Basically, there are two ways to travel in Israel with a group:
THE ISRAEL TOUR:
The most conventional way to see Israel is to join a traditional tour. This form of travel is best suited for the individual (or family) who needs everything to be predictable: following exactly the planned itinerary each day without any potential deviations; accommodations similar to those in one’s home country; never visiting the “West Bank”. On a traditional tour, the focus is on visiting sites.
THE ISRAEL EXPERIENCE:
The most memorable way to see Israel is to join one of our Israel Experiences. Although we fulfill the stated itinerary, we are also free to add to, and/or rearrange, the daily itinerary to allow our participants the maximum set of experiences possible during their stay in the Land. For instance, more than once we have been invited unexpectedly to Israeli’s Parliament and we gladly added that to the day’s itinerary. Our accommodations put us close to the land, the people, and the sites we most want to visit. Although we visit all the traditional, authentic, biblical sites, we do much more. Our days are not as predictable as on a traditional tour; instead, they are fascinating, thought provoking, and extraordinary. We do visit the Israeli part of the “West Bank” because failing to do so means one would miss where nearly 85% of all biblical history took place. On our Israel Experiences, the focus is not only on visiting sites, but also on getting to know the people of Israel, as well as understanding biblical truths and current Middle Eastern issues. Those who have toured Israel and, then, experienced Israel with us have admitted, “If I had not joined this group, I would not have realized that I wasted my time and money when I came to Israel before with a packaged tour. Now, I have truly experienced Israel!” Ask anyone who has traveled with Experiencing Israel and let them tell you their own, amazing stories of having experienced Israel with us…
The months I would suggest avoiding traveling to Israel are November through March as that is the rainy season when it can also be cold and, even, snow. Some individuals cannot travel any other time of year, and we have accommodated groups every month of the year. One must also consider avoiding other specific dates as the Jewish holidays cause many places to close (or, it is difficult to find accommodations). Ask us about these dates.
Predicting Israel’s weather is difficult due to her many climate zones. For instance, May is the beginning of summer; however, though it may be warm in the south, in the higher elevations such as Jerusalem, evenings can still be cool. April is pretty in Israel, but evenings can be cool and it can still rain. Talk to us about choosing dates for your group’s travel plans.
In all the years I have been taking individuals and families to Israel, I have tried to give an honest response to the question I am most often asked: “Is Israel safe?”
My response may surprise you.
First, from a purely natural perspective, Israel has never been safe. Israel is the geographical land bridge between history’s great civilizations which have crossed her territory on the way to do battle with one another.
Jerusalem may mean “City of Peace”; however, it has seen 118 separate conflicts, been surrounded by armies 23 times, has been attacked an additional 52 times, has been captured and recaptured 44 times and completely destroyed twice. Since reestablishing herself as a modern nation, her neighbors have rejected having an Infidel (non-Muslim) people in their midst as if they were rejecting cancer in the midst of their corporate body.
Israel was not safe when God told Abraham to move there. Abraham lived his entire life among people who did not want him around. Israel was not safe when Moses brought God’s people back to their Land from Egypt. When the people saw that it might be dangerous to enter, they decided to cancel their trip. God let them turn around and He waited for a fearless generation to arise who were willing to go in. Israel has not even been safe for God’s own people as He twice drove them from the Land. And, Israel was certainly not a safe place for Jesus to be. He was killed there.
Will Israel ever be safe? To put it another way, “When will there be peace in the Middle East?” The answer to this question depends on how one defines Peace.
There may be honorable Muslims who reject the jihadist worldview; however, anyone who truly understands the core values of Islamic theology, understands that Islam anticipates the universal conversion of humanity with those refusing to convert either being put to death or, at least, being placed in subjection to the “one, true religion”. Jihadist Muslims accept peace only when they determine it is in their best interest to discontinue a current conflict and are, therefore, willing to agree to a (temporary) cease-fire. Of course, this is not peace, but a truce and truces do not alter a warrior’s final intent.
