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Alternative sites for the non-religious?

Maui, Hawaii
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Alternative sites for the non-religious?

I am in Israel from 2-12 October. I'm really looking forward to the trip, and I am spending my last four days in Jerusalem. The first part of the trip I am really happy with, there seem to be a lot of sites with general historic interest, beautiful grottos, old cities, mosiacs, ruins, churches. As I have started to dive into the Jerusalem research, I came across a line in Douglas Duckett's guide that said "...Edicule is the traditional and always crowded tomb of Christ" and then recommends a Syrian chapel that has a well preserved Jewish burial cave as a better and more authentic example. To me that sounds like really good advice. And it kind of hit the nail on the head as far as a nagging concern I have about Jerusalem sites.

I guess what I am asking in hopefully the most non-offensive way possible is that as a non-religious tourist, are there places that might be freighted with meaning for a person of belief, and that would typically appear on a "must see" list, but maybe someone who might not be as tied to following in the footsteps of biblical figures would find overcrowded and might want to find a better alternative from a purely historical perspective? Hopefully I'm not offending anyone asking this.

Israel
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1. Re: Alternative sites for the non-religious?

Are you interested in any particular historical period? Of course you can find evidence in Israel from just about every period from biblical to yesterday afternoon.

A random list, and far from complete:

Roman period - Masada, a UNESCO world heritage site.

Crusader period - Akko (Acre), also a UNESCO world heritage site.

20th century - Yad Vashem Holocaust museum in Jerusalem, and plenty of sites associated with the history of Zionism and the State of Israel, throughout the country. The Ayalon secret bullet factory near Rehovot, dating from the War of Independence; Ammunition Hill in Jerusalem, from the Six Day War; and for something more peaceful: the beginnings of Tel Aviv, in and around the Neveh Tzedek neighbourhood.

No doubt others will come up with plenty more suggestions. Oh, and of course we won't be offended. Israel doesn't consist solely of religious sites, as even the most die-hard adherent of any religion is well aware!

Tel Aviv, Israel
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2. Re: Alternative sites for the non-religious?

Nothing offensive in your questions. When I think of things that may be very significant for a religious Christian, I think of a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee, or standing on the shore where Jesus may have preached. And, yes, someone who is devout is likely to have a more spiritual connection to some places. I have been to many of the churches in Israel and find them fascinating from the cultural, historical and artistic aspects. The Church of the Holy Sepulcher is filled with chapels from different centuries and widely differing religions. Unless you want the spiritual experience, you can easily skip the "edicule" and still spend many fascinating hours in that church alone.

The Western Wall has very special meaning for most Jews. I recently hosted a Buddist friend and one of his "wow" moments was visiting the Wall and putting a small prayer in a cranny of it. I think everyone who comes to Israel should see it, for its historical and cultural (and political) significance. The Tunnel Tour that you probably have heard about is about engineering and history, with just a smidgen of religion.

So I don't think that the "must-sees" are mainly for pilgrims; I don't think the Christian/Jewish/Moslem religious sights should be omitted by the non-religious (or other-religious). As Shuffaluff has said, there's lots of everything here, including millions of migrating birds and the Dead Sea. Decide what you are most interested in and put together your own "must-see" list. If you want us to critique it, we are here. Not all the most popular sights will appeal everyone. There may be a disappointment or two, but there will also be a few pleasant surprises.

Israel
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3. Re: Alternative sites for the non-religious?

I don't find the question offensive at all.

The Kotel tunnels are extremely interesting and fascinating from an archeological and historical viewpoint. Make reservations!

The Roman Cardo and area near Damascus Gate.

The Wohl Archoelogical Center.

Jerusalem
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4. Re: Alternative sites for the non-religious?

OK, so I think you already get the message that there's nothing at all offensive about being more interested in a historical or cultural perspective. Actually sometimes when prospective visitors seem to be looking at this country ONLY through a religious prism, people on this forum gently point out that there's more to Israel than that.

When friends of mine come to Jerusalem I often take them to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher - obviously an important religious site. But it's also a fascinating anthropological experience. And since my own pet interest is languages, there are also plenty of opportunities to point out inscriptions in Greek, Latin, Ge'ez, Coptic and Russian (edit - I forgot Armenian!!). And the whole Old City is an incredible human experience with surely one of the highest concentrations of human diversity per square kilometer!

You may also like to know that most Israeli Jewish children (those in regular state schools) study the Bible and Israel's ancient and modern history from a mainly non-faith-based perspective, as a crucial part of their cultural heritage, without any particular emphasis on religious belief or observance.

Edited: 09 September 2013, 19:42
Ottawa, Canada
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5. Re: Alternative sites for the non-religious?

There are so many, many places to visit in Jerusalem that are historical in nature. Be sure to take in Davids Citadel, the City of David and Hezikiah's Tunnel, the Wohl Archeological Museum under Hurva Square. None of these sites are 'religious' in nature though they may all have some religious significance. Of course there is the Israel Museum, Yad Vashem, the Museum for Islamic Art which has an interesting watch and clock display, then there are the more 'political sites' such as the Begin Centre, the Museum on the Seam, or the opportunity to see nature in the city such as the Jerusalem Bird Observatory, the list just goes on and on and on......

The trouble will be narrowing down your list to squeeze in what you want to see in only 4 days. I also agree with PRSV that a visit to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher can totally be an anthropological experience.

Israel
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6. Re: Alternative sites for the non-religious?

Tell us your interests and if are interested in ideas around the country and not just in Jerusalem. Iarael is so diverse that you can find something for any specific interest.

I suggest walking uo the YMCA bell tower for a fabulous view of the new city. Also Mt of Olives with view of Old City. The City of David, Ramparts walk, Italian Synagogue museum, Ein Kerem neighborhood(for art),

the Knesset, the Bank of Israel, the Supreme Court

Edited: 09 September 2013, 20:41
Tel Aviv, Israel
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7. Re: Alternative sites for the non-religious?

It may surprise you to learn that Israel is an overwhelmingly secular country, far more so than the USA. Most of the traditional "religious" sites are 'musts' from even just a historical, anthropological and cultural point of view. I find the historical Jesus of Nazareth and the environment in which he lived to be particularly fascinating.

8. Re: Alternative sites for the non-religious?

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