EAT. PRAY. LOVE. Israel.
From our first blog you must have already realized how plentiful and whole Israel is as a country. It just has so much to offer. Like I mentioned Israel has set the bar so high for us, it’s literally become difficult to choose our next holiday destination. But many still ask – Why Israel? Is it Safe?
To that I would answer WHY NOT ISRAEL! From its tantalizing local cuisine, its rich Jewish culture, its scenic landscapes, its deep history this country has it all. And as for its safety, I can vouch that there is absolutely no threat out there, we felt super safe and secure throughout our trip.
Well, now that, that’s clear- I want to lure you to plan a trip to this country as soon as possible via my experience. To make it easier, I’ve split my trip to Israel into 3 blogs: EAT, PRAY & LOVE – Each blog describing different facets of my trip to this beautiful country. You can read the first edition – EAT right here.
This is the second edition – PRAY and this one is all about the religious, holy and cultural sights of Israel. So take a deep breath and immerse right in…
Travel log to Jerusalem
Jerusalem!!! Considered as THE holiest place in the world this Israel town is split into two parts – The Old City & the New City. The Old City is split into 4 quarters – the Muslim quarter, the Jewish quarter, the Christian quarter & the Armenian quarter and each quarters has its own charm, own history and is flooded with tourists all the time. Since we stayed at the Jaffa 60 Apartments located right in the in the middle of Jaffa St. (one of the main streets) in the New part of Jerusalem it was super easy to navigate wherever we wanted to.
On our first day after checking-in and freshening up we left for the Old City Jaffa Gate. As soon as you enter this place, on your left you will see the Tourist Information Centre where you can get a map of the Old City – I would say totally get it and on your right is the entrance to the Tower of David (to know all about this read our Love edition of the Israel Eat Pray Love series). After the Tower of David we started walking up north towards the Church of the Holy Sepulchre through the market entrance right in front of you (20 steps up north from the Tourist Information Centre). Your walkway suddenly becomes much more colourful since you are surrounded with shops selling beautiful jewellery, artefacts, clothes, spices & condiments- the best part is that it’s covered hence saves you from the scorching sun.
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre
This church is considered the holiest site in Jerusalem & the world especially because this is the site where Jesus was crucified. The church is huge and has a lot of rooms inside – small & big. Lots of priests around explaining the significance of each room, each cross & altar. It is free of cost to enter and go around the entire place but please make sure you are appropriately dressed – no showing shoulders or knees! The path that Jesus walked on the way of his crucifixion is known as Via Dolorosa a.k.a. the Way of Sorrows.
The Church of the Redeemer
Once you are done seeing the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, walk a little further and you’ll come across the Church of the Redeemer. Here you can get insane views of the city. They did not have any tickets to go up the tower but we kinda requested them and they let us buy just the kid’s tickets and go up. Just a heads up – it’s a huge flight of stairs to the top, totally spiral & really steep; there are a couple of rest areas which come in between though. You might want to quit in-between but take my word for it – DON’T. The view is totally worth every drop of sweat, you can see the Golden dome of the Temple Mount up close, the Western Wall, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre & so many solar panels on the roofs of all the houses in the city & more importantly – the uniform limestone facade all throughout. Our way down was also a steep and long, after which we started walking towards the Western Wall a.k.a. the Wailing Wall. Another heads up – remember the sun in Jerusalem will not have any mercy on you during the day so wear a hat, sunglasses and tons and tons of sunscreen. Despite the Old City being small and widespread, the walk to each attraction might seem really long especially during the months of summer, not to forget the innumerable stairs and slopes you have to go through. So be prepared- wear the right shoes and cover yourself from the sun!
Our next stop was Temple Mount – A flat plaza surrounded by walls (including the Western Wall) and dominated by three structures- the Dome of the Rock, the Dome of the Chain & the Al-Aqsa Mosque. According to the Muslims, this is the third holiest site in Islam and hence no one other than the Muslims can go inside. But some part of history also states that this site belonged to the Jews at some point, so since they cannot enter inside – they pray at the Western Wall, which is the closest they can get to the Dome of the Rock. The men and women pray in different sections which is divided by a fence. People also write their hopes, wishes, and feelings on paper and push them in the crevices and cracks of the Western Wall; so don’t be surprised if you come across people crying their hearts out herel. If you enter any souvenir shop in this area you’ll also see postcards with pictures of soldiers praying by the wall which might give you an idea about the strong faith and belief people have for this holy sight.
Travel log to Bethlehem
When you’re in Jerusalem, Bethlehem becomes a must visit. Bethlehem- a town in Palestine is popularly known as the birthplace of Jesus Christ.
So we caught a cab from Jaffa St.in Jerusalem who drove us all the way to & fro Bethlehem at a good price of $300. The price was inclusive of a guide to enter and skip the queue at the Church of Nativity and visit other tourist attractions in and around Bethlehem. So we thought it was a pretty good deal considering the harsh sun and the fact that we didn’t want to tire ourselves by walking all the way to the bus stop. In all Bethlehem took around 4 hours including the travel time.
Church of Nativity & Shepherd’s Field
At the Church of Nativity we saw the 14-point star marking the exact place Jesus was born and the manger where he was kept later. After this our cabbie took us to the Shepherd’s field where the Angels had come down to inform the shepherds about Jesus’s birth. This sight was just so beautiful and serene.
Like I had mentioned in my previous blog, Jewish people especially in Jerusalem take Shabbath really seriously and follow it every Saturday. Since day 2 was a Saturday most places were shut so if you too are in Jerusalem on a Saturday I would suggest sleep in till late morning, then head to Bethlehem, have an amazing lunch once you are back at Focaccia Bar and then head to Mount Zion.
While Mount Zion is known for its scenic beauty and its gorgeous view; it also has a lot of historical and religious sites to see if you’re interested. We drove to Mount Zion or you could cab it up- it’s easily accessible and is just a 20 minute road journey from Jerusalem city centre.
Those were all the holy and religious sights we visited during our trip to Israel.
So, you can see how this country has so many different facets and sides to it. Each sight is just as diverse and unique from the other and each has just so much more to offer. And that’s not all, there’s more to it – Read all about it in the ‘LOVE’ edition – the 3rd part in the 3 part series to our trip to Israel.