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Palestine

Main attractions

Dome of the Rock, Jerusalem
Dome of the Rock, Jerusalem / , Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Palestinian territories (or better simply - Palestine) has very special landmarks. This land has experienced the birth of Judaism and Christian religions and plays very important role also for Muslims. Billions of people see this land as the place of divine presence, with many sites linked to events of extremely high importance for believers and historicians.

Unfortunately - this has not brought much happiness to this chosen land. Even the holy places here are a subject of thousand years old conflicts and the status of Palestine as a country and - Jerusalem as its (or Israeli?) capital - is contested.

Highlights of Palestine are located in Jerusalem and are:

  • Holy Judaism sites. Here, in small area are concentrated the most important shrines of this ancient religion. The most important ones are: Temple Mount with Foundation Stone (now under Islamic shrine) and Western Wall.
  • Holy Christian sites. Similarily - some of the most important Christian shrines are located in Palestine, such as - Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Church of the Nativity and many others.
  • Holy Islamic sites. Some of the most important Islamic shrines are Al-Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock - both located on the ancient Judaism shrine: Temple Mount.

In the area of Palestine are found also very important archaeological monuments - such as the oldest known walled settlement - Jericho, which had a city wall already at 6800 BC.

More than 60 most important landmarks and attractions of Palestine are listed below:

Natural landmarks

Oak of Mamre
Oak of Mamre / Copper Kettle, Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0
  • al-Badawi - Jerusalem, Al-Walaja. Very old olive tree, believed to be even 5,000 years old.
  • Oak of Mamre (Oak of Sibta, Oak of Abraham) - Hebron. Very old oak tree, some consider it to be even 5,000 years old. According to legend Abraham has seen this tree. Oak is dead, but there is a living sprout.

 

Man made heritage

Prehistoric settlements

  • Erq al-Ahmar - Bethlehem. A cave where lived prehistoric people from Mousterian (some 50,000 years ago) to Bronze Age. Here has been discovered the oldest known stove in the world.
  • Shuqba Cave - Ramallah and al-Bireh. Site of Mesolithic settlement. Here people turned to sedentary way of life before the development of agriculture.
Colonnade in Samaria
Colonnade in Samaria / Snapshot of the Past, Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0

Ancient settlements

  • Anthedon - Gaza City. Ruins of ancient city, established circa 800 BC or earlier. This walled city has important Hellenistic seaport.
  • City of David - Jerusalem. Oldest part of Jerusalem - the biblical Jerusalem. Narrow ridge south from Old Jerusalem. Sign of habitation since 4500 BC. Walled city existed here in Bronze Age, circa 2000 - 1550 BC. King David reportedly built his palace here and established his capital. Currently inhabited. Under the city runs Hezekiah's Tunnel - ancient water supply tunnel.
  • Gibeon (Jib) - Jerusalem Governorate. Remains of ancient Canaanite city, founded in Early Bronze Age. Here have been excavated many prehistoric tombs, enormous wine cellars from 8th - 7th centuries BC.
  • Jericho (Tell es-Sultan) - Jericho. The lowest inhabited place and possibly - the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world. Already at 9400 BC here lived more than 1000 people, at 6800 BC the city was fortified with more than 3.6 m tall wall (one of the earliest city walls) and there was a stone watchtower with stone stairway. Since then city has been several times abandoned and resettled - also today there is a city next to the old mound.
  • Samaria - Nablus. Ruins of ancient city, inhabited for many millenia. Capital of the Kingdom of Israel in the 9th - 8th century BC. Rebuilt by Romans in 2nd century AD.
  • Tell Balata - Nablus. Remains of an ancient city, established in Late Bronze Age circa 3000 BC and abandoned in late 2nd century BC.
  • Tell es-Sakan - Gaza City. Ancient Egyptian maritime settlement, flourished in 3500 - 2350 BC. Settlement was enclosed with a city wall - the earliest known Egyptian city wall.

Cities and towns

  • Hebron Old City - Hebron. Well preserved old centre of Hebron with narrow, winding streets and historical architecture.
  • Jerusalem Old City - Jerusalem. One of most important and holiest cities in world history, one of the oldest cities. Settled in 4th millenia BC. Current massive walls around the Old City (0.9 ha) were last fortified in 1538 and have 11 gates, 7 are open. Divided in four traditional quarters - Armenian, Christian, Jewish and Muslim. Contains hundreds of monuments of world importance, such as the Dome of the Rock, Temple Mount, Wailing Wall, Church of the Holy Sepulchre, al-Aqsa Mosque. Crossed by Via Dolorosa - path where Jesus carried his cross.
  • Nablus Old City - Nablus. Fine representative of urban planning heritage in Palestine. City was founded in 72 AD by Romans and flourished in Byzantine and Umayyad periods. Thousands of historical buildings.
Detail of Hisham's Palace
Detail of Hisham's Palace / Casliber, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0

