this very town (Luke 4:16-28). Nazareth Village is a truly unique way to immerse yourself in the Bible.
Nathaniel, a native of Cana, was initially quite sceptical of Jesus. It was he who said “can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:46). Also here at Cana, Jesus performed his first miracle: at a wedding he was attending the wine required for the sanctification gave out. Jesus commanded that six stone jars used in the ritual purification be filled with water. When the water was drawn off it miraculously turned to wine. This was to be the first Jesus’ signs.
It was traditionally on the summit of Mount Tabor, “the high mountain apart”, that Jesus was transfigured in the eyes of Peter, James and John “and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light” (Matthew 17:2).
It remained exclusively pagan for many years and we have no evidence that Jesus ever entered the site. Tiberias later became a seat of Jewish scholarship. By the second century the Sanhedrin was located here. It was in Tiberias, that the Mishna and the Jerusalem Talmud were compiled, and Hebrew scriptural punctuation was composed. After serving as the capital of Galilee during crusader times, Tiberias declined in subsequent centuries.
It is currently a growing Jewish city known for its therapeutic hot springs.
The Sea of Galilee is in fact a lake; it is 13 miles land and 7.5 miles wide, 50 meters deep, with a surface area of 63.7 square miles. In a land so barren, this fresh-water lake provides much needed greenery, respite for the eyes and the soul and, through the intense cultivation possible here, nourishment for the body. Jesus spent most of his three-year public ministry in towns and villages around the Sea if Galilee.
Some scholars, taking note of the large number of sick people that came to Jesus to be healed, believe tat they may have initially come to the region to take advantage of the hot springs.
The site is Jesus’ miraculous feeding of the multitude is commemorated by a fourth century church whose flower and bird mosaics are the most beautiful in the Holy Land. Between the apse and altar of the church is a fifth to sixth century mosaic, representing fishes and a basket of loaves (Mk. 6:34, Luke 9:10).
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.
Jesus gathered together his disciples here (Matt. 4, 14) and performed many cures (Mk. 1,21;2,3, Luke 7, 2). Today can be seen the remains of a synagogue 2-3 centuries younger tan that in which Jesus taught, though most likely on the same site. The main material used for building is well-dressed and carved limestone. The synagogue is typical of the basilica style of the period, with Corinthian columns.
Nearby are the remains of an octagonal structure, thought to be built on the remains of Peter’s house. Beneath can be seen some of the stone artefacts of ancient Capernaum: a carved palm tree, millstone and the Star of David.
Phillipi his son embellished the town and named it Caesaria. Caesaria Phillipi is to be distinguished from the Herodean port-city Caesaria Maritima. It was here that Simon acknowledged Jesus as the Messiah, to which Jesus replied: “You are Peter. And on this rock (Petra) I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it.”
The Coast Plains
Today the mountain is covered with oak and carob groves with several settlements scattered on its broad rolling plateau. In biblical times this plateau was heavily cultivated. A number of villages here, Daliat el Carmel and Isafiya re inhabited by a non Moslem Arab people called the Druze. This sect broke with formal Islam in the 11th century and was founded by Ismael Lebanon, Galilee, Carmel and the Golan heights.
Mukhraka, the traditional site of the contest, is today marked by a Carmelite monastery, built in 1886.
The Turks banished Baha Ulla to Acre, where he is buried. The Bahai faith preaches continual revelation and respects all previous enlightened teachings. The sect now numbers over two million. The gold-domed shrine contains the remains of both el Bab and the Baha Ulla’s successor, Abdul Basha.
Here Paul disembarked (Acts 21:7). The city is mentioned once in the New Testament. Acre entered its most glorious period with the coming of the Crusaders; it was taken by Baldwin I in 104, and became chief stronghold of the Crusaders Kingdom. After the disastrous Christian defeat at Hittin in 1187, the city surrendered to Saladin without resistance but was soon reinforced by knights from all over Europe, only to fall in 1191. During following century, St. John de Acre became capital of Latin Kingdom.
