“In the Footsteps of Jesus—Israel”
Dr. Bill Creasy and Msgr. Richard Duncanson
October 29 – November 9, 2017
You’re about to begin a remarkable journey, a pilgrimage to Israel where we will walk “in the footsteps of Jesus.” For many, this will be the trip of a lifetime and a profound spiritual experience. It will also be a lot of fun! For me, it will be my 57th Israel teaching tour, and the second tour in which Msgr. Duncanson has joined me as pastor (in 2014, we led a group to Italy for the canonization of Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II).
Many of you are my current or former Logos Bible Study students; many are my listeners on Audible.com; and some are Church of the Nativity parishioners in Rancho Santa Fe with Msgr. Duncanson. What we all have in common is a love of Scripture; an intimate, personal relationship with Christ; and a desire to know him and serve him better as a result of this tour.
Several of our pilgrims have asked me what they might read to be better prepared for our adventure together. The more you learn before our tour, the deeper will be your experience, both intellectually and spiritually. Here are a few suggestions, along with links to click:
Pope Benedict XVI (Joseph Ratzinger) has written a superb 3-volume work on Jesus, and I highly recommend it. Just click on the titles below:
Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives. New York: Image, 2012.
Jesus of Nazareth: from the Baptism in the Jordan River to the Transfiguration. New York: Image, 2007.
Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week: From the Entrance Into Jerusalem To The Resurrection . San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2011.
If you have not done so already, I would also recommend that you take my course on The Gospel according to Luke, a 20-lesson university-level online course for which the San Diego Diocese offers continuing education credit. As a Logos Israel pilgrim, you are entitled to a 50% discount on the cost of the course!
Three other books are worth reading before your tour, as well:
James Mitchner’s The Source, an epic novel that paints a broad and vivid picture of Israel, from its beginnings through its modern-day history.
John Bright’s A History of Israel, the classic university and seminary textbook on Israel’s Old Testament history. The new 4th edition has an introduction and an updated appendix by William P. Brown.
Israeli journalist Tom Segev’s One Palestine, Complete: Jews and Arabs Under the British Mandate offers, in my opinion, an insightful and cogent study on the roots of today’s Israeli/Palestinian conflict.
Weather and What to Bring
Israel is on the same latitude as southern California, so the weather in Israel will be much like the weather in Los Angeles or San Diego at any given time of the year. In Tel Aviv, along the Mediterranean coast, the weather will be like the beaches in southern California; in Galilee, which is inland and 700 feet below sea level, the weather will be like Riverside or Escondido, but more humid; in Jerusalem, which is 2,500 feet above sea level, the weather will be 10-20 degrees cooler than on the coast (I’ve actually seen snow in Jerusalem during January!); and the Dead Sea will be like Yuma or Palm Springs.
Israel’s rainy season, like southern California, stretches from late October through February or March: the most rain comes in December and January. Rain is rare in the spring, summer and fall. Bring a Gortex jacket or raincoat, just in case. Please do not bring umbrellas, as getting them up and down while getting on and off the bus makes a mess, and you may poke someone in the eye with them!
Dress for the weather.
Ordinary, comfortable clothing is best: jeans or slacks, with a shirt, sweater or light jacket are best for men; the same for women. Most churches require “holy dress”; that is, knees covered for both men and women (no shorts), and women must have their shoulders covered, as well. On days when you will need “holy dress,” we’ll let you know beforehand. For men, if you like wearing shorts, I’d recommend hiking pants that have zip-off legs, so you can zip them on and off, when needed. For women, you may consider stuffing a pullover moo-moo dress or a shawl in your bag: always handy! You do not need formal dress (suits, jackets, ties, fancy dresses, etc.) for anything we’ll be doing.
Above all, wear comfortable walking shoes and cushioned socks. We’ll be walking a lot on archaeological sites, trails and busy urban streets with lots of stairs (in Jerusalem). As noted on the tour brochure, to be comfortable you should be able to walk a mile briskly and climb 100 stairs with ease. If you cannot, start walking today and work up to it! The places we’ll be visiting in Israel are not handicapped accessible; consequently, our tour cannot accommodate wheelchairs, walkers or walking disabilities.
Our main group is flying on El Al nonstop from Los Angeles to Tel Aviv. El Al’s baggage restrictions vary according to your class of seating. However, because we have a full group tour, we limit baggage to one check-on bag, weighing up to 23 kg., or 50 lbs. and one carry-on bag, a standard “roller bag” that fits in the overhead compartment weighing no more than 8 kg. or 17 lbs. Both men and women may also have one personal item, such as a purse, camera bag or briefcase. If you take medication—especially “keep me alive” medication—bring it in your carry-on bag. It is very difficult—if not impossible—to get prescriptions refilled in Israel.
If you are flying to Israel from other places on other airlines, please observe the same baggage restrictions.
