Israel is home to numerous famous landmarks that are sacred to the world’s three major religions, and despite political unrest, the Holy Land continues to draw millions of visitors each year from throughout the world, with more than 3.5 million tourists traveling there in 2013.
Here are six must-see religious sights in Israel:
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The Church of the Holy Sepulchre
Located in the Old City of Jerusalem, The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is considered by many to be the holiest Christian site in the world. Believed to be on the site where Jesus was crucified, buried, and resurrected, the church began in 326 AD after Emperor Constantine the Great converted to Christianity and commissioned churches throughout the Holy Land.
The Temple Mount
Sacred to Jews, Muslims, and Christians, The Temple Mount is a plateau in the Old City of Jerusalem that was a center of worship in ancient times. It is believed to be the site of the altar Abraham built with the intention of sacrificing his son Isaac. The First Temple was built to house the Ark of the Covenant and destroyed in 587 BC. The Second Temple later was built on the site and destroyed during the rebellion against Rome. All that remains is a portion of the Western Wall. The Dome of the Rock is an Islamic shrine over what is believed to be the altar stone of both temples as well as Abraham’s altar.
The Western Wall
Also called The Wailing Wall, The Western Wall is all that remains of the Second Temple and is considered the holiest Jewish site. Jews travel from throughout the world to pray at the Western Wall.
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Mount Zion is believed to include the site where Jesus held the Last Supper as well as the Tomb of King David. Mount Zion also includes Dormition Abbey, which is where Catholics believe the Virgin Mary fell into eternal sleep.
Many Christians find a meaningful point in their visit to Jerusalem to be walking the route that Jesus took between his arrest and crucifixion. The route begins near the Lions’ Gate and ends at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, with plaques marking 14 Stations of the Cross.
Mount of Olives
Rising above East Jerusalem, the Mount of Olives has held an important Jewish cemetery for more than 3,000 years. It also includes the site where Jesus wept at a vision of Jerusalem lying in ruins; the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus was arrested; and the believed site where Jesus ascended to heaven.
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