Understandably,Church of the Nativity or Israel is the historical land of all Christian believers. The country that Christ grew up around also contains many sites and scenes. It influenced the world that He walked through and changed forever. From Bethlehem to Nazareth, Israel is ripe with scenes that have the potential to fulfill the beliefs and understanding of any Christian faith.
Bethlehem, known as the birthplace of Jesus Christ, is also known as the place that Christ’s birth was foretold. An area east of Bethlehem is regarded as the place that the shepherds had been visited by an angel, and told of the coming of the King of Kings. Several churches have been built in this area commemorating the event, and today shepherds still watch their flocks in the fields!
The Church of the Nativity
Bethlehem is also the home to numerous historical churches that Christian pilgrims can visit at their leisure. The Church of the Nativity is one such place. It marks the area that Jesus was believed to have been born, as told in the Gospels of Mathew and Luke.
The Church of the Nativity was commissioned in the 4th century by Constantine and his mother St. Helena. To be built over the cave that was believed to have been the manger where Jesus was laid in the manger. There is a beautiful silver marker that displays the area that displays the exact site of the Nativity.
Though destroyed in 530 A.D., Justinian built the much larger church that remains there to this day. The church has survived numerous military conflicts, including the Crusades War and the Crimean War (1854–56). The Persians, who invaded Jersusalem in 614 A.D., spared the church because of the way that it was decorated by the Magi (also Persian), according to legend.
St Catherine’s Church
Another church of note in Bethlehem is St. Catherine’s Church. Built by Franciscans in the late 19th century. St. Catherine’s is actually on a few steps from the Nativity, and it is also built around the northern cave. According to legend, the church is built on the spot where Christ appeared to Saint Catherine and predicted her martyrdom.
St. Catherine’s Church’s contains an active Franciscan monastery, as well as a modern statue of St. Jerome, and the façade is topped with a statue of St. Catherine. Within the historic caves are the Chapel of Innocents which contains that tombs of infants slain by Herod the Great (Matt. 2:16). A Chapel of Saint Joseph, the husband of Mary, Jesus’ Mother. There is also the Tomb of Saint Jerome, a church father from Rome who translated the Bible into Latin (the Vulgate). Jerome is also believed to have written and worked on his translations in this area.
Another well-known city of Israel is Jerusalem, which holds an immense amount of history to the Believer. The walled city built on a hill has over 5000 years of history to all three of the major world religions. It is widely recognized as the city that Jesus death on the cross and subsequent resurrection, three days later, occured. The city boasts a grand collection of museums, city scenes, and archeological importance.
The Bible Lands Museum
The Bible Lands Museum houses an amazing assortment of ancient artifacts that reflect the various cultures that influenced the world during biblical times. Opening in 1992, the museum displays exhibits chronologically. Items from around the same periods are displayed side by side and reflect the ever changing cultures of those periods and how the different cultures influenced one another.
Pieces, including works of art, come from Ancient Egypt, Anatolia, Syria, Persia and Mesopotamia. Of note is the 4th century sarcophagus of Julia Latronilla, with a bas-relief of the life of Jesus, which is considered one of the earliest known representations of Christ and Christian theology on display.
Also displayed at the museum are items such as the “swimming girl” Egyptian cosmetics box and a Minoan terra-cotta sarcophagus painted with folk images, The museum also includes ancient inscriptions, mosaics, seals, scarabs, carved ivory, and jewelry. Computer and video programs are provided to allow the visitor to fully understand the history behind these artifacts with detailed information.
Church of the Holy Sepulcher/ Church of the Nativity
Also of note in Jerusalem is the Church of the Holy Sepulcher (Keniset el-Kiyaneh), known as the ‘Church of the Resurrection’ to Eastern Orthodox Christians. Standing on a site that includes Golgotha (Calvary) where Jesus was crucified, and the tomb (sepulcher) where Jesus was buried, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher has been the most important holy site to Christians since the 4th century.
Sea of Galilee
The Sea of Galilee is yet another site for the Christian visitor to see while in Israel. While the sea, itself, has a great historical significance with Jesus teaching His disciples about faith and trusting in the Lord, the cities surrounding the sea are also of great historical importance.
The ancient fishing city of Capernaum has been mentioned in the New Testament numerous times. In this city stands the house where Jesus healed the paralytic and Peter’s mother-in-law, and was the place where Jesus did most of his resting during his period of ministry on earth. Capernaum was also where Jesus’ first disciples, Peter and Andrew, lived and accepted His invitation to follow Him.
Tabgha, another small area along the coast of the Sea of Galilee, is known for it’s large amounts of fish and fishermen have been attracted to this area for centuries. It is also home to the mound where Jesus gave His most recognized sermon during His ministry.
One other destination of note is Nazareth, a town in northern Israel. About 80 miles north of Jerusalem. Nazareth’s population is about half Arab Muslim and half Arab Christian.
Basilica of the Annunciation
Nazareth was the hometown of Jesus and is considered one of the most important Christian sites in the Holy Land. One of the many important sites in Nazareth to see is the Basilica of the Annunciation (which stands over the area where Gabriel was said to have announced Jesus’ birth to Mary), which was built over Crusade and Byzantine foundations.
The Church of St. Gabriel
Another recognized site is The Church of St. Gabriel. According to Orthodox tradition, Mary was first visited by the angel Gabriel while fetching water from the well. The Orthodox Church of St. Gabriel was built in an area over the spring that also fed Mary’s well.