Holy Land Travel Orientation
Holy Land Travel Orientation
Understand that half of what there is to see in the Holy Land is hidden from most that walk her paths. They are unseen spiritual truths, only revealed to the sensitive and spiritual of heart.
This page is designed to help you get the most out of your travels in the Holy Land. Whether you're going with a group, or as an individual, below is information to prepare you for your experience in Israel!
Holy Land Travel Part 1
Historical Periods in Israel’s History
Why it's important to understand a brief overview of the historical periods of Israel.
The Holy Land is an old place, about the oldest in the world! While in the Holy Land, you’ll be seeing things as old as 6,000 years. That’s old! Different periods of history will be referred to when describing Israel’s holy sites and places. Please realize that at a particular site, there will likely be several key events that have taken place there. Each event will have happened during a specific period in Israel’s history. If you can understand the different periods a little, you’ll get much more out of your experience.
Holy Land Travel Part 2
Preparing Yourself to See the Holy Sites in Israel
The Need to Understand What You’re Going to See
It would be wonderful if the Holy Land was exactly the same as it was 2,000 years ago when Christ walked its paths, or 4,000 years ago when Abraham traversed its hillsides and valleys. However, 4,000 years is a long time, and there have been many changes that have taken place during this time span. It’s hard for us to understand, but 4,000 or even 2,000 years is a long time! Because of its strategic location in the world, no other country has had as many kingdoms occupy it, or as many battles fought on its soil as Israel. This, along with time, has led to much change to Israel and its holy sites.
The good news is that many of the biblical sites are in their natural state and appear much the same as they did when the events that happened there occurred. Other sites have had monuments, churches, or basilicas built near, or on them and are not exactly as they appeared as when the events that occurred there happened. Also, many sites have had many events happen in one spot over thousands of years so it would be impossible to have each event preserved just the way it happened.
Understanding What Some of The Holy Sites Will Be Like
Many of these monuments, churches, or basilicas will have a Catholic, Arabic, or Mid-Eastern style look to them. They’re very different from what we’re accustomed to seeing and at first glance, you might find this unattractive. You also might not agree with the religious backgrounds of some of these sites and feel somewhat uncomfortable as well. In addition, you most likely will find other people visiting the Holy Land from other countries who are actually worshipping and kissing some of the adornments on these sites. On a previous trip to Israel, some in our group found all this a little repulsive and chose not to enter some of these holy sites. Because of these possible negative reactions, we would like to provide you with a little background and history about how these holy sites have been preserved so your sightseeing experience can be the best as possible during your time in the Holy Land.
A Little History
Even before the time of Christ, and afterward, many of the holy sites were marked out and preserved. Then, about 300 years after the time of Christ, the Roman Empire (world power at that time) embraced Christianity. At that time, the mother of Emperor Constantine (Helena) was one of the first of the royal family to convert to Christianity. Later the Emperor, Constantine, did as well. Helena came to the Holy Land and wanted to preserve some of the holy sites, so she had churches, monuments, and basilicas built over some of the key holy places, i.e., Church of the Holy Sepulture, Church of the Nativity, Basilica in the Garden of Gethsemane, and others. Helena, along with others throughout history, felt such emotion and awe at these holy sites that they wanted to honor and preserve them for future generations. The Early Church during this period was the first to be in charge of these sites, and then because the Early Church slowly evolved into what we know as the Catholic Church, many of these holy sites then came under the care of the Catholic Church. The monuments, churches, and basilicas were not always Catholic in nature so we shouldn’t assume that they shared the same religious views at their inception.
There were others as well that came to the Holy Land to build churches, monuments, and basilicas on these holy sites (Armenians, Russians, Greeks, etc.). Their hearts felt the same awe and emotion as others who came, and so they too built on or by these holy sites to honor and preserve them.
Most of these holy sites are very old (anywhere from 2,000 to 100 years old). These churches have a Mid-Eastern style and are adorned with an Arabic, Mid-Eastern look.
Gratefulness to Those Who Preserved the Holy Sites
If it hadn't been for those who preserved the biblical sites, they would have been lost or had other buildings, roads, and infrastructure built over them. They would have been lost to the world forever. These early pilgrims felt the same awe and emotion you will feel. We certainly can’t fault them for this.
Because of all the adornments and construction over the centuries, it is hard to imagine how some of these sites would have looked like in their original setting. However, the years of activity and tradition at these holy sites give greater weight to their authenticity. And while we might not agree with the decorations and atmosphere of these places, we should appreciate and admire all the devotion and sacrifice that has been made to preserve them.
Some Might Find These Churches, Monuments, and Basilicas Repulsive
Part of the reason some might find the places they see in Israel as repulsive will have to do with a difference in religious faith. Another reason is due to a misunderstanding of style. These holy sites have a very different style than what we’re accustomed to in modern churches. Most of the old churches we see are just a few hundred years old and have somewhat the same architecture and style from our modern era.
