Holy Land Pilgrimage with Gila




Gila's Tips for Tours

Holy Land Jargon: 13 definitions

Heading for the Holy Land?  If so, here are 13 expressions you’ll hear and that might get you scratching your head.

AUTHENTIC” SITES are where the majority of scholars believe certain biblical events actually took place because of archeological evidence and/or its geographical location. 
  • The Garden of Gethsemane at the foot of the Mount of Olives is called an “authentic” site because it fits the geographical description.
  • The Pool of Bethesda in the Old City of Jerusalem has both geographical and archeological evidence.
  • Dan, in the north, was positively identified when an inscription mentioning Dan was found on the site.
TRADITIONAL” SITES have been rendered holy by pilgrims over the centuries because they were accessible or they exude an “authentic atmosphere” – that is, give an idea of what the site probably looked like in biblical days.
  • The Upper Room, where Jesus celebrated “The Last Supper” with his disciples, is a “traditional” site which has been visited by pilgrims since the late Middle Ages.
  • The Lithostratus, or the Pavement, below the Sisters of Sion Convent is considered a “traditional” site, for it’s close to where Jesus was judged by Pontius Pilate; it has a “pavement” mentioned in John 19:13; and it has games on the floor popular with Roman soldiers of that day.
  • The “Ecce Homo” Arch outside the Sister of Sion Convent was constructed in the second century AD by the Roman Emperor Hadrian, but is revered as the place where Pontius Pilate stood over the crowds and said “Here is the Man!” (John 19:5), before Jesus was led away to be crucified.
  • The Garden Tomb, on the other hand, is a matter of faith.  It’s believed by some to be a “traditional” site, and by others to be “authentic.”

Pool of Bethesda

Ecce Home Arch

Photo:  Gila Yudkin

Photo:  Gila Yudkin

Pool of Bethesda, an authentic site

Ecce Homo Arch, a traditional site


Coming to Jerusalem this year?  Are you coming from very far away and want every minute to matter?  Would you like to experience both the authentic and the traditional sites, yet you are most interested in finding the venues where you can quietly be transported back in your imagination to the time of Jesus?  David?  Abraham?

Make every minute matter while you "Explore Jerusalem's Soul" with Gila's Jerusalem Guide.  The up-to-date PDF (Adobe Acrobat) 46-page guide gives you the Top Ten places to meditate on the Bible, the Top Ten lesser-known churches worth visiting, the Top Ten most rewarding roof-top views and the top Ten places for Middle Eastern food.  More...

BCE stands for Before the Common Era.  It refers to exactly the same time period as BC (Before Christ).  In Israel, where the majority of the population is either Jewish or Moslem, BCE is commonly used.

CE stands for Common Era. It’s the equivalent of AD, (After the Death of Christ or Anno Domini, the year of our Lord)

VIA MARIS is Latin for “Way of the Sea,” which was the international coastal highway connecting between the centers of ancient civilizations – Egypt in the Nile Valley on the one hand, and Mesopotamia, Babylon and Assyria, between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, on the other.

  • The Prophet Isaiah mentioned the Way of the Sea when he spoke of the Galilee of the Gentiles in chapter 9.
  • Isaiah’s prophecy mentioning the Way of the Sea was to be fulfilled, as Jesus left Nazareth and settled in Capernaum. (Matthew 4)
DEAD SEA SCROLLS are Biblical manuscripts written on animal hide found in caves in the Judean hills above the Dead Sea.  The first discovery, in 1947, was made by a Beduin shepherd searching for a lost goat.
  • The scrolls have shed an enormous amount of light on the period of the birth of Christianity, the ministry of John the Baptist, and Second Temple Judaism.
  • Fragments of every book of the Old Testament were found, except for the Book of Esther.
  • Number One on the “Best Seller List” of two thousand years ago was the Scroll of Isaiah.

BOOK GILA for a customized private tour


“MODEST DRESS” refers to a “cover-up” dress requirement for many holy places, Jewish, Christian and Moslem.  It usually means no shorts (for both men and women), no sleeveless tops and no plunging necklines.  Thinner women can usually get away with more “immodesty” than their more endowed sisters.  This rule is often enforced arbitrarily by the guards of the holy places.

But you don't need modest dress to listen to Gila's one-hour Temple Mount audio tour. 

Tour the Temple Mount in the company of Abraham and Isaac, David and Solomon, Jesus and the disciples, the angel Gabriel and Mohammed -- and Gila.  Meet many other luminaries, both real and legendary.

Gila's Temple Mount tour is now available as a written 24-page PDF with a Temple Mount plan, guidelines for passing the security check and ten recommended reads on the Temple Mount from Gila's bookshelves.

