by Laura Del Rosso
As the sacred home to three great religions, the Holy Land can be deeply moving to explore as millennia of antiquity unfold before you. Landing in Israel you’ll soon be swept up in biblical history but also the remarkable modernity of the young country.
Start in sprawling Tel Aviv, the port where traders once arrived by camel caravan and today’s waterfront buzzes with cafes. Holy Land tours, such as Alexander + Roberts’ programs, then venture north to the ancient land of Caesarea.
You’ll visit the ancient Roman town built by Herod the Great and continue to Cana’s Wedding Church where Jesus turned water into wine. Then, it’s on to Nazareth to see the simple grotto where tradition has it Mary lived. You’ll travel to the Sea of Galilee to dramatic places that Jesus walked with his disciples, including the Mount of the Beatitudes.
Layers of civilizations continue to be unearthed at Holy Land archaeological sites. At Beit Shean, there is a Roman amphitheater, as well as ruins of earlier settlements dating back 5,000 years. Later in the day you’ll take in the view from the Mount of Olives. Arriving at Jerusalem, a holy city for Christians, Jews and Muslims, you’ll stand on the Temple Mount, as well as the Western Wall, hallowed ground for Jewish prayer.
Stroll the narrow streets of the Jewish Quarter and immerse yourself in the delicious aromas of Jerusalem’s largest and oldest open-air market. You’ll see why the region’s flavorful cuisine — fresh hummus, spices, olives, luscious yogurts and cheeses, warm-from-the-oven flat bread — gets raves from international food critics. On a more solemn note, walk the Via Dolorosa, tracing Jesus’ route to crucifixion, ending at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. It’s a pilgrimage millions have taken over centuries.
Outside of Jerusalem you’ll stop at the Dead Sea for a float in therapeutic waters and ascend the towering hilltop of Masada, where brave Jews made a last stand before the Romans. Two of Israel’s renowned museums are must-sees, including Yad Vashem, the center of research and somber commemoration of the Holocaust. The Israel Museum is filled of awe-inspiring displays, including the oldest biblical manuscripts — the Dead Sea Scrolls. You’ll end at one of Christianity’s most venerated sites, Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity, before heading home with treasured memories.