Ashdod (Jerusalem), Israel

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Jerusalem is one of the world’s most fabled cities, with an extraordinary history. Travelers today can’t help but be struck by the overwhelming sense of antiquity and the powerful feeling of being in the midst of more than 26 centuries of civilization. At countless sites, the city’s layers are peeled away and exposed.

The spiritual heart of Judaism, the Western Wall is the last remnant of the Temple of Jerusalem. For Christian travelers—or those interested in the early days of Christianity—visiting the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem and the Garden of Gethsemane are unforgettable experiences. For the third great monotheistic religion, Islam, Jerusalem is also a holy city. The Al Aqsa Mosque, the third most important holy site of that faith, is located on the Temple Mount, the holiest site of Judaism.

Much of the magic of Jerusalem, however, is that it’s also a living vibrant city. As you make your way to its landmarks, you’ll pass through neighborhoods bustling with Israelis, Palestinians and travelers and pilgrims from every corner of the globe. William Faulkner’s famous phrase, “The past isn’t dead. It isn’t even past,” describes the experience of Jerusalem perfectly as it continues its role as a unique cultural crossroads to this day.

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