Thank you for traveling to Israel with us! You’re in for a great, great trip, one that will surely be one of the most memorable of your life. It is our prayer that it will be a life-changing trip for you.
The effectiveness of your trip will be directly tied to your preparation. This document is an attempt to cover the most basic steps of preparation and assumes you’re a first-time traveler. Therefore, some of the information might seem elementary. Even so, all of this information is very important. Please read it carefully.
If you have any other questions about the trip, contact us. This is why we’re here.
Quick links to subjects in this document:
Can I use my miles to book my own flight or for an upgrade?
Tips and gifts
Communication with your family/cell phones
Laptops, cameras, electronics
Single room requests
What if I have an emergency?
Where will we be staying?
Do I need any shots?
What if war breaks out?
Directions to the International Terminal in Atlanta
There’s no particular order in this list, but the first concept is the most important one to grasp. Burn it into your heart and mind and repeat it often. We are going to concentrate on …
We would highlight this concept if we were traveling inside the USA or anywhere in the world. Since we’re going outside our country, this is even more important. We’ve made some very detailed plans for this trip, and hope to stick to them. However, anything from bad weather to security concerns to a luggage-handlers strike could change our plans, and yes, all three of those circumstances have happened before! On any given day, if we can’t do something we had planned to do, we’ll probably wind up with a surprise that will be even better. So just trust that God is in control … for He surely is.
As this trip draws closer, we’ll give you a more detailed itinerary. In general, however, we’ll spend time in the heartland of Judea, around the Dead Sea, the Sea of Galilee, the upper Galilee and Golan Heights, the lower Galilee, Caesarea by the Mediterranean and of course, Jerusalem. Our goal is to maximize your experience. Therefore, we’ll make decisions throughout each day about how to best spend our time. We have also learned not to plan out every minute of every day. That leaves us open to extra surprises that develop while our journey is under way. These extra moments are often some of the favorite experiences on a trip. But to make room for them, we have to leave room for them. So don’t expect the most detailed itinerary in advance. Just know this will be an incredible journey!
You must have a passport that is valid for six months after our return date. Click here to visit the official site for US passport information.
We would like to have a copy of your passport, whether it’s a photocopy you send us by mail or a digital copy you e-mail to us. If you don’t want to do that, we’ll need your name exactly as it’s written on the passport, your passport number, your birthday, the date of issuance, and the expiration date.
You should make copies of your passport. Keep one copy at home. Take one copy with you and keep it in a separate location of your actual passport (your suitcase is a good option). Keeping a digital photo on a phone or other electronic device is also a good idea. In the unfortunate case of a lost passport, having a copy of your passport will expedite a resolution with the authorities.
Once we arrive in Israel and clear customs, you should not be required to use your passport again until we exit the country.
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You are welcome to make your own flight arrangements for one of our trips, including upgrading with the airline of our group travel. This is something you’ll have to do on your own, however, and you’ll be responsible for getting to our first place of lodging in time for the ground tour to begin.
If you arrange for your own flight, we will give you a “land-only” price for the tour. This is a fairly common occurrence. If you are at the Tel Aviv airport in time to catch our bus to the first place of lodging, we’ll welcome you on board. If you arrive well before or after the main flight, you’ll need to arrange for ground transportation ($50-100, depending upon where we’ll be) to our first place of lodging. If you want to upgrade on our group flight, let us know immediately. We’ll do our best to accommodate your wishes and let you know what the extra expense will be. If you want to upgrade your seat on the group flight, it’s best to choose the “land-only” package and purchase your tickets on the same flight as our group. We can help you do this.
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We are providing health insurance for each traveler on this tour. If you get sick or suffer an injury, we’ll do our best to get you taken care of as soon as possible. This health insurance policy also provides a way for you to be upgraded to a more comfortable seat on the way home and/or booked on an earlier or later flight if that would best serve your needs.
Trip cancellation and trip interruption insurance is NOT a part of the price of your trip. If you would like to purchase such a policy through EIN, there’s an extra $235 cost. You must also purchase such a policy no later than March 15, 2020. If you’d like to look at other policy options, visit insuremytrip.com for a comprehensive comparison of several plans. This kind of insurance provides peace of mind for the traveler who’s worried that a last-minute emergency might force him to cancel traveling to Israel, or that a similar emergency back home might cause her trip to be shortened.
