Some of Israel's top attractions are the array of the monumental churches scattered around the country. Here are ten highlights from this important Holy Land attraction, including landmark Jerusalem churches, like the Holy Sepulchre and the Church of the Nativity, St. Gabriel’s Church and the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth and others in the north especially worth a visit. Most of these churches in Israel are filled to the brim with visitors during peak holiday months for Christmas and Easter, but their architectural beauty and prolific ancient history make them worthwhile places to visit at any time of the year.
Must-see churches in Israel
These churches in Israel – especially Jerusalem – are among the most beautiful in the world for worship and sightseeing
Insider's guide to the best churches in Israel
One of the oldest continuously used churches in the world, the Church of the Nativity is more of a complex, as it also houses the Church of St. Catherine and the Grotto of the Nativity. Visitors should be aware that Bethlehem is beyond the Green Line, and is thus not part of Israel’s internationally recognized boundaries and is governed by the Palestinian Authority. A recognized tourist spot, it is considered safe, but be aware that crossing there from Israel will require you to go through Israeli checkpoints, so have your passport ready.
Built on the site revered by Christians as the location of Jesus' resurrection, the church has been a location of pilgrimage since the 4th century. Christians of all denominations and people from around the world can be seen visiting its various frankincense laden vestibules and chambers.
The Basilica is the largest Catholic church in the Middle East and was built in 1969 over the remains of previous Byzantine and Crusader churches. Before entering, take your time admiring the fascinating mosaics of Mary and Jesus in the portico. Donated by Catholic communities from all corners of the world, they are a moving testament to the poignancy of the mother and child across many cultural divides. After viewing the lower church, walk up a spiral staircase to the upper church to see the building’s most celebrated feature – the dome.
In the heart of Jaffa's Old City, this church is dedicated to Saint Peter's raising Tabitha from the dead, which is reported to have occurred in Jaffa. With roots from the 16th Century, the 19th Century building features an impressive vaulted ceiling, stained glass windows, and marble walls.
It is here that Jesus is said to have uttered such phrases as “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” and “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they are the children of God.” Known as the eight Beatitudes, they uplift those in society who are the most downtrodden, and are enough to inspire believers and social activists alike. With eight sides meant to represent the eight phrases, the church itself is small, simple and lovely and does not attempt to compete with the breathtaking natural beauty of the spot.
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