Rivalry between the principal chivalrous orders and corruption within the merchant population weakened the city’s strength and hastened its fall to Moslems in 1291. Many Crusaders buildings and fortifications remain intact to this day. The Acre Mosque was built by the notorious 18th century Moslem ruler; Jasser Pasha is among the most important mosques in Israel.
King Solomon fortified Megiddo and made it one of his chariot cities and supply centres (I Kings 4:12; 9:15; 10:26). Two Judean kings died in battle here: Ahaziah was killed by Jehu in 847 B.C, (II Kings 9:27) and Josiah by Pharoah Necco in 610 B.C. (II Kings 23:26).
In World War I the decisive battle in the conquest of northern Palestine by the British was fought here. General Allenby’s victory earned him the title Viscount of Megiddo. Megiddo is identified with Armageddon of Revelations 16:16.
After Herod’s death, Caesaria became the seat of the Roman government in Judea; Pontius Pilate resided here during his terms as procurator. A bitter dispute between the local pagan and Jewish populations led to heightened Jewish resentment of Rome. With the outbreak of the Jewish revolt, Vespasian was proclaimed emperor here. Phillip the Deacon evangelized here (Acts 8:40) and Paul was imprisoned here (Acts 23:23).
The seat of government during Byzantine times, Caesaria had a population of 200,000. One famous inhabitant was Eusebeus, the first historian of the church. Caesaria fell in 640 to the Arabs, but was retaken and fortified by the Crusaders and finally destroyed by Beybars in 1921. It is now a very popular tourist site with a fine beach, restaurant, art galleries and excavations.
II Chronicles 2:16 relates how Solomon discussed his building projects with Hiram, king of tyre, who offered: “We will cut wood out of Lebanon… and bring it in floats by sea to Joppa”, for this was the Holy Land’s outlet to the wide world. Jonah 1:3 tells how he “went down to Joppa. And he found a ship going to Tarshish”. Christians associate Jaffa with Peter, who resorted Tabitha to life and “tarried many days with one Simon, a tanner” (acts 9:43). Here he had his vision which led to the first preaching of the gospel of Christ to the Gentiles. The House of Simon the tanner and St. Peter’s Church recall these events.
Another legend associated with Jaffa is that if Perseus and Andromeda, daughter of the king of Jaffa. The beautiful princess was chained to a rock in the harbour to be sacrificed to the sea monster, in order to appease its wrath. Perseus saw her in her terrible plight and rescued her by slaying the monster. “Andromeda’s rock” can be seen in the harbour not far from the light-house. Today, one of Jaffa’s main attractions is the Artists’ quarter, with its quaint streets and workshops.
Judea and Samaria
The Church of St. John the Baptist is built over the birthplace of St. John and has beautiful paintings and decorated ceramic tiles. The first church on the site was erected in Byzantine times and rebuilt by the Crusaders, but later destroyed. The present structure was completed in 1674. Steps lead down to a natural cave, the Grotto of the “Benedictus” is inscribed on the lintel: “Blessed be the Lord, God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people”. The two-story Church of the Visitation, designed by Barluzzi, was completed in 1955.
A chapel built in the site of the home of Elizabeth and Zacharias has paintings describing events in their lives. Behind a grill is the rock where the baby John is said to have been concealed during the Massacre if the Innocents. The courtyard is decorated with ceramic tiles bearing the “Magnificat” in 42 languages.
In the Old Testament, Bethlehem is often referred to as Ephrat, which means fruitfulness. Here, nearly four thousand years ago, Jacob buried his young wife Rachel; here was the home of Naomi and her family; here Ruth gleaned in the fields and fell in love with her kinsman Boaz; here their great-grandson David was born and here Samuel “anointed him in the midst of his brethren’ (1 Samuel 16:13).
But the event that took place here and transformed the course of history was that ”Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea” (Matthew 2:1) Today, this town, surrounded by a beautiful hilly landscape, is the home of Christian and Muslim Arabs, many of whom are skilled artisans and craftsmen.
