Located in a cone-shape hill near Bethlehem, we find a palace built by Herod the Great. The Herodion is believed to be the burial place of this foreign benefactor representing the interests of Roman imperialism. The Herodion was used as a fortress against Rome during the Jewish Revolt. In 66 CE, it was captured by the Jewish Zealot sect who added baptismals and a tabernacle to the structure. Year later, it was one of Simon bar Kokhba’s headquarters, a messianic figure struggling against the Romans.
In the southern part of the West Bank, this Palestinian city, surrounded by Jewish settlers and military occupation, is known for being the traditional burial place for Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, and Jacob and Leah (known as “the Cave of the Patriarchs,” “the Cave of Machpelah” or “The Sanctuary of Abraham”). A 12th century-saladin mosque is built on top of the site where this burial place is. Hebron is venerated by Jews, Christians and Muslims.
Nazareth is located east of the Sea of Galilee and is believed to be the poor village where Jesus grew up until he became an adult. In the NT, to distinguish him from other people who had the same name and to underline his humble socio-economic conditions, Jesus is primarily identified by his followers as “Jesus of Nazareth ” (John 1:45; cf. Matthew 27:32). Nazareth was probably the poorest of all villages in Galilee during the first century. By up-bringing, choice and symbolism, Jesus ministered to the marginalized on his time.
This city is on the western bank of Palestine and has maintained a long history of suffering from conquests, up to the present. Moreover, it is the acclaimed birthplace of King David, a significant figure in Hebrew Scriptures, as well as that of Jesus’ (Matthew 2:1; Luke 2:4-7), the founder of the Early Christian Movement. However, though Bethlehem serves as an important maker in Judaism and Christianity, today it is a majority Muslim city.
Sitting on the summit of a hill in the old city of Jerusalem, and also known as the Dome of the Rock or the Temple Mount, this majestic house of prayer is one of the most venerated places for Islam. Tradition says that from here the Prophet Muhammad ascended into heaven. Encased underneath the dome is the Foundation Stone, the representation of the encounter of Earth and Heaven for the Jews. It is also here that the second Jewish Temple resided and where Abraham was commanded to sacrifice his son, Isaac (Gen. 22).
Located near the Jaffa Gate in the old city of Jerusalem, this tower was part of the old citadel, which was built in the 12th – 14th centuries, during the Mamluk and Ottoman periods. The name was given by Bizantine Christians who believed that this was the location of king David’s palace. The name was borrowed from Song of Songs 4:4.
At 430.5 meters (1,412 ft) under sea level, called “The Sea of Arabah,” and bordered by Jordan on the east and Israel and Palestine on its western coast, this wonder of the world is the lowest lake in the world and one of the saltiest. This is the lake whose waters the Ammonites and Moabites crossed in their assault against Jehoshaphat (2 Chronicles 20); King David also hid from Saul in the nearby Ein Gedi. In one his utopic visions, Ezekiel prophesied that one day its “salty water” would become fresh and swarms of living creatures and fish will live wherever the
river flows (Ezekiel 47:8-9).
The capital of Roman Judea and rebuilt by Herod the Great in honor of Cesar Augustus, this port in the north-western part of Palestine was the place where Phillip, consistent with the inclusive nature of Jesus’ message, preached the Gospel to Gentiles, and in whose home Paul was hosted during one of his missionary journeys to reach out to them (Acts 9:30; 18:22; 21:8). In Caesarea, the apostle Peter baptized Cornelius, a Roman centurion (Acts 10:47-48), and Paul stayed in prison for 2 years until he was sent to Rome (Acts 24:27; 25:1, 4, 6, 13).
“After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew, Bethesda, having five porches. In these lay a great multitude of sick people, blind, lame, paralyzed, waiting for the moving of the water. For an angel went down at a certain time into the pool and stirred up the water; then whoever stepped in first, after the stirring of the water, was made well of whatever disease he had” (John 5:1-4).