The modern state of Israel, known as the Land of the Bible, is a popular destination for South Africans. Seagull Tours endeavours to give you the opportunity to discover this tiny land, so deeply
steeped in culture, history, religion, diversity and conflict.
The tour starts in Jerusalem, the Holy City. We stroll through the Old City, the oldest part of the city. It is divided into four sections: a Jewish, a Muslim, a Christian and a Armenian section. These are divided by streets, so it is easy to wander from one section to the other and back. In this way we get a very good idea of the diversity so visible throughout Israel. We go to the Western Wall, also known as the Wailing Wall. This is the holiest of holy places for the Jews. They come here in large numbers to pray.
The Wailing wall is a section of the retaining wall of the Temple Mount that was built by Herod the Great in 20 BC. The Temple Mount was the site of Solomon’s Temple which was destroyed during the Babylonian exile. The temple was rebuilt after the return of the Jews. Herod the Great enlarged the Temple. It was finally destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE. Nowadays it is one of Islam’s most important holy places, with the imposing Dome of the Rock Mosque and its glittering golden dome towering above the skyline of Jerusalem. The Temple Mount is also home to the El-Aqsa Mosque.
We walk along the Via Dolorosa. This is the path that Jesus walked from the Roman Fort, where he was tried and handed over by Pontius Pilate to the Jews to be crucified, to the hill Golgotha (Calvary), where he died on the cross. Along this route there are 14 stations, highlighting incidents that took place during Jesus’ walk. The Via Dolorosa ends inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which was built on the site where Jesus was crucified. The tomb of Joseph of Arimathea is also situated in this Church.
According to another school of thought, Jesus was crucified and buried at another site, known as the Garden Tomb, just outside the Damascus Gate of the Old City. A visit to the Garden Tomb is included.
We leave Jerusalem and travel northwards along Israel’s scenic coastal plain to the land of Galilee. Our first stop is in the town of Nazareth, where Jesus grew up. The Basilica of the Annunciation is the tourist focal point in Nazareth, as well as St Joseph’s, a small and intimate church, built on the site of Joseph’s home and workshop.
From Nazareth it is a short drive to the Sea of Galilee, where we can take a sunset cruse and taste St. Peter’s fish. We also visit the ruins of Capernaum, home to most of Jesus’ disciples. Close by is the Church of the Beatitudes, built where Jesus gave his inspiring Sermon on the Mount.
We travel in a southerly direction and after a couple of hours we arrive at our destination: The Dead Sea. We cover ourselves in mud, and the float in the very salty water. We feel invigorated by the unique experience. The Dead Sea is in the Great Rift Valley, and is the lowest point on Earth, 400m below sea level. It is surrounded by the harsh Judean Desert.
We also visit Masada, the last Jewish stronghold against the Romans.
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