Real peace between peoples comes only when they have met Jesus, the Prince of Peace, who came to show humanity how to live in peace. This truth has been beautifully illustrated in the book, Son of Hamas, written by Mosab Yousef, eldest son of Hamas founder Sheik Hassan Yousef. As Mosab was being groomed to take over the leadership of Hamas, he met this Prince of Peace who forever changed the direction of his life. Read his book…
Perhaps the question “Is Israel safe?” is not the right question, after all. If the stories of the Bible tell us anything, they tell us that individuals who walk with God must never make decisions based on natural-soulish reasons; rather, they should make decisions after determining, as best they can, what God wants of them, regardless of what is observable in the natural.
So, if the real question is “Has God invited me to Israel?” I can virtually guarantee several things I have witnessed over the years:
First, if God has invited you to His Land, He has something marvelous waiting for you there that you can only experience if you respond to His invitation.
Second, if God has invited you to Israel, where else in the world would you want to be, anyway?
Third, in all the years I have taken individuals and groups to Israel, the most common statement from everyone has been, “Never once did I feel the slightest sense of concern for my well-being while here.” The entire government, as well as every guide, and all the military, is dedicated to making sure that at no time would anyone visiting Israel be allowed to be in harm’s way.
I would never attempt to talk anyone into going to Israel. In my opinion, if a person’s initial reason for visiting Israel is that Israel is simply another tourist destination, like Ireland or Australia, it makes perfect sense to look at circumstances and conclude that Israel might not be a good place to visit. Also, anyone who is unsure that God has invited him to Israel (or anyone who is fearful) probably should not go.
On the other hand, I recommend that everyone considering travel to Israel decide what is the real question they need answered and respond to the answer they believe they have received.
I hope this helps some of you who are wondering if Israel is safe.
Most “tours” visit sites: Jerusalem, the Mount of Olives, the Mount of Beatitudes, etc. But, there is a difference between visiting a place and experiencing the biblical history of that place. An experience should not only teach, it should also give an individual —especially a young person— a tie to that place which he or she will never forget.
This is why we collect five smooth stones from the brook in the valley where David faced Goliath so we can show those back home that we were actually “there”. This is why we slosh through Hezekiah’s Water Tunnel, asking ourselves how such an architectural feat could have been accomplished so quickly, with all its twists and turns, in 700 B.C.! This is why we give part of our time helping archaeologists sift through Temple Mount dirt, looking for ancient Temple treasures. This is why we spend a Friday evening sharing a Sabbath meal with Israel’s soldiers who have no family in the Land.
Yet, with all this, we visit every genuine bibilical site a normal “tour” would visit, and we are never just “tourists”.
In Israel, every village, town and turn-in-the-road leaps out at you from the Bible. Our guides are Bible scholars as well as experts in points of Jewish history and law. The Bible is our Tour Book — we will read from it daily. Bring it with you on the bus!
Israel is a place unique in the world. It can be a mirror to one’s soul and travelers to this Land often meet themselves and members of their families in ways they did not expect. When families are hot and tired, personal and family issues tend to surface and each individual, or family, will handle their issues differently.
Also, because Israel’s culture appears “western”, it is easy to forget that you are in a foreign country complete with its own inconveniences, inconsistencies, irritabilities and conflicting spirits.
Disappointments arise from unfulfilled expectations. If you are a person who doesn’t appreciate the unexpected, who doesn’t like surprises or who doesn’t like things to change, then this Experience may not be for you.
However, if you love the excitement of new adventures each and every day, then this is the group for you to join! And, you can be assured that, like virtually everyone who has gone before you, you will definitely meet God in ways you have never known Him.
What you are about to join has been prepared to give each participant the maximum possible experience of the biblical history of God’s People and their Land. This may include participation in archaeological work with Temple Mount artifacts. Also, because Israel’s biblical history has always been related to her political history, you and your students will have the rare opportunity to become educated in the complex relationships of the entire Middle Eastern region. For this understanding, your students will be eligible to receive credits in Biblical and Middle Eastern History and Archaeology.
