Top Ten Israeli Attractions

 Top Ten Israeli Attractions

       The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic in Western Asia, located on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea. It borders Lebanon in the north, Syria in the northeast, Jordan and the West Bank in the east, Egypt and the Gaza Strip on the southwest, and contains geographically diverse features within its relatively small area. Israelis the world’s only Jewish-majority state, and is defined as a Jewish and democratic state in its Basic Laws. Following the 1947 United Nations decision to partition Palestine, on May 14, 1948 David Ben-Gurion, the Executive Head of the World Zionist Organization and president of the Jewish Agency for Palestine, declared Israel a state independent from the British Mandate for Palestine. Neighboring Arab states invaded the next day in support of the Palestinian Arabs. Since then, Israel has fought a series of wars with neighboring Arab states, and has occupied territories, including the West Bank, Sinai Peninsula, Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights, beyond those delineated in the 1949 Armistice Agreements. Portions of these territories, including Jerusalem, have been annexed by Israel but the border with the neighboring West Bank is still not formally defined, as a result of the complex and unresolved political situation. Israel has signed peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan, but efforts by elements on both sides of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict to solve the problem diplomatically have so far met with little or no success. The population of Israel was estimated in June 2011 to be 7,751,000 people, of whom 5,818,200 are Jewish. Arabs form by far the country’s 2nd largest ethnic group, which includes Muslims and Christians. Other minorities are Druze, Circassians and Samaritans. In the Golan Heights, Arabs are entitled to citizenship but most of them have rejected it in favor of “loyalty to Syria.” According to a 2008 census, 1,579,700 Arabs live in East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. Israel is a developed country and a representative democracy with a parliamentary system and universal suffrage. The Prime Minister serves as head of government and the Knesset serves as Israel’s unicameral legislative body. The economy, based on the nominal gross domestic product, was the 42nd largest in the world in 2010 and it has one of the highest life expectancies in the world.

  1. King Solomon’s Temple and the Wailing Wall

           Solomon’s Temple was the temple in Jerusalem, on the Temple Mount (also known as Mount Zion), before its destruction by Nebuchadnezzar II after the Siege of Jerusalem of 587 BC. According to the Hebrew Bible, the temple was constructed under Solomon, king of the Israelites. This would date its construction to the 10th century BC, but it is possible that the temple continued an earlier Jebusite sanctuary predating the Israelite conquest of Jerusalem. During the kingdom of Judah, the temple was dedicated to Yahweh, the God of Israel and housed the Ark of the Covenant. Because of the religious sensitivities involved, and the politically volatile situation in East Jerusalem, only limited archaeological surveys of the Temple Mount have been conducted. There is no archaeological reconstruction of the temple as it stood at the time of its destruction by Nebuchadnezzar. It is plausible that the temple had been substantially remodeled, or even reconstructed in its entirety, over the period between its supposed construction under Solomon and its destruction about three centuries later. Rabbinic sources state that the First Temple stood for 410 years and, based on the 2nd century work Seder Olam Rabbah, place construction in 832 BC and destruction in 422 BC, 165 years later than secular estimates. The Western Wall is located in the Old City of Jerusalem at the foot of the western side of the Temple Mount. It is a remnant of the ancient wall that surrounded the Jewish Temple’s courtyard, and is one of the most sacred sites in Judaism outside of the Temple Mount itself. Just over half the wall, including its 17 courses located below street level, dates from the end of the Second Temple period, having been constructed around 19 BC by Herod the Great. The remaining layers were added from the 7th century onwards. The Western Wall refers not only to the exposed section facing a large plaza in the Jewish Quarter, but also to the sections concealed behind structures running along the whole length of the Temple Mount, such as the Little Western Wall–a 25 ft (8 m) section in the Muslim Quarter. It has been a site for Jewish prayer and pilgrimage for centuries, the earliest source mentioning Jewish attachment to the site dating from the 4th century. With the rise of the Zionist movement in the early 20th century, the wall became a source of friction between the Jewish community and the Muslim religious leadership, who were worried that the wall was being used to further Jewish nationalistic claims to the Temple Mount and Jerusalem. Outbreaks of violence at the foot of the wall became commonplace and an international commission was convened in 1930 to determine the rights and claims of Muslims and Jews in connection with the wall. After the 1948 Arab-Israeli War the wall came under Jordanian control and Jews were barred from the site for 19 years until Israel captured the Old City in 1967.
    Links: Temples, Top Ten Walls,,
  2. The Dome of the Rock