In 330 A.D., with the Christianization of the Byzantine Empire, a splendid basilica, the Church of the Nativity, was erected on the site of the manager. Bethlehem at this period was a centre of Christian enlightenment.
Another church, called “Campo Dei Pastori” – “Shepherd’s Field” was rebuilt for the Franciscans by Antonio Barluzzi in 1950. The design of the Church represent a shepherd’s tent and the light penetrating the church through the glass openings of the dome recall the light that shine on the shepherds when the angel appeared to give them the tidings of Jesus’ birth.
The walls are decorated with frescoes depicting the story of the shepherds and in the centre of the Church are an altar supported by bronze statues of shepherds.
A natural oasis it has been blessed with nearby springs (2 Kings 2:19). The key to survival in Jericho is the proper utilization of her water resources. The construction and repair of irrigation ditches, as well as a method for distributing the water among all the farmers are necessary for a viable settlement here at Jericho.
Such a degree of organization appears to have first been present at Jericho by 7000 B.C., making it one of the oldest cities in the world! Even today, the desolate grey unirrigated countryside and the lush green fields of bananas, citrus and vegetables.
Here Jesus fasted forty days to resist the devil’s offer to him if “all the kingdoms in the world” (Luke 4:5).
It’s high salt and mineral content (ten times that of seawater) makes the resources. Potash, magnesium and bromide are extracted by a process known as selective evaporation. The waters are also known for their curative powers against skin and muscle disease.
They believed in two Messiahs: one, from David’s line, for the Monarch, and the other, a descendant of Aaron for the high priesthood. In 68 A.D., the settlement was completely destroyed by the Romans; the scribes, seeing the approaching legions, hastily stored the scrolls in nearby caves. There these parchments remained for nearly 1900 years. All books of the Old Testament except Esther are present, as well as apocryphal psalms, commentaries and special scrolls dealing specifically with the sect’s code of ethics and beliefs.
These Old Testament manuscripts are nearly 1000 years older than previously known manuscripts. The texts are outstandingly similar to their Masoritic equivalents, showing a high degree of standardization of biblical texts before their compilation in Jaminia (Yavne) in the second century. The Dead Sea scrolls are presently exhibited at Israel Museum in Jerusalem.
The fortress was garrisoned by Roman soldiers in the first century A.D. until overcome by Jewish rebels at the outbreak of the Jewish War (67 A.D.). For six years Masada served as a rebel base, where guerrilla sorties could be launched into the Judean hills. The end finally came in 73 A.D., when the Roman Tenth Legion and auxiliaries numbering ten thousand troops, staged the final assault. The nine hundred and sixty men, women and children committed a mass suicide, rather than fall into Roman captivity.
Today, a cable car provides an easy approach to this once inaccessible spot. Masada, with its history, view and ruins, is one of Israel’s major tourist attractions.
Solomon extolled the fertility of this oasis in the Song of Songs 1:14. Caves in the canyons high above Ein Gedi have revealed scrolls and letters dating from the Bar Kochba revolt in 130 A.D. In addition, a hoard of copper and ivory ritual artefacts, nearly 5000 years old have been discovered near the fountain head.
To Jews, Yerushalaim is the Crown of Israel, Israel’s eternal capita, site of the Temple, seat of David and chosen city of God. “If I forget thee O’ Jerusalem, may my right hand lose its expressing” Jewish people’s devotion to its capital. Christians too treasure Jerusalem, for here Jesus walked, taught and suffered through the final passion designed to redeem Mankind from sin.
Lazarus became ill and died when he had been dead for four days, Jesus came from the River Jordan on his way to Jerusalem and restored him to life. Lazarus’ grave is behind the Franciscan Sanctuary of St. Lazarus; a masterpiece built in 1954 by Italian architect Barluzzi, which incorporate fourth, sixth and twelfth century remains.