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We’ll have a heavy meal available both in the morning and evening each day of the trip. Those meals are buffet styled and offer an amazing variety of food. Our lunches will usually be “picnic” style and provided by our bus driver. If you want to buy any snacks, fruit or ice cream while we travel, those small costs would be yours. You are welcome to carry snacks from home, and it’s not out of the question to take an occasional piece of fruit with you from the hotel restaurant. Crackers, nuts, granola bars, power bars – these things store well and provide good energy anytime you want them.
If you have special diet concerns, let us know as early as possible and we’ll take care of your needs. Airlines and hotels are accustomed to requests for “gluten-free” meals, in particular.
Any food purchased at an airport is your expense. Packing snacks specifically for the trip is a good idea. Be sure, however, to pack those snacks in your carry-on “personal” bag so you can get to them easily. If we arrive in Israel late in the evening, there may not be a meal waiting on us at our first place of lodging. Think ahead and prepare a heavier snack … and take advantage of the meals on our flight.
We are providing bottled water on this trip. Drink lots of it. Soft drinks are expensive and are not included in the price of your trip. They also aren’t good for you, but you already know that. Our meals will have water, coffee, juices and flavored drinks available at no charge. All water in hotels or public places is safe to drink in Israel. In many of our places of lodging, you’ll have an opportunity to re-fill empty water bottles with cold water, or to refill them at night and chill the water in your room. This is a great idea!
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Ready for some wisdom you already know to be true? “You get what you pay for.” Most souvenirs are cheap, either way you want to look at it. If you are of a mindset to take home a $2,500 nativity set, be prepared for very expensive shipping costs and duty taxes (10% of the purchase price). You’ll need to claim it as you re-enter the USA. Want to see the declarations form you’ll have to fill out as we approach Atlanta? Click here.
If you’re planning on bringing a lot back, either take an extra carry-on bag you can pack in your main luggage, or prepare to buy extra luggage in Jerusalem. There’s a lot of cheap luggage available there, and most of it will survive at least long enough to make it home.
Our shopping stops: We’ll give you 30 minutes in a shop in Qumran (where the Dead Sea scrolls were found), make another half-hour stop at a shop where the “Ancient Boat” is at the Sea of Galilee, and then turn you loose in Jerusalem. In Jerusalem’s Old City, you’ll have some time to wander throughout the maze of shops and buy anything you want. The Old City is the “Wal-Mart” of Israel. If you buy a T-shirt, buy larger than you think is necessary, unless you like tight T-shirts. If you buy “antiquities,” remember again that you’ll get what you pay for. If someone agrees to sell you an “ancient” oil lamp for $25, look for the “Made in China” mark on the bottom. EIN will not make recommendations of what is a “good price,” or a “trustworthy store” in the Old City. It is simply impossible to know who’s telling the truth about expensive products, including jewelry. And our travelers tell us that the Garden Tomb Bookstore and gift shop is one of their very favorite places to buy souvenirs. That is often the last stop we make, so keep it in mind. We also provide a shopping opportunity either when we go to Bethlehem or after hours on one of our days in Bethlehem. If that’s the case, our driver and guide will take you back to Bethlehem from our hotel in Jerusalem.
Our guide may promote one shopping experience over all others. If so, he or she is probably getting a percentage of what our group spends at that particular shop. The same would hold true for anyone he invites on the bus to sell necklaces, rings or other items. EIN is not connected with any gift shop or shopping experience. Please use great discretion when buying souvenirs.
Someone hawking jewelry, postcards, shofars, ancient coins and camel rides is always around the next corner. Everyone on this trip has invested a small fortune in the experience. We have not committed to take this journey so we can buy trinket jewelry or wooden camels. Rest assured, you’ll have ample opportunity to take home anything you want by focusing on the three shopping opportunities we’re making available for you. However, if you insist on holding up the entire group while you haggle over olive-wood Christmas ornaments at an unscheduled stop, be sure you’ve got some extra money for a taxi ride. You’ll have our phone numbers, and our guide can tell your driver where we are so you can catch up with the group.
