Most Christian tours to Israel follow a predictable route. Begin in Tel Aviv, work your way up the coast, and spend a few days in Galilee before driving south to Jerusalem. Time is short.
But if you find yourself in Israel with a day or so to burn, you might want to try something unusual. This post will highlight 5 things to do in Israel you probably haven’t considered.
I wrote last week about volunteer opportunities for Christians in Israel—a wonderful way to demonstrate our faith in the land we call holy.
Whether you’re into learning, walking, climbing, talking, or thinking you’ll likely find one of these uncommon activities inviting.
Jerusalem has had many names. When King David captured the city, it had the name Jebus. But in the days of Abraham, it was called Salem.
We usually associate Abraham with Jerusalem in connection with the binding of Isaac—Abraham’s heroic willingness to sacrifice his son in the region of Moriah—today’s Temple Mount (Gen. 22:2; 2 Chron. 3:1).
But Abraham had come to Jerusalem (Salem) many years earlier. His visit there gives us more than a peek at early Jerusalem.
It gives us a lesson worth pondering.
Last weekend my family visited the Museum of Biblical Art in Dallas to see its exhibit of old Holy Land maps. I enjoyed seeing original maps that dated from the 1500s.
(Photo: Seeing Holy Land Maps exhibit at the Museum of Biblical Art, Dallas)
It’s amazing how accurate the maps were in spite of the fact that cartographers in the 16th-century had no satellite images to work from. Seeing these maps made me grateful all over again for the tremendous value maps offer us in our study of the Bible.
Do you use maps when you read your Bible? Here’s why you should.
I doubt you’ll meet a person who goes to Israel without seeing Jerusalem. It’s the most important city in history, and it offers so much to see. But often, it’s seen only from this view.
There are many great views of Jerusalem. Like looking at the various facets of a diamond, each direction offers a different perspective on the same city.
Here are 4 views of Jerusalem every visitor should see—from the north, south, east, and west.
Good news: 3 of the views are free.
The oldest name for the Sea of Galilee is “Chinnereth.” The name means, “harp,” and the lake likely took the name because of the shape of its perimeter.
Driving around the northern side of Sea of Galilee causes the neck of most folks to turn back and forth a lot. There’s so much to see without ever leaving the vehicle! For example:
- The Mount of Beatitudes tops a conspicuous slope. You can’t miss the chapel on top.
- If Capernaum weren’t obvious because of its road sign, the throng of tour buses turning in would give it away.
- The towering Mount Arbel orients every person to the northwest side of the Sea of Galilee.
But several other sites are less easy to see. That’s because they look like little more than a turn in the road, an inlet in the lake, or a gated-off sidewalk.
All 3 sites are worth tapping the brakes—and even worth the trouble of getting out and enjoying.
East of the Sea of Galilee, a long plateau rises above the surrounding basins. For thousands of years, the Golan Heights in Israel has remained the envy of its environs—even to today.
Those who drive along the eastern side of the Sea of Galilee and its ridge on the Golan seldom see 3 sites with odd names and curious histories.
Here’s a hint at their names:
- Camel back
- Circles in circles
- Chinnereth port
Can you guess?
The New Testament never records Jesus visiting Tiberias. However a number of His followers came from there (John 6:23). Today, most of His followers go there to sleep in hotels.
Mentioned only once in the Bible, the city of Tiberias rested along the western shore of the Sea of Galilee (John 6:23). For this reason the lake sometimes has been called the “Sea of Tiberias” (John 6:1; 21:1). Although Christ may never have passed through Tiberias, He would have seen it many times from the lake.
For most Christians who visit Tiberias today, the city serves as little more than a place to sleep. Modern hotels cling to the northwestern shores of the Sea of Galilee.
But there is more to see in Tiberias today than hotels.
Ancient tombs lay open many places in Israel. With their original inhabitants decomposed, stolen, or relocated, these unoccupied sepulchers offer insights into history.
I’ve written several other posts about tombs in Israel, most notably:
There are more, to be sure. But I’d like to share several more tombs you can see in Israel, as well as their significance.
Most of these you can actually walk in—and thankfully, also walk out.
When you think of ancient Israel, it’s likely you don’t think of caves. And yet, the country has literally thousands of them that have played a role in history. They’re still there.
From the caves in Mount Arbel, to those that provide sheepfolds in Bethlehem, to the Qumran caves that preserved the Hebrew text, the land is honeycombed with caves.
(Photo: Exploring the Caves in Bet Guvrin-Maresha National Park. Photo by James Foo)
One area particularly filled with caves is the Shephelah, the low rolling foothills that slope down between the Hill Country of Judea and the Philistine plain. Not all of these subterranean labyrinths allow for spelunking visitors. But let’s look at two that do.
One of these caves men made thousands of years ago.
Another one God made over thousands of years.
After I bought my 1897 edition of The Historical Geography of the Holy Land, I opened its dingy, yellow pages and discovered I couldn’t turn some of them. The London publisher had made an error.
(Photo: I have to read this book with a pair of scissors.)
The book was printed on large sheets which were then cut and bound into the book. But some of the edges never got trimmed. I had to cut each pair of pages myself. At first this was a real hassle.
But then it hit me . . . I am the first person ever to read these pages!
The book sat on the shelf of some library or study for over a century—untouched! All its benefits . . . hidden. Nobody read them. Each time I cut a page seemed like cutting the ribbon on an unwrapped present. The rich descriptions George Adam Smith has written are the next best thing to pictures.
I bought a used book no one had used.
An Awkward Question
Then a question popped in my head: How long would it take me to notice if pages of my Bible were stuck together? The Bible is a book of treasures, often unwrapped, because we simply don’t realize its tremendous value to our lives.
I want to share with you 4 steps that can help you unwrap the Bible’s treasures.