Cruise Port Atlas | Ashdod (Jerusalem), Israel Day Trips | Attractions

Ashdod (Jerusalem), Israel Day Trips | Attractions | Travel Guide

With limited time in port, planning is the best way to make the most of your time. Should you strike out on your own? Should you hire a local guide? Or should you book a shore excursion offered by the cruise line or an international tour company? Below we have listed the attractions and activities that many other cruisers have enjoyed. This information should help you plan.

The advantage to cruise line tours is that they are timed for your visit and give you flexibility to change your mind after your trip begins. The advantage of using a large international firm is that tours are often less expensive than cruise sponsored tours. The advantage to using a local tour company or guide is that prices can be significantly lower or you may be able to get a customized trip just to see the attractions that interest you most.

Cruise lines visiting Ashdod: Azamara Club Cruises, Crystal, Seabourn, Silversea, Celebrity, Holland America, Costa

Key Attractions: Old Jerusalem, Temple Mount, Tower of David, Western (Wailing) Wall, Cardo, Hurva Synagogue, Knesset, Israel Museum, Shrine of the Book, Bible Lands Museum, Via Dolorosa, Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Church of All Nations, Chapel of the Ascension, St. Andrew's Church, Christ Church, St. Georges Cathedral, Church of St. James, Church of the Redeemer, Church of Maria Magdelene, Noble Sanctuary, Dome of the Rock, AA Mosque, Yad Vashem, Holocaust Museum, Hall of Names, Bethlehem, Church of the Nativity, Ein Kerem, Qasr al Yahud, Yad Kennedy Old Jaffa, Tel Aviv, Gordon Street, Diaspora Museum, Caesarea Maritime Dead Sea, Masada, Qumran Caves, Eid Gedi Kibbutz, Bar Kochba Caves

Jerusalem: Overview

Ashdod Cruise Terminal to Jerusalem - 66 KM, 55 minutes
Link to Full-Page Google Map

The history of Jerusalem is one of creation followed by destruction, of religious piety blended with fanatical fervor and ultimately of ecumenical unity frequently interrupted by sectarian division. Where many historic cities contain rebuilt old towns which focus on a golden age, this approach would be impossible in Jerusalem, because different religions and ethnic groups have built their great monuments on top of the previous cultures' monuments. This is not unique, but because the Jews, Christians and Muslims have differing ideas as to what is sacred or historically significant, it has proven impossible to destroy what exists now in order to uncover and reconstruct what is underneath. In fact, within each religion there are subdivisions that have differing values and goals.

Archaeological research in any city is a haphazard effort, but doubly so in Jerusalem because it involves sacred sites for three living religions. A prime example of this conflict is the Temple Mount, which is the historic location of the First and Second Temples of the Jewish faith. More recently it is the location of the Dome of the Rock and the al-Aqsa Mosque, sacred to Muslims. These Muslim holy sites are protected by the Israeli government, but some would like to dig beneath them to discover the historic temples. And within Christendom there are conflicts. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is shared by a diverse group of Christians who are frequently in conflict over the management of the site. Where it is possible not to destroy what exists today, archaeological exploration continues in Jerusalem, but for the most part the official attitude is to give precedence to the monuments that exist today and to honor past monuments in museums and through written history.

In the west we are most aware of certain divisions within the Christian community. Visitors from Europe and America include Roman Catholics, Greek and Russian Orthodox, traditional Protestant groups and fundamentalist Protestants, some of whom see Jerusalem not just as an historic religious site but also as the location of future religious events predicted in the New Testament. Also present in Jerusalem are other Christian groups from around the globe. The largest of these is the Arab (Palestinian) Christian population which has long lived in the city and the region. In addition, there are significant groups of Coptic Christians, the historically important Armenian Orthodox group and others smaller groups from every part of the world. Many of these groups view the history and future of Jerusalem in different ways. These various perspectives have often led to conflicts, some small and some large, and these conflicts continue today.

Tours of Jerusalem are most often conducted based on the visitor's religious beliefs and the descriptions below take this approach, describing the sites that you will probably find most important based on your religious beliefs.

