Photo: King Solomon’s Wailing Wall, Jerusalem, Israel by J. Wilder Bill
Nothing like a trip to the Holy Land for inspiration, as long as you know where you are going, and who will take you there. You need to be clear with the travel agent on what type of experience you want to enjoy.
Do you want to shed tears over Jesus’ tomb?
Are you more interested in Roman history?
Is the current political unrest intriguing to you?
Do you find the Jewish culture alluring?
1. Picking the Appropriate Tour
If you go on a tour conducted by an Israeli company, the locations described in the Old Testament will be featured, even if the tour is marketed as being a Christian experience. An Israeli tour will hurry through the New Testament sites, even ignoring locations with major significance. They provide non-Christian interpretations of the events and customs, which translates into inaccurate information. They refer to Jesus’ life as mythology. Shopping and eating, unless from their vendors, is discouraged.
Palestinian tour guides, while unenthusiastic about Christian stories, allow tourists to take time at sites portrayed in the Gospels. The main source of income for Palestinian Christians is tourism; therefore, Palestinian guides encourage shopping and food. They recognize the angels described in Jesus’ experiences, and show respect toward the churches’ devotional times.
If you join a tour led by a US Christian guide, identify whether the guide is a spiritual leader who gives sermons at each site, or if the guide will navigate through the sites with a factual presentation. The US Christian guides spend time explaining which Biblical stories took place at each location. This helps you absorb the Holiness of each. There are a large number of sites close together. I studied the Bible my entire life, and still was so overwhelmed, I got confused about where we were throughout the tour.
Most sites were thriving cities when religious figures visited them. The Romans planned cities that rival modern conveniences. Now, the sites are adorned with silver stars, extravagant lights, and elaborate paintings. Churches are built where Holy experiences took place. The land has changed hands numerous times, resulting in several religious interpretations being recognized.
2. What Clothes to Pack
A big question for me was how to dress. I had assumed everyone would be covered from forehead to toe-tip. Not every place has an identical dress code.
For one thing, few destinations were steaming, hot deserts. You will be traveling up and down mountains, across fertile farmlands, and over bodies of water. It gets incredibly cold. I understand some travelers will stick with the summer months, but no matter when you go, make sure to pack a jacket, a sweater and a hat. The hat is to combat the sunshine and also keep in body heat.
Tel Aviv is modeled after Miami Beach. The beachfront is the proper place for shorts, but only a couple of men will be wearing them. Exercise outfits are popular along the boardwalk where people walk their dogs, play music, and jog. A couple of families were in the water at a beach bar, but aside from children in the buff, the adults were unprovocative.
Outside Tel Aviv, the wardrobe is more conservative.
Women wear leggings, and they don’t cover their backsides. Israeli women throughout the country tend to wear thick, rubbery leggings in solid black. They get fancy with their shoes — gold sequins and metallic silver. From sandals to sneakers, they typically have stacked soles and chunky heels.
Holy sites require men and women to cover their knees and shoulders. Signs provided for the elbows to be covered, as well, but this wasn’t always followed. An elderly woman in short sleeves was told to put on a jacket inside a church. Hats are to be removed when entering churches. Jewish men and women tend to cover their heads with items available to buy at the sites.
Locals wear jeans. Even if you go to an upscale restaurant or hotel, people are dressed in casual pants and sweatsuits. Slouchy sweaters and layered tops are popular. Scarves are abundant for men and women.
Women don’t show skin. The clothes have the same appearance as Western styles, such as Europe and the Americas, but there is no cleavage, form fitting tops or exposed legs. Tops reach the neck. Ankles aren’t seen. Even if you wear a maxi-dress, it should be cut like a potato sack. The men don’t seem to notice the spandex leggings, however.
I planned to not call attention to myself, yet I didn’t anticipate how little color is used in their fashion. Black and grays are the dominant palettes. I wore kaki a couple of times, and both days I attracted unappealing attention. Even pastel pinks and blues stand out. The local women wear matte, black stockings with dresses, and long sleeves.
The men oftentimes have on a coat and tie due to religious practices, which includes daily prayers and Shabbat on Fridays and Saturdays. When dining in an upscale restaurant, unless the men wear a long, sleeved shirts with black jeans or charcoal pants. The men prefer driving loafers or moccasins with both jeans and slacks. Scarves are common.
There is a lot of walking in Israel. Much of the landscape is either rocky or asphalt. Athletic shoes might not have a thick enough sole to protect your feet. Sandals could result in a twisted ankle if during a day outside a major city. Flat boots were perfect, however, you can feel the sharper rocks.
While you will be told Israel is safe, you will also be advised to hold onto your wallet. It is wise not to stick with a coin purse or bare essentials. Keeping items in a zipped pocket is best.
These were my essential questions before setting out for Israel. I hope my candid sharing makes your trip hassle free, so you can focus on getting inspired.