Alex and I have returned from our pilgrimage through Israel! It was seven packed days with history, hiking and a ridiculous amount of hummus. As I predicted in my earlier post, Alex made it about three days before getting fussy about not having pizza for dinner. But he tried some new foods, so I’m proud of him.
Israel was different than I expected. Not sure why I thought it would be miles and miles of desert, or why I assumed I wouldn’t be affected by jetlag. But there I was, getting car sick from driving up lush mountains and falling asleep like a rock at 7 p.m. It was a life changing trip, and I’ve compiled some of my favorite moments here.
Take a look at my list of things to do in Israel!
1. Float in the Dead Sea
Floating in the Dead Sea might sound frightening and maybe even nasty, but guys, it was one of the coolest/weirdest things I have ever done in my life. Definitely one of the most bizarre and photo-worthy things to do in Israel.
Alex living his best life
Alex had mixed emotions about the Dead Sea. He sprinted into the water eager to see if he would float (he claims he’s never been able to before), and laughed like a hyena once the sea popped him out. However, he also thinks it’s the most disappointing body of water in the world – this guy loves to fish, and because of the high mineral content, there is no sea life.
Dead Sea Tips:
- Do NOT get the water in your eyes or mouth. Believe me when I say it burns.
- Bring a newspaper for the classic Dead Sea photo.
- Cover yourself with nutrient-rich mud. King Herod & King David both used the Dead Sea as a spa and retreat, and you can, too!
2. Get Baptized in the Jordan River
It feels a bit odd to put a religious activity on a list of things to do in Israel, but getting baptized in the Jordan is quite a draw!
A couple thousand years ago, this fella named John started preaching and preparing people for the arrival of Jesus. He began to baptize people – thus, earning himself the nickname, John the Baptist. Surprise, he was a baptizer, not a Southern Baptist.
Jesus then appeared, arriving at the Jordan River from Galilee. He wanted John to baptize him. John objected, “I’m the one who needs to be baptized, not you!”
But Jesus insisted. “Do it. God’s work, putting things right all these centuries, is coming together right now in this baptism.” So John did it.
The moment Jesus came up out of the baptismal waters, the skies opened up and he saw God’s Spirit—it looked like a dove—descending and landing on him. And along with the Spirit, a voice: “This is my Son, chosen and marked by my love, delight of my life.”
The tradition of baptism – full immersion, not sprinkling – was born in this spot at this moment, and was adopted by Christians as a symbolic way to profess allegiance to Christ.
Today, people from all around the world come to Israel to get dunked and profess their faith publicly. Both Alex and I have been baptized before, but there is just something extra special about being baptized in the same river as Jesus.
3. Get Inked at the World’s Oldest Tattoo Shop
From baptism to the tattoo shop… is this the most polarizing list of things to do in Israel that anyone’s ever compiled?
Tucked away in the Old City of Jerusalem is world famous Razzouk Tattoo. The Razzouk family has been tattooing folks for more than 700 years – WHOA! The Razzouks came to Jerusalem from Egypt in the late 19th century, bringing dozens of antique stencil blocks with traditional designs. Today, customers can choose designs from those same blocks and get the same tattoos past pilgrims received.
Pilgrims would get tattoos with the date to commemorate their journey to the Holy Land. If they returned, they would add the date of that year as well. Last year, our mom traveled to Israel and got a tattoo from the Razzouk family, so it made sense that Alex and I would do the same.
The family that gets tatted together, stays together, as they say.
And because Alex is the best big brother, he let me choose which matching tattoo we’d get. I picked the Ichthys – also known as the Jesus fish. Alex, already a big fan of tattoos, was so into the ancient blocks that he got the Jerusalem cross, too. Maybe I’ll get that on my return trip.
This was my first tattoo ever and I am THRILLED with it. Every time I see it, I think of this trip and am reminded of God’s unfailing, unconditional love for me.
4. Walk through Hezekiah’s Tunnel
In the 8th century B.C.E., King Hezekiah needed to protect the water source in Jerusalem from the fast approaching Assyrian army. By creating a 1,750-foot underground tunnel system, he diverted the water source deep into the city.
Today, trekking through Hezekiah’s Tunnel in knee-high water is a must-do when visiting Jerusalem. But be sure to bring a headlight and water shoes. This 30-45 minute walk through a pitch black, shoulder width tunnel is NOT for the claustrophobic, but it is one of the neatest things to do in Israel.
At one point we turned off our lights and felt our way through the pitch black tunnel. Alex was the first one to turn his light back on because he is a huge chicken.
5. Visit the Western Wall
It’s all fun and games until you really get down to the reason Jerusalem is called the Holy City. And a list of things to do in Israel wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the Western Wall.
The Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem sits below the western side of the Temple Mount and is all that’s left of the wall that once surrounded the Jewish Temple’s courtyard. It’s known as the most sacred site for observers of the Jewish faith outside of the Temple Mount itself — and since they aren’t allowed to access the Temple Mount, it serves as the main meeting point and spiritual center for the Jewish people.
Prayers tucked in the cracks of the Western Wall
The wall today marks the literal boundary between Jews and Muslims throughout the Middle East. Men & women are also divided at the Western Wall. Men and married women are expected to cover their heads upon approaching the wall, and to dress conservatively. When departing, the custom is to walk backwards to show respect for the sanctity of the place.
6. Cruise on the Sea of Galilee
I wanted to add “walking on water” to my list of things to do in Israel, but as it turns out, that miracle is no longer in service.
Instead, we sailed at sunset for an evening of worship and teaching with the Sea of Galilee Worship Boats. For me, it was mind-blowing to sit in the middle of the sea where Jesus walked on water and where the disciples spent their time fishing. Even if you’re not religious, it’s still a must-do.
Would you swim in the Dead Sea or get a tattoo from Razzouks? Did I miss any other must-do activities in Israel? Let me know in the comments!
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19 thoughts on “6 Things You Must Do on a Visit to Israel”
LOVE this list, esp as a Christian who would love to visit. Will yo be doing more content on your trip, like hotels, restaurants and other logistics?
Awe thank you! And yes, I have a few more posts about Israel coming up!!
It obviously depends on your religion because I was like, how can you forget the hike to Masada? But then, that might be a Jewish thing, I am not sure. I would never get baptized at the Jordan River, but I have great memories floating, rafting, and kayaking down it! I do like that so many things hold so many different perspectives in Israel.
(And mudding at the Dead Sea is THE BEST!!!)
I’ve read many article before about Israel, and the Dead Sea is a must do. But I haven’t heard or thought about being baptized there! I always get teary-eyed at church seeing someone be baptized, I would love to see it here. Or going on a worship boat in the Sea of Galilee—wow! I get goose-bumps just thinking of it. Thank you so much for sharing these things to do.
Mostly, I like this post for the subtle shade heaped upon Boy Alex. Lolz. Love your matching tattoos!
This made me want to go to Israel even more than I did already. I wasn’t aware you could float in the Dead Sea there, amazing. Another dream!
After reading this post I am collecting some important information and It helps me to travel to Israel. But you don’t recommend Where to stay in Isreal? How much cost per day? If you have any information, please shear with me.
Are there any free cracks left in the Western Wall? This is a pretty good list, but I’m not sure I’m brave enough to get a tattoo, so at least you got one and now I don’t have to 😛
Loved these lines ”the family that gets tatted together, stays together”.
Very nicely written article, this post and pictures literally draws my whole attention.
Wanted to visit Israel and wanted to be baptized.
Thanks a lot for sharing this information.
I’ve never been to Israel, looking forward to it some day, looks great!
Nice post with awesome videos has shared here. After gone through your post I have just recalled the time which I also spent on the Dead Sea. We really enjoyed a lot. It really feels awesome when you float on the water & look towards the sky. The feelings are really amazing which is difficult to explain in words.
I’m traveling to Israel next year, via Jordan. Can anyone tell me if it’s possible to cross over to Eilat, Israel, from Aqaba, Jordan?
Sebastian, yes the crossover point to Eilat is Aqaba. BTW, if you spend any time in Eilat there is an awesome place called Dolphin Reef where you can snorkel or even scuba with wild dolphins. It is the experience of a lifetime. Check it out!
I just got back from Israel. It was beautiful and I would highly recommend it for any scuba divers out there!
Keep up the good work.
I’ve always wanted to go see the dead sea and well float in it. Maybe one day my dream would come true.
I’d love to experience floating in the Dead Sea. Looks fun!
I feel very blessed and very fortunate to have done all 6 back in April , I’ll never be the same and planning too return.
After 3 trips there, I have the utmost respect that you can narrow it down to 6 things only. I am having the hardest time putting it all in a post. Good job!
My husband and I have traveled to Israel several times. We have been to the Dead Sea twice. Nice video. Also surprised my hubby with a tattoo at Razzouk last time we were there. There is also a Western Wall tunnel behind the Western Wall most people see. Another hidden gem is the Austrian Hospice, right on the Via Dolorosa. They actually rent rooms but also have a coffee shop and a wonderful little hidden patio filled with flowers and sun. A real respite from the hot noisy old city. For only 5 shekels you can climb to the third floor rooftop for a glorious view of all of Jerusalem, the Mount of Olives and beyond.