My Favorite Sites in Israel by Christina Peters (AIT Travel Specialist)
After years of dreaming of visiting Israel, I recently had the opportunity to join the Roots of Your Faith tour! As I sat on my flight home and began to look back on the journey, I was struck by how astonishing it is that a country so small can have such an abundance of historically, spiritually, and culturally remarkable sites. Each and every place that I visited held a special significance in one way or another, so narrowing them down to a list of only five of my favorites was much more difficult than I would have imagined before embarking on the trip. I would gladly return to every site on the tour, but if forced to choose only five, these would be the ones I would pick:
Sea of Galilee Boat Ride
I have been on many boat rides in my life, but I can’t think of a more peaceful one than this. As we drifted along, I was struck by how quiet and tranquil it was. There was a short period where the entire group was silent as we gazed out on the lake. The only sounds were that of the seagulls in the distance and the gentle waves lapping against the sides of the boat. Of all the places we visited, this was where I most strongly felt like I had been transported back in time. Our guide had suggested that we take pieces of bread to feed the seagulls. Once we started tossing chunks of bread, we were amazed by how many birds flew over and followed up across the lake!
I have to be honest and say that whenever I envisioned the Jordan River, I always imagined a muddy river in the middle of the desert, so I didn’t have high expectations for visiting the baptismal site of Yardenit. Upon arrival I realized that my vision was far from reality. The water was green and clear and surrounded on both sides by trees and red flowers. It was lovely! Three people from our group were baptized that day and I could not imagine a more gorgeous place to make such a special expression of faith.
This mountaintop fortress built by Herod the Great was a truly impressive structure. Yet even more powerful than the extraordinary architecture and the stunning views was learning about the events that occurred there in 73 AD. A group of Jews, known as the Zealots, had rebelled against the Romans and withstood their final siege until they were so greatly outnumbered that they were faced with the decision to surrender or commit suicide. To save themselves from becoming slaves of the Romans, they chose to end their own lives. It now stands as a poignant symbol of the ancient kingdom of Israel and the bravery of the Jewish patriots. I was nearly moved to tears as our guide performed a dramatic monologue which painted a picture of the heroic speech that the Zealot general must have delivered to his men in their last hours.
While it doesn’t have the same level of spiritual and emotional impact that most of the other sites in Israel, the Dead Sea makes my list of favorites for its stunning beauty and unique experience. Floating in the Dead Sea feels like you are lounging in an invisible hammock in the water! Even for someone who is not a big fan of water, I had a blast. It was so much fun that I could have spent hours floating and bobbing in sea. I am so grateful that we had the opportunity to spend the night at a hotel right on the Dead Sea with a private beach so I could enjoy the experience without feeling rushed. For an added bonus, waking up to the sunrise view outside my window was a moment I will never forget.
There are so many incredible places to visit in Israel that choosing a favorite is no easy task. However, for me it is Garden Tomb which stands out above all the others as my favorite site of the entire trip. Yes, it is undeniably a beautiful place with its and immaculate grounds and lush foliage, but the appeal lies in something much deeper. To stand where Jesus was buried and then rose from the dead is a feeling that simply cannot be put into words. While there are many reasons to support the claim that this is indeed the site of history’s greatest miracle, no one can say conclusively that this is where Jesus was laid to rest. But as our guide pointed out, in the grand scheme of things, it does not really matter. The important thing to remember is that wherever the tomb is, it is empty! This lovely garden is the perfect place to reflect upon this miraculous event.
Whenever you are ready to join one of our Israel tours, don't hesitate to call me and I can tell you all about my trip to Israel!