Elizabeth and I returned last Thursday from a two week trip to Israel. We hosted our first tour in 1967. Since that time I have been to Israel nearly forty times. We have been privileged to show hundreds of Bible students the land of the Bible. Of course, there are also tours to Greece, Turkey, and Egypt, that also visited Bible sites.
We made the recent trip to visit some places we had not been, and also to make digital photographs at some places, both Old Testament and New Testament, we had not been able to visit with a good digital camera. We were able to get to a great percentage of the sites we intended to visit. A few eluded us, mostly due to a lack of time. There were also some surprises along the way that allowed us to visit a few sites that were not on our list.
August is not the ideal time to visit Israel due to the heat. If you followed our blog you know that we encountered temperatures of 113 degrees Fahrenheit some days. Of course, we had an air conditioned car and nice air conditioned hotels. We used Delta Reward Miles for our flights. Considering my schedule and the available Reward dates, it was the best we could do. Having visited Israel in March, April, May, June, July and November, it was good to add August to the list. In many cases I think the 2600+ high resolution photos we made were good. We made our overseas flight from Detroit on Air France via Paris. The return was on Delta’s non-stop flight from Tel Aviv to Atlanta (12 hours and 45 minutes). We had enough points to fly business. Getting back to coach will be difficult!
One advantage of traveling in the summer is that the days are longer for making photos. In the winter the daylight hours are much shorter, and you face the likelihood of rain and larger crowds.
Driving in Israel is little different from driving in the USA, but the cities are not laid out in the neat western way of avenues and streets. Parking is difficult in most of the cities. The day we visited the Old City of Jerusalem we took a taxi to the Dung Gate, and then another taxi at the end of the day from Jaffa Gate. We rented from Eldan, and also rented a GPS unit from the company that supplies the units for all car rental agencies. We received a defective unit that was a real pain for four days until we were back near the airport to replace it. We rented a cell phone from Travel Cell before leaving the USA that allowed free incoming calls.
Gasoline costs about $8 per gallon, and prices for food are about double what we would expect to pay in the USA. The water in Israel is good, but we bought bottled water for our daily travel. The hotels had small refrigerators for our use. Internet connections cost as high as $20 per day. Most were $12 a day. One hotel, the Ron Beach in Tiberias, charged only $2 per day. The $12 and $20 rates are really tough when we think of getting free Internet connections in most American hotels. By the way, the Ron Beach is an ideal hotel for individuals traveling. It is away from the the hustle and bustle of Tiberias and is situated on the shore of the Sea of Galilee.
Plastic water bottles and cigarette butts abound everywhere Israelis hike. The area around the Sea of Galilee is especially bad. If I could give the officials some advice it would be to declare a clean up day.
We do not advise the first or second time traveler to try it on your own. You need to be with a group and a competent guide.
Perhaps the biggest danger we faced was at the Hai-Bar Nature Reserve. I let down the car window to make a photo of one of the ostriches and almost lost a lens. See for yourself.
The ostrich is listed among the unclean birds for the Israelites in Leviticus 11:16 and Deuteronomy 14:15.
We drove almost 1900 miles, traveled from Dan to Beersheba, even from the border of Egypt on the Gulf of Eilat (Aqaba) on the Red Sea to the border with Lebanon at Metulla. We drove along the Lebanon border in the mountains of Upper Galilee from Kedesh to Akko. We were close to the Gaza strip when we visited Ashkelon. We drove from the Mediterranean Sea on the West to the border with Jordan in the Arabah, and along the Jordan River valley. Some of the sites along the central mountain range (read West Bank) are not easily accessible.
Israel has a good National Parks system. When we travel with a group the guide buys an entry card for the sites we will visit. This was what we intended to do, but our first stop was at Bet Guvrin/Maresha. We bought a pass, good for a year, to visit all of the parks. This was a good purchase, and we still have time to get back and visit some other sites. 🙂 There were a few other places we visited that were not part of the national parks network (e.g., Timna Park, and the Tabernacle Model).
Both of us stayed healthy the entire tour and arrived home safely. Every flight was on time. We are thankful to the Lord for this wonderful opportunity and look forward to using what we learned and photographed in teaching others.