Lets Travel to the Holy Land

     Israel is a country in Western Asia, situated at the southeastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea. It shares house borders back Lebanon to the north, Syria in the northeast, Jordan roughly the order of the east, the Palestinian territories comprising the West Bank and Gaza Strip upon the east and southwest, respectively, and Egypt and the Gulf of Aqaba in the Red Sea to the south. It contains geographically diverse features within its relatively little place.Israel's financial center is Tel Aviv, though Jerusalem is the country's most populous city and its designated capital, although Israeli sovereignty on summit of Jerusalem is not bureaucrat internationally.

1. Acre

Khan al-Umdan, Old City of Acre,ISRAEL
Crusader stronghold on the sea.Surrounded by Ottoman-era walls, Acre (also known as Akko) has been visited by everyone from Marco Polo to St. Francis during its more than 4,000 years of existence. As with Caesarea, the Crusaders left their imprint, establishing this ancient port as the maritime center and largest city of their Christian empire. They built a citadel and monumental fortifications, seawalls, and the Knights’ Hall, a subterranean network of vaulted corridors that held 50,000 soldiers during their 12th-century heyday.

Greatly overlooked in recent centuries, Acre is a well-preserved historic city, still displaying its Ottoman and Crusader influences in its mosaic-adorned mosques with towering minarets and churches with similarly soaring steeples. There’s a teeming souk (be sure to sample the hummus at Said’s, said to be the best), Turkish baths, traditional coffeehouses, and charming seafood restaurants on the streets leading to the port.

2. Caesarea

Roman fortress by the Mediterranean.Caesarea is the kind of multilayered historic site that results from conquests and reconquests over millennia, and is the location of some of the Levant’s most important Roman ruins. Built some 2,000 years ago by emperor Herod the Great, who dedicated it to Caesar Augustus, Caesarea was once a thriving metropolis with a population over 125,000, the largest in the eastern Mediterranean.

Caesarea’s archaeological gems, now expertly excavated, serve to evoke daily life during the time of Jesus. A double aqueduct and one of the largest and bestpreserved hippodromes in the classical world, as well as Herod’s palace and columned pool, have all survived the ages. An easily navigable trail passes among restored Roman arches, roads, baths, and granaries. But the grand Roman theater with the Mediterranean as a backdrop is perhaps Caesarea’s greatest highlight, a mostly recreated venue that seats 3,600 and is popular for summertime concerts and performances.

Today, Caesarea is an important tourist destination, home to Israel’s only golf course, and—just minutes outside of Tel Aviv—one of its wealthiest residential communities. The city has redeveloped its Mediterranean waterfront, which features sandy beaches within sight of the ruins, and has built what bills itself as the world’s first underwater archaeological museum. Intended for divers of all skill levels using waterproof maps and spread over nearly 165 square miles
of the sea floor, the site offers four trails to view sunken anchors, statues, and Roman shipwrecks.

3.The Galilee

Sea of Galilee,AERIAL VIEW
Rolling hills, wildflowers, a freshwater sea, and a holy town.Afertile region blanketed in spring by seas of wildflowers and blossoming trees, few places have as much resonance for Christians and Jews as the Galilee. With constant appearances in ancient scriptures, it is home to some of Israel’s most important pilgrimage sites, from the holy town of Nazareth to the shores of the harp-shaped Sea of Galilee. This rich earth is also where Jewish pioneers set up the country’s first kibbutz and where Israelis today come for beaches and outdoor fun.

Nazareth was also the boyhood home of Jesus, who returned here to teach; a newly organized Jesus Trail begins here and follows the 40-mile terrain that he would have walked during his ministry. It connects such spots as Canaan, the Sea of Galilee, Tabgha (and its Byzantine-style Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes), and the Mount of Beatitudes, where the Sermon on the Mount took place. You’ll shift from the Biblical era to the early Middle Ages with a trek up to Safed (Zefat), Israel’s highest town and the historic home of Jewish mysticism known as Kabbala. A stroll through the 1,000-year-old city’s mazelike Synagogue Quarter remains one of Judaism’s most enchanting experiences, while the art galleries that fill the old Arab Quarter lend a slightly bohemian air. If you’re spending the night, you have two very different options: the exclusive hilltop Mizpe-Hayamim (Sea View) outside town, known for its spa and its farm-to-table restaurant, or the family-run Vered HaGalil, which affords a dose of the American West at a hillside horse ranch with modest rooms and sweeping views.

4.The Golan Heights

Golan Heights,Gamla View
Remote and Nature-FIlled:Israel's Wild North. This mountainous and sparsely populated outcrop is unexpected in a land of the unexpected—where snow falls in the winter and nights remain cool in the summer even as the rest of Israel bakes. Rising over 3,500 feet, the Golan Heights is known to outsiders more for being captured from Syria by Israel following the 1967 Six-Day War than as the recreational destination Israelis have come to treasure.

Surrounded by lush volcanic hills and bordering much of the Sea of Galilee (see previous page), the Golan is Israel at its “frontier” best: a land of cattle ranches, ski resorts, and boutique wineries; olive groves and orchards; nature reserves; organic restaurants and Druze villages. Most of all, the Golan is Israel untouched—a quiet corner that has for the most part avoided being overrun by tourists.

While the Golan may lack the archaeological richness of the neighboring Galilee, history buffs will not be disappointed. The settlement of Gamla, which dates back 5,000 years, is known as the “Masada of the North”; it is where some 9,000 Jews revolted against Roman rule in a.d. 67 and ultimately chose to end their lives rather than be conquered by the empire (Masada would fall to the Romans 6 years later). Today, the ruins of much of their original settlement remain, lorded over by a colony of rare and majestic griffon vultures that breed in the surrounding hills.

5.Historic Jerusalem

Spiritual enclave of ancient sites and Sacred places.Within the 16th-century walls built by Suleiman the Magnificent and accessed via eight fortified gates, ancient Jerusalem is a place that transcends time, place, and faith. It’s here that you’ll find the capital city’s spiritual heart, where more than 200 historic sites—the most sacred of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—commingle. View it all from the Tower of David before strolling through the Jewish Quarter en route to the Western Wall. It is Judaism’s holiest site, where worshippers come to pray and leave handwritten notes in its stone crevices.

In the city’s ancient Muslim Quarter, merchant stalls are heavy with sweets and embroidered tunics, while the smells of sizzling shashlik (shish kebab) waft through the air. It’s all a prelude to the gold-topped Dome of the Rock (Qubbat as-Sakhrah in Arabic), the oldest existing Islamic shrine and the third holiest site in Islam after Mecca and Medina (see p. 467). Built in a.d. 690, the resplendent mosque rests upon the location where the prophet Mohammed is said to have ascended to heaven. Jews revere it as the site of the altar where Abraham was called upon by God to sacrifice his son Isaac. You’ll also find the holiest place in Christianity here. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre was completed in a.d. 335 on the site, known as Calvary, where Jesus is believed to have been crucified, buried, and resurrected. Pilgrims approach the church by the mile-long Via Dolorosa (the Way of the Cross; literally, the Road of Pain), whose 14 stations mark the path Jesus took as he carried his cross to his execution.

You can find respite in the Old City at the cloistered Austrian Hospice, one of many modest European-run guest houses welcoming visitors of all faiths (this one distinguished by a Viennese café serving great Wiener schnitzel and strudel) right on the Via Dolorosa. The hostelry is just a minute’s walk from the always busy Abu Shukri, the town’s best hummus takeout.


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