Ancient palaces

  • Herodium (Herod's Palace) - Bethlehem. Ruins of an impressive hilltop fortress, built by Herod in 1st century BC, destroyed by Romans in 71 AD.
  • Hisham's Palace - Jericho. Remains of Umayyad winter palace, built in 743 - 744 AD. Palace was adorned with exquisite mosaics. Destroyed in 747 AD by an earthquake. Includes depictions of semi-naked women - unique in Islamic art.
  • Large Stone Structure and Stepped Stone Structure - Jerusalem. Remnants of large stone building from 10th century BC. Possible remains of a royal palace - may be even the legendary King David's palace.
Temple Mount in Old Jerusalem
Temple Mount in Old Jerusalem / אסף.צ, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0

Judaism shrines

  • Beit El Synagogue - Jerusalem. Important centre for the kabbalistic studies, established in 1737.
  • Ramban Synagogue - Jerusalem. Oldest active synagogue in Jerusalem, founded in 1267. The building is built on the fundament of older buildings and seems to be constructed before Crusaders.
  • Shalom Al Yisrael Synagogue - Jericho. Synagogue from Byzantine times, from the late 6th or early 7th century AD.
  • Temple Mount - Jerusalem. A sacred site of huge importance for many millenia. This has been sacred site for Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Roman paganism. According to Judaism some aspect of Divine Presence is present here. On the mount are built Al Aqsa Mosque - third most sacred site for Muslims and Dome of the Rock with the Foundation Stone, as well as several more valuable structures. Also - one of the most contested religious sites in the world, especially between Judaists and Muslims. Here started the development of Jerusalem in 4th millenium BC. Under the Temple Mount is a maze of underground passages.
  • Wadi Qelt Synagogue - Jericho. The oldest known synagogue, from 70 - 50 BC. Simple building.
  • Western Wall (Wailing Wall) - Jerusalem. Important Jewish religious site - the only remaining part of Second Temple constructed circa 19 BC. Throughout the history this has been important site also for politics of Near East due to different events related to access of Jews to this wall. Wall is exposed for 60 m, additional 485 m are available along a Western Wall Tunnel. Contains Western Stone - 517 tonnes heavy monolith, one of the largest building blocks in the world.
Church of the Holy Sepulchre, interior of cupola
Church of the Holy Sepulchre, interior of cupola / bachmont, Flickr, CC BY 2.0

Christian shrines

  • Burqin Church - Jenin. Fifth oldest Christian holy place and the third oldest church in the world. According to legend, Jesus healed ten lepers here. First church was built here in Roman rock-cut cistern, it was extended in 6th - 9th century AD. The leper cave and 18th century church next to it can be seen today.
  • Chapel of Saint Helena - Jerusalem. 12th century Armenian church, originally made by Crusaders in premises of Hadrian's temple.
  • Cathedral of St. James - Jerusalem. The main Armenian church in Jerusalem, built circa 12th century. Here reportedly was sentenced James - brother of Jesus.
  • Chapel of the Ascension - Jerusalem, Mount of Olives. A site where according to Christian legend Jesus ascended into Heaven. After several centuries of secret worship a church was built here circa 390 AD and destroyed several times since then. Current chapel is built circa 1150 and contains Ascension Rock with a footprint - reportedly, right footprint of Jesus - last point on Earth touched by him.
  • Cenacle - Jerusalem. Legendary site - possible location of The Last Supper. This has been important pilgrimage site with many structures built and destroyed. Current shrine is built in Gothic style, it is undated, from 12th - 14th century. This is a mystery - who built it and when.
  • Church of Saint Porphyrius - Gaza City. Old church, originally built in 5th century AD, current one built by Crusaders in 1150ies or 1160ies, largely rebuilt since then.
  • Church of the Holy Sepulchre - Jerusalem. Symbolically one of the most important churches for Christians - located in place where Jesus was crucified and buried. Pilgrimage site since 4th century, church built since 333, rebuilt several times, last time in 1048, since then largely reconstructed.
  • Church of the Nativity - Bethlehem. Supposed location where Jesus Christ was born - the Holy Crypt is under the church. One of the oldest continuously operating churches, worshipped since circa 100 AD. Current basilica built in 565.
  • St. Annes Church - Jerusalem. Catholic church in Romanesque style, built in 1138 over the site where supposedly was born mother of Mary - Anne. Before this here was located a paganic shrine. Fine example of Romanesque architecture, with perfect acoustics for Gregorian chant.
Monastery of the Temptation, Jericho
Monastery of the Temptation, Jericho / Michele Benericetti, Flickr, CC BY 2.0

