This is my last travel blog from Israel before returning to Cyprus!
When you ask the average holidaymaker what is their favourite travel destination? They rarely reply Israel. After many years of conflict with neighbouring countries, security in Israel is very high; but how does this affect the average traveller and what makes visiting this place so special?
There are many organised trips to Israel and with a valid passport and a stamped visitor’s visa, tourists rarely encounter any difficulties. Israel seems keen to promote tourism. The Israeli tour guides are pleasantly mannered and extremely well informed as they must first pass very stringent examinations to qualify for this type work, which in effect means representing their country and culture to the rest of the world; who may have only experienced it so far, via the news.
Once inside the country, known as The Holy Land, the atmosphere is peaceful and the sights are stunning. For those interested in religion, history and the Jewish, Christian and Arabic cultures, this destination is second to none. I visited the Arabic City of Nazareth and the shores of the Sea of Galilee on Easter Monday, and this was my particular, travel experience.
Visitors to the busy city of Nazareth may be surprised to find that the downtown area is almost completely Arabic. A tiny green domed mosque stands next to Nazareth’s most important cultural centre, The Basilica of the Annunciation in the capital’s North district.
The Basilica was built in 1969 at the site where, according to Roman Catholic tradition, the Annunciation took place. Inside the church, the lower ground level contains the Grotto of the Annunciation, believed by many Christians to be the remains of the original childhood home of Mary.
Across the courtyard is the St. Gabriel Church, which was built on a spring called Mary’s well, which is thought to be the spot where the Virgin Mary was visited by the Archangel Gabriel, according to The Greek Orthodox tradition. If you take a tour inside of this lovely church, the guide will show you around the basement, where Jesus is said to have worked as a carpenter.
The next stop on the tour was to Capernaum on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. Here we visited the house of St. Peter, at which Jesus reportedly stayed, and also the ruin of the Jewish synagogue at which Jesus taught and healed a man who had the spirit of an unclean devil, according to The Gospel of St. Mark.
At this stage, Auval our tour guide, kindly added an extra visit which was not on the schedule to the Church of the Apostles; a lovely Greek Orthodox Church which was built in 1939 next to the Sea of Galilee. It is here that Jesus is said to have chosen his twelve apostles. As it was Easter Monday, many Greek visitors had already congregated in the picnic area outside the church and were busy barbequing and sharing food in a scene reminiscent of Green Monday in Cyprus.
Our last visit of the day was to the famous Jordan River Baptismal complex at the lake side, which is a popular centre; attracting hundreds of pilgrims from all around the world. After purchasing a simple white gown, the pilgrims baptised themselves in a specially designed place in the river. The complex contained showers and changing rooms which were fully equipped to cater for this event, which proved to be a very special experience for many of their visitors. It also contained a smart restaurant and a well-stocked gift shop.
As a tourist destination, Israel proved to be an unusual and surprising place. The scenery was stunning; the beaches beautiful and the shopping fantastic - but very expensive!
|The City of Nazareth|
|St. Gabriel Church|
|The Basilica of the Annunciation|
|The Stunning Stained Glass Window|
|Jordan River Baptismal|
|The Sea of Galilee|