2021 Tour Information Packet

Welcome…and open your heart and mind to God’s blessings!  One of the statements most often uttered by those who visit Israel is “I will never be the same!”  When we walk where Jesus walked, sail on the Sea of Galilee where He calmed the storm, visit the Mount of Olives where He taught His disciples so many things, and peer into the empty tomb from whence He arose, the sense of God’s presence takes on new life!  The Word of God becomes vivid in detail and your faith grows deeper.

As if that’s not enough, our tour will also incorporate tremendous personal experiences with the people and the culture of Israel.  As we meet Arab, Palestinian and Messianic Jewish pastors leading their congregations to follow Jesus, we will get a glimpse of Christianity being lived out in a very different culture than our own.  When we witness Jews and Palestinians working peacefully side-by-side we’ll gain more accurate understanding of the Israel-Palestinian conflict.  A visit with Holocaust survivors will give us a perspective into Jewish life rarely understood.

So much more than a vacation, the EXPERIENCE ISRAEL TOUR will revolutionize your life as the Land of the Bible comes to life before your very eyes.  You will have a deeper appreciation for the Word of God and a greater understanding of Biblical truth.  Also, don’t be surprised if you meet new lifelong friends!

Our tour begins February 19, 2021, but the journey lasts a lifetime!

To register or view an itinerary CLICK HERE!

What about flights and airfare?

  • For those flying with the group from Phoenix:
    • A block of seats is already reserved and the price is locked in.
    • Price is just under $1,000, but subject to minor adjustments due to government fees. (The airline does not anticipate fees to move the cost over $1,000.)
    • Actual booking and payment will take place in late-November. (Please plan accordingly and be prepared to make full payment to the airline at that time.)
  • For those flying from other parts of the country:
    • You may meet us in Phoenix if you wish to fly with the group. Please notify Kym Varner of that preference. (Looking4theBlessedHope@gmail.com)
    • Otherwise, you will meet us in Tel Aviv. However, Kym is available to assist you in booking your flight from whatever city you choose.
    • In order to catch our shuttle from the airport to the hotel, inbound flights to Tel Aviv must arrive prior to the time of group arrival.
    • We recommend not booking your flight until the tour is confirmed. (Minimum of 20 guests are required to confirm the trip.) Kym will keep you posted on details as they occur.

Do I need a passport, a visa, and trip insurance?

Is it dangerous to travel to/in Israel?

  • The two most dangerous things when you go to Israel:
    • Getting to your hometown airport to fly out.
    • Overeating!
  • Israel’s crime rate is low.
  • Jews, Arabs, Palestinians and others in Israel have vested interest in keeping tourists safe…we are their bread and butter!
  • You will see IDF soldiers and police everywhere, typically with automatic weapons slung over their shoulders.  They are protecting the safety of everyone and are quick to respond to situations.
  • Palestinian-controlled areas are a different story, so please do not set out on excursions away from the group.

What is the weather like in Israel?

  • Weather varies considerably by location and can fluctuate. Thus, it is best to dress in layers.
  • February-March is typically mild, but bring a sweater, jacket or coat (depending upon your own comfort level).
  • We’ll provide more detail about specific weather forecasts as the time draws near.  Meanwhile, here are averages:

How should I dress?

  • Jewish and Islamic cultures demand modesty of men and women.
    • Women: Avoid shorts, sleeveless or low-cut tops or tight-fitting clothes.
    • Men: You will need a head covering for Jewish holy sites. (Hat or kippah.)
  • Dress casual.  Jeans/pants are appropriate for both men and women. 
  • Wear comfortable walking shoes. 
    • Pro Tip: Break them in before the trip.
  • Avoid expensive jewelry and watches.  We suggest not bringing valuables that have no practical purpose.
  • We will attend a Messianic worship service and dress is very much like we are accustomed to at many churches in the US.  Casual (though modest) is acceptable, but you may dress up if you wish.

What about etiquette with the group and with locals?

  • Stay with the group!  If you get left, you are solely responsible for catching up with the group, and a taxi ride across Israel could get expensive!
  • Follow instructions precisely.  There is a reason for every instruction given, so please avoid creating problems for the group by failing to follow them.
  • Respect locals.  We are guests in their land, so greet them with a smile and a “shalom,” and treat them kindly!  If someone does something kind to you, say “Todah!”  (Thank you!)
  • Be on time!  For example, if the bus is scheduled to leave at 7:00, show up in time to get on, get seated and be out of the way of others.  Tardiness wastes the time of everyone else.
  • This is a great adventure for us all.  If there is a legitimate issue that needs to be resolved, please address it with Kym Varner or John Kelley. 
    • Pro Tip:  If it is not a legitimate complaint, don’t express it to anyone! LOL!