Christian monasteries

  • Mar Saba - Betlehem. Monastery, founded in 439 AD and still active. Located in dramatic setting, on steep cliff of canyon.
  • Monastery of the Temptation - Jericho. Monastery in a dramatic setting at the cliff face. First monastery was developed here in 6th century around a cave where, according to a legend, Jesus spent forty days and nights fasting and meditating. Monastery was rebuilt in 1895.
  • Monastery of the Virgins - Jerusalem, Temple Mound. Remains of Early Christian monastery, which was founded in 4th century AD and abandoned in 614. Nuns, which entered this small monastery, never left it and were buried here.
  • Tell Umm Amer - North Gaza. One of the oldest monastic complexes in the world, founded in 3rd century AD by Saint Hilario. Found beautiful mosaics.
Great Mosque of Nablus
Great Mosque of Nablus, beginning of 20th century / ArchNet, Wikipedia, public domain

Islamic shrines

  • Al-Aqsa Mosque - Jerusalem. One of holiest sites in Islam - Muhammad was transported here during the Night Journey from Mecca. Initially built in the first half of 7th century, current building from 1035. Located on Temple Mount - holiest site in Judaism.
  • Dome of the Rock - Jerusalem. A Muslim shrine, built in 691 AD over Second Jewish Temple and refurbished many times since then. Intended as a shrine for piligrims and not a mosque. The building is not typical for Islamic architecture (in Byzantine style) as this was an attempt to compete with Christian and other architecture in Jerusalem. At the heart of this building is Foundation Stone - the most sacred site for Judaists. The large, guilded dome of this building is one of the most noticeable features in Jerusalem skyline. A model for Templar churches around Europe.
  • Great Mosque of Gaza - Gaza City. Ancient structure, built in the site of Philistine temple. Constructed as Byzantine church in the 5th century, transformed into mosque in 7th century. Later ruined and rebuilt several times, current structure is from the late 16th century.
  • Great Mosque of Nablus - Nablus. Old mosque, originally built as a Christian church in 244 - 249 AD, rebuilt in Byzantine times. Mosque here is since 1187, but the main building is from Byzantine times.
  • Nabi Yahya Mosque - Nablus. Old mosque in Sebastiya village. Here was built a church in Byzantine times and also lated - by Crusaders in 1160. In 1187 this church was transformed into mosque. Largely rebuilt in the 19th century. Mosque has massive, buttressed walls.

Other shrines

  • Mamre - Hebron. Important Canaanic cult site, in use already in Bronze Age circa 2500 BC. Here Abraham saw apparition of angels.
  • Mount Gerizim Samaritan Temple - Nablus. Sacred site to Samaritan religion - a flat plateau with hollows - possible sites of dolmens. Found also a megalithic shrine made by Samaritans in the 5th or 6th century BC.
Tomb of Absalom, Jerusalem
Tomb of Absalom, late 19th century / Jennie King Mellon Library, Flickr, CC BY 2.0

Rock-cut tombs

  • Cave of the Patriarchs - Hebron. A system of rock cut passages under Hebron's old city, below Herodian structure. World's most ancient Jewish site. According to the legends here are buried the Patriarchs and Matriarchs of the Jewish people - Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca and Leah.
  • David's Tomb - Jerusalem. Purported burial site of David, King of Israel. Located in the ground floor of former church, below Cenacle.
  • Necropolis of the Kingdom of Judah - Jerusalem, Kidron Valley. Major group of some 50 rock-cut tombs, made in 9th - 7th century BC by people living in the City of David. Here were buried high ranked people. Tombs have been much destructed by Muslims, often used as houses or waste dumps. Site contains also later tombs, such as the magnificent Tomb of Benei Hezir from 2nd century BC and the monolithic Tomb of Zechariah.
  • Talpiot Tomb - Jerusalem. Interesting rock cut tomb, which contained 10 ossuaries and several carvings. One of the tombs has an incription "Jesus, son of Joseph", what has led to speculations that this is tomb of Jesus. This theory is not supported by specialists. Now covered with concrete slab.
  • Tomb of Absalom – Jerusalem. Legendary, monolithic rock-cut tomb from the 1st century AD.
  • Tomb of the Prophets Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi - Jerusalem, Mount of Olives. Rock cut tombs - catacombs, where the last Hebrew Bible prophets might be buried. Created circa 1st century BC. In the cliff are hewn two concentric passages with 38 burial niches.
  • Tombs of the Kings - Jerusalem. Group of magnificent rock cut tombs, most likely made in the times (1st century AD) of Queen Helena of Adiabene - an Assyrian / Jewish queen of Greek origin. This reflects in Greek style in the design of tombs.
Hezekiah's Tunnel, Jerusalem
Hezekiah's Tunnel, Jerusalem / Flavio Grynszpan, Flickr, CC BY 2.0

