As someone who loves touring Israel, I’ve learned a few things along the way. Here’s my Top Ten list for how to get the most out of your next trip to Israel!
- Relax. The one question I have to answer, over and over again, is perhaps the most important one. “Is it safe to go to Israel?” And the answer? Absolutely. Nine million people live, work and play in Israel, and security is a paramount concern. It is not a war zone. Let’s put it this way. There are probably places in your hometown that are a lot more dangerous than the places tourists frequent in Israel. And if something happens that causes a security concern? This is a country that knows how to deal with challenges quickly and efficiently. Tourists who return to the USA with me usually speak of how foolish they feel at thinking they were stepping into a dangerous land. There are no guarantees with anything in life, but I’ve taken my wife, my daughters, and even my son-in-law while his wife – our oldest daughter – was expecting their first child. If it weren’t a safe trip, I wouldn’t go myself, and I wouldn’t invite you to go with me.
- Pack lightly. Add up the luggage fees the airlines are going to charge you. That second big bag? It will cost you $50 to $100. That’s $50 to $100 you could use for laundry services at any of your hotels. Better yet, it’s an opportunity to buy and wear that souvenir shirt you wanted!
- Forget the extra suitcase of food. You’re going to be well fed in Israel. Some of the food is different, but you’re bound to find plenty you’ll like. When it’s in season, the fruit you’ll find in Israel is the best in the world. Worst case scenario? For two weeks, man can live on bread alone!
- Look down. When you’re touring an ancient site like Caesarea or Megiddo, you’re often walking on broken pottery. You’ll assume you’re walking on tiny rocks. But take a closer look and you’ll see the ridges and the other confirmations that you’re walking on history!
- Get off the bus. The traveler who maximizes his or her trip to Israel will use every minute to explore the land. Most tour groups break for a long lunch. If you’re up to the adventure, munch on an apple and some crackers, and spend that lunch hour walking around the area. This is the land of the Bible! Don’t waste all day in a cafeteria … and by all means, be back at the bus when it’s time to get back on the road! Never hold up your group!
- Take care of your fellow travelers. You’re going to visit Israel, more than likely, with a group of people. Before your time is done, someone will not be feeling well. Someone might get homesick. The memories of a loved one might come flooding back somewhere along the way. Someone might twist an ankle hiking around Masada. Keep your eyes open and your heart ready to take care of the people in your group. For several days, this will be your new community. Treat the people in your community like family, and they’ll return the favor.
- Be generous. Feel free to haggle over the price of a t-shirt. But don’t haggle over your tips. Tour guides, bus drivers, waiters and hotel workers are struggling to make a living. They depend heavily on tips. Choose to be a person who blesses others on your trip to Israel. If, by chance, you’re representing either your country or your faith, this becomes even more important. Be generous!
- Get up and out early. If you’re traveling to Israel from the USA, you’ll be seven time zones ahead by the time you land. If you’re accustomed to rising at 7 a.m.? You’ll have no problem getting out of bed at 5 a.m. If your tour bus doesn’t leave until 8 a.m., that will give you three hours to prepare for the day and do a little exploring on your own. You might have the best devotion of your life if you’ll simply get up, take a short walk, and read a passage from the Bible. A quiet time at sunrise on the Sea of Galilee is simply unforgettable!
- Take notes, but don’t spend the entire trip behind a camera. Many people journal while they’re traveling in Israel. Most take photos. Some shoot video. And some shoot so much video they never actually see Israel. Instead, they watch Israel go by on their video screen! We invite our travelers to share all their photos with all the other travelers, which ensures you’ll eventually have more photos than you could have ever imagined. And all that video? Ask yourself: “Who is going to watch this when we get home?” Leave the video work to those who have professional equipment. While you’re in Israel, enjoy the trip!
- Prepare to be changed. Over and over, people tell me their journey to Israel was a “life-changing experience.” I have the same story. This is a deeply spiritual journey. You will learn much about history and at the same time, discover some surprising things about yourself.
So come to Israel. You will never be the same!
Want to travel to Israel with Pastor Andy Cook? We’re close to announcing our trip schedule for 2016!