Christianity is bound up with Israel (the holy Land), like the History of Israel is bound up with Christianity. It is a bond that dates back to the birth of Christ (see the Church of the Nativity in the city of Bethlehem).
Indeed, it is in the state of Israel that, according to the Gospels, Jesus performed his miracles and it is on this land that he gave his famous sermons. It is on Israel 's blessed soil that Jesus died too (see the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem 's Christian Quarter), making it a prime destination for Christian tours to Israel.
Ironically, despite the Holy Land's immense significance to the Christian world, Christianity is currently the smallest monotheistic religious group living in Israel , falling far behind the Jewish and Muslim majority.
Arab Christians presently comprise the biggest Christian group permanently living in Israel . Other permanent Christian residents in Israel are mostly clergymen who come from all over the world to work and live in churches and monasteries. Visiting these places of worship is a common route for Christian group tours.
The State of Israel recognizes its Christian inhabitants and respects the faiths of more than 9 different Christian denominations. All these denominations have the right to practice their faith freely under Israeli law.
Christianity in Jerusalem
According to Biblical teachings, Jesus arrived in the city of Jerusalem shortly after his birth and was raised here. Consequently Jerusalem hosts some of the Christian world's most sacred sites, making it a prime destination for anyone on a tour to the Holy Land.
Jerusalem is home to the Cenacle, where Jesus is said to have had his Last Supper. The Cenacle is located on Mount Zion just outside of the Old City of Jerusalem. In addition to the hall of the Last Supper, Mount Zion is home to the Dormition Abbey, a predominantly German church founded by the Roman Catholic confederation known as the Benedicts. This impressive abbey and its surrounding grounds attract hundreds of visitors annually.
The importance of Mount Zion to the Christian world was not lost on the Israeli government, who named the main road leading up to Mount Zion "Pope's Way" in honor of Pope Paul VI's historic visit to Israel in 1964.
More importantly, Jerusalem is the home to the Golgotha, the historic site of Christ's crucifixion. The Golgotha is presumed to be located on the grounds of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the site of Christ's death and the place where he is said to be buried. This compound, housing the Golgotha and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, is one of Christianity's most sacred sites, drawing countless Christian travelers to it.
Christianity in Nazareth
Although the city of Nazareth , located in the Galilee northern part of Israel , is estimated to have the largest Arab population in Israel , it is nevertheless an important site for Christians. Approximately 30 percent of Nazareth 's Arab population is Christian, making the city home to the largest community of Arab Christians in Israel.
According to Biblical sources, Nazareth is the childhood home of Jesus Christ. Joseph and Mary are said to have lived in Nazareth , and it is here that the Joseph's carpentry shop was located. Today, the Church of St. Joseph is situated where Joseph's workshop once stood.
Another prominent destination in Nazareth is the Church of the Annunciation, located where, according to Roman Catholic belief, the angel Gabriel appeared before Mary to notify her that she will give birth to Jesus; son of God. The Church of the Annunciation is the largest church in the Middle East .
The Easter Orthodox Church, however, believe that the site of the annunciation took place elsewhere. They built St.Gabriel's Church in Nazareth in a different location, claiming that it was here that the annunciation scene took place.
Other important sites include Nazareth 's Mensa Christi Church, where Jesus is said to have dined with the Apostles after his resurrection, the Synagogue Church and the Basilica of Jesus the Adolescent.
Christianity in Bethlehem
Although not officially under Israeli rule, the city of Bethlehem historically a part of the Holy Land and features prominently in Israeli history.
The Church of the Nativity, located at the center of Bethlehem and built over the Holy Crypt, is where, according to Christian tradition, Jesus Christ was born.
The Church of Nativity is considered the oldest church in the world, and a key destination for Christian travel.