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You will have the option of being baptized in the Jordan River. We usually use a place designed for tourists. Meaning – there is a nice dressing room and a safe place for us to get in and out of the water. The water is always cold. That’s a good thing during the summer, but a shocking reality in the winter and spring. The decision, therefore, is completely up to you. On most trips, about half the group chooses to be baptized. The experience is memorable, so if you want to do this, don’t let the cold water stop you! By the way, you do not have to wear a white robe. If you have a T-shirt from your church or another “look” you’d like to preserve in special photos, feel free to wear what you’d like. But whatever you do, be sure to wear something under the robe. They are see-through thin!
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Tips for our bus driver, guide and hotel staff are included on this trip. Part of your trip cost was dedicated for this purpose, and our tips are as generous as any group will ever provide. We believe generosity is part of our Christian witness. The included tips also include tips for those handling our luggage, our hosts on the boat ride across the Sea of Galilee, and our gift at the Garden Tomb. That said, if you want to add a gift to any of these locations, please feel free.
However, if you require or request special service at one of our places of lodging, please remember to offer an appropriate tip. If our bus driver, for instance, arranges to have a forgotten camera delivered to you in Jerusalem, we’ll help you determine the appropriate tip.
Don’t give money to children, don’t take photos of children without permission, and don’t feel overwhelmed by anyone trying to sell you things. Withstand the first flurry of effort, politely decline, and keep moving.
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You should already have a detailed list of any prescription medicines you take. If not, use this trip as the reason you’ll finally put that paper list in your wallet, or an electronic list in your phone. There is no need to take all your prescription meds in the original containers.
If you are prone to having an upset stomach, prepare for it. We’ll provide more information in a preparation document sent to you closer to our departure date.
If you have something that can help you sleep on a plane, take it and use it. Some people need a boost from Melatonin, a dietary supplement that helps you sleep. Others require something like Ambien, which requires a prescription. Once we arrive in Israel, we will be seven hours off our “internal clocks.” You’ll probably wake extremely early for the first few days. Be wary of the time change. You might need something to help you fall to sleep in the excitement of our arrival.
Good rest is good medicine. Do whatever is necessary to get enough sleep.
We will have a simplistic first-aid kit with us. If you come up with a headache, blister on your foot, a cough … talk to us. We may have something with us. If not, there are as many drug stores in Israel as there are in America. We will do all we can to help you feel your best as you travel.
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Take small denominations of American money. If you’ve seen the suggestions from previous travelers, somewhere around $200 will be sufficient. Take smaller denominations. Most of our places of lodging will have a room safe. Lots of the best souvenirs in Israel are free. A rock from the valley where David killed Goliath? It’s one of our favorite things to take home. Broken pottery from the beach of Caesarea? Amazing for show-and-tell. And yes, they’ll let you take it home.
If you absolutely insist on exchanging some of your American money for NIS (New Israeli Sheckels), you can trade your dollars for shekels at our places of lodging. If you want to make an exchange at the airport, please don’t hold up the group in doing so. But remember: For most travelers, there is no need to exchange your money at all.
You’ll find VISA and MasterCard accepted everywhere, but cards like Discover and American Express are rarely accepted. You should know, instinctively, when it’s safe to use a credit card, and when it’s not. One advantage of using a credit card is that you get the very best exchange rate. One disadvantage: It’s not uncommon to become a victim of identity theft. Be wise in how you use credit cards!
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Wireless Internet coverage blankets Israel. We may even have wireless on our bus! This means you can e-mail, make FaceTime or Skype calls, or update your Facebook page for free. You’ll often find free Wi-Fi in the lobby of one of our places of lodging. In addition, give your family members this phone number: 478-954-3885. They can call Pastor Andy free of charge as yet another way you can stay in touch with family back home.
If you want to take your own phone, be sure to arrange for international coverage. Call your provider and ask for coverage only for your time away. Another option is renting cell phones while in Israel. Search the Internet for “Israel cell phone rentals” and you’ll immediately have several options. Depending on what you order, and how much you use the phone, it can be relatively inexpensive. Calling from your room is a bad idea – hotels add charges to the long-distance charge. Buying a phone card from a man in the airport, or even from our bus driver, is a worse idea. They tend not to work. If you’ve got to talk to someone every night, rent a phone or find free wi-fi.