We always drive as close to the sites as possible. Having said this, to really experience Israel, we do a considerable amount of walking. For instance, if one wishes to see the sunrise from Masada, this requires hiking up the gentle slope of the Roman siege ramp early in the morning. Visiting Petra and Jerusalem’s Old City also requires walking. Of course, anyone may choose to opt out of any sites they wish.
What follows is a tiny sampling of the many testimonies we have received from those who have traveled with us:
“This trip was truly amazing. To think it could be done by both an 8 year old and a 73 year old…No one was ever bored!”—A grandmother
“I have taken this trip twice with my children. It is the only trip I know of where you will learn about the land of Israel, see where Jesus walked, and cover the country from one end to the other”—Father of 10 from Texas
“This is no ordinary tour, and that is what makes it so great!”—Girl, age 15
“Even now, a year after Israel, our family frequently talks about our favorite memories from our Israel experience.”
“I am so glad God invited me to His land….”—Girl, age 12
“After planning for 1-1/2 years for our Israel trip (saving, etc), I thought nothing could live up to that kind of build up, but the trip truly exceeded our expectations. We like active vacations, not just sitting in a bus watching the scenes flash by. Each day was filled with interesting teaching, but also activity — climbing, rafting, camel-riding, hiking, swimming, etc. I was amazed at the attention to detail. Also, our group opted for less expensive accommodations, which turned out to be some of our favorite overnights. We were able to interact with many locals that most tourists probably don’t see — Orthodox Jews, Israeli homeschoolers, guys at the army canteen, etc. In the end I would have paid double for what we got.”—Father from Tennessee
“Finding your site was Divine intervention. The fellowship, the love, the joy still move me to tears. I had been to Israel before (have the bumper sticker), have read the Bible, have numerous Jewish friends. But, God bless you; you made it real! I will be joining you all again!”—Mother from Colorado
“If you wish to connect with Israel on an intimate level and explore the richness of its history, this tour is for you….You won’t find any of this on a 5-star hotel tour.” —Grandfather, age 76
“My expectations were so high I honestly expected to be disappointed; however, this trip was much more than I had ever thought it could be.”
“[This Experience] changed my life and those of my children forever. This is an educational and spiritual opportunity I will be eternally grateful for.”—Mother from Minnesota
The following names are only a few of the many families who have traveled with us in the past. They have agreed to answer any questions you may have about our Israel Experiences. They receive no benefit for doing this other than their desire to help with your decision to visit Israel.
Click on any of the names, below, to send them an e-mail:
Haley Family – Spain
Sprenger Family -Thailand
Cofer Family – South Carolina
Knapp Family – Colorado
Jim Castleberry – Georgia
Nathan Shinabarger – Indiana
Roland Leal – Texas
Dawson Family – Texas
Cheryl Green – Ohio
Grzesiak Family – Australia
Robertson Family – Canada
Bonnie Maillie – Pennsylvania
Perkins Family – Minnesota
Lodien Family – Minnesota
White Family – Texas
Hoskins Family – Minnesota
Huff Family – Minnesota
Kowalski Family – Tennessee
Tucker Family – Texas
Anton Family – Texas
Moore Family – Canada
Wiebe Family – Wyoming
McCullough Family – Tennessee
Cotton Family – Spain
Foster Family – California
Koples Family – Canada
Beers Family – Canada
Luke Perry – Tennesssee
Entire families, extended families and partial families (even couples and individuals) have joined our Experiences. Fathers have sent their families (or, sometimes their children) for three weeks and have joined them the first (or last) two weeks. Who should come? Everyone who can… don’t put it off!
Minimum Age: We used to recommend that families wait until their children were at least 11 or 12 year old. Then, we began having children as young as 6 and were amazed at how well they did and how much they enjoyed being in Israel with their families. The rest of the group adopted these youngsters as the trip mascots! But, you know your own children: The amount of sharing they are capable of absorbing; their personal attention spans; their ability to handle hot climates and different kinds of food; their ability to be interested in an experience such as the one we are providing are all necessary considerations.