In the church are many mosaics, copies frescos paintedby G. Vagarini. Above the church is a ruined tower said to be on the side of Simon the Leper’s house, where Jesus sat when a woman anointed him with precious spikenard and his fellow guest complained of the waist: “Why trouble ye the woman ?” And Jesus said: “For she hath wrought good work upon me” (Mat. 26:10).
The Church of Eleona or Pater Noster marks the spot where Jesus revealed worldly secrets to his disciples. (Matthew 24:3) and taught them “Our Father” (Luke 9). Near Eleona stand the Crusader remains of the site of the Ascension. This small-doomed structure surrounded by a circular wall is presently a Moslem chapel. Inside is the impression of a footstep said to have been made by Jesus ascending into heaven.
It was here, a Sabbath day’s journey from Jerusalem that the risen Jesus departed from his disciples, having encountered those 40 days after his crucifixion.
A huge water cistern evokes the story of Jeremiah’s imprisonment (Jer. 38:6). The touring route descends via Warren’s Shaft and more recently discovered tunnels to the Gihon Spring where Solomon was crowned (1 Kings 1:33). The walk then continues to remnants of the actual Siloam Pool from Second Temple times.
The adventurous can then slosh 1,500 feet through Hezekiah’s Tunnel (2 Chron. 32:30), or take the “dry walk” through another ancient conduit. Wet or dry, the City of David is a must-see on any Jerusalem itinerary.
This extraordinary conduit, now known as the Siloam Tunnel or Hezekiah’s Tunnel, was dug around 700 B.C. to bring water directly into the town and is still in use. An inscription in ancient Hebrew script found chiselled into the conduit wall, commemorates the meeting of Hezekiah’s two work gangs who began at each end of the tunnel and met midway. At the Pool of Siloam, Jesus healed a man who had been blind from birth and gave him sight (John 9).
Empress Eudocia commemorated this miracle with a church built in the spot. It was destroyed in the Persian invasion and to prevent its being rebuilt, the Moslems ejected a mosque on the site.
For Muslims, the Temple Mount is the site from which Muhammad embarked on his Night Journey to heaven. The Dome of the Rock, built in 691 AD, is one of the earliest Muslim structures and shelters the very rock on which Muhammad stood. The Temple Mount also contains an ancient and important mosque, the Al Aqsa Mosque, built in 720 AD. The Temple Mount is a relatively minor site for Christians, but is believed to contain the “pinnacle of the Temple” (Matthew 4:5) from which Satan tempted Jesus to jump to prove his status as the Messiah (near Al Aqsa Mosque).
The courtyard by the mosques provides an excellent view of surrounding Christian sites, including the Dome of the Ascension (marking the site from which where Jesus ascended into heaven) and the church of Dominus Flevit (commemorating the spot where Jesus wept as he saw a vision of Jerusalem in ruins).
The small pillared Dome of the Spirits is on the spot where Mohammed is said to have conversed with Jewish and Christian prophets. Here, it is believed, he will summon the spirits of the faithful on Judgement Day. Another shrine on the Temple Mount is the Dome of Ascension, which is associated with Mohammed’s night journey.
The Crusaders used it as a baptistery. There are also many fountains on the Temple Mount – before entering the Mosque to pray, Moslems wash their feet. The circular fountain surrounded by trees is called El Kas, The Basin, and is situated over the largest of the underground cisterns on the Temple Mount.
This superb structure was built by the Moslem Caliph Abdel-Malik in the year 691 A.D. That makes it nearly 1300 years old. When it was being constructed there were still many byzantine artisans living in the city. This explains the interesting juxtaposition of Arabesque script on Byzantine-styled mosaics. The eight sided structure is very similar in form and artistic origin to St. Peter’s house at Capernaum.
Votive offerings and small shrines from Moslem rulers throughout the centuries stud the entire plaza area. Renovated in the 1960’s, the former cast iron dome was replaced by one of zinc-aluminium alloy 1/6 of the weight! Inside the building is seen the hallowed rock itself. According to Moslem tradition it is from this point that Mohammed leapt skywards. To the Jew this rock has a significance stretching at least 2000 years before Mohammed.