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The tour buses are new and comfortable. You’ll want a small, carry-on bag for things like money, sunglasses, sunscreen, medicines, cameras, crackers, and all the assorted junk we treasure on trips like these. The bus is secure. You can leave your personal items on the bus when we make short stops. If we are making a longer stop, take your items with you. Keep an eye out for pickpockets in parts of Jerusalem. Keep your valuables in a front pocket or a secure location in your backpack or whatever bag you’re carrying.
Some folks will enjoy keeping a diary, and there’s plenty of time to write on the bus, though the roads are sometimes uneven and winding.
We will alert you when we are nearly at our stop. As we approach, get your things together and be prepared to exit the bus as quickly and as safely as possible. Embark and disembark as quickly as possible to help us maximize our time together. We will also ask you to rotate seats on a daily basis. If, however, you have a medical need to sit in a certain location, let us know and we’ll arrange the best possible option for you.
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Yes. Take them all. Be sure you’ve got plenty of digital storage for your cameras, and the proper power converters for your re-charging needs. Our standard electric outlets give us 120 volts. Israel and much of the rest of the world works with 220 volts. The plugs are also round, instead of flat. The best and most reliable converter I have is a Enercell 85W Foreign Travel Voltage Converter. Search for it on Amazon. This device has kept my cameras from blowing up, and that’s the main idea. Hair dryers and other hair accessories won’t work well without a converter, or unless they’ve been prepared for international travel. Just do your homework on your particular gadget and you’ll be fine.
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I’ve been traveling to Israel since 1999, and I’ve always felt very safe there. I’d like to live there for a season of time, eventually. Tourists are a treasured commodity in the Holy Land, and you’ll be treated like that by all parties. Naturally, I was nervous the first time I went to Israel, in part because I’d never traveled outside of the United States. Since then, I’ve taken my wife, all three of my daughters, both sons-in-law … and more friends than can be counted. If it were not a safe trip, I would not offer to take you.
That said, I cannot guarantee your safety anywhere. Not tomorrow when you head down a street in your car, not tonight when you handle a chore at home, and not in Israel when we’re touring. Life is dangerous, wherever you are. But Israel is safe. In fact, it usually feels far safer than some places in the US. Statistically, it is safer than the US.
However, security is still a very serious issue, as it would be on any international trip. It is not a wise idea to joke about safety issues in any airport, for any airline, and we won’t. It is an especially unwise idea to joke about safety in an Israeli airport terminal. You may be stopped multiple times and asked a wide variety of questions as we prepare to come home, especially.
Some of the questions will surprise you. I was once asked, for instance, the difference between being a Catholic and being a Baptist! My questioner asked to see my Bible (I’m so glad I had it!) and pretended to be confused that I wanted to go to Israel at all. She kept digging at the reasons for my trip. In all, I was probably questioned for 20 minutes or more, as were many of the travelers in our group. The questioners are actually members of the Israeli military. They are mostly young and mostly female. They are very polite, but constantly probing, looking for hints that a traveler might not be telling the truth. Remember your mother’s advice and tell the truth every time, all the time. If you tell the truth, you’ll never have to check your facts! Also, don’t be afraid to say that you don’t know the answer to a question. Remember my “Catholic” question? I finally told my questioner that I’d never been to a Catholic service, so I wasn’t sure what all the differences were. She smiled, and left that subject.
Remember that all procedures and questions are designed for your safety. Israel’s history and life as a target of many enemies is explanation enough for the questions and procedures. I simply pray God’s blessings upon the young people who pose the front line of security and try to keep my group safe. Part of your journey will be the experience of feeling that tension.
In Israel, you’ll note a heavy security presence, including armed soldiers. Our travel agency and tour guide will be in constant contact with a variety of sources, and will not hesitate to re-route our tour if there are any areas of possible concern. When I’ve been to Israel on my own, in an unmarked rental car, I’ve been much more at risk than we will be in a clearly-marked tourist bus. Even so, I was extremely comfortable in our rental car.