Ancient water supply systems

  • Belameh aqueduct - Jenin. Water tunnel, hewn in the cliff in Late Bronze Age or Early Iron Age. It was possible to walk through it. Fell into disuse in 8th century BC.
  • Hezekiah's Tunnel - Jerusalem. Water supply tunnel for Jerusalem, cut in the cliff before 701 BC. Tunnel is 533 m long and conveyed the water from Gihon springs to the city. Contains Siloam Inscription - a description of the construction of this tunnel in Paleo-Hebrew alphabet. Water of the spring still is flowing here.
  • Middle Bronze Age Jerusalem channel - Jerusalem. A rock cut aqueduct - tunnel, built in Middle Bronze age, circa 1800 BC.
  • Pool of Siloam - Jerusalem. Enormous rock cut pool - a reservoir of water for the City of David - predecessor of Jerusalem. Pool was fed by Gihon Spring - an intermittent source of fresh water. Pool was built in 1st century BC - but near it has been found an earlier rock-cut pool.
  • Solomon's Pools - Bethlehem. Impressive water supply system, developed in 2nd century BC - 1st century AD. Consists of three enormous cisterns which hold 2 million litres of spring water. Underground aqueduct supplied the water to Bethlehem and earlier - to Jerusalem.
Golden Gate, Jerusalem
Golden Gate, Jerusalem / Svetlana Grechkina, Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0

Sites of legends

Palestine takes large part of Holy Land - an area in Near East between Jordan River and Mediterranean Sea. This small land - and especially - Jerusalem City - is of huge importance for three major world religions - Judaism, Christianism and Islam.

People have attributed enormous importance to the events which took place here, developing many tales and gradually turning these stories into official teachings. Now many millions are visiting the places where some events in the past have taken place... or may be were invented?

  • Dome of the Chain - Jerusalem. One of the oldest structures on Temple Mount - a free standing dome, built as a prayer house for Muslims in 691 AD, although some parts are pre-Islamic. Site of legends - where a chain between the Heaven and Earth was suspended and where Judgement Day will occur.
  • Garden Tomb - Jerusalem. Rock cut cistern, widely (and most likely - erroneously) considered to be the site of the burial and resurrection of Jesus.
  • Golden Gate - Jerusalem. A site of legends, where, according to Jewish tradition, Messiah will enter Jerusalem. First city gate was built here several centuries BC, present one - circa 520 AD. Gates were sealed in 1541 by Suleiman the Magnificent and a Muslim cemetery was built in front of it - reportedly, to prevent Messiah from coming.
  • Jacob's Well - Nablus. 41 m deep well, hewn in live rock some 2000 years ago. According to Bible, Jesus was resting here and speaking to a Samaritan women. A church has been constructed over the well in 384 AD, but nowadays here stands much newer church.
  • Mary's Tomb - Jerusalem. Purported burial site of Mary, the mother of Jesus - as believed by Eastern Christians. Her tomb was empty in the third day. Here has been built a shrine - current one in 1130ies. From the shrine one enters the underground tomb.
  • Tomb of Lazarus - near Jerusalem. Rock cut tomb - according to legends here is buried Lazarus - am an rised from the dead by Jesus. This structure well might be from the times of Lazarus.
  • Well of Souls - Jerusalem. Natural cave in Temple Mount, under the Dome of the Rock. Partly reshaped over many centuries. Site of legends.
Qumran Cave No 4
Qumran Cave No 4. / Alan Mayers, Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0

Other monuments

  • Caves of Qumran - Jerusalem Governorate. 11 caves, where nearly 900 Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered. Near the caves are ruins of some ancient structures.
  • Gethsemane - Jerusalem. Garden at the foot of the Mount of Olives. According to the Bible and legends, here Jesus and his disciples prayed in the night before Jesus' crucifixion. Today this is a beautiful park.
  • Qubur Bani Isra'il - Jerusalem. Megalithic structures - walled enclosures, 15 by 3 m large, made of enormous stones. Initially here were 5 such structures, now - 4.
  • Robinson's Arch - Jerusalem. Remnants of an old overpass, built at the end of the 1st century AD. This intersection is an interesting example of ancient urban planning. Span of arch was 15 m.
  • Zedekiah's Cave - Jerusalem. 20,000 m² large underground limestone quarry, carved over several millenia. Located under the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem.

List of described attractions by governorates

Palestinian territories consist of two disjunct areas - Gaza Strip and West Bank. These territories are divided into 16 governorates:

Gaza Strip

Deir al-Balah
Gaza
Khan Yunis
North Gaza
Rafah

West Bank

Bethlehem
Hebron
Jenin
Jericho
Jerusalem
ArrowAl-Aqsa MosqueIslamic shrines
Nablus
Qalqilya
Salfit
Ramallah and Al-Bireh
Tubas
Tulkarm

Map of Palestine