A visit to Israel has always been pretty high on my must-do list and a couple of months ago, I was finally able to turn this long-imagined trip into a reality.
After searching online and reading countless reviews on tours in the Holy Land, I chose Israel Christian Tours.
I decided to join an organized tour, since I wanted to make the most of my trip. After going through various itineraries, I chose the 8-day Heritage of the Holy Land tour, which seemed very comprehensive and covered all major Christian sites.
My Christian Tour of Israel
I landed in Tel-Aviv a day early as I wanted to recover from my jet-lag and to have some extra time exploring the city on my own. It turned out to be a great decision, Tel-Aviv is fantastic!
My hotel was really close to the beach, very centrally located and I had a wonderful time wandering through the city, walked to Old Jaffa along the promenade where I strolled around the little lanes, literally stood on the doorstep of the house of Simon the Tanner, walked around the Jaffa port and popped by for a visit at the Jaffa flea market. I spent the afternoon lazing around on the beach and had a great dinner at the Tel-Aviv port.
The first touring day included a visit to Caesarea. You really don’t need to be an archaeology buff to enjoy the ruins of this magnificent, ancient Herodian town. Caesarea lays on the shores of the Mediterranean and the site is truly spectacular.
We continued to Tel-Megiddo, mentioned in the book of revelation. Seeing all the places mentioned in the scriptures throughout my travels in the Holy Land was a truly unique experience.
Northern Israel and Galilee Area
We drove on to Tiberias, where we spent the next couple of nights. Our visits in the Galilee included the Basilica of Annunciation in Nazareth, where it is believed that the archangel Gabriel revealed to Mary that she will give birth to Jesus, Cana where Jesus performed the miracles of turning water into wine, Capernaum, the ancient fishing village, where Jesus lived and which was the centre of His activity and the Church of Multiplication in Tabgha, the traditional site of the miracle of the loaves and fish.
We also visited Mt. Beatitudes, where Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount and which was for me an exceptionally spiritual experience.
We left the Galilee and drove to Jerusalem via the Jordan Valley, passing on route the many Kibbutzim and enjoying the landscape dotted with citruses, dates, vineyards, greenhouses, and the occasional shepherds with their flocks.
Driving into Jerusalem after having spent the last two days in the serene and fertile Galilee was quite a change.
Jerusalem the Holy City
As soon as you enter Jerusalem, you get an immediate sense of how special this diverse and at times controversial city is. Driving to the hotel through the busy streets, you catch a glimpse of the array of people who make up this city, Jews, Christians and Muslims, religious and secular.
We checked into our hotel, not far from the Old City. Although I was feeling a bit tired, I decided to take a little walk towards the Old City in the evening. I walked through the Mammilla shopping center and towards the Jaffa gate just as the sun was setting. Seeing the Old City walls lit up in an orange glow was absolutely spectacular. I took a little walk around the Bazaar, ate a really tasty Falafel, walked towards the Tower of David and returned to the hotel.
In the reviews I had read about the Holy Land and about Jerusalem in particular, a lot of people describe the exceptional feeling they had when strolling through the city. Being here now in person, I could certainly understand what they meant.
The Judean Desert
The following day started with a drive through the Judean desert. Our first stop was Masada, which we ascended by a cable car. The view of the desert and the Dead Sea was absolutely amazing. We descended, by cable car as well, and drove to the Dead Sea where we took a very enjoyable float.
The next two days were dedicated to Jerusalem, where we walked along the Via Dolorosa, visited the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Western Wall, the Garden of Gethsemane. We also visited the Israel Museum where the Dead Sea scrolls are kept, Bethlehem and the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum which was very emotional and I think a definite must for anyone visiting Israel for the first time.
The tour was really intense, both emotionally and spiritually and I will definitely be visiting the Holy Land again.