SHABBAT is the Hebrew word for the Jewish Sabbath which begins sundown Friday eve and ends with the appearance of three stars on Saturday night.

A SHABBAT ELEVATOR is found in many Israeli hotels which include orthodox Jews among their clientele.  On the Jewish Sabbath and Holidays, one elevator is programmed to stop automatically on every floor, or if it’s a tall building, every other floor.  This enables Sabbath-observant Jews, who will not push an electric button on Shabbat, to reach the upper floors without climbing the stairs.
  • This custom originated from an interpretation of the fourth commandment, “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.”
  • As the Lord created the universe in six days and rested from His creative work on the seventh, so orthodox Jews refrain from all “creative” work on the Sabbath.  The rabbis have defined pushing a button to start an elevator as “creative” work.
BAR MITZVAH is a coming-of-age ceremony where a 13-year-old Jewish boy reads from the Torah for the very first time.  This is a happy family occasion which is marked by singing, dancing, and throwing sweets at the young man.
  • If you visit the Western Wall (also called “The Wailing Wall”) on a Monday or Thursday morning, you are invited to observe this ceremony – and gather up some of the hard candies.
  • Don’t forget to congratulate the parents by saying “Mazal tov!” (Good luck!)

A young girl has a Bat Mitzvah at either age 12 or 13.  On my Bat Mitzvah, I chanted the haftorah from Joshua chapter 2, the spy story.  For more about Jericho and to view a segment of my Hebrew reading, see "Let's spy out Jericho."

MEZUZAH literally means “doorpost.” It is a decorated rectangular silver, brass, ceramic, olive wood, or stone box that Jews attach to the doorpost of their house and gates.

The box contains parchment inscribed with biblical verses from the Shm’a (“Hear O Israel, the Lord Our God, the Lord is One”) prayer in Deuteronomy 6.  Verse 9 says, "And you shall write them upon the doorposts of your house, and upon your gates."

On the outside of the box is inscribed the first letter, shin, or all the Hebrew letters of Shaddai, the name which the Lord revealed to Abraham when he offered His covenant. (Genesis 17)

Look for a mezuzah on the door to your hotel room.

Mezuzah on Gila's front door
Photo:  Gila Yudkin


KASHRUT or “keeping kosher” refers to the Jewish dietary laws of separating between meat dishes and dairy dishes. The origins are from Exodus 23:19 “Do not cook a young goat in its mother’s milk.”
  • Most of Israel’s hotels and many of its restaurants observe the laws of kashrut including not serving any milk products at dinner with chicken or roast beef.
  • Nor would you be offered bacon for breakfast, ham and cheese for lunch or pork for dinner. Leviticus 11 lists and defines “clean” and “unclean” animals.

SHEKEL is the unit of currency in Israel.  Over the past year, the conversion rate has fluctuated between 3.7 to 4.2 shekels to one US dollar. The word shekel is mentioned in the Bible as a unit of weight.

  • Abraham bought the Cave of the Machpela in Hebron to use as a burial place for his wife Sarah for 400 shekels of silver. (Gen 23:15) This was
    an exorbitant price. According to the Hammurabi code, the annual income of the “man in the street” was the equivalent of six or eight shekels.
  • David bought the threshing floor of Araunah for 50 shekels of silver.  This was where he decided to build the Temple.
  • In Jesus day, the Tyrian shekel was the most stable unit of currency and used for payment of the temple tax.

"Go to the lake and cast a hook;
take the first fish that bites,
Open its mouth and there
you will find a shekel."

A shekel in the mouth of St. Peter's fish

(Matt 17:27)

Photo:  Gila Yudkin

Suzanne finds a shekel!

If you encountered other expressions during your pilgrimage which you recommend should be included in “Holy Land Jargon” to help future pilgrims, please contact me.

Copyright 2006, 2011 Gila Yudkin.  Permission needed for any reuse.

Don't miss these biblical sites:

Let's visit Gezer, Solomon's wedding gift

Let's lament King Saul at Beth Shean

Let's look for the clay tablet treasure at Hazor


Beth Shean



Let's follow Abraham all the way to DAN

Let's find Herod's tomb at Herodion

Let's scan the battlefield of David vs Goliath from Azekah



Azekah / Valley of Elah

How to lead a tour that's a rave success!
FAQ on Hezekiah's Tunnel
Mount of Olives:  FUN things to DO
Mark Twain's Holy Land Tips
10 Tips for a Terrific Temple Mount Tour




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Holy Land Photography by Gila Yudkin