Jerusalem and Bethlehem mark the two most important stations in the life of Jesus. One being is birthplace, and the other being his place of death, burial and resurrection.
This specially designed tour will take you to the most significant places in these two sites. It will also combine a review of the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians. In fact, the tour of Bethlehem will be led by a Palestinian guide.
Important note!: Please remember to be dressed modestly for this tour (shoulders and knees should be covered), and bring your passport. It is required for visiting Bethlehem.
Explore the Tomb of Jesus
The most significant site in Jerusalem for the Christian world is undoubtfully the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Completed in 335 CE, this church complex is marking the site of Jesus’ crucifixion (the Golgotha) and his burial. Thousands of pilgrims and tourists visit this church, on daily basis. The lines to enter the tomb can be quite long. Being so, we will start with joining the cue to enter the tomb, hoping to avoid the crowds. The tomb itself his humble in size, and barely lit. But the belief that here Jesus rose from the dead will make this visit an exceptionally exited experience for any Christian. For some this will be the culmination of their visit to the Holy Land.
Recent studies of the tomb have proved that it was indeed carved in the local limestone. Furthermore, its shape is typical to the type of tombs used some 2,000 years ago.
The site marking the place of the crucifixion (Golgotha) is a short distance from the tomb. It is a rocky hill, whose top is indented. A centuries old Christian tradition holds that this is where the cross was placed. Both the crucifixion site and the tomb were outside the city in the time of Jesus, but are now within a big size church complex, in the heart of the Christian Quarter.
The path leading to the church from the east is also sacred to the Christian world. It is identified as the path Jesus took, carrying his cross, from the place of his trial. Known as the Stations of the Cross, the path passes through Muslim and the Christian quarter of the old city. The Catholic church marks 14 stations along this path. Each one is devoted to an event Jesus encountered on his way to his death.
We will sample some of the stations, as well as a stroll in the local bazaar (suq), and eventually reach the Jewish Quarter. If requested, we could also have a brief visit to the Western Wall, as well as the site of the Last supper on Mount Zion.
Visit the Church of Nativity in Bethlehem
Next we will drive to the check point to enter Bethlehem. Being under Palestinian control you will have to show your passport, and a Palestinian guide will lead you from now on.
After a possible lunch break, you will enter the Church of Nativity. The oldest church on the Holy Land, this building is an architectural marvel. Its basilica shape still bears Crusader era murals, and mosaics from the 4th century CE. But the main attraction is the crypt marking the place where Jesus was born. Join the line, and you too will be able to touch the Star of Bethlehem at the spot of the birth, and the manger, where baby Jesus was placed after his birth.
See the Shepherds’ Field
A short ride to a valley east of Bethlehem will bring you to the Shepherds’ Field. According to the Gospels, upon hearing of the birth of Jesus, Shepherds came to adore the newborn in Bethlehem. Nestled in the fertile valley near the city, this quiant site presents the grazing fields of these shepherds. Caves of the type used to keep livestock are still visible, some converted to humble sites of worship. Moreover, in the middle of the site, a beautiful tent-shaped chapel was built in the 1950’s.
Finally, on the way back to Jerusalem, you could visit one of the olive wood carving workshops. These workshops craft delicate Christian themed souvenirs, all made of local wood.
Time permitting, it will also be possible to visit Rachel’s Tomb. Jewish tradition holds that this is where Rachel die at giving birth, on her way to Bethlehem. Today Jewish pilgrims gather at this site for prayer and veneration.
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