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Holy Land to three of the world’s major religions, Israel has a great emotional and spiritual effect on its visitors. Some are touched by the magnificent religious shrines, others are impressed by the tenacity of a nation that, against all odds, made the desert bloom. The name Israel has historically been used, in common and religious usage, to refer to the Land of Israel, the biblical Kingdom of Israel and the entire Jewish nation.
While the State of Israel is a relatively new country founded in 1948, the Land of Israel has a long and often very complex history stretching back thousands of years to the very beginnings of human civilization. It has been invaded by virtually every empire worth its salt including the Persians, Romans, Ottomans and British. It is also the birthplace of both Judaism and Christianity. Jerusalem is also a sacred city for Muslims.
The residents of the State of Israel are themselves as diverse as the land. Although established as the Jewish homeland, Israel features Christian, Moslem, and Jewish holy shrines, all within close proximity of each other. In fact, there are so many sites of religious importance spread throughout Israel that the Bible, the Torah, and the Koran could well be seen at their best.
Tourism, especially religious tourism, is an important industry in Israel, with the country’s temperate climate, beaches, archaeological and historical sites, and unique geography also drawing tourists. Israel’s security problems have taken their toll on the industry, but the number of incoming tourists is on the rebound.
Israel has the highest number of museums per capita in the world
Tel Aviv is known as “The City That Never Sleeps”, its beaches, parks, bars, cafés, restaurants, shopping, cosmopolitan lifestyle and 24-hour culture have made it a popular destination, visited by over 1.6 million foreign tourists annually. Tel Aviv is an economic hub, home to the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, corporate offices and research and development centers. It is the country’s financial capital and a major performing arts and business center.
Old Jaffa is a must see for any visitor to Tel Aviv. This is the reputed point where Jonah boarded a ship and was later swallowed by a whale. It is also likely one of the oldest ports in the world. Go to the Rabin Square -the biggest public square in Israel and site of PM Rabin’s assassination in 1995 is in Central Tel Aviv. Watch the entire Tel Aviv area from 200m Azriely Lookout. Shop in Dizengoff Centre – Israel’s most iconic shopping centre. Walk on Rothschild Boulevard – a lot of Bauhaus architecture, restaurants and cafes in Tel Aviv prettiest street. Take a look at pieces of art in Neve Tzedek – an old part of town with art galleries and restaurants. Seat on a bench in Joshua Gardens… Tel Aviv is a big place, and these listings are just some highlights of things that you really should see if you can during your visit.
Jerusalem is a holy city to three religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam), whilst being the country’s largest city. The City of Gold, as it has come to be known in Hebrew, is a fascinatingly unique place where the first century rubs shoulders with the twenty-first century, each jostling for legitimacy and space, and where picturesque “old” neighborhoods nestle against glistening office towers and high-rise apartments. It is one of those places which has to be seen to be believed.
Jerusalem has been the holiest city since, according to the Torah, King David of Israel first established it as the capital of the united Kingdom of Israel in c. 1000 BCE, and his son Solomon commissioned the building of the First Temple in the city. In Christianity, Jerusalem has been a holy city since, according to the New Testament, Jesus was crucified in c. 30 CE and 300 years later Saint Helena found the True Cross in the city. In Sunni Islam, Jerusalem is the third-holiest city. It became the first Qibla, the focal point for Muslim prayer (Salah) in 610 CE, and, according to Islamic tradition, Muhammad made his Night Journey there ten years later. As a result, and despite having an area of only 0.9sq km (0.35sq mi), the Old City is home to sites of key religious importance.
The city of Jerusalem is of special importance to Jews, Muslims and Christians as it is the home of sites that are pivotal to their religious beliefs, such as the Israeli-controlled Old City that incorporates the Western Wall and the Temple Mount, the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
A knowledgeable guide will take you to Bethlehem to visit the famed Church of the Nativity, which attracts throngs of pilgrims of all faiths every year. Enter the Old City of Jerusalem to see part of the Via Dolorosa, the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher and the Wailing Wall. Your guide will accompany you to the top of one of the city’s hills, from which you will be able to admire the Mount of Olives and breathtaking views of the surrounding area. Step on Mount Zion, visit the beautiful Church of the Dormition, where the Virgin Mary fell into “eternal sleep”. Go to the Cenacle and King David’s tomb. Israel is world famous for the cutting of diamonds, the most precious stones known to man. You will visit a workshop where you can see them being cut, admire the finished product and – if you wish – make some bargain buys.
Ashdod is one of Israel’s largest ports, and, like every other square inch of this remarkable nation, a living museum of ancient history. Ashdod is coastal town enjoying typical Mediterranean climate with long, hot and dry summers. It is the fifth most populated city in Israel and the second largest port after Haifa. Located between Tel Aviv and Gaza, Ashdod is a very dynamic city with a fast growing immigrant population. The port of Ashdod is the main cargo port in Israel.
Eilat has become Israel’s most important holiday centre for tourists from all over the world. The secret of this small town’s success is its special position north of the Bay of Eilat and the extraordinary combination of a pleasant climate, a tropical sea and an exciting scenario of wild granite mountains. Eilat is an oddity in Israel, because it has so many tourists and relatively few Israelis. Located at the southern-most tip of the country, within its small “window on the Red Sea”, Eilat is first and foremost a resort town these days, devoted to sun, fun, diving, partying and desert-based activities. 320km (200miles) away from the tension often felt in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem, Eilat is a convenient escape for Israelis on vacation, but during the mild winter months also attracts thousands of European sun-seekers.
Haifa is the largest city in Northern Israel, and the third-largest city in the country, with a population of over 264,900. Today, the city is a major seaport located on Israel’s Mediterranean coastline in the Bay of Haifa covering 63.7sq km (24.6sq mi)
Israel is a fascinating destination for many travelers and pilgrims. In 2008, over 3 million tourists visited Israel. As a result of the vast mix of culture, in addition to the official languages of Hebrew and Arabic, Russian and Yiddish are also spoken by a significant minority of Israelis. English in many ways acts as second language. Israel is a highly urbanized and economically developed society and is therefore best divided for the traveler into its main cities and towns, followed by the regions and other sites.
Have an amazing experience at the Dead Sea shore!
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