So you want to visit the Holy Lands and see the significant places of the Old & New Testament - watch it come to life? That is magnificent! The only thing you may not have considered is the fact that Israel is home to several religious belief origins - so you won't be the only religious group there.
Religious Diversity In Israel
While we know that Jesus was born in Israel and performed numerous miracles there, it's important to recognize that both Jewish and Muslim faiths trace their heritage back to Israel as well. This has resulted in the Holy Land being a place of pilgrimage for countless people. However, it's worth noting that the convergence of multiple faiths has, on occasion, led to tensions and conflicts.
Christian Roots In Israel
Well, as you may know - Christians stem from the Jewish belief system. Tracing the story back to Adam & Eve, our stories align until the New Testament. We see Abraham being promised to have descendants as numerous as the stars - and he gives birth to his son Isaac in his old age. Isaac has twins: Esau and Jacob (or Israel.) Israel becomes the father of a tribe of chosen people whom the Lord guided out of Egypt and to the promised land. They were promised a Messiah from the line of David - and as Christians, we believe that Savior to be Jesus Christ.
Jesus does most of his ministry within Israel. Some notable places that his ministry included were:
Bethlehem, where Jesus was born (Luke 2:1-20)
Nazareth, where Jesus grew up (Luke 4:16-30)
Capernaum, where Jesus did many miracles & the fishing village of Peter (Matthew 13:17)
Bethany, the home of his friend Lazarus (John 11:1-44)
Mount of Olives, where Jesus gave many testimonies (Matthew 24:3)
Jerusalem, where Jesus did a lot of his ministry and was crucified outside its walls (Matthew 27:33)
Jewish Roots In Israel
However, 84% of the people in Israel today are still Jewish. They are still waiting for a Savior to come. That means that they are still waiting in their Promised Land, treasuring the Old Testament significance of many of the places there - but they don't believe that Jesus was the answer.
Some places that they would want to visit there include:
Mount Zion, King David's Tomb (1 Kings 2:10)
Jerusalem, Western Wall - a remnant from the ancient Jewish temple (Ezra 1:2)
Jerusalem, City of David the oldest remains in Jerusalem (2 Samuel 5:6-9)
Cave of the Patriarchs, where it is believed that Adam & Eve, Abraham & Sarah, Isaac & Rebecca, Jacob & Leah are laid to rest. (Genesis 23:9-20)
Mount Carmel, where Elijah sacrificed the false prophets (1 Kings 18)
Muslim Community In Israel
On the other hand, Muslims comprise roughly 14% of the population. They have incorporated elements of the Abrahamic story into their belief system. They regard Jesus as a significant prophet, similar to how Christians perceive Moses or Elijah. However, a stark contrast emerges when it comes to the identity of Jesus as the Savior. Muslims, while respecting Him, do not consider Him the Messiah.
Their faith centers around Allah, and they are bound by the expectation of living a life of moral and ethical perfection. It is because of this expectation of perfection, that Christians can recognize that Allah is not the same God Christians worship.
While Muslim's actions are subject to continuous scrutiny and bear consequences for their final destination. Whereas, Christians know that Jesus is the only way, truth, and life - and as such - without belief in Him we can't get to heaven. We do good works in response to His sacrificial love, but we know that some people will do great kind works and yet not believe - and as such won't make it to heaven.
Places that they may want to visit include:
The Dome of the Rock, where Muslims believe Muhammad began the Night Journey
Al-Aqsa Mosque, the mosque where Muhammad began the Night Journey
Al-Haram Al-Ibrahimim, the tomb of Abraham
Are all of these faiths equal?
The world would like to teach us so. Their way of respecting others is act as though people are in the wrong for addressing these differences. But, Christ was not afraid to be firm on the truth.
He is the way, the truth, and the life - no one comes to the Father except through Him. (John 14:6)
This means that Jews and Muslims are still lost from eternity. So, as travelers, how do we respond?
Quite simply, we use our travels to glorify Him. We use our conversations to sing His praise. But we do it in a way that seeks to respect another person's way of life, asking questions and seeking to understand. We take the time to learn and study their religion, their culture, and their history - so that we can approach it with kindness and respect.
In fact, in our podcast, we are currently going through each country alphabetically to explore the many wonders there - but we are also taking time in each episode to reflect on their religion and history - so that as a traveler you are better prepared to be a witness and be more confident to plant that spiritual seed.
So when you get to Israel - you can expect to meet:
Christians who are admiring the truth of the New & Old Testament
Jews who are waiting for a Savior in their Promise Land
Muslims who follow a lot of rules in hopes of achieving perfection
That's why we always encourage you to tour Israel with a Christian group. While these other groups have lessons we can learn as well - Christians will look at these historical sites through a different lens and can help you to continue to grow in your faith even after the trip.