Calls to prayer echo out over valleys and rooftops. The ringing of church bells and the wailing siren for Shabbat are omnipresent. This is a city of religious pilgrimages and a land of ancient stories, where even the bodies of water whisper of miracles.
Birthplace of the three largest monotheistic religions in the world—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—the city of Jerusalem is filled with prayers and songs of different faiths. The time-worn, earthen-colored stones of the Old City have borne witness to thousands of years of history.
Pilgrims come here to walk in the footsteps that their religion took on its path to coming into the world: to touch the Western Wall, Judaism’s holiest site; to stand where Jesus stood while crying over the coming destruction of Jerusalem; or to see the light gleaming off the golden Dome of the Rock, built over the stone where Muslims believe Muhammed ascended to heaven.
This diversity in beliefs and lifestyles can also make a trip to the Holy Land an ardent journey toward connection and understanding. As much as Jerusalem makes the past feel present, liberal, freewheeling Tel Aviv is intently focused on the future. The fresh scent of sand and sea seems soaked into everything, and marketplaces smell of spices, falafel, and Turkish coffee. It’s an assault on the senses, in the best possible way. North along the Mediterranean, in sparkling Haifa, Jews and Arabs coexist peacefully in the shadow of the world-famous Baha’i Golden Dome.
The West Bank, with its ancient cities of Bethlehem, Jericho, and Hebron, offers a journey into another world. On a hot summer day with the warm smell of olive trees set against a backdrop of rolling brown hills, you’ll almost forget the political tensions that have troubled this area for centuries.
Many wait their entire lives to experience this timeless land. See it for yourself and you will begin to understand. Is it any wonder this region has inspired such passions, such devotion, such faith?