For it was here on Mt. Moriah that Abraham offered his only son Isaac as a sacrifice (Gen 22:2). It was this same site that David purchased from Ornan the Jebusite in 1000 B.C. as a home for the Ark of the Covenant. But it was up to King Solomon to finally build God’s Temple, destined to make Jerusalem Judaism’s focal point to this day. Most biblical authorities identify this rock with the Holy of Holies.
The first Al-Aqsa Mosque was constructed of wood by the Umayyads in 710 AD, only a few decades after the Dome of the Rock. The structure has been rebuilt at least five times; it was entirely destroyed at least once by earthquakes. The last major rebuild was in 1035.
When the Crusaders captured Jerusalem in 1099, Al-Aqsa became the headquarters of the Templers. Their legacy remains in the three central bays of the main facade. In the mid-14th century the Mamelukes added an extra two on either side, resulting in the seven bays that stand today.
It was part of a grandiose plan to augment Jerusalem’s meagre water supply. During Jesus’ time this pool was thought to have curative powers. It is here that Jesus miraculously cured the infirm man on the Sabbath (John 5:1-18).
There are fourteen stations on the way of the Cross, nine along the narrow street and five inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. All are marked by chapels or churches for meditation and prayer. Despite the hustle and the bustle of the route, it is a moving spiritual experience to wander along the Way where Jesus suffered on his last day on earth 2000 years ago.
Today the northern, smaller arch is integrated into the Chapel of Ecce Homo in the Convent of the Sisters of Zion. The large arch spans part of the Via Dolorosa.
The Church is maintained by the Roman Catholics, the Greek Orthodox and the Armenians. There are also several chapels including the Chapel if Adam, the Chapel of St. Helena and the Chapel of the Finding of the Cross.
Here Jesus appeared before the Apostles (John 20:19-23; 22:24-29) and here, too, the Holy Ghost descended upon the house at Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4)
In 167 A.D, a first-century rock-hewn tomb containing two chambers was discovered near the hill. In 1882, the British General Gordon was a leading advocate for this area as a probable site of the Crucifixion and it was purchased by the Garden Tomb Association of London in 1893.
The evidence for a probable site of execution near to an exceptionally large cistern and a Herodian tomb, which meets all the details mentioned in the Gospel, makes the present garden a meaningful centre for Christian meditation and devotion.
The garden is well kept by the Franciscan brothers who offer pilgrims a leaf from the trees as a memento of their visit. The focal point if the garden is the Rock of the Agony which has been covered over by the modern Church of All Nations, so called because of the world-wide contributions that enabled its construction. It was here at Gethsemane that Jesus came with his disciples to pray.
Here he grew despondent and was tempted to find a way out, only finally to overcome the weakness of the flesh and accept the Divine Will. Betrayed by Judas, Jesus was arrested by the soldiers of the High Priest and taken away for indictment.
The eastern Moriah and the Ophel. Between them was a valley that has since been filled in by the debris of the destroyed Temple and was situated where the present plaza in front of the Western Wall is located.
There is yet another reason why Mount Moriah has lost its hilly appearance. The Western Wall is actually a retaining wall built by Herod in 20 B.C., surrounding the entire eastern hill which was raised with fill to form a flat plateau the level of Moriah’s summit. It was on this elevated plaza that the Temple stood at the time of time of Jesus. Ever since the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 A.D, Jews have gathered in pilgrimage and in prayer at the Western Wall, which became known as the Wailing Wall.
Its cracks are filled with hastily written prayers for the speedy recovery of the sick, for the Peace of Jerusalem and the coming of the Messiah.
In ancient times there was a shallow valley called the Tyropaean running along the Western side of the Temple Mount (now filled in due to constant demolition and rebuilding) that separated the rich Herodian quarter from the Temple, and it was the need to bridge this that cause the arches to be built. These pathways still hold up the streets today, and the tunnel goes directly underneath the Muslim quarter.
