When you travel to Israel you will find there a combination of religious sites, historical sites, different cultures, outstanding landscapes, beautiful sand beaches, exciting modern culture, vibrant cities, unique dessert life, luxury hotels, simple and honest people, excellent night life and the best food in the world. All in one small country.
We made this trip after years of planning. We were so excited and it didn't desapoint. We were there almost 2 weeks and enjoyed it a lot. We visited the holy olaces and also lived the really unique ambience in Tel Aviv, which is not the most beautiful city I visited but the most alive, 24 hours a day. And Tel Aviv beaches are expectacular.
Some background as I collected from several sources before the trip:
The Holy Land generally refers to the geographical region of the Levant called Land of Canaan or Land of Israel in the Bible, and constitutes the Promised land. This area, or sites within it, hold significant religious importance to at least four monotheistic Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity, Islam and Bahá'í. Part of its sanctity stems from the religious significance of Jerusalem, the holiest city to Judaism and third-holiest to Islam.
The holiness of this land was the ideological driving force behind the Crusaders' re-conquest from the Muslim rulers who controlled it since the Islamic conquests. Numerous pilgrims visited that land throughout history.
Although the Zionism movement, the current State of Israel and the Israeli-Arab conflict are largely political, the dispute around the control of the Temple Mount in East Jerusalem is based on religious beliefs. Some have proposed the founding of a Federal Republic of the Holy Land as a one-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
In the Torah (Tanakh or Old Testament), the term Holy Land is not used. Instead, this area is called Land of Canaan, Land of Israel and Promised land.
Judaism's holiest cities are, at least according to the list of "Four Holy Cities", Jerusalem, Hebron, Tzfat and Tiberias. Jerusalem has, since Abraham, been the spiritual focus of the Jews.
Israelite kingdoms and states existed intermittently in the region for over a millennium, with Jerusalem as their capital. Following foreign conquests, Israelite presence in the Holy Land dwindled. In particular, the failure of the Bar Kokhba Revolt against the Roman Empire resulted in widescale expulsion of Jerusalemites. The Romans renamed this land Syria Palaestina, the origin of the name Palestine. Jerusalem was renamed Aelia Capitolina. The Mishnah and Jerusalem Talmud, two of Judaism's most important religious texts, were composed in the region during this period.
Jerusalem appears 669 times in the Hebrew Bible. Zion, which usually means Jerusalem, sometimes the Land of Israel, appears 154 times. In the first sections, the area of Jerusalem is called Mount Moriah, the location of the binding of Isaac, now called the Temple Mount.
In the Hebrew Bible, Jerusalem and the Holy Land are considered a divine gift, part of several covenants. Jerusalem has long been embedded into Jewish religious consciousness. Jews have studied and personalized the struggle by King David to capture Jerusalem and his desire to build the Jewish temple there, as described in the Book of Samuel and the Book of Psalms. Many of King David's yearnings about Jerusalem have been adapted into popular prayers and songs. Jerusalem is mentioned in many Jewish prayers; the Passover seder prayer ends with Next year in Jerusalem. Jews turn towards Jerusalem to pray. The Western Wall of the Temple Mount, nicknamed the "wailing wall", is the holiest site to Jews and a site of pilgrimage for centuries.
For Christians, the concept of a Holy Land is derived from the renaming of the Land of Canaan as the Land of Israel (e.g. Genesis 15:18-21).
"The uniqueness of the Land of Israel is thus 'geo-theological' and not merely climatic. This is the land which faces the entrance of the spiritual world, that sphere of existence that lies beyond the physical world known to us through our senses. This is the key to the land's unique status with regard to prophecy and prayer, and also with regard to the commandments."
The concept of the land being holy is especially prominent in the Book of Numbers. Horst Seebass argues that the book is "indeed pervaded by the theme of the holy land." The land is also considered holy in the Hebrew Bible because God's "holy people" settle there.
The Holy Land is also significant in Christianity because of the lands association as the place of birth, ministry, Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, who Christians regard of the Saviour or Messiah.
The holy cities for Christians of all denominations are:
Jerusalem is believed to be the site of some of Jesus's teaching, the Last Supper, the subsequent institution of the Holy Eucharist as well as His entombment; Christians believe He was crucified on a nearby hill, Golgotha (sometimes called Calvary). It contains the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Church of All Nations.
Bethlehem is the birthplace of Jesus.
Nazareth is Jesus's hometown and the site of many holy places, including the Church of the Basilica of the Annunciation and Mary's Well.
During the Crusades, Christian pilgrims often sought out the Holy Places in the Outremer, especially in early 12th century immediately after the capture of Jerusalem. Besides the sites in Jerusalem and Bethlehem, Christian holy places also included:
Sephoria, where the Virgin Mary was said to have spent her childhood
The River Jordan, site of Christ's baptism
Cave dwelling of John the Baptist
Sea of Galilee
Mount Tabor, site of the Transfiguration of Jesus
Jericho, along the road to which was the location of the Good Samaritan's charity.
Special tips: Do not try to see everything - it is imposible unless you stay several weeks. The best vacation in Israel is to combine a few sites visit with relaxation at the beach and having fun in the city. And you should know that Tel Aviv is one of most exciting cities in the world.
Costs: Israel is not expensive. You can get a double room in a good hotel in the Tel Aviv sea shore for less than 100$, including an excellent breakfast. A good meal in a restaurant will cost you 8 to 12$. A coffee costs 2 or 3$. A movie costs about 8$.
For further usefull information and details please enter my traveling diary at http://www.tipandtrip.com/node/71.