One special note. You may be asked to carry a gift or items to or from Israel for a friend. If you carry a gift to Israel, declare it when asked. Be willing to hand it over for inspection, and make sure your friend is aware that it will be examined. Know what the gift is before you accept it, and make sure it is unwrapped and ready for inspection. As you buy gifts, keep a record of what you’ve got, and a receipt for anything that appears to be unusual.
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Pack lightly. Rule of thumb: After you pack, take some of what you’ve packed and put it back in your closet! If you forget something, it’ll certainly be for sale in Israel. There are 9 million people living in Israel, and they all need the same items you need. If you absolutely have to have something you forgot, we’ll point you to the right store as soon as possible.
If you need it, our hotels probably have an iron you can borrow. Laundry services are available at some of our places of lodging. You can wash some clothes in your room, and hang them to dry on “clothes lines” in the shower or even outside on a balcony or porch. You can also dry some items between the drapes of your room and the window. The air in that trapped space will be toasty warm! Many clothing items are made of material that will wash and dry very quickly. Use them, if at all possible.
Expect hot weather on this trip, ranging from 90-115 degrees, depending on where we are and how hot it happens to be. If you live in the Southeastern US, you’ll adjust nicely to Israel’s weather. Expect temperatures to be about 10 degrees warmer in Israel than it is in the southern portion of the USA, no matter what time of the year. It can get cold in the winter, especially in Jerusalem. We can hike in 100-plus temperatures in the summer, especially in the desert.
Sun screen is very important, and a hat is required in this kind of sunshine. Some travelers cover their necks, too. It will only take one bad sunburn to turn your trip into a very uncomfortable journey.
Remember that shorts and sleeveless outfits are not allowed in a few religious locations (the Western Wall, Capernaum are examples). We’ll do our best to warn you the day before such a trip of such visits. You can also take a “wrap” as a make-do dress if you’d rather wear shorts and be comfortable, no matter the location. And yes, men have been known to wear a wrap, too. As a matter of fact, a “wrap” is a great gift to take home for you or someone you know. It’s unique, inexpensive, light, and packs very well. And it looks good on you.
Take the best pair of walking shoes you have. Comfort first! I have switched from “tennis shoes” to hiking boots. And the best investment I’ve ever made for walking are high-quality hiking socks.
This is important: Pack a complete change of clothes in your carry-on bag in case your luggage is delayed. I have written this advice for multiple trips … and the only time I failed to follow it, my luggage was held at the airport for a full day! It was nasty …
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Save your luggage space and help those around you who have allergies. Please don’t use perfume, strongly scented soaps or cologne on this trip.
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As important as securing passports and clothes for your suitcase is the way you prepare your mind and heart for this trip. Your daily Bible readings, your daily prayer times, and your alertness to what you’re about to do will transform this trip from a great one to one that will not be described with human words. We don’t want to simply be tourists on this trip. We want to come home having had a life-changing encounter with God. If you prepare for that encounter… you will have it! So, take a Bible! You’ll have the best quiet times of your life. Once, I was reading about Jericho while eating an orange I had just picked up from the ancient city. It was as if I’d “tasted” the Bible!
You will also have some “scripture memory assignments.” If you’ll memorize the passages assigned to you (feel free to tackle some of the others, too), it’ll start focusing your mind on the Word, and when we get to the right place, you’ll know when we need to hear it quoted. If you can’t memorize the passage, or if you simply like a safety net, take some note cards with your verses on them.
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If you’re not already in a regular exercise routine, get started! The better shape you’re in … the more you’ll enjoy this journey.
For our traditional travelers, you’ll probably walk about three miles a day. We will walk about seven miles a day on our hiking tours. Neither group will be in a race, and we’re not going to leave anyone behind. Don’t miss a day of this trip just because you’ve got a blister on your heel or you can’t drag your body out of bed! Get in shape now!
Remember: There’s always a Plan B. If you’re simply not up to something we’re about to do, we’ll take care of you. Someone is bound to have a bad day for a great number of reasons. So we’ve always got a Plan B in our back pocket! But your main goal on this trip is to see the Land of the Bible. So get ready physically so you can maximize the experience!