Will we be able to communicate with locals?

  • Most Israelis are either fluent or are able to communicate to some degree in English.  It is a friendly culture and most Israelis are helpful.  Don’t hesitate to engage in conversation.
  • Here are a few common Hebrew words you may want to know:
    • “Shalom” = hello, good-bye, peace to you. 
      • Pro Tip: If in doubt, say “Shalom!”
    • “Todah” = thank you.  This is a good word to use often!
    • “Todah rabbah” = thank you very much.  Make use of these words too!
    • “Tov” = good
    • “Ken” = yes
    • “Lo” = no
    • “Boker tov” = good morning.  Greet our guide and bus driver this way each morning!
    • “Erev tov” = good evening.  Appropriate to say at the end of the tour day.
    • “Lyla tov” = good night 
    • “Yisrael” = Israel
    • “Yalla” = hurry up!  You will hear guides say this to their groups.  Make sure they are not saying it to you!
  • If you somehow find yourself apart from the group and in need of assistance, don’t hesitate to ask for help. 
    • Pro Tip: Many will even loan you their cell phone to make a call if needed.           
  • When you hear two or more Israelis conversing, it may sound like an argument.  Typically, it is not!  Many speak very straight-forwardly and are opinionated, thus speak very confidently.
    • Pro Tip: Think New Yorkers!

How should I prepare for the trip?

  • On some days, we will do lots of walking.  If you are not regularly active most of the day, start walking now!  No need to train for a marathon, but do create a routine of exercise.  We want you to be able to enjoy every bit of the tour.
  • In most places, the bus will drop us off close to the site we wish to see.  However, places like Masada and navigating through the Old City require some walking.
  • Obtain a written copy of prescription medication you are taking in case you lose your meds.  If you wear glasses, you may want to bring a back-up pair.
    • Pro Tip: Pack essential meds in your carry-on, rather than in your checked bag. 
  • Make two copies of the information page of your passport.  Leave one at home with a trusted person, and pack the other (separate from your passport) to aid in replacing your passport if it is lost. 
    • Pro Tip:  No one plans to lose their passport, so don’t overlook this thinking, “It can’t happen to me!”  Better to be prepared and not need it than stuck in a foreign country for days you did not plan!
  • If you plan to use your cell phone in Israel, be sure to check costs and coverage options with your provider. 
    • Pro Tip: You don’t want surprises on your next cell phone bill!
  • Learn as much as you can about Israel between now and the tour.  Acquaint yourself with a map of Israel.  As our departure draws nearer, we will provide helpful information to whet your appetite for what we will see and experience! 

Do I need to exchange American dollars for Israeli shekels?

  • It’s up to you!  Almost all places in Israel take American dollars…and like them!  However, you will get change in shekels, and merchants will always “round up” when calculating cost. (ie – you will get slightly short changed!)
  • The best place to exchange currency is at the airport.  However, ATM’s are available everywhere, so you will be able to exchange easily (for a fee!)
  • Most places, other than the shuk (marketplace), will take Visa and MasterCard, though it is not recommended except at places with modern credit card security systems. 
    • Pro Tip: There will be conversion fees, so check with your credit card company for details.
  • Do not use debit cards.  (Pro Tip: Travelers checks are not recommended.  It can be difficult to cash them, and there is always a fee.)  Credit cards are a better option.

How much money do I need for essentials?

  • Almost all tour costs are covered, including tips, entrance fees, and most meals (all breakfasts and dinners).  You will be responsible for lunches, which can vary widely (~$6-15, depending upon your tastes). 
    • Pro Tip: Jerusalem has lots of food stands with great food!
  • Water and coffee are included with meals.  Soft drinks and other beverages are available for additional charge.
  • Take a supply of $1 bills, which are good for street merchants and bottled water on the bus.
  • There are nice souvenir shops at several places we will stop (Nof Ginosar in the Galilee, Garden Tomb in Jerusalem).  We will NOT spend scheduled time shopping, though there may be opportunities during free time.
  • Remember: whatever you buy, you have to bring home!  Pack lightly if you plan to bring lots of souvenirs and mementos home!

Are there luggage restrictions?

  • Please limit luggage to one large suitcase and one carry-on.  Airlines will charge fees for additional baggage, and doubling as a pack mule will suck the enjoyment out of your trip!
  • Airlines also have weight limitations (usually 40 lbs), so plan wisely.
  • Your carry-on must fit under an airline seat.
  • Purses do not count as carry-ons, but keep it small!