1. Entering these churches, monuments, and basilicas to see these holy sites doesn’t mean we’re in any way embracing and accepting their religious beliefs.
2. While the style, religious background, and adornments might not be to our taste, the motives of those who preserved these sites seem to be noble and honorable. As you see these sites, you will understand why these early pilgrims wanted to preserve them.
3. It’s important to note that we, from a modern mindset, have a different view and taste regarding building styles. Because to us something 200-400 years old seems really ancient, we need to realize that seeing something 1,500 years old has an entirely different architectural look and sense to it than what we’re accustomed to seeing.
Hopefully, this info will help you. As mentioned, on a previous trip to Israel, some didn’t really understand these things beforehand, and it took them a bit to get themselves wrapped around some of these concepts. It was kind of a self-discovery process. For this reason, this orientation and background are provided so you can get the most out of your Holy Land Experience Trip and not get bogged down in this area.
Holy Land Travel Part 3
How to Get the Most Out of Your Holy Land Trip
How to See What Many Don’t See in the Holy Land
Understand that half of what there is to see in the Holy Land is hidden from most that walk her paths. They are unseen spiritual truths, only revealed to the sensitive and spiritual of heart. Try to get as close to God as you can prior, and during your time in the Holy Land, so you can see and hear things that many don’t see during their visit there. The Holy Land is not just places and historical artifacts; it’s an experience . . . an experience that is spiritual in nature and eye-opening for those who can see in this realm.
You Won’t be Able to See Everything
It would be great if you could see every detail at every holy site, but that would take months if not years to do. It’s important to understand that there is a lot to see and, therefore, just the highlights can be seen. You’ll be eating the frosting off the cake and won’t be able to eat the whole thing. As a result, please don’t be discouraged if you aren’t able to spend as much time in each place as you’d wish. You’ll have to move along to see just the highlights, and if you stay too long at one place, that means you’ll be saying, “No” to another.
Your Trip Won’t be Perfect
It would be wonderful if you could be guaranteed a perfect trip with a perfect experience, but that’s just not reality. Going to the Holy Land is undoubtedly the closest you’ll get to the “Trip of a Lifetime,” but please don’t get your hopes up so high that you’re let down and feel discouraged if it doesn’t turn out as you dreamed. Your trip won’t be perfect. Your leader and the rest in your group will probably not live up to your expectations either. The only perfect person on the trip will be you (well, maybe not exactly perfect but pretty close to it. lol). So just prepare yourself to understand that things just aren’t going to be flawless.
Trust God for Your Experience
It’s also easy to have preconceived ideas of what to expect; the emotions you’re going to feel, the dreams you might have of the Holy Land, and the experience you want to have. Please try to set some of these aside and trust God to give you the experience He has for you. Don’t get everything built up so high that it would be impossible to fulfill them. Trust God to bless you and teach you what He has for you. He’s the One who’s worked everything out for you to go, and I’m certain He has special things to teach you. Trust in Him and be looking for what He has for you. And after everything is said and done, be content with what He gives you. It’s His trip, and you need to be happy with the outcome, whatever it may be.
Holy Land Travel Part 4
Understanding Group Travel Dynamics
Traveling with Others
Part of the joy and richness of your Holy Land Experience will come from sharing it with others. Going somewhere alone is never as much fun as doing it with someone else. The impact and fullness of the experience will come alive as it’s experienced as a group, rather than as an individual or couple. For this reason, you’ll want to consider a few things to make your Holy Land Experience the best as possible.
Try to Think as a Group and Not as an Individual
As you well know, traveling as a group is very different from traveling as an individual or couple. There will be other team members in your group, and each person needs to realize they’re part of a larger event than just themselves. The whole team will be depending on others to be punctual, courteous, thoughtful, and pleasant. Try to take into consideration that what you do affects everyone else on the team.
Try to Keep Up with the Group
During your travels, it will be important that you keep up with the group and don’t linger or stay too long behind seeing things. Each day it is wise to appoint a “Follow up Person” who’ll bring up the rear of the group and make sure everyone is accounted for. Because you’ll be seeing some really interesting things, it will be easy to get lost in these and forget that there are other things to see as well.
Try to Be Punctual
Everything from wake-up times, mealtimes, arrival times, departure times, and the site seeing schedule for each day needs to be taken into consideration. Because you are spending a lot of money and taking precious time out of your busy life to experience the Holy Land, you’ll want to be as punctual as possible so you and your team can experience and see more. Your group can only be as fast as the slowest person, so try to be punctual and thoughtful of others. If you tend to be a late person, consider getting a head start on things by starting earlier than normal so you can be on time.
Try to Be Patient & Courteous
Be aware that sometime during the trip, you’ll likely feel tired, a bit irritated with others, or upset at something that’s happened. Do your best to overlook the faults of others and try to keep yourself in check. Also, realize that we have an enemy (the Evil One) who will do his best to take away from our experience by using others or problems to do so. Be alert and prayerful! Keep yourself close to God and do your best to love others and take everything in stride.
