Country number: 38
Territory number: 40
When? August 1990
Who? Group tour to Jordan, Palestine and Israel
‘It had a great and lofty wall and had twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and names were inscribed which are those of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel.’
John the Evangelist, Revelation
Over the Allenby Bridge and into Israel. The wait at immigration isn’t too bad – though the bus is comprehensively vetted. The Arabs taking through their trucks and buses are having a much harder time. Our entry visas are stamped on pieces of paper, to be collected when we return to Jordan. The Jordanians won’t object. They don’t recognise the State of Israel at this time. So we aren’t deemed to have strayed over the border.
North to Nazareth, huge and bustling. I’m thinking it’s very different to the scenes in the Bible where it is described as the home of Mary and Joseph. Next, Lake Galilee (very little fishing going on today) the scene of miracles, such as the Wedding at Cana and the Feeding of the Five Thousand with the loaves and the fishes and the place where Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount. Capernaum, another home of Jesus, has neat Roman ruins and some fascinating mosaics (the loaves and fishes feature here again).
Back, to Jerusalem, via the Mount of Olives. The city is hugely important to Moslems, Jews and Christians, but it’s a big disappointment, as it’s exceptionally quiet. Most of the stall holders are on strike, so the souks are empty, the shops all shuttered. The Dome of the Rock stands proudly above the city, a symbol to both Muslims and Jews and the site of Mohammed’s ascension to heaven. The Temple Mount, alongside is more vibrant than the rest of the city. The Wailing Wall is believed by Jews to be the last remnant of the second Temple and, so is the most revered of all Jewsih site. It is lined with people leaving prayers in the crevices and reciting their scriptures.
Close by are the renowned Christian sites designated as the Garden of Gethsemane and the Stations of the Cross on the Via Dolorosa, traditionally believed to be the route taken by Christ on the day of his execution. This leads to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the reputed place of the crucifixion, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Sadly, the close and convenient juxtaposition of these important sites in one building is hard to swallow, as is the tourist paraphernalia surrounding it and for me it’s a far from spiritual experience. I can only sympathise when some of my fellow tourists are ejected from the queue for the Holy Sepulchre by irate priests because they are giggling.
To read more about this journey see Palestine
According to the Bible, Israel’s origins can be traced back to Abraham, who is considered the father of both Judaism (through his son Isaac) and Islam (through his son Ishmael).
Abraham’s descendants were enslaved by the Egyptians for hundreds of years before the exodus led to them settling in Canaan – approximately the region of modern-day Israel.
The word Israel comes from the name given to Abraham’s grandson, Jacob, who was referred to as “Israel” by God in the Bible.
Around 1000 B.C. King David ruled the region. David’s’ son, Solomon, built the first temple in Jerusalem.
From 722 B.C. onwards the area was invaded and conquered by the Assyrians, the Babylonians (who destroyed the first temple, which was replaced by a second temple in about 516 B.C), the Persians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Fatimids, Seljuk Turks, Crusaders, Egyptians, Mamelukes, Islamists and others and the Jewish population was dissipated around the world.
Many Jews maintained links with their ancient homeland, especially following Nazi persecution and the Zionist movement grew up. In the late nineteenth century Jews began to relocate in what became known as Palestine (modern-day Israel, Palestine and Jordan).
Great Britain took control of the area, at the end of WW1, after the defeat of the Turks. After much negotiation, the independent state of Israel was declared on May 14, 1948 with David Ben-Gurion as the prime minister.
Throughout Israel’s long history, tensions between Jews and Arab Muslims have existed. The complex hostility between the two groups dates all the way back to ancient times when they both populated the area and deemed it holy. War erupted shortly after the State of Israel was declared and hostilities have continued since, most notably with the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, the Suez Crisis, the Six Day War and the Yom Kippur War.
Israel revived its ancient Hebrew language and established it as its national tongue
Israel’s $100 billion economy is larger than all its abutting neighbours combined. It has the highest standard of living in the Middle East.
To see more of my photos of Israel, visit this page.