For such a small country, Israel takes a big part centre stage in world affairs. Everyone has their own opinion on Israel and whatever is the outcome, there is no doubt that after visiting Israel, the memories of the places and people will linger long in your mind.
Israel has that effect on travellers because it is so steeped in history and the names of some of the towns and cities are so familiar to us that to visit such places in Israel is like a dream come true. Singing ‘O Little Town of Bethlehem’ at school nativity plays and then actually seeing the spot where Jesus was born is mind-boggling.
Jerusalem, the capital of Israel, is a draw for pilgrims and tourists alike. It is unique in Israel due to its status and religious connections. At the Church of the Holy Sepulchre you can touch the slab where Jesus’ body was laid, and walk up to the place where he was crucified. On Temple Mount is the glittering gold of the Dome of the Rock which covers the slab sacred to both Muslims and Jews.
The West Bank in Israel is occupied Palestinian Territory and Bethlehem is on the border. The Church of the Nativity has been built over the spot where the stable was meant to be and down in the Grotto of the Nativity is a 14-pointed silver star where the manger stood. It is best to visit during the week when it is less crowded.
But it is not just religious sights that Israel has to offer. No visit to Israel would be complete without a swim, or rather a dip, in the Dead Sea. The water is 10 times more salty than ordinary sea water and it is almost impossible to do anything in there other than float. Just make sure you do not dive in!
Nearby is Masada, a towering fortress and the site of a siege that is still prevalent in the minds of the people of Israel nowadays. In 66AD, the Jews rose up against the Romans and sacrificed themselves and all their possessions rather than be captured. A museum guides you through the salient points.
The Negev Desert constitutes more than 60% of the land area of Israel yet only supports 10% of the population. Bedouin tribes have been wandering this part of Israel for centuries. Eilat, right in the south of Israel, is a party town unlike any other.
The area of Galilee in the north of Israel deserves a visit for its sheer beauty and archaeological sites from the Roman, Ottoman and Crusader periods. This part of Israel is laden with mountains, thick forests and the shimmering waters of the Sea of Galilee.
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