On our first full day in Israel, we took a cruise on the Sea of Galilee. I was awe-struck to realize that I was seeing the same landscape that Jesus had looked at. A tour of Israel is like that. You find yourself looking at something and being swept up in the significance of the view, or church, or artifact. Significance is the word that kept leaping into my mind when we visited sites.
Most locations in Israel are what I call “maybe sites”. That is, they are sites that may be the actual site of an event. We visited the Mount of the Beatitudes on our first day. The ruins of a 4th century Byzantine church are there as well as a modern Catholic Church. The 4th century, or the 300’s, are fairly recent to the life of Christ, however a lot can happen in 200+ years, so we don’t really know the actual locations of many sites. The church of the Holy Sepulcher on the supposed site of Calvary and the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem are also two churches built two to three hundred years after Christ, so we don’t really know if they are on the actual sites. Nearly two thousand years of worshipers have come to these churches, however, and the power of this worship can not be overlooked. The fact that we don’t know the actual sites becomes irrelevant, as your visit there becomes another act of worship added to the millions that have occurred there over the centuries. I think that is how I ended up thinking of the word “significant” at most of these sites. I was following in the steps of millions of people over 2000 years.
Some locations are not “maybe sites”. Certainty is hard to come by with 2000 year old events, however you will visit a few certain sites. There is a church built over the ruins of a church that was established within 30 years of the crucifixion. This church was built on the site of the house of the apostle Peter. We know with certainty that Jesus slept there. Close by is a synagogue where the Bible says Jesus taught. The tomb of David is in Jerusalem and has been in its current location since the oldest maps of Jerusalem in existence, so it is very likely that this is the actual tomb of David. Another “certain site” is the Western Wall. This is the only surviving portion of the Hebrew Temple known as the Second Temple, built by Herod the Great. This temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70AD at the end of the last Jewish revolt against Rome. The wall is the foundation wall of the second Temple and is a sacred site for the Jewish people. The location in the Jordan River where baptisms are performed is not the site of Jesus’ baptism. The reason baptisms are performed there is due to the nature of the river today. Nearly all the water in the Jordan River is used by Israel and Jordan for agriculture and consumption. By the time the river reaches the site of the actual baptism, the flow of the river is little more than a trickle and can be stepped across. Baptism in the Jordan is still a highlight of a trip to Israel for Christians.
Not every site in Israel is significant to Christianity. The roman ruins in Caesarea are extensive. Caesarea was the Roman Administrative capital of the Province of Judea after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD. You can walk through Herod’s palace, through a Hippodrome, see a Roman Aqueduct and see the Roman sea wall. The ancient fortress of Megiddo is near Nazareth where Jesus grew to manhood. This is an ancient fortress built to control a very important trade route from the Mediterranean coast to the interior of Israel and Syria. This is also the traditional site of the battle of Armageddon.
The Dead Sea is a lake with no outlet to the sea. This is the lowest elevation on earth, 1,140 feet below sea level. The water has ten times the salinity of ocean water. Everyone who visits here wants to float in the Dead Sea, because the water holds you up in an amazing way. I was nearly able to sit up in the water! On the road to the Dead Sea, you will drive past the fortress of Masada. This is the site of the death of the last Jewish rebels against Rome. The fortress is on top of a mountain. The defenders and their families were all killed in the siege by murder/suicide. The Romans said that when they entered the fortress all the defenders and families were dead. The Romans built extensive siege works that are still visible and the ruins of Masada are impressive.
Go to Israel expecting to be awed. Go to Israel expecting to see significant sites. Go to Israel to immerse yourself in your Christian heritage. We can arrange travel for you as a full service travel supplier – Condor Tours & Travel. Reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 770-380-5834. We can match your travel interest to an ideal tour that fits your goals, whether it is to Israel or anywhere worldwide.