We do not recommend bringing extremely young children who need the kind of personal attention that could hinder the experiences of the rest of the group.
Maximum Age: We have had grandfathers and grandmothers up to age 80 on our Experiences. These individuals paced themselves, occasionally choosing not to climb or walk distances; but they enjoyed the time with their families. It is a special treat when children can have deeply satisfying experiences with a grandparent, such as one of our youngsters who was baptized in the Jordan River by her grandfather. One grandfather brought his granddaughter to Israel and I toured with them for a month! It’s all good…
Yes, you may. Here is the rationale and how you assign the credits:
Traditionally, the public high school year is made up of approximately 180 school days with approximately 50 minutes per subject (or, about 150 “academic hours”) in order for the student to earn 1 high school academic credit for each subject. However, when one considers how much time is spent daily on non-academic issues, it is not a stretch to conclude that approximately 100 academic hours should equal 1 academic credit.
Here is how to do the “math” showing how time spent in Israel will equal one academic credit:
Your children will be spending around 16 hours per day (this assumes 8 hours of sleep per night) immersed in many aspects of historical and political analyses, not only of Israel, but of the entire Middle East. Multiply 16 hours per day times the number of days your child will spend in Israel. For instance, if your child visits Israel for 14 days, that will equal 224 hours. Do the math for more, or fewer, days. Your total will not even include reading and other trip preparation.
When adding these credits to your student’s transcript, give the credits a Course Title and put the Course under the broad category of World History or Political Science. Here are some suggestions:
“Geo-politics of the Middle East”
“Historical and Modern Politics of Palestine”
“Ancient Biblical History and Archaeology of the Middle East”
“History of Ancient and Modern-day Israel”
You get the picture. Mix any of the above phrases around or think up your own Course Titles when you return home and enter them on your student’s official transcript. Give a course description or descriptions based on what was actually done and how many credits you are awarding. Include whatever books you read or have read. Have your child write an essay on his/her experiences if you wish.
Children younger than high school age may also earn the same high school credits through Advanced Placement. Simply wait until your child is in the high school grades and add the credits from their Israel Experience to his/her 9th grade transcript. This has been common practice among homeschoolers for years and is, also, a common practice in private schools.
Tour guides & tour operators are happy to take tourists wherever tourists want (or expect) to be taken. In other words, to “popular” places in the Land. Tour operators and guides are not responsible for whether or not the places they take tourists are historically (or even biblically) “authentic”.
Although tour guides will not say so, among themselves they tend to organize sites into 4 categories:
Category 1 is not an authentic historical site, yet people visit many of these because it is tradition to do so. The so-called “Upper Room”, in Jerusalem, (among many others) falls into this category. Even if the exact location was still known today, because Jerusalem was completely destroyed in 70AD, no such place would still exist. Nevertheless, each year, thousands of tourists visit the so-called Upper Room without considering that no authentic Upper Room exists today.
Category 2 might be an authentic historical site, but most likely is not. Several places fit this category including Cana of Galilee which is in competition with other villages for the place where Jesus performed His first miracle of turning water into wine. It was Emperor Constantine’s mother, Helena, who came to Israel and said she had dreams and visions of the locations of Jesus’ life and ministry and it was on those sites that she had churches built. Tourists visit these churches without regard to the possible authenticity of the location.
Category 3 has a greater chance of being authentic because, what was supposed to have happened there, probably happened somewhere very near if not at the exact spot claimed. Examples of this are the Mount of Beatitudes, the location of Jesus healing the Gaderene demoniac, or the place on the Jordan River where Jesus was baptized.
Category 4 is unquestionably authentic. There are so many Category 4 locations in Israel, we feel it a waste of people’s precious time to visit locations where the authenticity of the site is so uncertain, if not completely invalid. Nevertheless, we are happy to take people to any site they want to visit regardless of what has been stated, above.
Our promise to you: We will never treat you as a “tourist” but will provide you with a total Experience of both biblical and modern Israel, her Land, and her People.
Click the following link to be taken to a series of pages especially prepared for those traveling with us. Preparing for my Israel trip