Last month, I had the long-awaited, bucket-list pleasure of visiting Israel. The experience was so mind-blowing to me that I felt I should record a little of what I saw and did there. And as an afterthought, I’ve decided to give you a few brief pointers of how you can prepare if you decide to take such a trip.
Our group of 52, left Miami on Saturday Sept. 14th around 9.00 p,m., arrived in Tel Aviv on Sunday night Oct. 16th around 6.30 their time. Our Israeli English-speaking guide joined us on the bus taking us from the airport to the hotel. After introducing himself, he informed us that we would have to be up for breakfast by 6.30 so we could be on the bus by 7. 30 to begin our tour. I disliked him right away. LOL No, that’s not true. He turned out to be a sweetheart, and a great fount of knowledge.
The next morning, we were all on time, eager to begin our adventure. It was a pleasant and sunny morning, but Jakov (Jacob in English) warned us that temperatures would warm up later. Israel has eight months of summer, two of winter and two of spring. Daytime temperatures hover around the high 80s in most of Israel, but in the desert it can go over 100 degrees. Nights are usually cooler. There is very little rain except in the winter. Snowfall during the winter is very light, around one inch, lasts only one day and everything closes for that day. A really nice place to live.
Our first stop was at Joppa where Jonah left for Tarshish instead of going to Nineveh as God had instructed him. Looking out over the Mediterranean, Pastor Sawyer described the area as the “Gateway to the Gospel,” as it was where Peter had the vision of the great sheet, signifying that he should preach the gospel to the Jews as well as the Gentiles. From there we visited Cesarea overlooking the valley of Megiddo where Jesus will fight His last battle when He returns to this earth.
I don’t have the time nor space to give you a blow-by-blow account, but so many places will remain etched in my memory for a long time. Places that were mere names became alive and real: Jerusalem, of course, a sprawling city of pale, limestone buildings fashioned into the hillsides between palm, olive and other green trees remains among the most memorable.
Other notable mentions: The Dead Sea, the lowest place on earth. Our guide laughingly informed us that no one can drown in the Dead Sea. The water is so salty, all you have to do is sit or float on it and it keeps you up. He was right. At first, I felt strange sitting on water but after a while I got used to it. Maybe I could have tried walking on it. We saw one energetic young man swimming, but he seemed to be struggling. The water was pleasantly warm at around six in the evening and it felt like oil on my skin.
Driving through the mountains of Sodom and seeing the pillar of salt, believed to be Lot’s wife, helped to authenticate the Bible story. Salt production is one of Israel’s major industries. Sailing on the sea of Galilee, visiting the Western Wall, seeing the Temple Mount and the ruins of the temple, the Garden Tomb, and the Garden of Gethsemane are just a few of the other sites that stand out. The Via Dolorosa turned out to be the least impressive because of the number of shops lining the route and vendors hawking their wares.
I can’t end this post without saying something about the food. Israeli hotels are a gastronomical delight. Breakfasts are lavish enough to sustain you until dinner, although you may work up an appetite for lunch as a result of the constant walking and climbing. There is a wide assortments of breads, cheeses, yogurt, fruit, salads, eggs, fish, and chocolate croissants. Okay, sorry, breakfast may not be a delight for you if you must have bacon or ham with your eggs. You won’t see that because, according to Jewish tradition, meat and dairy products are never served together, and pork is forbidden. I was quite at home because I don’t eat meat, however, even though I eat fish, I didn’t fancy the pickled variety I saw on the buffet.
One thing that was a bit disconcerting was the absence of English labeling on some of the foods, and many of the servers did not speak English. But after a while we got used to it and were able to identify the dishes we wanted. Dinner is an even bigger spread –salads, rice dishes, chicken, beef, fish, breads, fruits and a wide assortment of desserts, all served buffet-style. If you are not on a walking tour of Israel, I would strongly caution you to go easy with your selections, otherwise you may need a new wardrobe to return home. Overall, my experience was a fabulous one, and I could see why some people return to Israel again and again.
Here is a link of some photos I chose just for you. https://1drv.ms/a/s!AuayHl2Jp4sUwls9Nj5DJWh4sgUL
So, how do you prepare for a trip such as this?
- Ramp up your physical activity months before so your muscles and joints will be ready for the hours of walking and climbing they will be subjected to.
- Pack clothes appropriate for the weather. September is still summer in Israel and it was pretty hot, hotter than Florida in some places. For that reason, you need to have at least one good hat. A sun visor will not be adequate. Shorts are not allowed everywhere and in some places women have to have their arms covered.
- Wear strong, sturdy shoes. That goes without saying.
- Get a good pair of sunglasses
- Have some means of securing your important belongings – passport, money. Either leave them in the hotel safe or take them with you in a fanny bag or knapsack. Keep jewelry to a minimum.
- You will need a current converter. They are quite inexpensive online or from Walmart. Someone fried his camera when he plugged it in at the hotel. Israel uses 220 V.
- Be sure to drink lots of water. You can easily become dehydrated because of the intense heat. Water in Israel is safe to drink despite what you may hear. No one from our group became ill from drinking the water.
- Use lots of sunscreen
- You don’t need to carry toilet paper. Most public bathrooms are well equipped.
- Take a picture of your passport face page and keep it with you in case your passport gets lost. Also, give a copy to your family at home, along with the dates, times, names and numbers of the hotels where you will be staying.
- If you plan on purchasing expensive items, diamonds etc., be sure to keep your receipts handy and declare them when you get to the airport at home. You can also receive VAT refund at the airport before leaving Israel.
- Remember to buy trip insurance. This is helpful if there are cancellations or lost luggage, for example.
- Most important. Don’t forget your medications. Also, check your health insurance to see if you are covered overseas.
This is by no means an exhaustive list. The more reading you do before you leave home, the better prepared you will be and the more enjoyable your trip will be. Leave me a comment and if you found this post helpful, please invite your friends to read it and join my mailing list. God bless.