Many of the world’s monotheistic religions have major sites in this Middle Eastern country, which also features Dead Sea resorts and a lively metropolis.
Israel was founded as a Jewish homeland, but today its religious sites attract as many Christian and Muslim pilgrims as they do Jewish visitors. Explore the many holy sites gracing its central cities and relax on its Dead Sea and Mediterranean coasts.
The holy center of Israel is Jerusalem. Here, Muslim and Jewish pilgrims converge on the octagonal, gold-crowned Dome of the Rock, a shrine for Islam and a holy site for Judaism. Join crowds around another Jewish holy site, the nearby Western Wall, the remnant of a temple built in the first century BC. Jerusalem features the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where Christians believe Jesus was crucified and entombed before coming back to life. Nazareth and Bethlehem contain additional religious landmarks.
While Jerusalem is often a destination for enriching the soul, Israel’s Dead Sea may have positive effects on the body. Both the mud and waters of this sea, one of the saltiest in the world, are touted to help the skin. Float on the surface of the salty water and spread your skin with the dark mud. Explore the surrounding area, which includes Ein Bokek and other resort towns; stay at a spa and buy fresh Dead Sea salts.
Head to Israel’s second-largest city, Tel Aviv, a modern destination with skyscrapers and seafront high-rises along the Mediterranean coast. See historical attractions in the small old port district of Jaffa. Spend the day on Gordon Beach, enjoy a drink at a gay bar on Shenkin Street and dance at one of Tel Aviv’s many nightclubs.
Violence regularly breaks out in Israel due to the country’s delicate relationship with the Palestinian territories of Gaza and the West Bank that fall within its borders. Stay safe by avoiding these areas and their surroundings and by monitoring the news before planning your trip.
Fly into Ben Gurion Airport at the center of Israel to begin exploring this historic and holy nation.