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Experience all the history of the Holy Land for yourself via the city of Ashdod, Israel’s largest port and one of the oldest cities in the world. Ashdod was once thought to have housed the Ark of the Covenant, and the city has changed hands many times over the centuries because of its important location on the Mediterranean. Ashdod lies just 33 miles west of Jerusalem, making it the ideal port from which to take a shore excursion to this truly historic city.
Ashdod is known primarily as the gateway to Jerusalem, and there’s often a great choice of shore trips that can take you on a guided tour around the unforgettable sights of this ancient part of the world:
During your tour of Jerusalem be sure to see the towering western wall of the Second Temple, crowded daily with devout Jews praying at the shrine. The wall is the foremost religious site in Judaism, thought to have been built under the command of King Herod just before the birth of Jesus. Look closely during your visit to the wall – you’ll find that the gaps between the stone blocks have been filled with written prayers.
Your shore excursion may give you the chance to see the tragic Yad Vashem, Jerusalem’s museum complex dedicated to the remembrance of the Holocaust. Most of the complex lies underground, and includes several galleries dedicated to the origins and terrible realities of this dark time in modern history. Be sure to see the Hall of Names too, the memorial to the six million victims where 600 photographs and biographies line the circular monument.
Church of the Holy Sepulchre
Also known as the Church of the Resurrection, this Baroque basilica in the Old City’s Christian Quarter represents Christianity’s most sacred ancient site, where Christ was thought to have been crucified, interred and resurrected. Once inside the church you’ll want to search out the Aedicule in the rotunda, the site of the holy sepulcher (burial place) itself.
There’s no shortage of places to browse if you’re looking for souvenirs of your time in Jerusalem. Ceramics are a favourite local craft, and there are plenty of great places to shop if you’re looking to take home some traditional hand-painted tiles. Other shops stock objects of faith like candlesticks and prayer shawls, while there’s also rich pickings in the fine art stakes too – be it centuries-old artefacts for sale, or pop art by contemporary Jewish and Israeli artists.
There’s something for everyone around Jerusalem when it comes to fine dining. There’s no lack of places to enjoy some delicious Israeli fare, including tabbouleh, meatballs, hummus, pita and savoury pastries; or tuck into some Mediterranean or South American dishes elsewhere in the city. Be sure to take a peek inside some of Jerusalem’s more bohemian cafes and restaurants too, to get a true feel for this city’s vibrant musical and literary culture.
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