Traveling in Israel with the Scriptures in hand is like traveling back in time to the days of the Bible. There are archaeological sites literally everywhere you turn; it’s no wonder when you think about all of the history and events that occurred with real people and in real places. Israel is undeniably the ultimate destination for those seeking to embrace a deeper connection to their faith.
Whether you are Catholic, Protestant or Orthodox, get ready to be immersed in your heritage and history of the Holy Land. It is incredible how so many places commemorating where Jesus walked, prayed and suffered have survived two thousand years of destruction and turmoil and can continue to inspire us.
Use this guide and map to discover the five essential Christian places to visit on your Holy Land journey.
In Latin the term “Via Dolorosa” means the way of suffering or “the way of sorrows”. This traditional route through the Old City of Jerusalem retraces the steps which Jesus took as he carried the cross to Golgotha; the Via Dolorosa has fourteen stations, or stopping points; each station along the path is supposed to remind pilgrims of various aspects of Jesus’s suffering. It begins where Jesus was condemned to death and continues to the Calvary where he was crucified and ends at the tomb of his burial. Today, the main route of the Via Dolorosa follows the path of the early Byzantine pilgrims.
The Hill of the Calvary also referred to as the place of the skull, is located outside of the second wall. In Hebrew the name given to the “Hill of the Calvary” is Golgotha, which is referred to once in Luke 23:33, as the place where Jesus was crucified, it was designated as the place of a skull, either due to the shape of the mound or elevation and because it was the designated place of execution. The shift of the city wall from time to time renders it difficult to locate the spot. It would probably have been a prominent place near the public highway, for the Romans selected such places for public executions.
The Church of Nativity is located south of Jerusalem, in the fertile hill country of Israel. Since at least the 2nd century CD people have believed that this church, which now stands in Bethlehem, is the birthplace of Jesus. This crucial place both marks the beginnings of Christianity and is one of the holiest spots in Christendom. Today, this church is overlaid by the Church of Nativity, which was built around the mid-6th century AD; and is the oldest Christian church still in use.
The site of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is located in Jerusalem and has been identified as both the place of crucifixion and the tomb of Jesus of Nazareth. According to the New Testament, Jesus was crucified at Golgotha, (Matthew 27:33-35; Mark 15:22-25 and John 19:17-24) and has been identified as an abandoned area of stone quarries just outside of the old city walls. Despite the mutilations of the centuries, the Holy Sepulchre remains a major pilgrimage for Christians all around the world; and remains a fascinating complex of structures and is of key importance for several phases of medieval architecture.
While I have already mentioned many awesome places of Christian pilgrimage, the Garden Tomb is one of those special places where you can feel humbled as you experience the emotions felt by fellow pilgrims as you gaze upon these sites with wonderment. The Garden Tomb is found just outside Jerusalem’s city walls, close to the Damascus Gate, and is considered by some to be the site of the burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Also known as Gordon’s Calvary, the Garden Tomb is what you could call the “rival” to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The Garden Tomb is believed to be the garden and sepulchre of Joseph of Arimathea . A tour of the Holy Land isn’t complete without a visit to this site to reflect on the crucifixion and resurrection.
Israel combines both modernity while at the same time is still able to connect us to the deep roots of this rich land; while at the same time manages to maintain your connection to the most important historical sites in all of human history. Whether touring the Room of the Last Supper or standing on the banks of the Jordan River, you’ll find the Holy Land to be a travel experience that elevates your faith, nourishes your soul, and makes the Bible come alive like never before. Besides these wondrous important Christian sites mentioned, there are so many more fascinating Biblical sites in the Holy Land to visit, if you have the time.
Looking forward to hearing your feedback! Hope this was of some help for planning your next trip to Israel.