Photo of Temple Mount by Peter Croyle

Christian Jerusalem

Ashdod Cruise Terminal to Jerusalem - 66 KM, 55 minutes
Link to Full-Page Google Map

The importance of Jerusalem to Christians is centered on their belief in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. For many Christians, the best way to commemorate the events of Christ's last days is to follow the path he followed from the time he was condemned by Pontius Pilate until he was placed in his tomb. This path is known as the Via Dolorosa, the path of suffering. There are 14 historic stopping points where events described in the New Testament are said to have occurred. The first station on the path is where Pilate sentenced Jesus. At station two, Jesus took up the heavy cross and at point three he fell for the first time under the burden. Stations 10 to 14 are within the Church of the Holy Sepulchre which is on the spot where the Rock of Golgotha (also known as Calvary) and the tomb are thought to have been. This is where Christ was stripped, nailed to the cross and ultimately was entombed. On Friday afternoons, the Franciscans lead a special procession along the path.

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre was built originally by the Roman Emperor Constantine after his conversion to Christianity. His mother, who is said to have discovered the "true cross" on which Christ was crucified, is buried there. It was nearly destroyed by the Persians in the 7th century and rebuilt a few years before the arrival of the Arab Muslims conquest of the area. The Muslims protected the Christian church for nearly 400 years when it was torn to rubble by the mad Caliph Hakim in 1009. The local Byzantines started reconstruction and after the Crusaders recaptured Jerusalem, the reconstruction continued from about 1099 until 1170, incorporating Western European styles including the edicule which covers the tomb itself. Though heavily damaged by neglect, earthquakes, fires and other events, this is the Church we see today. It is not really a church in the normal sense as there is no central altar, but rather a cluster of altars and chapels where various Christian groups honor the spot where their savior died and was buried. The three main groups controlling the church are the Latin (Roman Catholic), Greek (Eastern Orthodox) and Armenian (Apostolic) churches. Also controlling space in the building are the Ethiopian Orthodox, the Coptic Orthodox and the Syriac Orthodox. Each group has its own space within and sometimes on the roof of the building. The building itself is a hodge-podge of architectural styles, rather than a single beautiful edifice.

Through the centuries AD, different Christian groups have built significant and stunning churches in Jerusalem. Here is a sampling of the most visited churches:
The Church of All Nations (Basilica of the Agony) - Roman Catholic (Franciscan) - rebuilt 1924 near the Garden of Gethsemane
Chapel of the Ascension - Christian and Muslim - rebuilt in 1150 - on Mount of Olives where Christ is said to have ascended to heaven
St. Andrew's Church - Church of Scotland - built after World War I
Christ Church - Anglican - 1849
St. George's Cathedral - Anglican - 1899
Church of St. James - Armenian - 12th century
Church of the Redeemer - Lutheran - 1890s
Church of Maria Magdalene - Russian Orthodox - 1886 - Near Mount of Olives

                 

   

Photo of Holy Sepulchre entrance by Peter Croyle, Photo of Altar in Holy Sepulchre by jgritz

Jewish Jerusalem

Ashdod Cruise Terminal to Attraction - 66 KM, 55 minutes
Link to Full-Page Google Map

King David is said to have established Jerusalem as the capital of the new Kingdom of Israel around 1000 BCE. His son, Solomon, built a temple there which is known as the First Temple. Though a city before David's arrival, the establishment of David's city was the seminal event in Jerusalem's early history. Archaeological structures found in Jerusalem demonstrate the long history of the city, but have not been irrefutably attributed to any particular culture. Two structures sometimes attributed to King David can be visited in the section of the city called the City of David. Jerusalem was ruled by the Jews for just one brief period between the ancient and modern periods, though some of its non-Jewish rulers were culturally and religiously tolerant allowing Jewish culture to flourish. The Second Temple was originally built during Persian rule, but was renovated by Herod in the first century BCE and is sometimes called Herod's Temple. It was destroyed during the Jewish War when the Roman's besieged the city. Ruins remained there until the construction of the Dome of the Rock in the 7th century AD. The remains of the Temple and its surrounding walls, especially the Western Wall, are considered sacred among the Jews who visit the site to pray at the site where the Holy of Holies once was. The Western Wall is on the edge of the Jewish Quarter of the Walled city. Visitors walk the Cardo, the main street of Roman and Byzantine era, now a popular shopping street within the Jewish Quarter. The Hurva Synagogue is the most important in the old city. Originally built in the 18th century, it was rebuilt in its 19th century form and re-opened in 2010. Near the Zion gate is an area where major fighting for the establishment of the Jewish state took place in 1948.

