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Holy Land - Israel

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Holy Land - Israel

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.

Cincinnati, Ohio
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1. Re: Holy Land - Israel

Thanks for writing and sharing your historical perspective. I'm so glad that your trip met your expectations of a dream experience! I well remember when I first fell in love with the country, 21 years ago this November, when I return for my tenth trip.

Douglas Duckett

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2. Re: Holy Land - Israel

Nice historical overview.

I just want to add one thing. The term "Holyland" as you said is not usually used by Jews. If someone sees a tour to the Holyland advertised it is a sure bet that the tour will be given from a Christian perspective. ( though NOT necessarily a pilgrimmage--in fact usually NOT a pilgrimmage type of tour)

The term "Wailing Wall" to describe the Western Wall is one that is NOT used today. The term referred to the tears that are shed over the destruction of both Temples. And today, even though the Temples do not stand, we DO have access to the Western Wall and Jerusalem , and thus most don't use that term.

Once again, thank you for sharing and the work you put into this post.

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3. Re: Holy Land - Israel

I just followed the link at the end of the post. Great summaries of cities, great pictures. ( and made me want to go--which is pretty good since I just returned to the US last Tuesday, one week ago)

Cincinnati, Ohio
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4. Re: Holy Land - Israel

I will second rdglady's observations, which she expressed with considerable sensitivity. I will add -- as a Christian -- that I encourage Christians to avoid both terms that she highlights. Many Christians (not you -- you said "Israel" as well) use "Holy Land" almost as a substitute for "Israel," as if there is no country there. They sometimes treat the country as a museum for visiting Christian pilgrims, instead of a living, breathing country with a modern identity as well as an ancient past of great religious importance to billions of people. These are the people who go home and say, "it was just like in the Bible!," and I wonder -- did they miss Tel Aviv? The airport? The fascinating, modern history? Given the history of Christian insensitivity to, and outright opposition, in some cases, to the rebuilding of the Jewish homeland as a modern, sovereign, and strong state, it is particularly important to avoid terminology that sounds as if it is refusing to acknowledge Israel's existence as a modern, Jewish state.

The term "Wailing Wall" is indeed not used by Jews, and it shouldn't be used by Christians. It is seen as somewhat dismissive and mildly offensive by many people. (I wince when I hear it.) While Jews may have tears of emotion at this incredibly holy place -- as I do nearly every time, along with many other non-Jews who still are moved by its significance -- I've never seen anyone "wail" there. "Western Wall" is the correct and respectful term.

Thanks again for posting. These comments are NOT intended as rebukes to you in any way, but to educate other Christian readers who may be planning a visit. You approached Israel with an open heart and mind, and I commend your approach to every visitor. That's why you had such a great experience.

I hope you can go back and explore more!

Douglas Duckett

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5. Re: Holy Land - Israel

Thanks for taking the time to share some important info on Israel with our TA visitors. Great! You have been given some info from Douglas and rdglady that is very good for you to have in order to correct some things for your own future reference.

I was guilty of saying "Wailing Wall" back at the very beginning of my trips to Israel. I was gently corrected and told the right term (Western Wall) and the reasons etc. Very valuable.

When I had jackets made for our group in 2005 the embroiderer put "Holy Land" tour on the back of the jacket..........ugh.....I never did like it.......I didn't "prrof" before the final product was made. Shame on me!

I'm betting you'll be going back to Israel, right?

Kathy Walters

Paragon, Indiana, USA

cakywalters@iquest.net

Cincinnati, Ohio
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6. Re: Holy Land - Israel

Kathy, Israel is blessed by having wise friends like you.

We all learn and, we hope, grow. One of the things that my mother taught me, by example as well as word, is to remember the difference between the "wrong" thing said out of simply not knowing (the true definition of "ignorance") and the wrong thing said out of a willful disregard for others' feelings and identities. The first calls for kind education. The second calls for courageous confrontation. It's good to remember the difference.

Rdglady modeled the former, and I hope I did as well.

Douglas Duckett

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7. Re: Holy Land - Israel

Douglas.....absolutely! Both you and rdglady modeled a great example of "teaching" as opposed to "preaching" (LOL) or non-constructive criticsm. Super!

Kathy Walters

Paragon, Indiana, USA

cakywalters@iquest.net

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8. Re: Holy Land - Israel

Thank you for the report and for the thoughtful discussion.

Let me just add one aspect: While I agree that the term "Holy Land" has many shortcomings and that it is far better to say "Israel" when you are actually talking about Israel - there are some instances where it is difficult to avoid the term "Holy Land". The terms "Eretz ha-Qodesh" (lit.: "Land of Holiness"), "Eretz Israel" (Land of Israel) and the Christian term "the Holy Land" don't cover exactly the same territory. While the Jewish use of the first two terms usually refers to the land between the Mediterranean and the River Jordan, the Christian use of the third term also includes what is nowadays the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.

All of the traditional Churches in Jerusalem usually cover both sides of the River Jordan, and the two most important Jordanian wineries (run by Christian families) proudly print "Wine from the Holy Land" onto their labels.

If a church wanted to be 100% politically correct, they would have to call themselves "The XY Church in Israel, the PA, and in Jordan". But honestly speaking: That doesn't sound very "sexy". Therefore they call themselves in the more traditional way: "The XY Church in the Holy Land". I think this is legitimate as far as the pilgrims and tourists who come to visit this church are also taught about the modern social and political realities (not just about the biblical sites) and are not let unaware wether they are in Israel, the PA or in Jordan...

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9. Re: Holy Land - Israel

I have no quarrel with that, Matzchik. My issue is with the Christian tourists (or the Christian tourists) who use "Holy Land" exclusively when the only country being talked about is Israel, as if "Israel" (and the accompanying acknowledgement of Jewish sovereignty) would stick in their throats. I know you understand to what I am referring.

Douglas Duckett

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10. Re: Holy Land - Israel

Sorry -- my parenthetical above should have read "(or the Christian churches)."

Douglas Duckett