After a week in Jordan, I headed to Israel and the Palestinian Territories for my last week in the Middle East. I will admit that as much as I loved the history and site seeing in Israel, I found it hard to relax due to the intense political situation in the area.
Our guide warned us right from the beginning to be on high alert since terrible things happen here on a daily basis and we could be the innocent bystander to someone doing something stupid. The Israeli police are ever present and armed with huge guns just in case anything happens which is a constant reminder of the ongoing conflict.
You have to walk through something similar to airport security when you enter each separate religious quarter (Jewish quarter, Muslim quarter, Christian quarter). So yes, my already baseline anxiety increased significantly until I landed home in the US one week later. I enjoyed my time in Israel and I feel grateful that I got to see firsthand all the religious sites I grew up reading about, but I’m not sure I would go back anytime soon.
View of the Old City of Jerusalem from my hotel room – Holy Land Hotel. We stayed in the Muslim Quarter.
So many years of history are visible to the eye here! The door on the bottom left is from ancient times, and the current door on the upper right was built during the Roman empire.
Alleys inside the Old City.
High security when walking between religious quarters.
View of Jerusalem in the distance.
Hotel breakfast at the Holy Land Hotel.
Falafel pita for lunch.
Simple pasta dish for dinner. Prominent Christian Sites
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre houses several significant Christian landmarks. It is the presumed site where Jesus was crucified on the cross and the site of Jesus’s tomb. I found it interesting that the church is split into 6 different denominations of Christianity: Catholic, Armenian Orthodox, Greek Orthodox, Ethiopian Orthodox, Syriac Orthodox, and Coptic Orthodox. They each decorate accordingly and hold their own services in the church.
The Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem (located outside Jerusalem) is the presumed site where Jesus was born.
The little hole in the ground has a rock beneath you can touch.
The Church of All Nations (located on the Mount of Olives) is the site where Jesus prayed the night before his death.
The fifth station of the cross on Via Dolorosa. You can walk the actual path Jesus took to his death ending at the Church of Holy Sepulchre.
The rock under the glass is the believed site where Jesus was crucified. This is located inside the Church of Holy Sepulchre in the Greek Orthodox section of the church.
This rock is the presumed site where Jesus was laid after he was taken down from the cross. (Church of Holy Sepulchre)
Close-up of the image behind the rock.
The believed site of Jesus’s tomb. (Church of Holy Sepulchre)
Close-up of the decor surrounding the tomb.
Mount of Olives, the presumed site where Jesus ascended into heaven.
The Jordan River is where Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist.
Group pic at the Jordan River.
Church near the Sea of Galilee where Jesus multiplied the loaves of bread and fish.
The Sea of Galilee where Jesus walked on water.
Disclaimer: I grew up Catholic so I feel like I’m qualified to speak on Christianity. However, the sections below on Judaism and Islam I learned from my guide while visiting Israel.
From what I learned during my time in Israel, the Western Wall is the most significant site in the world for Jewish people. It’s one of the four remaining walls of the Temple Mount which is the presumed site of the Holy of Holies, where God’s presence appeared, and the Ark of the Covenant was held.
The Foundation Stone lies behind the wall. Due to restrictions, the Western Wall is the closest place Jews can get to the Temple Mount so that’s where they pray today. People write notes to God and place them in between the stones of the wall, you can see some in the picture above.
Men and women pray separately so there are sections for each that can be seen above.
I happened to be there the week of Hanukkah which was very cool to witness. Muslim Quarter
The Dome of the Rock or Al-Aqsa compound is located on the Temple Mount. From what I learned, this is the world’s oldest surviving Islamic structure. According to my guide, this mosque is the third most important religious site for Muslims.
It’s the presumed site where the prophet Mohammed ascended to heaven.
The Dead Sea on the Israel side.
View of the Dead Sea from Masada, Israel. Rosh Hanikra
The Mediterranean Sea.
My roommate Natasa. She is Greek but lives in Belgium.
Grottoes along the Mediterranean coast. Acre
Spice market in the Old City of Acre. This city is an ancient crusader port.
More from the spice market.
Risotto dinner. Haifa
Last group dinner in Haifa.
Mushroom ravioli for dinner.
I was there the week before Christmas so there were Christmas lights and Santa everywhere in Haifa. Tel Aviv
Jaffa port in Tel Aviv.
Group picture in Tel Aviv.
Bagel with cream cheese. West Bank
Some powerful graffiti from the wall separating the West Bank from Israel.