Israel, specifically Jerusalem, is one of the most revered and holy places on earth. It is central to the religious experience of many faiths.
People come here for many reasons – many are on pilgrimages, or they come to work on their faith and some come just out of curiosity.
For whatever reason they choose to visit, it is always a memorable experience that adds new perspectives to one’s life story.
Here are some of our favorite religious and holy sites.
Top Jewish Holy Places in Jerusalem
Jerusalem is a living breathing museum of the Jewish people’s history. While there are several Jewish holy places in the Israeli capital, we pick the five sites that best represent their significant journey through olden times.
- The Israel Museum – Located on a hill in the Givat Ram neighborhood in Jerusalem, the Israel Museum is one of the country’s foremost cultural institutions and one of the world’s leading encyclopedic museums. In 2010, the museum underwent a $100-million renovation, and since that time it has emerged again as Israel’s leading museum. Among the most important displays include the Holy Land model of Jerusalem, the Shrine of the Book, and the Dead Sea Scrolls, as well as other several archaeological artifacts. It holds around 30 new exhibits every year.
- King David’s Tomb – King David’s Tomb is a site considered by Jewish, Christian, and Muslim traditions as the burial place of King David of Israel. It is located on Mount Zion in Jerusalem. It is deemed one of the holiest sites in the city.
- City of David (Hezekiah Tunnel) – The City of David is an archaeological site that is known as the birthplace of Jerusalem. It takes visitors to a historical tour of the early days of Jerusalem with ruins of the ancient houses and towers as well as a water tunnel and the tunnel of Shiloh.
- Tower of David – Located just near the Jaffa Gate to Jerusalem’s Old City, the Tower of David is a citadel that whose site had been built with a series of fortifications of the Hasmonean, Byzantine, and Early Muslim periods. The current structure dates back to the Malmuk and Ottoman eras. It is a fascinating place to discover the history of Jerusalem from the ancient era to the present day. Today, visitors flock to see and enjoy the Night Spectacular Show — a mesmerizing sound-and-light show projected onto the walls of the citadel.
- Jewish Quarter – The Jewish Quarter is one of the four traditional quarters in the Old City of Jerusalem. It is located on the south-eastern sector of the walled city and measures 116,000 square meters. It is the home of several sites such as the Temple Mount and Western Wall as well as several important synagogues, including the Hurva Synagogue and the four Sephardic synagogues.
Top Christian Holy Places in Jerusalem
The Christian faith holds a special significance to Jerusalem for over 2,000 years. After all, this is the city where — according to the Bible — Jesus was crucified and buried, rose from the dead and ascended into heaven. Those who read the Bible, especially the New Testament, will be able to “live” some of the Biblical moments by visiting these sites. But no matter what your faith is, you must see some awe-inspiring Christian sites in Jerusalem and they are well worth checking out.
- Church of the Holy Sepulchre – The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is regarded by Christians as one of the most important sites in Jerusalem. It is believed to be the site of Golgotha (Cavalry) where Jesus was crucified, according to the Christian Bible. Via Dolorosa (“The Way of Sorrows”) has become the traditional location of the Stations of the Cross, which are the final steps of Jesus.
- Tomb of the Virgin Mary – It is considered one of the most sacred sites in Jerusalem, situated in the Kidron Valley, at the foot of Mount of Olives. Early Christians believed the site to be the burial place of the Virgin Mary.
- The Garden Tomb – This rock-cut tomb was discovered in 1867 and is regarded by some Christians — particularly Protestants — as the site of the crucifixion, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The site is adjacent to a rock formation that is shaped like a skull, which many scholars believe to be Golgotha.
- Church of St. John the Baptist – There are two churches in Jerusalem with the same name — one Roman Catholic (Franciscan) church and one Greek Orthodox church in the Christian Quarter. We are referring to the latter church, which was originally constructed in the 5th century. It was the site where injured Crusaders were cared for during the 1099 siege of Jerusalem. The church had been tended to by the Benedictine monks during the medieval period; during the late 15th century it was acquired by the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem and transformed some of the features inside. Although it is not regularly visited by the pilgrims, the church should be one of the “must-visit” places for every Christian faithful, since it’s Jerusalem’s oldest church and the original “Hospital of St. John,” for which the Knights Hospitallers were named.
- Christian Quarter – The Christian Quarter is one of the four traditional quarters in the Old City of Jerusalem. It is located in the northwestern corner of the quadrant and perhaps the most important site in all of Christianity. Along the maze of alleyways, you can find the Via Dolorosa, the path in which Jesus Christ walked on the way to his crucifixion. It is also home to several churches of different denominations, including the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and Church of St. John the Baptist (both of which are mentioned earlier), a Greek Catholic church, and a Protestant Lutheran church. It also contains several souvenir shops, a museum, and a popular cafe.
The rich history of Israel is pretty incredible. Check out this historical timeline from IlluminatingFacts.com.