Thousands of years and millions of memories. That's what you'll experience when you visit some of the most important religious sites in the world during this full-day exclusive excursion to Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
After meeting your professional guide on the pier in Ashdod, you will set out on the approximately 70-minute drive to Jerusalem and some of the most sacred sites in the Holy Land. Upon arrival in Jerusalem, a photo stop will be made from atop the Mount of Olives.
Next you will visit the nearby Church of All Nations, also known as the Basilica (or Church) of the Agony, and the Garden of Gethsemane. The Basilica, which is Roman Catholic, was consecrated in 1924 and is decorated with mosaics donated by each of the countries that also contributed to construction of the Basilica itself. The altar enshrines a section of bedrock, known as the Rock of Agony, where Jesus is said to have prayed before his arrest. The current church rests on the foundations of two earlier ones, a 12th century chapel and a 4th century basilica. The garden of Gethsemane is the site where Jesus prayed and his disciples slept on the night of his betrayal and arrest. According to the Eastern Orthodox Church tradition, Gethsemane is the garden where the Virgin Mary died before her assumption on Mount Zion.
Enter the Old City of Jerusalem through the Dung Gate to see the Western Wall, which is actually part of the supporting wall of the Temple Mount. The only part of the wall that has not been hidden by construction, the Western Wall has remained intact since the destruction of the Second Jerusalem Temple in 70 A.D. The Second Temple, which was built in 517 B.C, was a replacement for the First Temple. The First Temple, which was conceived by King David, was constructed by King Solomon in 950 B. C.
The Western Wall has become the most sacred spot in Jewish religious and national consciousness and tradition by virtue of its proximity to the Temple, home to the Holy of Holies, and from which, according to numerous sources, the Divine Presence never departed. It has become a center of mourning over the destruction of the Temple and Israel's exile, and a place of communion for the memory of Israel's former glory and the hope for its restoration.
Then you will leave the Western Wall Plaza and follow the Via Dolorosa. The Via Dolorosa winds through a maze of narrow alleys in the Muslim Quarter offering you a fascinating variety of shops and stalls where one can purchase anything from mixed nuts and spices, to different kinds of sweets and pastries, vegetables and falafel, along with souvenirs, ceramics and oriental jewels and cloths. The Via Dolorosa represents a series of events in the life of Jesus from the time he was condemned to death through the third time he fell on his way to his crucifixion.
Finally, you will walk to the Christian Quarter and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. The remaining five Stations of the Cross are found in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher (also called the Church of the Resurrection). Believed by most Christians to sit on the Hill of Calvary (Golgotha) where the New Testament says that Jesus was crucified, the church is said to also contain the place where Jesus was buried (the sepulcher) and resurrected. As the wait to enter the Sepulcher itself can be 4 hours or more, it is not included in this tour.
From Jerusalem, you will travel to the town of Bethlehem, a trip made by the magi (Wise men) many years ago. While in Bethlehem, you will visit the Church of the Nativity, possibly the oldest continuously operating churches in the world. The structure is built over a grotto that tradition marks as the birthplace of Jesus of Nazareth and is considered sacred by followers of both Christianity and Islam.
The current Basilica was rebuilt in 565 A. D. under the order of Emperor Justinian I. The compound surrounding the Basilica has been expanded over the years. Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Armenian Apostolic authorities administer the church jointly. The structure is actually a combination of two churches, with the Grotto of the Nativity, where Jesus is said to have been born, underneath. As wait times to enter the grotto can be more than 3 hours long, a visit to the grotto is not included in this tour.
After your visit to the Bethlehem, you will return to the port.
Please note: Bethlehem is part of the Palestinian Authority. Our guides in Israel, who are Israelis, are not allowed to escort tourists into Bethlehem. For the Bethlehem portion of your tour, you will have a local Palestinian guide to escort you. The cost of this guide is included. If traveling in any vehicle smaller than a coach, you will also need to change vehicles for the Bethlehem portion of the tour. A mandatory stop at a gift shop in the Palestinian Authority area is required as part of this visit. Purchasing is not required.