           The Dome of the Rock is a shrine located on the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem. The structure has been refurbished many times since its initial completion in 691 AD at the order of Umayyad Caliph Abd al-Malik. The site’s significance stems from religious traditions regarding the rock, known as the Foundation Stone, at its heart.
    Links: Top Ten Domes, Top Ten Rocks/Stones,,
  3. Israel Museum (The Shrine of the Book)

           The Israel Museum, Jerusalem was founded in 1965 as Israel’s national museum. It is situated on a hill in the Givat Ram neighborhood of Jerusalem, near the Knesset, the Israeli Supreme Court, and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The museum’s holding include 500,000 objects with some 7,000 objects and works currently online. The Shrine of the Book, a wing of the Israel Museum near Givat Ram in Jerusalem, houses the Dead Sea Scrolls, discovered 1947–56 in 11 caves in and around the Wadi Qumran. The head architects were Armand Phillip Bartos (1910–2005) and Frederick John Kiesler (1890–1965). The architectural team also included Gezer Heller, who went on to build many important structures in the new State of Israel. The shrine is built as a white dome, covering a structure placed two-thirds below the ground, that is reflected in a pool of water that surrounds it. Across from the white dome is a black basalt wall. The colors and shapes of the building are based on the imagery of the Scroll of the War of the Sons of Light Against the Sons of Darkness; the white dome symbolizes the Sons of Light and the black wall symbolizes the Sons of Darkness. As the fragility of the scrolls makes it impossible to display all on a continuous basis, a system of rotation is used. After a scroll has been exhibited for 3–6 months, it is removed from its showcase and placed temporarily in a special storeroom, where it “rests” from exposure. The museum also holds other rare ancient manuscripts and displays The Aleppo Codex.
    Links: Museums and Galleries, Top Ten Ancient Manuscripts,,
  4. Church of the Holy Sepulchre

           The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, also called the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre, or the Church of the Resurrection by Eastern Christians, is a church within the Christian Quarter of the walled Old City of Jerusalem. It is a few steps away from the Muristan. The site is venerated as Golgotha (the Hill of Calvary), where Jesus was crucified, and is said also to contain the place where Jesus was buried (the Sepulchre). The church has been a paramount – and for many Christians the most important – pilgrimage destination since at least the 4th century, as the purported site of the resurrection of Jesus. Today it also serves as the headquarters of the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, while control of the building is shared between several Christian churches and secular entities in complicated arrangements essentially unchanged for centuries. Today, the church is home to Eastern Orthodoxy, Oriental Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism. Anglican, Nontrinitarian and Protestant Christians have no permanent presence in the church and tend to venerate the alternative Garden Tomb, elsewhere in Jerusalem, as the true place of Jesus’s crucifixion and resurrection. A trend among visitors to the spot (standing outside the Church) is to applaud loudly during the ringing of bells. This is to recognize the unique beauty of the Church and its unique history. The origin of this practice is in dispute; one source describes a similar act in the Peter Greenaway movie The Belly of an Architect.
    Links: Top Ten Dome Interiors,,
  5. Old City of Acre

           Acre is a city in the Western Galilee region of northern Israel at the northern extremity of Haifa Bay. Acre is one of the oldest continuously inhabited sites in the country. Historically, it was a strategic coastal link to the Levant. Acre is the holiest city of the Bahá’í Faith. In 2009, the population was 46,300. Acre is a mixed city, 72% Jewish and 28% Arab.
  6. Incense Route (Desert Cities in the Negev)

