In the spirit of the holiday season, I wanted to share a few pictures of the Holy Land, which I visited for three weeks in November 2014. We saw ancient temples and modern office buildings, barren wilderness and lush greenery, beautiful mosaics and dusty ruins. This is a land of history, of conflict, and of hope.
One of the holiest sites in Jerusalem is the Dome of the Rock, located on the Temple Mount. It is believed that the prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven from this spot, and that Abraham was prepared to sacrifice his son Isaac here. The Dome is beautiful, covered with gold and intricate mosaics. The Temple Mount is believed to be the site of Solomon’s temple. This area is sacred to Muslims, Jews, and Christians.
If you want to visit, be prepared to wait in long lines. Security is tight. We could tour the Temple Mount but were not allowed in the Dome itself.
We visited Bethlehem, including Shepherd’s Fields and the Church of the Nativity. The church was being renovated, full of scaffolding and plastic tarps. We stood in long lines waiting to descend to a small cavern, where a silver star in the floor marks the site of Jesus’s birth.
We crossed the wilderness, vast expanses of sand and rock where only the hardiest of animals can survive. The path to the Jordan River, where many people celebrate their baptism, goes through mined fields. Jericho is nearby, and we saw the sycamore tree which Zacchaeus climbed so he could see Jesus.
Jacob’s Well is another well known site. The well, located deep inside a church, still produces clear, cold water. Many beautiful icons are sold here.
Masada is another famous site. Originally built by King Herod, the desert fortress is 1,500 feet high and can be reached by cable car or a narrow, twisted path called the Snake Road. Jews took refuge here after the Romans destroyed Jerusalem in 70 A.D. Romans later besieged the fortress, and the Jews decided to commit suicide rather than surrender.
Near Masada is the Dead Sea, which is bordered by Israel, Palestine and Jordan. At 1,400 feet below sea level, it is the lowest spot on earth. The sea is almost 9 times saltier than ocean water, and does not support any plant or fish life. You can float in the water just by sitting down, but don’t get it in your eyes – it’s very caustic. Many people, believing the sea’s mud has medicinal qualities, rub it over their bodies. There are showers on the beach to clean off after you get out of the water.
I took over a thousand pictures during this trip and have shared only a few with you. There are so many other inspiring sites in the Holy Land. Plan a visit to this very special place.
What are some of your favorite travel spots? I look forward to hearing about them on Facebook.