When in Israel. A Travel Sanctuary.
When in Israel
It’s not the first time I visit Israel, and I surely hope not the last. A small, rather new country (born only in 1948), yet so advanced and powerful.
A country with so many contradictions where East meets West. It is one of the most intense places on Earth where three religions co-exist together. First of all , we start our journey from one of the most sacred sites in the world : Jerusalem.
During different periods, the city walls followed different outlines and had a varying number of gates. At the moment, the Old City has a total of eight gates, seven open and one sealed : Jaffa, Zion, Dung, Lions’ (St. Stephen’s), Herod’s, Damascus, New and the Golden Gate.
The latest, the sealed one, is only visible from outside the city. According to Christian & Jewish tradition, when the Messiah comes, he will enter Jerusalem through this gate. To prevent him from coming, the Muslims sealed the gate during the rule of Suleiman.
The Old City is divided into four neighborhoods, the Four Quarters : The Christian, the Armenian Quarter, the Muslim Quarter, and the Jewish Quarter.
One of Jerusalem’s iconic symbol is the shimmering Dome of the Rock, whose golden roof has dominated the Temple Mount for centuries. Although sometimes referred to as the Mosque of Omar, the Dome of the Rock is in fact not a mosque. However it is a highly important Islamic monument as it symbolises the ascension of Muhammad to heaven. What is more, the rock also bears great significance for Christians & Jews as it is the site of Abraham’s attempt to sacrifice his son.
According to history, King David, had wanted to build a great Temple, as a permanent resting place for the Ark of the Covenant which contained the Ten Commandments. However, it was on King Solomon’s reign when the magnificent structure was complete in the capital city of ancient Israel – Jerusalem. When Rome destroyed the Second Temple in 70 C.E. by Titus, only one outer wall remained standing. The Romans probably would have destroyed that wall also, but it must have seemed too insignificant to them; it was not even part of the Temple itself, just an outer wall surrounding the Temple Mount. For the Jews, however, this remnant of what was the most sacred building in the Jewish world quickly became the holiest spot in Jewish life, the ” Wailing Wall”.
The Via Dolorosa is a street within the Old City of Jerusalem, believed to be the path that Jesus walked on the way to his crucifixion. According to historians, are a total of 14 stations along this path, based on events that occurred on the way to the Golgotha hill, the site of crucifixion, which is located at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.
Monastery of St. George of Choziba
A magnificent sixth-century cliff-hanging complex. St. George’s Monastery began in the fourth century with a few monks, who settle it around by a cave where they believed Elijah was fed by ravens. Tradition also says that the area around used to be St. Joachim property. Due to his wife, Anna, infertility, he came here to pray for 40 days and 40 nights until angel announced him the news of Holy Mary’s conception.
Deir Hajla – St. Gerasimos Monastery
“Deir Hajla” (Arabic – “Monastery of the Partridges“), was originally founded in the 5th century by Saint Gerasimus about 2 km west of the traditional Batism site. The Holy Family is said to have found refuge in a cave during their escape from Herod the Great. An underground chapel was built on the spot where the Holy Family is believed to have spent the night.
Gerasimus is credited with a new development in monastic life. Previously desert monks lived either in caves or in monasteries. Yet, he was the first to combine the solitude of a wilderness hermit with the communal aspect of a monastery. He brought hermits together on Saturdays and Sundays for worship and fellowship. The monastery is now a true oasis and it is famous for its unique mosaics workshop.
In Bethlehem there are two great attractions. The Saint Saba monastery outside of the town of Bethlehem and the Church of the Nativity, in the heart of the city.
Saint Saba Monastery
The Holy Lavra of Saint Saba the Sanctified, known in Arabic as Mar Saba, is a Greek Orthodox monastery overlooking the Kidron Valley. It is situated at a point halfway between the Old city of Jerusalem and the Dead Sea.
Built 1500 years ago by Mar Saba and 5000 other monjs, it has recently been nominated for inclusion in Unesco’s World Heritage Sites.
Its specific architectural style, lies in harmonywith its surrounding Kidron Valley. It is both a tourist and a religious destination. It houses the relics of Mar Saba and features an ancient church built into a marvelous cave in the rock, dedicated to Saint Nicolas. Moreover, the monastery’s graveyard containsthe relics of many monks who were killed by the Persians in 614 and barbarians in 796.
Consequently, Saint Saba monastery has a cultural, religious and huanitarian value. It is one of the oldest monasteries in Palestine and is linked to Saint Saba, who established the monastic order in Palentine.
Church of the Nativity
The second most important Christian pilgrimage site after the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. A UNESCO World Heritage of UNESCO since 2012.
A basilica, built in the cave that marks the birthplace of Jesus. Originally commissioned in 327 by Constantine the Great and his mother Helena . When Persians invaded Palestine in 614 , they destroyed most of the churches apart from this one, upposedly out of respect for a mosaic of the Magi shown wearing Persian attire.
Mount of Temptation
The Mount Of Temptation where Jesus was tempted by Satan after fasting 40 days & 40 Nights.
And if someone asks “why should i visit Israel / Holy Land?” , the answer is simple. It is the land where it all started, where the Bible comes to life. And moreover from Biblical ruins to Crusader fortresses to WWII memorials to cosmopolitan cities.