           The Incense Route along the Desert Cities in the Negev is a World Heritage-designated itinerary in the Negev, southern Israel. Four towns located in the Negev Desert are linked directly to the Mediterranean terminus of both the Incense Road and Spice routes. These towns include Avdat, Haluza, Mamshit and Shivta. They were constructed by the Nabataean, an old Arabic tribe, whose capital is Petra in the Hashemite kingdom of Jordan, as well as multiple ancient fortresses and desert agricultural landscapes. As a group, these desert cities demonstrate the significantly lucrative trade in frankincense and myrrh that took place from south Arabia to the Mediterranean. At its height, from the 3rd century BC to the 2nd century AD, the routes included sophisticated cityscapes, irrigation systems, fortresses and caravanserai. The vestiges of these works are still visible in the present day and demonstrate the use of the desert for commerce and agriculture.
    Links: Top Ten Incenses,,,,,,
  7. Baha’i Holy Places in Haifa and Western Galilee

           The Bahá’í World Centre buildings are buildings that are part of the Bahá’í World Centre in Israel. The Bahá’í World Centre buildings include both the Bahá’í holy places used for pilgrimage and the international administrative bodies of the Bahá’í Faith; they comprise more than 20 different administrative offices, pilgrim buildings, libraries, archives, historical residences and shrines. These structures are all set amidst more than 30 different gardens or individual terraces. The buildings themselves are located in Haifa, Acre and Bahjí, Israel. The location of the Bahá’í World Centre buildings has its roots to Bahá’u’lláh’s imprisonment in Acre, which is near Haifa, by the Ottoman Empire during the Ottoman Empire’s rule over Palestine, now Israel. Many Bahá’í holy places in Haifa and around Acre, including the terraces and the Shrine of the Báb on the north slope on Mount Carmel, and the Shrine of Bahá’u’lláh, the Mansion of Bahji, and the Mansion at Mazra’ih were inscribed on the World Heritage List in July 2008.
  8. Masada

           Masada is the name for a site of ancient palaces and fortifications in the South District of Israel, on top of an isolated rock plateau, or horst, on the eastern edge of the Judean Desert overlooking the Dead Sea. After the First Jewish-Roman War, a siege of the fortress by troops of the Roman Empire led to the mass suicide of the Sicarii rebels. It is located about 20 km (12 mi) east of Arad.
  9. White City of Tel Aviv

           The White City refers to a collection of over 4,000 Bauhaus or International style buildings built in Tel Aviv from the 1930’s by German Jewish architects who immigrated to the British Mandate of Palestine after the rise of the Nazis. Tel Aviv has the largest number of buildings in this style of any city in the world. Preservation, documentation, and exhibitions have brought attention to Tel Aviv’s collection of 1930’s architecture. In 2003, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) proclaimed Tel Aviv’s White City a World Cultural Heritage site, as “an outstanding example of new town planning and architecture in the early 20th century.” The citation recognized the unique adaptation of modern international architectural trends to the cultural, climatic, and local traditions of the city.
  10. Qumran

           Qumran is an archaeological site in the West Bank. It is located on a dry plateau about a mile inland from the northwestern shore of the Dead Sea, near the Israeli settlement and kibbutz of Kalia. The Hellenistic period settlement was constructed during the reign of John Hyrcanus, 134-104 BC or somewhat later, and was occupied most of the time until it was destroyed by the Romans in 68 AD or shortly after. It is best known as the settlement nearest to the caves in which the Dead Sea Scrolls were hidden, caves in the sheer desert cliffs and beneath, in the marl terrace.
    Links: Top Ten Scrolls, Top 100 Ancient Texts, Top Ten Examples of Early Writing,
  11. Biblical Tels (Tel Megiddo, Tel Hazor and Tel Be’er Sheva)

           A tell or tel, is a type of archaeological mound created by human occupation and abandonment of a geographical site over many centuries. A classic tell looks like a low, truncated cone with a flat top and sloping sides.
  12. Links: Top Ten Israeli Hotels, Top Ten Israeli Restaurants,