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!
Following are seven orientation segments we highly recommend you acquaint yourself with before departing on your Holy Land Trip to Israel:
Below is a very helpful video showing exactly what to expect and the process you will need to follow after landing at Ben Gurion Airport in Israel. See where to get your tourist visas, go through the Passport Checkpoint area, proceed to the baggage claim area, go through customs, exit the airport, get a taxi, and more.
Holy Land Travel Orientation 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 Orientation 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 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. They’re very different from what we’re accustomed to seeing, and at first glance, you might find this unattractive. You also might disagree 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, 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. These included the Church of the Holy Sepulture, Church of the Nativity, Basilica in the Garden of Gethsemane, Church of the Annunciation, and others. Helena and 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 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, so they too built on or by these holy sites to honor and preserve them.
Some of these holy sites are ancient (from as old as 5,000 years), and the churches have a Mid-Eastern style 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's hard to imagine how some of these sites would have looked 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 disagree with the decorations and atmosphere of these places, we should appreciate and admire all the devotion and sacrifice 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 different views and tastes 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 Orientation 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 to 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 can’t 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 fantastic 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 of 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 Orientation 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
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
It will be important that you keep up with the group and not linger too long seeing things during your travels. Each day it is wise to appoint a “Follow-up Person” who’ll bring up the group's rear and make sure everyone stays together. 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 considered. 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 see everything as planned. 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 who will do his best to take away from our experience by using others or problems. 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. For example, 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 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 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 Orientation 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 Muslim sites.
6. Don’t be afraid to bargain for purchases at marketplaces. 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 holy sites. Ladies should bring a large scarf or shawl to cover themselves when necessary.
16. Men should wear hats when visiting Jewish holy sites.
17. Men should not wear hats when visiting Christian holy sites.
18. Men should not wear shorts or tank tops when visiting holy sites like churches, Temple Mount, etc.
Holy Land Travel Orientation Part 6
Travel Bible or smartphone with Bible app
Journal and pen for taking notes
Plug adapter for plugging devices into the outlets in Israel. Click here for purchase options
Note: The outlets in Israel are different from the states. You’ll need this adapter for plugging things in to be charged, etc.
Also, electricity in Israel is 220 volts. In America, it’s 110 volts. Many electronic devices today can adapt to both voltages, such as smartphones, tablets, etc. If this is all you'll be charging, then a plug-in like this is all you'll need.
Lightweight Portable Chair. Click here for purchase options
Note: A chair like this is optional, but you might find it handy for our Bible teaching times at many of the sites we'll be visiting in Israel.
Charger converter needed for Israel (Needed for charging cameras and etc.). Click here for purchase options
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 to take an item that cannot use 220 volts, then the above link is a charger converter you’ll need.
Travel alarm or smartphone that has this capability
Flashlight (mini) or smartphone that has this capability
Camera or smartphone that has this capability
Film or Storage Disks for your camera (bring plenty, because it's much more expensive in Israel)
Dressing in layers is best when considering your clothes. For the most part, the weather will be warm and sunny during the time we are in Israel. However, there might be some cooler days and evenings.
Note: Special clothing requirements must be considered when visiting sites like the Temple Mount, many churches, and other religious sites.
Ladies: Please bring a large scarf or shawl to cover yourself when visiting these religious sites. You also must dress modestly so your knees and shoulders are covered.
Men: You will not be able to enter many religious sites if you are wearing shorts or tank tops. Therefore, we discourage wearing these items during the day. However, they can generally be worn during your free time in the evenings if you'd like.
Swimsuit, beach shoes, and a plastic bag for the Dead Sea experience if you want to get in the water
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
Day Pack/Back Pack (can be used as a carry-on and for travel in Israel)
Ziplock bags for lunches and items you might find while in Israel.
Umbrella - Small contractible type
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
We suggest bringing around $300 USD for emergency use if needed.
A credit card is the best way to pay for things in Israel, as you will get the best exchange rate. However, some local vendors will not accept credit cards, so Shekels are best for that (USD are also accepted by local vendors selling to tourists).
Shekels can be drawn out from most ATMs in Israel. No need to go to your bank to get them ahead of time. At our first hotel in Tel Aviv, there is an ATM close to it.
Food & Lunches
Breakfast - The hotels will provide breakfast if desired. Some will provide dinners as well. These can be paid for when you book your lodging or at the hotels. It's ideal to eat breakfast at the hotels as it's handy. However, you can eat your breakfast if desired at a local restaurant or made by hand.
Lunch - Because eating out is expensive in Israel, time-consuming with a large group, and we will not always be close to a restaurant, each trip participant will prepare themself a daily sack lunch. Each day around noon, we will take a break to eat, or you can eat and snack as you wish. Lunch items can be purchased at local grocery stores, and the hotels will have refrigerators in the rooms.
Dinner – On your own. Enjoy the local culture as you eat at local restaurants or the hotel if you prefer.
Luggage Size & Amount
We don't have a size and number allowance per person, but we suggest not exceeding around 40-50 lbs per piece of luggage as it makes it hard to handle. The lighter, the better.
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 secure.
Passport ~ Must not expire until 6 months after your trip.
Copy of your Passport
Printed or screenshots of your payment receipts for our trip to Israel in case you are interviewed by Israeli security at the airports (because of security purposes, Israel often interviews travelers at incoming and outgoing airports)
Health Insurance Card or proof of insurance
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.
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.
Holy Land Travel Orientation Part 7
Staying Connected While In Israel
Staying connected with loved ones back home and having Internet access is a high priority for many.
Also, being connected to the Internet would be very helpful in accessing our HolyLandSite.com website where you would be able to see and follow along during our Bible studies and tours of each site we'll be visiting in Israel. Additionally, it would be very helpful to access info during your free time in the evenings if you wanted to investigate sites of interest, dining options, directions, and so forth.
What are the options for staying connected while in Israel? Here are the best solutions:
1. In many cases you can use your phone in Israel if you have or add on an international plan with your cell provider. Just check with your provider to learn about the cost and availability of this service.
2. You can purchase an Israeli SIM card. In most cases, these can be mailed to your home before leaving for Israel and then activated upon arrival in Israel.
A SIM card service we use and recommend is TalknSave. Following are the two plans that would apply to you:
1. Daily Plan: $3.99 per day (limit of 13 days)
Link for more info: https://www.talknsave.net/short-trip-plans/
2. Monthly Plan: $47.99 (Least expensive)
Link for more info: https://www.talknsave.net/monthly-rate/
Experience the Holy Land Online!
Travel Guide Book
Bible Companion Book
Sea of Galilee Sites
Northern Israel Sites
Central Israel Sites
Southern Israel Sites
Other Biblical Sites