Israel: the Birthplace of Many Religions, Including Christianity
The birth of Christ, his crucifixion, his resurrection and the other events throughout his life are all a part of the history in the Holy Land of Israel. As a destination for pilgrims or tourists, Christian tours to Israel remain a popular choice for many people who practice the Christian faith.
Although Israel is known as the birthplace of Christianity, it is home to few Christians today; Israel is enormously significant to Christians, but it is home to many more people who practice the Jewish or Muslim faiths. Millions of Jews have made Israel their home and Muslims also form a large share of the current population. Arab Christians and clergymen for local churches and monasteries comprise the bulk of the practicing Christians in Israel, for which nine different denominations are recognized.
Christian Tours to Israel
Christians make up more than half of all tourists to Israel, and millions of visitors tour this ancient country’s sacred sites each year. Approximately half of the Christian visitors are Catholic, and the remainder are Protestants, Orthodox or other Christian denominations. Up to 40 percent of these visitors see themselves as pilgrims, and 30 percent are focused on touring and sightseeing. Christian visitors come from all over the world, including a diverse range of countries such as the United States, Russia, Italy, Germany, Spain, Poland, Brazil, Canada and Mexico.
Which Sacred Sites in Israel Do Visitors Select?
According to the Central Bureau of Statistics, up to 90 percent of Christian visitors travel to Jerusalem to see sites such as the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, Via Dolorosa, the Western Wall and the Mount of Olives. Nazareth, the Sea of Galilee, the Dead Sea and Bethlehem attract at least 80 percent of all Christian visitors, where sites such as the Church of the Annunciation and the Church of the Nativity are top choices.
Most visitors stay in Israel for over a week, and 83 percent choose to travel as a part of an organized tour. With 80 percent of visitors being first-time pilgrims to Israel, a tour is an excellent way to see all of the important sacred sites with ease. The revenue from tourism is an important part of Israel’s economy.
Tracing the Life of Jesus Christ
Although he was both in Bethlehem, Jesus spent most of his life in Jerusalem. Many sacred sites exist in Jerusalem that are revered by many, regardless of their faith. Additional sites in Bethlehem and Nazareth follow the path of Jesus Christ's life and the significant sites where he lived, led and suffered. Christian Holy Land tours include many important destinations from the pages of the Bible, and Christian visitors who tour Israel are forever moved by the significance of these holy sites and the events that unfolded on these sacred grounds.
Old Jerusalem and Mount Zion
Old Jerusalem is home to many important religious sites, including the Church of the Holy Sepulchre which holds the site of Jesus’ crucifixion - the Golgotha - and his tomb. This is the holiest of all Christian sites in the country of Israel. The Cenacle on Mount Zion is another important location in Jerusulem, and it is the location of the Apostles' Last Supper with Jesus Christ.
Mount Zion is also the location of the Dormition Abbey, a Roman Catholic church founded by the Benedicts. The road leading to Mount Zion is called “Pope’s Way” in honor of Pope Paul VI during his visit in 1964. Many Catholic tours in Israel allow visitors to travel these roads and visit these sites each year by booking Christian tours to Israel. Additional sites that are popular with visitors are Temple Mount, the Dome of the Rock, the Western Wall, the Mount of Olives and the City of David archeological site.
Nazareth and the Galilee Region
Nazareth has the largest Arab population in Israel and is an important destination for Christians. As the location of Jesus’ childhood, Joseph’s carpentry shop was located in Nazareth and the Church of St. Joseph sits in the very same location. With the largest community of Christians in Israel, visitors will find meaningful sites and worship services in the city of Nazareth, including the largest church in the Middle East, known as the Church of the Annunciation. It is at this site that Gabriel appeared to tell Mary that she would give birth to Jesus, the son of God. A second site in Nazareth is where the Easter Orthodox Church believes the annunciation took place, and they built a church on this site known as St. Gabriel’s Church.
Additional sites in Nazareth include the Roman Catholic Mensa Christi Church and the Synagogue Church. The Catholic Salesian Basilica of Jesus the Adolescent is located on the Mount of the Start, where Jesus is thought to have spent his youth. The picturesque Mediterranean port of Jaffa and the metropolitan city of Tel Aviv offer additional sightseeing opportunities for Christian Holy Land tours in the area.
A Journey to Bethlehem
The city of Bethlehem is a prominent part of Jesus’ history as well. As the stopping point for Mary and Joseph during their travels, Jesus was born in a manger. The Church of the Nativity and Manger Square are in the heart of Bethlehem, and it is built over the Holy Crypt; this cave is thought to be the precise location where Jesus was born. It is thought to be the oldest Christian church in the world.
Christian tours to Israel are a convenient, contemporary way to explore the birthplace of the Christian religion. Protestant or Catholic tours in Israel can focus on the unique locations specific to the important aspects of the religious faith.
With a knowledgeable tour guide and an itinerary of interesting and meaningful sites to visit, you can join the many tourists and pilgrims who visit Israel each year.