The land of Israel serves as a central focal point for pilgrimages of the three major monotheistic religions of
Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, as well as for those of the Baha'i faith.
Rich with history, it was in the land of Israel that those of the Christian faith believe Jesus was born, lived, crucified and resurrected.
Where Muslims believe Muhammad ascended to heaven to meet the prophets of Islam.
Where the Baha'I believe their prophet Baha'u'llah was exiled; and what Jews believe God claimed for them as the "promised land."
It is no wonder then that thousands of visitors to Israel come as pilgrims, embarking on long journeys, or pilgrimages, to the holy land in order to visit sites and shrines of spiritual and religious significance.
While independent travelers can plan their own itineraries centered around the major pilgrimage sites, faith-based programs and Christian-themed tours of holy sites are also available for church groups, individuals, and families through private tour companies.
These range from short day trips and one-city tours to extended week-long tours to Christian holy sites throughout Israel.These tours can be tailor-made to suit the interests of Christian pilgrim groups or individuals.
Arrangements can also be made for visitors to participate in daily mass in shrines in Jerusalem, Nazareth, Bethlehem and on Mt. Tabor.
Likewise, tour guides can arrange special accommodation in Catholic guest houses and lectures by spiritual leaders.
A typical itinerary would include some of the most must-see holy sites in Israel. The city of Jerusalem certainly tops the list, serving as the backdrop for some of the most important events in Christianity.
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Via Dolorosa, the Tomb of Mary, and the Garden Tomb are all major pilgrimage sites in Jerusalem.
Next on the list would likely be the town of Bethlehem, where visitors flock to the Church of the Nativity – birthplace of Jesus.
Especially popular during the Christmas season, Bethlehem's St. Catherine's Church holds a midnight mass on Christmas eve that is broadcasted globally.
Jesus' hometown of Nazareth and the Sea of Galilee, site of Jesus' early ministry days, are additional sites of interest to Christian pilgrims.