The Holy Land (Hebrew: ארץ הקודש Eretz HaKodesh; Latin: Terra Sancta, Arabic: الأرض المقدسة al-Arḍ ul-Muqaddasah;) or Holy Lands (plural) is a generic term that usually refers to one or more countries in the Middle East region of the world that witnessed the origins and early history of three of the world's great monotheistic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
As such, the Holy Land(s) has/have been the focus of travel and - indeed - pilgrimage - for centuries (and continue to attract visitors on the same basis even today...) Owing to their economic, religious and cultural importance - and an ironic ability to create division and hostility - the Holy Land(s) also represent(s) the landscape in which the Roman Empire's expansion, the Jewish Diaspora, the medieval Crusades and (most recently) the modern Arab-Israeli Conflict have been played out, making their own contribution to the strategic and military interest of the region. Travel to the Holy Land is particularly in demand during the high holidays of Judaism (around September/October in the civil calendar) as well as for Easter/Pesach and Christmas. Secular and religious authorities have long since worked out a rather complicated schedule who gets which holy site during the "high demand days".
In order of size (and probable importance) to the traveller / pilgrim, countries associated with the term "Holy Land" are as follows:
- Israel - holds the vast majority of sites sacred to Judaism (especially Jerusalem) and Christianity (Nazareth, and the Old City of Jerusalem, scene of the crucifixion and resurrection)
- the Palestinian Territories - the West Bank includes Bethlehem (the Biblical birthplace of Jesus) and Hebron (burial place of Abraham)
- Jordan - includes a number of sites and localities associated with Judaism and Christianity, especially from the life of Moses and Jesus
- Egypt - though usually not regarded as part of the Holy Land, much of the Old and New Testament take place at the Nile or on the Sinai Peninsula; see also Ancient Egypt
Jewish Holy Land
Christian Holy Land
- Bethlehem — the town where Jesus was born, the City of David, who was the great King of Israel.
- Nazareth — widely believed to be where Jesus spent his childhood and early adult life
- Sea of Galilee — the area in which Jesus did much of his ministry
- Jerusalem — historical capital of Israel, and also the place where Jesus spent the week leading up to his crucifixion, which took place just outside the city
- Mount Sinai — in the Sinai desert of Egypt, home to the longest running Christian monastery, the Monastery of St. Catherine, and believed to be the Mount Sinai where Moses received the Ten Commandments
- Tiberias — on the Sea of Galilee, a good starting point for a bike ride around the sea or a trip to the Golan Heights
- Al-Maghtas, Jordan — on the Jordan River, where Jesus was said to have been baptised by John the Baptist.
- Jesus Trail
Islamic Holy Land
See also our article on the Hajj pilgrimage.
Also, shrines particularly holy to Shia Muslims are in:
Bahá'í Holy Land
- Ancient Greece
- Exodus of Moses
- Roman Empire
- Islamic Golden Age
- Ottoman Empire
- Ancient Mesopotamia
- From Istanbul to Cairo — an overland itinerary linking many of the sites listed above