What should I bring?

  • Bible, notebook and pen (or small tablet)
  • Camera (your phone will likely do!)
  • Clothing suitable for layering
  • Waterproof jacket/coat
  • Round mailing tube that fits in your suitcase
  • Comfortable shoes
  • Zip-lock bags, manila envelopes
  • Modest swimsuit
  • Inflatable neck pillow
  • Electricity converter/adapter
  • Small day bag
  • Sunglasses, sunscreen
  • Meds (Rx or OTC)
  • Tissues
  • Passport carrier/money belt

What is the food like in Israel?

  • Incredible!
  • Breakfast and dinner will be served buffet-style each morning/evening at the hotels.
  • Meals will be “kosher,” which means no mixing of meat and dairy and no Biblically “unclean” food.
    • Pro Tip:  Don’t ask for bacon!
    • Breakfasts are “dairy” buffets often containing yogurt, eggs, cheeses, breads, hummus, fresh cucumbers, tomatoes, fish, cereal, etc
    • Lunches vary according to where we are that day.  Food stands often have excellent food, and other restaurants will have choices you will recognize.  (There are even a few fast food places in Israel, but who wants to go to Israel and eat “kosher” McDonald’s!)
    • Dinners are buffets with plenty of meat choices, but no dairy.  (Pro Tip: At dinner, avoid asking for a glass of milk or butter for your bread, as that would be insulting. Asking for them at breakfast is okay!)

How to Have an Enjoyable Tour:

  • Israelis take security very seriously!  DO NOT joke about having weapons or explosives anywhere…unless you would like to spend some extra time visiting Israeli detention centers!
  • We will encounter street merchants (mostly Palestinian).  Some are polite, some are aggressive (though not dangerous).  When the tour guide or teacher is talking, tell vendors (locals selling their wares) that you are not interested. 
    • Pro Tip: “No” in Hebrew is “Lo,” and is understood by Arabs/Palestinians as well.
  • Avoid hand gestures such as open palms, thumbs up/down, and pointing toward a person.  These gestures may be offensive, particularly to Arabs.
  • If there is a problem on the bus or in the hotel, please don’t complain to anyone.  Go to Kym Varner or John Kelley and we will do what is necessary to resolve the issue. 
  • If you simply want to complain, journal it, or better yet just….don’t!  We want this to be a “trip of a lifetime,” and complaining tends to dampen the spirit for everyone.
  • We have an itinerary, but changes may occur for a variety of reasons (some outside our control). 
    • Pro Tip: “Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be broken.”
  • All tips have already been paid, so just relax and enjoy the services of our guide, bus driver, hotel staff, etc.
  • DO NOT leave our group with anyone outside our group.  Also, do not accept any parcel, package or item from anyone you do not know.  This is for your protection.  Israel is a safe place, but even safe places have a few weird characters.
  • There are dozens of choices at breakfast and dinner.  However, if you don’t like the food or the way it is prepared, please avoid complaining.  This is a great time to allow our Christian witness to shine.
  • Shopkeepers in the markets can be very aggressive.  Kindly refuse to follow someone to their shop where they insist you will be given the best deal in the world! 
    • Pro Tip: If they place something in your hand, you likely just bought the item!
  • The markets are fun to see, and negotiating is the name of the game there.  But keep in mind, they do this every day for a living.  Watch out for buyer’s remorse! 
    • Pro Tip: If they offer you the bargain of the day, it will also be there tomorrow!
  • Avoid giving candy or money to kids unless you want to be mobbed!  Street kids (even young ones) are very streetwise!
  • Beware of pick-pockets, particularly in crowded areas of Jerusalem.  It is wise for men and women alike to carry money in an inside pocket or money pouch, and avoid taking out wads of cash in front of vendors.  Be discreet.
  • Don’t expect things to be like they are at home!  Part of the purpose of visiting other places is to experience different things.  Enjoy the culture, embrace the differences and go home with great appreciation for both their culture and ours.
  • Did I mention don’t whine or complain…..?  We’re having fun here!
  • Keep your passport with you always.  Never separate from it, as a missing passport will almost assuredly create problems!
  • On Temple Mount, Muslims do not allow any public displays of affection. 
    • Pro Tip: Please avoid holding hands with your spouse.
  • Practice good manners with locals and with each other:
    • Do not be rude
    • Wait patiently
    • Share the window seats
    • Don’t be pushy
  • If you are sending cards back home, make pre-addressed stickers to put on postcards.