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Holy Land Tours: A Primer on Israel, Its Landscape and Its People

If you're thinking about visiting Israel, the following information will help you make your decision by giving you a foundational knowledge about the country, its landscape and its people.

  1. About Israel
  2. Why do Catholics visit the Holy Land?
  3. Frequently asked questions

About Israel

The region of Israel, also known as The Holy Land, has a 5000-year history. This region was amongst the earliest to see human habitation, agricultural communities and civilization.

Israel is the birthplace of the Jewish people, the Hebrew Bible, Judaism and Christianity. The country is home to numerous sacred sites for people of all religions and faiths. On May 14th, 1948, it was established as a Jewish State.

Characteristics of the Population

The State of Israel has a diverse population of 8.8 million people. Approximately 80% of its population is Jewish — 42% secular, 38% traditional and 20% Orthodox. The other 20% of the population is a mix of Muslims, Christians, Druze and Baha'i.

Jaffa Harbour, Israel

The languages spoken in Israel are as diverse as its people. Hebrew is the official language and is used in daily life. However, Arabic is widely spoken, as is English, Russian and Yiddish. Though Hebrew is the official language, many of Israel’s logos and road signs are written in the universal language of English.

Israel’s population has grown ten-fold since its inception 74 years ago. It is a densely populated country with a median age of 30 years. With a low infant mortality rate (5.8 deaths for every 1000 births) and a higher than average life expectancy (83 years), it’s easy to understand the rapid growth in population size.

Landscape and Natural Wonders

With deserts in the South and snow-capped mountains in the North, Israel displays a multitude of varying terrains. The country is approximately 8,000 square miles bordered by Lebanon, Syria, Jordan/West Bank and Egypt. It is located in Western Asia on the Eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea, with the Red Sea running along its Southern coastline.

The Dead Sea

The Dead Sea is a natural wonder bordering Jordan and The West Bank. It has a salinity of 33.7% and drops to 1385 feet below sea level. Because of the high salt content, floating is a natural phenomenon in the Dead Sea. Another awe-inspiring location is Tel Aviv. is Located on the Mediterranean coast, Tel Aviv is known for its culture, cuisine, beaches and nightlife. With skyscrapers, museums and over 4000 Bauhaus style buildings, Tel Aviv is a modern and historical city.

Native Trees, Plants and Animals

Israel has many species of trees, with over 200 million in the country. The al-Badawi tree, located in the village of Al-Walaja District of Bethlehem, is approximately 4000 years old with a trunk that is 82 feet in circumference.

Olive Tree

Pine, tamarisk and carob trees are also plentiful in Israel, but the eucalyptus tree is most prevalent. Fruit trees bloom from January to April bearing delicious citrus, stone and seeded fruits.

The National animal is the Israeli gazelle, sometimes called the mountainous gazelle. Wild boar, foxes, jungle cats, hyenas, jackals, wolves and the Nubian ibex are some of the 116 animal species in the country. Israel has 300 times more species of animals than the entire European continent.

Why do Catholics Visit the Holy Land?

A trip to Israel gives Catholic pilgrims an opportunity to follow the footsteps of Jesus from His birth to His crucifixion. Here, Catholics journey back in time to holy sites such as:

  1. The Sea of Galilee: where Jesus performed miracles, such as walking on water, calming the storm, and feeding the multitudes
  2. The Mount of Beatitudes: the serene and beautiful location of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount
  3. The Garden of Gethsemane: the site where Jesus prayed on the night of his betrayal and arrest
  4. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre: the site where Jesus was crucified and which is revered by Catholic Pilgrims as the holiest land
  5. The Church of the Primacy of Saint Peter: A Franciscan church in Tabgha - on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee - where Jesus reinstated Peter as chief among the Apostles

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Is it safe to go on pilgrimage to the Holy Land?

    Although Israel is a country in conflict, it is quite safe as a travel destination. Millions of tourists visit Israel each year. Israel has a very low crime rate because they place the highest value on personal safety. A trip to Israel is both safe and deeply enriching.

  2. What is the weather like in Israel?

    The weather in Israel is similar to the climate in California, United States — the country experiences hot summers and mild winters.

    June through September is warm, with temperatures between 80 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit. October through December and March through May are pleasant, with temperatures between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

    January through March has fluctuating climates, more rain and temperatures between 50 to 60 degrees. Jerusalem and the Galilee hills can be very cold at night, while Tel Aviv is hot and humid.

  3. What should you wear when visiting Israel?

    Planning your attire is simple when traveling to Israel. Casual and comfortable is always good.

    Summer is warm, so pack lightweight clothing that can be layered for cool evenings. Comfortable shoes are recommended for walking and touring. When traveling to religious sites, it is advised to dress modestly - covering shoulders, knees and chest when visiting churches, mosques and the Western Wall.

    If traveling in winter, pack for cold and rainy weather. A water-resistant jacket, rain boots and sweaters are also recommended for unpredictable weather.

    It’s a good idea to pack a bathing suit, hat, sunscreen, bug repellant, and water bottle regardless of the season.

  4. Can you visit the place where Jesus was crucified?

    Yes. Jesus was crucified and resurrected from the dead at the site of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre located in the Old City of Jerusalem. This destination is regarded as one of the holiest pilgrimage sites.

Israel is one of the most historical destinations in the world. Many are called to return to the Holy Land where Jesus led the masses through His teachings of forgiveness and love.
Glimmer Tours offers fully-inclusive, expertly crafted Catholic Pilgrimages to the Holy Land. If you have dreamt of such a pilgrimage, Glimmer Tours has you covered.