This 1.5 to 2 hour hike through the Judean Wilderness will enthrall the traveler with sweeping vistas through the canyon to the city of Jericho and the mountains beyond. The hike begins at St. George’s Monastery, built into the side of the cliff and continues downhill to the outer edges of the town of Jericho. Along the narrow footpath pilgrims might recall the story of the Good Samaritan who helped an injured man along the road between Jerusalem and Jericho. Walking through the wilderness brings new significance to the many Biblical accounts of Israelites who wandered through or took refuge in these barren hills.
The Temple Mount (Al-Haram ash-Sharif to Muslims) includes multiple sites spread across a large open plaza dotted by cypress trees. Most of the current architecture dates from the Muslim conquest of Jerusalem in the seventh century. The site is revered by Judaism as the location of the first temple built by King Solomon and a second temple build under the leadership of Ezra and expanded by Herod the Great in the first century BCE. Both Judaism and Islam revere the site as the location of Mount Moriah where Abraham was prepared to sacrifice his son (Isaac, according to Jews, or Ishmael, according to Muslims) in obedience to God. For Muslims, the site is also the location of Muhammad’s midnight journey to Jerusalem and ascension to heaven.
Non-Muslims may enter the plaza but not the buildings, including the Dome of the Rock or Al Asqa Mosque. Even so, the plaza is a peaceful respite from the crowded, narrow streets of the Old City, and the dazzling Dome merits an up-close look.
Visitors should be aware that lines to enter the Temple Mount can be very long, and opening hours are limited.
The Jerusalem Archaeological Park includes excavations dating to the Second Temple Period (first century BCE and CE). A guide will take the group across the Southern Steps of the Temple Mount, beneath an Herodian arch, through an ancient marketplace, and across the rubble that remains from the Roman destruction of the Temple in 70 CE. Other ruins date from the Byzantine and Arab periods.
A full-day Second Temple tour might also include a visit to the tunnels beneath the Western Wall of the Temple Mount. These tunnels reveal the lower levels of the walls which still remain below today’s ground level.
Also known as the Cenacle, the Upper Room is held by many Christians to be the site of the Last Supper, though its authenticity is highly disputed. More than just the site of the Last Supper, Christians believe that the Upper Room is also the site where Jesus washed his disciples’ feet, where Jesus appeared after his resurrection, and where the disciples met after the Ascension to elect of Matthias as Judas’ successor. Finally the Upper Room is associated with the appearance of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.
For more information, please visit the Wikipedia entry for the Cenacle.
The Jesus Boat, also known as the Galilee Boat, is an ancient boat discovered in the 1980s on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. Historical and archaeological review of the boat shows that it was built in the first century A.D. Though called the Jesus Boat, there is no historical connection to Jesus or his disciples. The boat underwent a complex salvage and restoration process and is currently displayed in a climate controlled room at the Yigal Alon Center, located at the Kibbutz Ginosar.
On our last trip, I was a bit skeptical about going to see the boat, but we had the time and decided it was worth making the trip. I have to admit how amazed I was by this artifact. The care of the restoration and the quality of the exhibit are impressive. Since you’re already in Galilee, I recommend adding the boat to your itinerary.
For more information, please visit the Ministry of Tourism’s page on the Jesus Boat.