Off to the Holy Land — Highlights in Israel & Palestine

For those unfamiliar with the term “The Holy Land”, this actually pertains to the significant sites considered sacred by Christians, Jews and Muslims alike. These sites are actually spread throughout the Middle East, but several of them are found in Israel and Palestine. For Christians (like myself), the rich history of the Holy Land helps concretize the idea of the different events in Jesus’ life. There were definitely quite a number of surreal moments where we could not believe we were standing where Jesus once stood! I’ll be sharing in this post about the different highlights in Israel and Palestine to give you a little look inside the Holy Land.

Jerusalem

One of the most significant sites in the Holy Land, the city of Jerusalem is home to numerous holy sites relevant to Jesus’ life such as the crucifixion and resurrection, and many others. Back in the 16th century, city walls were built around Jerusalem for defense against outside forces. In modern-day Jerusalem, these walls now define the Old City of Jerusalem, a World Heritage Site since 1981. Today, the city has grown beyond the walls of the Old City.

Walls of the Old City of Jerusalem
Church of Pater Noster. The walls display plaques of the Lord’s Prayer in over 100 languages and dialects!

Due to the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine on the true ownership of Jerusalem, most believe that this area is very unsafe. But after personally visiting this city, there are very little signs of conflict (especially in tourist spots). Now, I’m not saying that taking precautions are unnecessary, but I believe that this should not be a reason to turn down an opportunity to visit the Holy Land. I’d recommend joining a tour group as well, to better assure you of your safety. (If you are from the Philippines, this is the tour agency we joined!)

Expand the section below for the list of important Christian sites in Jerusalem
  • Church of the Holy Sepulchre (within the Old City) — The site of Jesus’ crucifixion at the Mount of Golgotha and the tomb where Jesus was buried and resurrected. The crowds at this site are next-level crazy (as is the waiting time), be prepared!
  • Church of All Nations and the Garden of Gethsemane — The site where Jesus prayed before being arrested
  • Church of the Visitation — The site where Elizabeth and Mary met while both were still pregnant
  • Church of Pater Noster — The site where Jesus taught the Lord’s Prayer. Now, the walls display plaques of the Lord’s Prayer in over 100 languages and dialects
  • Via Dolorosa — Street within the Old City of Jerusalem believed to be the path that Jesus walked on the way to his crucifixion
  • Dominus Flevit and the Palm Sunday Road — The site where Jesus wept for the destruction of Jerusalem. Also serves as a good viewpoint of the Old City
  • Cenacle in David’s Tomb Compound — Also known as the “Upper Room” where the Last Supper was held

 

Bethlehem (Palestine)

Overlooking Bethlehem

To Christians, Bethlehem is widely recognized as the birthplace of Jesus. The actual spot of his birth as well as the manger Jesus was laid in is located within the Church of the Nativity. As this is one of the most important sites in the Holy Land, do expect a long wait and large crowds. As Bethlehem sits in Palestinian territories, it’s best to visit this location with a tour group so it will be easier to cross the checkpoint. Bethlehem is also popular for its traditional Palestinian olive wood carvings which serve as beautiful souvenirs for your home!

Inside the Church of the Nativity

Nazareth

Church of the Annunciation

Nazareth is capital city of northern Israel and very well-known as well as Jesus’s childhood home. The main attraction for Christian visitors is the Church of the Annunciation which is both the largest church in the Middle East as well as the site where the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and announced that she would bear a son, Jesus.

 

Sea of Galilee & Surrounding Areas

Sailing on the Sea of Galilee

The Sea of Galilee instantly became one of my favorite sites in Israel, not only because of its great historical and religious significance, but also its amazing natural beauty. (It’s no secret that I easily fall in love with natural wonders, haha!) It was in Galilee where Jesus spent most of his public life — the period where he spent teaching, performing miracles, and healing the sick.

Church of Transfiguration on Mount Tabor
Inside the Church of the Multiplication in Tabgha
Expand the section below for the list of notable Holy Land sites around the Sea of Galilee
  • Church of the Beatitudes — The site where Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount
  • Church of the Multiplication (Tabgha) — The site where Jesus performed the miracle of multiplication of bread and fish from 2 loaves of bread and 5 pieces of fish
  • Church of the Primacy of Peter — The site where Jesus told Peter to “feed my sheep”, meaning to reinstate Peter as the primary head of the Church. This site also features a beautiful rock shore to the Sea of Galilee.
  • Capernaum — The town near the Sea of Galilee where Jesus spent most of his time teaching in the synagogues and healing the sick
  • Mount Tabor and the Church of Transfiguration — The site where Jesus transfigured and spoke to Moses and Elijah
  • Wedding Church of Cana — The site where Jesus performed the miracle of turning water into wine. Visitors can also renew their wedding vows here! Such a memorable experience watching my parents do so (and on my birthday as well!)

 

Jordan River

Jordan River Baptismal Site

In Christian bible references, the Jordan River is known as the location where Jesus was baptized by his cousin, John the Baptist. The actual river actually cuts through Jordan, Israel and Syria due to its length. We visited Jesus’ baptismal site and was even able to renew our baptismal vows in the Jordan River! To be honest as well, the site was not as grand as I expected, but being able to be baptized in the same water as Jesus was surely takes the experience to a whole new level!

This is a bit of a lengthy post but there are just so many Holy Land sites in Israel and Palestine!  The Holy Land is definitely a must-visit especially for those who want to add some more dimension to their faith! Now, have I convinced you to give Israel and Palestine a chance? (If not yet, don’t worry I’ve got another post coming up about Israel’s more touristy highlights!) Let me know in the comments below! I’d love to hear from you 🙂


I visited the Holy Land in Israel and Palestine in April 2018 as part of a two-week Holy Land tour.

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Giselle is the owner and author of Giselle Wanders Off, a travel blog and creative outlet where she captures her adventures at home and abroad in hopes of inspiring others to go see the world as well!

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