(Synagogue - Capernaum)
I’ve been privileged to visit Israel many times, yet each time is (of course) wonderful, sublime, joyous, enlightening.
I often hear fellow Christians lament the cost of the trip, security issues, lack of vacation time—these things prevent them from going.
Listen, we’re all in the same leaky economic boat. I totally understand that a trip abroad is cost-prohibitive for many folks. I’ll speak to that again in a minute, however.
As to security issues, let me give a further endorsement to the state of Israel. If you fly to Israel, spend a week or 10 days, then fly home…you are as safe as a baby in its mother’s arms, I kid you not. These people put the s-a-f-e-t-y in safety. Let me tell you how I think about this personally: I am safer visiting Israel than I am crossing the road to check the mail every day.
The Israelis leave no stone unturned in making tourists safe. And if you fly the national carrier, El Al, you will enjoy wonderful food, comfortable seats, and the assurance that not so much as a paper clip can be spirited onboard, without Israeli knowledge.
I literally stake my life on my endorsement of Israeli security.
Sometimes people will say to me, Well look, those rockets coming from Gaza…I can’t go over there now.
My answer: Have you ever heard of the IDF?
We all understand, of course, that living in this world, something bad might happen if we leave our front door. I’m not saying a boulder couldn’t fall out of the sky and hit you as you traverse, say, the enchanting alleys in Jaffa…but I am confident that a week in this marvelous country will leave you unscathed.
So that’s that. Don’t let anyone scare you away due to security concerns.
Next, people use the excuse that they just don’t have time. Well, most of us have one or two weeks per year for vacation. Keep in mind that travel to and from Israel will take a day. From my home in the Midwest, I take a flight to New York (a few hours), then the 10 hours or so to get to Israel. Take something to help you sleep.
Besides, what does an uncomfortable vacation visiting hostile family members compare to a lifetime trip to Israel?
Now let’s revisit cost.
I’ve actually never been on a tour. I always just go on my own or with a couple friends. Tour packages can get pricey, yes, but you have to think in these terms: Can I forego a new flat-screen TV this year? Can I spend a year saving for this trip? Let me give you an example of cost.
I just checked on Expedia. From my front door, to Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport, I found a flight (for September) for $1,380.
Accommodations in Israel are on par with US prices. You can stay economy at a hotel for $100 per night (or less, depending on the season), and up. I’ve stayed everywhere from Christ Church Guesthouse, just inside Jerusalem’s Jaffa Gate, to the King David and American Colony. All were fabulous, all had wide price ranges.
Food in Israel is sensational. It was there I left behind Captain Crunch for breakfast, as I learned to love pickled fish, olives, cheese, yogurt…all the wonderful Mediterranean foods you will come to love if you do the right thing and visit Israel. The cost of food is wonderfully cheap, in my view.
Most hotels have lavish breakfast buffets. A bagel for lunch, then a nice dinner somewhere in an exotic locale…food won’t break your budget in Israel.
As for travel, I rent a car. Let’s just say I stretched my horizons doing this. Many people would never think of driving themselves in a Middle Eastern country, but I have and honey, believe me when I say that if I can do it, so can you.
If you decide to bypass the tour route, I would suggest breaking your trip up this way:
•One day in the south, at the Dead Sea. You can see the Sea, Masada, Ein Gedi, and the caves of Qumran (where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found) in a day if you hustle. The drive time from Jerusalem is 90 minutes or more. If you visit Masada, take lots of water and don’t walk too much, too fast. The heat is that bad.
•One day in the north, the Galilee. You can hit some major spots and take a boat tour of the Sea of Galilee, and be home by dinner.
•I would spend at least two full days in Jerusalem’s Old City. It’s a short walk to the Garden Tomb site, and the Old City itself…I can’t do it justice. The bazaars in the Old City are fun, and the Temple Mount and Western Wall are close by. One could easily argue for three, four, or five days in Jerusalem alone.
(An aside: if you want to blow your budget, I absolutely would encourage you to stay at least one night at the King David Hotel. You will feel like you’re in a Bogart movie. You will be pampered. You will be within a five-minute walk of the Old City. It’s expensive, yes, but WELL worth it!)
•Tel Aviv has some interesting historical sites. The aforementioned Jaffa is a must, just south of Tel Aviv. If you are staying at a beach hotel, Jaffa is within walking distance.
But I also highly recommend a visit to Independence Hall, on Rothschild Boulevard. Also nearby is the fabulous Haganah Museum, which details the building of the modern Israel Defense Forces.
If I got creative, I could do a week in Israel for around $2,000, which is half what a tour would cost. You couldn’t go wrong either way.
But if I can persuade you at all, I would urge you to visit Israel at least once. You will never regret a second of it!