Try to Be Rested Up Before Your Holy Land Trip
Because you’re going to be expending a lot of energy during the trip, try to get as rested as possible before departure. To illustrate this point, we’ll use the term “gauges” to help us out. We all know that most of our vehicles have gauges: gas gauge, temperature gauge, oil gauge, etc. Using this analogy for our bodies, we all have bodily gauges as well. We have physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual gauges.
Before your trip, try to get your bodily gauges as full as possible. By doing so, you’ll get more out of your trip and be more joyful and patient with others.
Here are a few tips for filling up your bodily gauges before trip departure:
Try and scale down on your activities and output before the trip. Cut back on meetings, outings, get-togethers, and social events.
Get plenty of sleep.
Get plenty of exercise (you’ll be doing quite a bit of walking so try to get in walking shape before the trip).
Get as much of your responsibilities and commitments done ahead of time and don’t wait until the last minute to take care of things. There will be plenty of last-minute things to do, so don’t add to them by procrastinating.
Try to get somewhat packed and ready at your earliest convenience. If you need to shop for trip items, try to do so plenty of time in advance.
By doing the following, you’ll start your trip with your bodily gauges full and not on empty. And when you think about it, who would start a long journey with their car having an empty gas tank and little or no oil in the engine?
Holy Land Travel Part 5
Travel Tips for Israel
1. Get in shape physically before you go to Israel. You will be doing a lot of walking so the better shape you’re in, the easier and more pleasant your time will be. Several months prior to your trip, start walking at least 15 minutes a day.
2. Activate your credit/debit cards before departure to Israel.
3. Make sure your Passport is up to date and valid. It must have 6 months of time left before expiration (of your dates in Israel) to be valid.
4. Don’t shave your body before taking a dip in the Dead Sea. The salt and minerals will irritate your skin.
5. Don’t show public display of affection with the opposite sex,
especially on the Temple Mount and around Muslim sites.
6. Don’t be afraid to bargain for purchases at market places. It’s expected, so take part in it.
7. Establish meeting places at each site so that if for some reason you get lost or separated, you can find each other.
8. Carry a water bottle and stay hydrated.
9. Pack layered types of clothing instead of heavy clothes.
10. Carry your personal items in a safe place on your person.
11. Take a good camera or video camera.
12. Get used to people smoking as it’s very common in Israel and the Middle East.
13. Many Israelis are not religious, but secular. This might seem weird, but it’s true.
14. Carry a copy of your Passport.
15. Women should dress very modestly, especially when visiting the holy sites.
16. Men should wear hats when visiting Jewish holy sites.
17. Men should not wear hats when visiting Christian holy sites.
Holy Land Travel Part 6
Dressing in layers is best when considering your clothes. The weather, for the most part, will be warm and sunny during the time we are in Israel. Following are some suggestions that might be helpful:
Slimline Travel Bible
Small notebook and pen for taking notes
Casual pants for hiking sightseeing (casual can be worn the whole trip)
Casual long sleeve shirts
Short sleeve shirts
Bathing suit (for the Dead Sea if you want to take a dip)
2 Plastic bags for wet clothes
Sturdy walking shoes with traction for the many stone paths and roads you’ll traverse. FYI ~ Many of the streets are paved with stone so it's challenging to wear shoes with awkward heels/soles on uneven pavement.
Hat for sun protection purposes
Film or Storage Disks for your camera (bring plenty, because it's much more expensive in Israel)
Day Pack/Back Pack (can be used as a carry on and for travel in Israel)
Ziplock bags for lunches and for putting the relics you might gather along the way in Israel.
Umbrella - Small contractible type
Note: The outlets in Israel are different from the states. You’ll need this adapter for plugging things in to be charged, etc.
Note: Electricity in Israel is 220 volts, in America, it’s 110 volts. Many electronic devices today can adapt to both voltages. If you plan on taking an item that cannot use 220 volts, then the above link is a charger converter that you’ll need.
In Israel, most of the same products they sell in America are available, although they are at a substantially higher cost. Following are some reminders of items you might want to take:
Eyeglasses/ contact lenses
Anti-bacterial hand lotion
Any prescription medicine
Documents & Items to Carry with You at all Times
There are several options for carrying your money and important documents with you on your trip. You can use a money belt (waist style or necklace style) or pockets on your pants or shirt that can be buttoned and are secure.
Passport ~ Must have 6 months left before expiring from the dates trip.
Copy of your Passport
Credit/Debit Card (make sure to activate your cards for Israel or international travel)
Note: It’s a good idea to have your debit card activated so you can draw out Shekels for spending in Israel (for entrance passes to the parks we’ll see, boat ride on the Sea of Galilee, etc.).
Travel Visa received in Israel at customs
Special Note: When arriving in Israel, you’ll go through customs to receive your visa for your stay in Israel. It will be a small piece of paper. Please don’t lose it! You will need it on several occasions while in the country. You can tuck it away in your passport if you’d like.