Is it safe to travel to Israel? Many people find themselves dreaming, wishing and actually feeling an urgency or need to travel to the Holy Land, the one place on earth where Jesus Christ walked. That urgency is not unusual, I have felt it myself and I cannot overstate the impact that traveling to the Holy Land has had on my relationship with Christ, my Bible Studies and my desire to spread God’s Word.
Israel in the Daily News…
Although Israel seems to be a star in the daily news, visiting the Holy Land is not very different from vacationing and traveling any other place in the world. According to the blog Traveling Israel “Crime rates in Israel are much much lower than other countries around the world and the rest is pretty much noise and bad publicity. Israel’s first goal is to protect its citizens and the state security is top-notch, perhaps the best in the world. We all heard the stories about EL AL’s security procedures, making the national Israeli airline to be the safest around the globe, and that’s what Israelis do best – keep things on the safe side.” Violence anywhere should not be downplayed. Tensions between neighborhoods, ethnic groups, political groups, and authority and civilians can be found in most countries and Israel certainly has its share of all of them.
The Middle East
Because of the larger Middle East’s ongoing strife, any violence that crops up is widely reported around the world, quickly and efficiently, as we all know, bad news travels fast! The Middle East is a hotbed of war and strife and let’s be honest, has been that way for thousands of years. That is not to say that anyone planning to travel to Israel should ignore current events but a careful look at the news articles can actually be reassuring. One article I read recently had a very provocative picture of masked protesters that seemed to be Palestinian. The caption of the picture, in small print, contained the fact that the picture was from a protest in Casablanca, Morocco. Obviously we need to be careful when taking a trip to the Holy Land, however we should not let the media, with its need for sensational news, deter us.
This current wave of violence by all accounts is unorganized and sporadic, and while we know that bloodshed is not unusual in this part of the Middle East, these stabbings, shootings and driving into crowds is very different from the orchestrated rocket attacks and suicide bombings of past confrontations. The Israeli military has successfully used the “Iron Dome” missile defense system to intercept rocket fire from Gaza or northern areas, plus the country has spent huge amounts of money developing an intelligence network to stop potential suicide bombings and terrorist infiltrations. However, as an October 15th article from CNN points out these latest waves of violent confrontations are, “… the ultimate low-tech response to Israel’s high-tech, high-cost security.”
Most Middle East authorities, including the Israelis are not blaming these attacks on militant groups or unified factions such as Hamas. Even though Hamas has praised the Palestinian attackers, they are not claiming responsibility for any of the violence, a direct difference from past confrontations. The previous “intifadas” required an infrastructure to provide attackers with resources, materials, and transportation to get them into place to carry out attacks, which is not the case in these current assaults.
Beer Sheva Assault
Although the attack in Beer Sheva on Sunday, October 18th was reported by the media as another act of violence in the continuing saga of “Israel versus Palestine,” it was not clear if the attacker was motivated by those tensions. The person responsible was an Arab Bedouin citizen of Israel and although some Bedouins identify as Palestinian, they are their own ethnic group within Israel and other Arab states. Bedouin groups have been at odds with authorities throughout the Middle East over issues of their own, and as such the police have not been able to determine a motive for the Beer Sheva assault.
Why Travel to Israel?
Wayne Stiles, Pastor, Teacher, and Author, writes a comprehensive blog, some of which is about traveling to Israel. He has a wonderful way of discussing safety while traveling to Israel plus, what a difference the trip will make in your personal life. The following are two excerpts from Wayne’s blog,( http://www.waynestiles.com/ ) Connecting the Bible and its Lands to Life:
You Will Never Be the Same!
My first trip to Israel so impacted my life, I wondered, Is this normal? Have others also had similar experiences in the Holy Land? For the next few years, I did my doctoral research on how a tour to Israel affects the spiritual life of a Christian. After surveying hundreds of Christians who have traveled to the Holy Land, I discovered:
1. 99% agree that experiencing the land of Israel has strengthened their spiritual life.
2. 96% have increased in their love for God and the Bible through the study of Bible lands.
3. 98% noted that knowing the land of the Bible helps their memory of biblical events.
Safety in the Holy Land
Traveling to Israel is safe. I know, I know, I watch the news as well. This trip marks my 10th trip to Israel in the last 14 years, and I have never felt unsafe. Not once.
• If all we knew of America came from what we learned on the news, we would have a very distorted perspective.
• Think of a large city near you. For me, it’s Dallas. There are parts of Dallas I don’t go to. And yet, I travel to Dallas often, just as I have thousands of times. I’ve even lived there! Going is no problem if you know where to go-and where not to go.
• I have known and worked with our tour operator for more than 12 years. They have as their top priority your comfort and safety throughout your journey. Believe me, it is in the best interest of the travel company that you are safe! And you will be.
• In fact, the number of tourists to Israel continues to rise. In September 2012, Israel had 305,000 visitors-the highest number in ever one month, reported the Central Bureau of Statistics.
All of the above does not take away from the fact that on any vacation, precautions need to be taken. Common sense tells us to be aware of our surroundings and to make sure we are taking measures to be safe when we are out of our comfort zones and traveling to some place different.
• Make sure your tour guides are taking your safety into consideration
Our guide Ezer will be with the group the entire 12 days, he will meet us at the Tel Aviv Airport the first day, spend the nights in the same hotels and travel with us on the bus.
• Guides should be up-to-date on current events and in contact with officials
Ezer is in contact at all times with tourist officials, he himself is ex-military and has close contacts in that area.
• Tours and bus routes are limited to approved and secure locations
We do not travel to locations in the West Bank, i.e. Bethlehem, as Israeli guides are not allowed to take their tours into those areas, the tour must be handed over to a Palestinian guide and Ezer will not do that.
• Buses are never left alone or unlocked
You will get to know the bus drivers, they never leave the bus and the bus is locked at all times when we are not on the bus.
• Hotel arrangements are limited to well-known hotel chains and in secure areas
We stay in two well-know hotels, the Gai Beach Hotel in Tiberias and the Leonardo Plaza in Jerusalem. Both are in safe, clean areas of the cities.
• When traveling to Israel, use El Al, because all flights and luggage transfers are supervised by Israeli security
Our round-trip, non-stop flight from LAX to Tel Aviv is on El Al.
• Don’t leave the group to travel to the Gaza Strip and West Bank
• Drink plenty of water
The bus drivers stock the buses with water each day, asking $1.00 a bottle, so water is readily available.
• Make copies of your passport and documentation
The fact that you have concerns and questions about traveling to the Holy Land is not unusual. No one makes that first trip without some trepidation, but everyone who has had the privileged of traveling to Israel will tell you that the experience changed their life and that while they were in the Holy Land they never felt unsafe.
Cheryl Lynn Anderson
We, Rich and Cheryl Anderson, are leading a 12 day faith based trip to Israel from the Los Angeles area, in May 2016, the 8th through the 19th.
We have been blessed to be able to travel to Israel several times, returning changed each time. The blessing of visiting Biblical and Historical sites in the Holy Land has brought the Bible alive, enhancing our personal Christian lives and energizing our ministries.
We believe that a trip to the Holy Land is a profound experience that will have an impact on your spiritual life and your passion for Jesus Christ. As we visit each site, we will have time for life application devotions, prayer, historical information and personal reflection and exploration. You will return home with a renewed passion for your Bible, your Christian faith and your personal relationship with Christ.
Visit our site for details and information on how to register for the May 2016 faith based tour to the Holy Land. There are still spots available at this time, however we are limiting the number of people to between 30 and 40 travelers, so get your deposit in as soon as possible.
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