Outside the Old City are the modern buildings of the Israeli government, such as the Knesset and the Supreme Court, along with some important museums. These important buildings are primarily in the Givat Ram neighborhood. The Israel Museum is focused on archaeology of the region and includes a model of the Second Temple. Part of the museum is the domed Shrine of the Book which contains the Dead Sea Scrolls, biblical era writings discovered during the 20th century in caves south of Jerusalem. Next to the Israel Museum is the Bible Lands Museum, which focuses on Old Testament era peoples and cultures.

                 

   

Photo of Western (Wailing) Wall by Golasso

Muslim Jerusalem

Ashdod Cruise Terminal to Attraction - 66 KM, 55 minutes
Link to Full-Page Google Map

Islam in Jerusalem centers around the Temple Mount (known as the Noble Sanctuary to Muslims), considered the third most holy site in Islam, where some Muslims believe that the prophet Mohammed ascended to heaven. Jerusalem was captured by the Arab Muslims in 637 AD. On the Temple Mount they very quickly built two of the great Islamic sites, the Dome of the Rock, commemorating Mohammed's ascension (completed in 1692 and the second oldest extant Islamic building) and the al-Aqsa Mosque (built and rebuilt several times 705 - 1150). The Dome of the Rock is not a mosque, but rather a memorial and its architecture is considered seminal to subsequent Islamic buildings. Al-Aqsa Mosque is the largest in Jerusalem and can host 5000 worshipers. Access to non-Muslims is limited and may be changed depending on current events. Non-Muslims are not permitted to pray on the Temple Mount. There are also restrictions on young Muslims who are not local residents. Access is controlled by the Islamic Awqaf. The Isreali government attempts to maintain the status quo in order to honor the religious feelings of various religious groups and prevent conflict over the site.

                 

   

Photos of Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa Mosque by Wilson44691

Yad Vashem

Ashdod to Yad Vashem - 68 KM. 60 minutes
Link to Full-Page Google Map

Due west of the old city, on the edge of the Jerusalem Forest on top of Mount Herzi, is Yad Vashem, Israel's Holocaust Museum. The strikingly modern museum, first envisioned in 1953 and significantly expanded in 2006 with the opening of the new museum building, contains exhibits which emphasize the individual impact of the Holocaust on the Jewish people and illustrate the personal stories of its victims. Among the most renowned exhibits is the Hall of Names, a central repository and display of pictures and biographies of the victims. The museum offers a narrative in print, picture, audio, film and graphic art of the era before, during and after the tragedy which brings to life one of the most troubling times in human history. On the grounds of the Museum there is the Righteous Among Nations display which honors non-Jews who risked their personal safety to come to the aid of Jews during the tragic era. The new museum was designed by Moshe Safdie in a stark, dramatic style. Yad Vashem is the second most popular attraction in Israel after the Western Wall in Jerusalem.

        

   

Photo of Yad Vashem by deror avi, photo of Hall of Names by David Shankbone

Near Jerusalem

Ashdod to Bethlehem - 75 KM, 1 hour 10 minutes
Link to Full-Page Google Map

Within the East Bank area controlled by the Palestinians the birthplace of Jesus, Bethlehem is a major tourist draw for Christian pilgrims. Tourist vehicles approaching the town will go through a security checkpoint. In a few cases tourists will need to change vehicles, but in general tours to Bethlehem run smoothly. The town has 25,000 mostly-Palestinian residents including a sizeable minority of Palestinian Christians. The most popular attraction is the Church of the Nativity, one of the oldest of all Christian churches. Bethlehem is also King David's home city, so it is important to Jews as well. And Roman Catholic St. Jerome spent decades in the town while he translated the traditional Latin Bible, the Vulgate.