It’s important to follow these rules, otherwise our group’s baggage will not fit under the bus and hotel porters will not carry more than one bag per person for group tours. In addition, Israeli airport security is intense, and excess baggage slows the process down considerably for the entire group (they may decide to open all the suitcases).
You will receive two luggage tags per person from Executours, our travel company. Please fill these out and attach one to your check-on bag and one to your carry-on bag. When we check in and out of our hotels, these tags will identify you so that the porters can deliver your bags to the correct room and ensure that all bags are on the bus when we check out of a hotel.
Speaking of security, I am often asked: “Is it safe to travel to Israel?” The answer is: “Yes.” In fact, it is much safer to travel to Israel than it is to New York, Chicago or Los Angeles. When is the last time you heard of a tourist being injured in Israel?
As I noted at the start, this will be my 57th Israel tour, and I have never had a single problem on any of them.
However, in Israel—as in any other place you may travel—it is important to take prudent personal security measures. Do not bring expensive jewelry or other items that you don’t want to lose or misplace. Our hotels have room safes where you can store your passports, money and valuables. Use them.
Israel has very little violent crime, but—as in other tourist locations—pickpockets are plentiful. I know where they work (and I know most of them by sight), and I’ll tell you when they’re around. When we’re in crowds in Jerusalem (especially on the Mount of Olives and on the Via Dolorosa), men should carry their wallets in their front pocket, with their hand in their pocket; women should carry their purses across their shoulder, not hanging from one shoulder. Don’t use fanny packs: they are really easily to pickpocket! And in crowds, hang your backpacks on your chest, not on your back.
In short, be aware of your surroundings in Israel . . . or anywhere else, for that matter.
Question: Do I need to bring a converter to plug in my electronic equipment?
Answer: No. Although electrical current is 220 volts in Israel, not 110 as in the USA, nearly all modern electrical equipment (phones, cameras, electric shavers, etc.) can utilize either. You will need an adapter, though, for the actual outlets are different (round, not flat). You can get these adapters at Target, 3 for $7.99:
Question: Do they take American dollars in Israel, or will I need to get shekels before I leave home?
Answer: Although some places take American dollars, it is better to bring some shekels with you. You can exchange dollars for shekels at most banks in the USA, but you may need to give the bank a few days advanced notice if they don’t have them on hand. Currently (September 2017), the exchange rate is 3.5 shekels to $1.00 (1 shekel is worth about $0.28; to make it easy, just divide shekels by 4 to be in the ballpark, and you’ll get some change back). If you exchange dollars for shekels in Israel—especially at a hotel—you will not get a good exchange rate.
Your tour is paid for, so the only thing you’ll need cash for in Israel is lunch “on the road,” munchies, and minor gifts you may buy from vendors on the street. I typically take $300 in shekels for my miscellaneous expenses.
Question: Do I need to leave tips at hotels, restaurants, etc.?
Answer: Tips are included in the cost of your tour. At the end of the tour, however, I will collect a “bonus” tip for our guide and our driver. This is your opportunity to show your appreciation for their work and any special service they may have provided for you. I recommend $20.00/person for the guide and $10.00/person for the driver; you may give more or less, as you see fit.
Our guide and driver know I do this, so it provides an incentive for them to go “above and beyond” what is necessary in serving you.
Question: Do they take credit cards in Israel?
Answer: Hotels, shops and larger gift stores all take MasterCard and Visa; a few take American Express and Discovery. If you plan on using credit cards while on our tour be sure to call the credit card company (their customer service number is on the back of the card) and tell them where and when you’ll be traveling. Otherwise, trying to use the card overseas may trigger a “security hold” on your card (thinking someone may have hacked or stolen it), in which case you won’t be able to use it.
Question: Can I use my mobile phone in Israel?
Answer: Yes, but you need to call your provider and arrange for overseas phone and texting service.
Importantly: when you get on the airplane to leave the USA, go to the settings on your phone and turn OFF data; turn it back on when you get home. Data, such as Internet, emails, surfing the web, etc. if VERY expensive. You can easily run up $500-$1,000 in data charges, if you don’t turn your data off! Our hotels all have Wi Fi, so use that to check your emails, etc.
Question: Where do I sit on the bus?
Answer: We do not spend much time on the bus in Israel. It is a small country! Each morning we will have a wake-up call at 6:00 AM, breakfast at 7:00 AM and we will be on the bus at 8:00 AM to start our day.
You must be on the bus by 8:00 AM, for we are “wheels rolling” at 8: 01 AM. If you are not on the bus, have a nice day at the hotel!
On the bus, Ana (my wife and our tour photographer) and I will be in the front row behind the driver, so we can consult with the guide and driver; the guide (and his equipment) will in the front row on the right, with access to the bus microphone. Apart from that, you can sit anywhere you like (unless the Holy Spirit has taken your seat, as below!).