One month in the Jewish Holy Land
For many Jews a journey to the Holy Land is a chance to rediscover the religion of their ancestors and to understand themselves through meeting other Jews. For Gentiles as well, traveling through the Holy Land may give a very interesting look on what Judaism means, and on how Judaism is practiced nowadays by the residents of Israel. This article aims to provide both Jews and Gentiles with valuable information, ideas and contacts.
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In Judaism, the Holy Land is strictly defined as the area inside the parameters lined out in the Torah. It is known as "Eretz Yisrael," meaning "Land of Israel." This area is not identical to the area occupied by the current state of Israel. For example, the southern Israeli city Eilat on the Red Sea lies outside of the Land of Israel, whereas much of what is today known as Lebanon lies within it.
However, those parts of the Land of Israel which are within the states of Lebanon and Syria are not accessible to Jews in general, because of the political situation. Lebanon and Syria refuse access to their countries to anyone with Israeli passport stamps, and anyone who at the (very intensive) border check is discovered to be carrying anything Jewish such as a siddur (prayer book), tallit (prayer shawl) or tefillin (phylacteries) will be facing a hard time at the border of any Arab country. For this reason, this article is only about those locations which are currently accessible to Jews, all of which lie in the current state of Israel and/or the Occupied Territories.
Eretz Yisrael, the Land of Israel, is where the Torah was given by G-D. According to the Midrash (Rabinical Literature), the world was created from Eretz Yisrael; to be precise, from the Foundation Stone ("Even HaShtiyah") which lay on the Temple Mount and on top of which the temples were built.
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How to spend Shabbat / Shabbos:
When visiting chareidi (ultra-Orthodox) Jewish neighborhoods, most notably Meah Shearim, strict dress rules apply. These guidelines apply mainly to women, but men are also expected to dress modestly. The rules for women are:
These rules are not intended to offend anyone. The reason is that the residents feel that they are living in the holiest city in the world, and they want to keep their neighborhood a holy place. Also, these are real people with real lives; they are not zoo animals.