As you walk through the tunnel along the ancient wall, you can pause opposite the Holies of Holies, see a pavement built by Herod Agrippa (Acts 12:21) and the foundations of the Praetorium (Matt. 27:27). This is a not-to-be-missed combination of the historical and spiritual that is unique, and yet so typical of the Holy City.
In the walls there are 34 towers and eight gates: Damascus Gate, the most ornate, where the road to Damascus used to start; the New Gate, built in 1887 to facilitate passage from institutions outside the wall; Jaffa Gate, originally the starting point of the road to the most important port town; Zion Gate, connection the Armenian Quarter with Mount Zion; Dung Gate, nearest to the Western Wall and through which much of the city’s refuse is taken to Kidron Valley; the Golden Gate, or St. Stephens’s Gate, through which Israeli paratroopers entered the City in the Six Day War and Herod’s Gate, in Hebrew called the “Gate of Flowers”.
Despite the fact that the Museum is relatively very new, its collections rival that of many well-established museums the world over. Among the many gems are a seventeenth century Italian synagogue and another from Cochin, India. The Youth wing is particularly active, with regularly changing exhibits, and the Museum has a full program if lectures, concerts and films.
The grandeur of the city at the time can be appreciated by viewing this replica.
A railroad car hangs over the cliff on the road winding down from the mountain. The car was used to transport Jews who had been banished from their homes to the concentration camps, and now serves as a monument. The museum is divided into nine galleries that relate the stories of the Jewish communities before the Second World War and the series of events beginning from the rise of the Nazis to power, the pursuit of the Jews, their eviction to the ghettos and ending with “the Final Solution” and mass genocide.
The personal experiences and feelings of the victims of the holocaust constitute the groundwork for the museum’s exhibits. The exhibits include photographs, films, documents, letters, works of art, and personal items found in the camps and ghettos, and excerpts from children’s diaries.
Visiting the Yad Vashem museum is an emotional and heartrending experience, but viewing the exhibits and remembering the holocaust and its victims is important to the citizens and leaders of Israel and of other nations.
However, since the Sinai Campaign and the lifting of the Egyptian naval siege on the Straits of Tiran, it has greatly developed as a port. Because it is sunny and warm even in winter, Eilat has become a major winter resort for both Israelis and foreigners, especially Europeans who can fly there directly. Its variously priced hotels, cafes, nightclubs and restaurants and a cosmopolitan atmosphere, as-well as its magnificent underwater museum, cater to every whim.
Here one can view the magnificent coral formations and fish, sponges and other invertebrates from large windows in the wall. There are aquaria with tropical fish, pools containing sharks, sea-turtles and stingrays and a yellow Submarine from which one can observe the deeper coral reefs.
These were used as burial places and for other ritual purposes; the Nabateans were a semi-nomadic people and did not build permanent homes, so no houses or other remains survive. From Petra, the Nabateans controlled their lucrative trade routes and enjoyed centuries of prosperity. At first, they coexisted with the Roman Empire, however in 106 A.D the Romans took over their city. Petra was cut off from the West for over 1000 years: the Bedouin who lived here guarded their secret place jealously, refusing entry to outsiders.
In 1812, a young Swiss explorer, Burckhardt, disguised himself as a Muslim and entered Petra, telling his suspicious guide that he had vowed to sacrifice a goat at Jebel Haroun (Mt. Aaron, where the Bedouin believe that Moses’ brother died and is buried). After Burckhardt’s accounts of Petra were published, the ancient city opened up to foreign travellers.
In the sixth century, a basilica was built here and numerous beautiful mosaics have been uncovered. In biblical times, many battles were fought over nearby Madaba. Spectacular mosaics and fragments from the early Christian period have been excavated. In 1898, the sixth century map of Palestine that made Madaba famous was discovered. Comprised of 2:3 million tiles, it depicts the Holy Land, naming 150 sites.