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Shortly before we leave on our trip, you’ll receive a pdf file specifically designed for your trip you’ll want to use as we travel. You can use it on an electronic device like an iPad or smart phone, or print it out into a personalized notebook.
For the person wanting to know everything about everything, retail guide books will help. My favorite travel guide of a secular nature is the one produced by the Discovery Channel, Insight Guide: Israel.
The best DVD/VHS series to watch is That the World May Know, later re-packaged as Faith Lessons. The teacher is Ray Vander Laan, and his web site, thattheworldmayknow.com/ is also a wonderful source of information. Many church libraries have his videos and will be glad to loan them to you.
And finally, there are simply dozens of books that any Christian or secular bookstore would have that would get you ready for our journey. One of my favorites is Eerdman’s Handbook to the Bible, the unbelievable Archeology Study Bible and the Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible, both from Zondervan. See our “Reading List” list of books and resources for more ideas.
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Each tour books two to a room. If you don’t have a roommate, we’ll match you up with another traveler of the same sex. Accommodations can be made for three travelers in the same rooms. Be warned, however, rooms with three people aren’t any larger than rooms designed for two!
If you’re traveling alone, you are certainly welcome to select a roommate. Get a friend to sign-up with you!
If you want a single room, you’ll need to pay the single-room supplement.
Single room requests
There is an additional cost for a the single-room supplement. You’ll find the price on the application form and on your published payment schedule.
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First of all, in case of an emergency, we’ll do everything we can to take care of you and your family. Israel has excellent hospitals and medical care, for instance. We’re providing medical insurance for this trip. If you purchase the trip-cancellation insurance, you’ll have more peace of mind about being able to cancel your trip at the last moment, paying for medical care, or returning home in case of an emergency at mid-trip.
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We must limit each traveler to one large bag (50 pounds or less). Carry-on luggage that is allowed by our airline is also permitted. That’s usually one personal bag (you can keep under your seat) and one carry-on item stowed in the overhead bins. A typical arrangement is one large suitcase and a backpack.
Part of our restriction is based on the luggage capacity of our bus. There’s only so much room on each bus for our luggage.
And remember, you’ll have to carry everything you pack! Think like a seasoned traveler and pack very lightly. You can use laundry services at our places of lodging, and compared to luggage fees charged by the airlines, it’s a good plan. Light laundry can be washed in your room. If you plan on returning home with many souvenirs, pack an extra bag within your first bag for the return trip, when you might not mind carrying so much weight. But stay aware of airline luggage regulations, which could change before we travel. We’ll inform the group of any such change as soon as we hear of it.
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We prefer to stay in “kibbutz settings” while in Israel. You’ll get much more of the flavor of Israel in a kibbutz than in an American-styled hotel, and the lodging is quite comfortable. In addition, some of the older kibbutz communities have the best property locations in Israel. However, we aren’t afraid to stay in a hotel when necessary. When we do, they’re very nice, though not luxurious.
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No, you do not need any special shots to travel to Israel.
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Yes. Whether it’s a war or earthquake, and whether it’s in Israel or America, we can’t control some events. In the event of catastrophic circumstances, we will do our best to rearrange our schedule, make other arrangements, and seek full restitution of any funds. However, this is a fact of life here and abroad. We cannot foresee future events, or how they will impact us. Read your travel insurance provisions carefully for any details about this possibility. Unless the United States State Department forbids Americans from traveling to Israel, it’s unlikely travel insurance would be required to pay for such an incident. The State Department has not made that decision in past times of conflict, although it does issue a standard warning that cautions American travelers about any trip to the Middle East. In the face of such warnings, try to remember that 9 million people live in Israel today, sending children to schools, going to work, and dropping by hardware stores on the way home for the parts needed to repair a leaking toilet. Despite the negative news coverage this small country receives, Israel is not a war zone. Nevertheless, the honest answer to a question of catastrophic events is that we cannot see into the future, and that we can only promise to deal with changing circumstances in the best way possible.
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Directions to the International Terminal in Atlanta
If you’re meeting us at the International Terminal of the Atlanta Airport, you might not know how to get there. We will not be at the larger, “Domestic” side of the airport. Be sure to go to the right place! Click on these three photographs to make them larger … they’ll help you get to your group!