The village of Ein Kerem is a beautiful traditional place where tourists often visit Mary's well and the traditional birthplace of John the Baptist. The area called Qasr al Yahud is believed the spot where Jesus was baptized as well as the spot the Children of Israel crossed the Jordan River. Several lovely churches and monasteries are in the area. A stunning memorial atop an area hill called Yad Kennedy honors the American President.

        

   

Photo of Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem by Ian and Wendy Sewell

Tel Aviv and Jaffa

Ashdod to Tel Aviv - 42 KM, 33 minutes
Ashdod to Jaffa - 34 KM, 34 minutes
Link to Full-Page Google Map

Established in 1909 by a small group of Jewish immigrants, adjacent to the ancient walled city of Jaffa, Tel Aviv is one of the most modern major cities in the world and is often compared to Miami with its Bauhaus architecture, wide stretches of sand and thoroughly modern outlook. Tel Aviv is the financial and hi-tech capital of Israel and the location of most international embassies. The White City section of the city was created in the 1930s when German-trained architects immigrated and brought their aesthetic with them. It is now an UNESCO World Heritage site. The ancient biblical city of Jaffa has been absorbed by the sprawling Tel Aviv, but old mosques, churches and historic sites remain. Recent tourism development has meant renovation of old buildings and the introduction of an artist colony in the old town. The beaches of Tel Aviv are extremely clean and well maintained offering modern amenities and activities. Along the shore are some of Israel's most popular restaurants, offering world cuisines including light and vegetarian options. Gordon Street and the nearby Dizengott Street are the fashion and shopping hubs for those looking for unique items and top designers. Tel Aviv is one of the top draws to gay tourists in the Mediterranean. The starkly modern Museum of the Jewish People (also called Beth Hatefutsoth and the Museum of the Diaspora) is a vivid representation of the long history of Jews all over the world.

                    

   

Photos of Tel Aviv by Ynhockey (Panorama) and Talmoryair (Bauhaus)

The Dead Sea and Masada

Port to Attraction - distance, time
Link to Full-Page Google Map

The stark and stunning landscape of the Judean Desert will appeal to cruisers seeking unique views and photo opportunities. The lowest spot on earth, the shore of the Dead Sea reaches one-quarter mile below sea-level in places. A dip in the water, which is one-third salt, is pleasant even for the non-swimmer because everyone floats and many consider the waters therapeutic. The Qumran Caves are part of the archaeological site where the remarkably preserved Dead Sea Scrolls were found. Along the shore of the sea is the Ein Gedi kibbutz which offers tours including an arid tropical garden. Masada is a mountaintop fortress and palace built by Herod and later used by Jewish zealots as their last bulwark against the Romans. When it became clear that they would be captured, the group committed mass suicide. The Bar Kochba Caves are an historic site where Israeli rebels lead the third revolt against the Romans in the second century AD.

           

   

Photo of Dead Sea by M Disdero, photo of Masada by avinoam michaeli

Caesarea Maritime

Ashdod to Caesarea Maritime - 94 KM, 1 hour 10 minutes
Link to Full-Page Google Map

Though inhabited before Herod the Great's time, the National Park of Caesarea Maritima is centered on the ruins of buildings constructed by Herod in the Roman style in the 2nd and 3rd decades BCE. These impressive ruins include a Roman amphitheater, the end of an aqueduct that had begun far to the north at Mount Carmel, along with the remains of later Arab and Crusader constructions. Early Christian artifacts and historic documents show that Caesarea was an important center in the first centuries AD and a site of Christian scholarship. It also may have been where the Nicene Creed was written. From the late 19th century until the establishment of Israel, the town of Caesarea was inhabited by descendants of Muslim Bosniaks who built a Bosniak style mosque and minaret.

        

   

Photo of Aquaduct by Mark87, photo of Caesarea Theater by Berthold Werner

Interests Key:

Art Architecture Beach Children Wild Animals Local Cuisine Flora Gardens-Parks Geology

Diving UNESCO Views Wine Dance Music Shopping History Hiking

Walking & Wheelchair Accessibility:

No Walking Easy Walking Normal Walking Difficult Walking Accessible Limited Not Accessible