If you’re an adherent of one of the three Abrahamic faith groups (Judaism, Islam, or Christianity) a trip to Israel may be just what you’re looking for. There is no place on the planet like it—it’s the global epicenter of religious history, complicated politics, and archeological wonders. The Blue Juice made a trip to Israel in 2018, and we hope that you can learn from both our mistakes and our triumphs. Here are four tips that will help you get the most out of your religious pilgrimage.
(1) Travel With Like-Minded People. (Please, trust us on this one) If you’re a mainline Protestant or Catholic, you won’t want to tour the country with a Pentecostal group looking to pinpoint potential sites for the second coming. You won’t get as much out of your trip, and you will be chronically irritated. Likewise, if you’re an Orthodox Jew, don’t sign up for a trip to Israel down at your local Reform Judaism congregation. There is plenty of time before and after your trip for interfaith outreach; don’t attempt to do it on your vacation. After all, it will be difficult to pray at the holy sites when you’re fantasizing about strangling someone from your tour group.
(2) If You’re a Christian, Skip the Jordan River Baptismal Site. They charge you for “renting” a baptismal robe—but let’s call it like it is—you’re essentially being charged to be baptized. You’re also required to exit the “holy site” through their over-priced gift shop. (It was just the kind of place Jesus would show up at in order to throw over some tables) Warning: once inside the gift shop, be prepared for high pressure sales the likes of which you haven’t seen since you bought your last used car. But hey, if you want to pay $400.00 for a sterling silver ring or pick up a shirt that says “Guns & Moses”, this is your place.
(3) Visit Palestine. If political conditions allow, try to visit Palestine. Regardless of how you feel about the ongoing conflict, you will not have a complete picture of the country unless you spend some time there. If you have a free day in Jerusalem, use Viator to locate some well reviewed trips to the West Bank wall or Bethlehem. Of course, you should always check with the US Department of State for the latest travel advisories prior to planning a trip. Never trust the blogosphere when it comes to safety—not even The Blue Juice.
(4) Consider Visiting Old Jerusalem During Off-Peak Hours. Please answer the following questions honestly: When visiting Disneyland, do you enjoy waiting in line for three hours in the heat in order to ride a rollercoaster for two minutes? Do you wait until Christmas Eve to shop for presents because you love the crowds, stress, and long holiday lines? If you answered “NO” to both of those questions, you’re going to want to follow our advice here. The lines to visit the major holy sites in Old Jerusalem are LONG; if you go during peak group-tour times, you can expect to spend approximately 40% – 50% of your day waiting. Members of The Blue Juice had the best time in Old Jerusalem on a late Saturday afternoon. By then, all of the group tours had left, and we only had to wait 4 minutes to get into the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. We understand that if you are traveling with a group, you will be unable to control the time you arrive or depart. For this reason, we recommend a second day in Old Jerusalem, without your group, to spend some time in reflection or prayer and to see the city at your own pace. You will thank us for it.
(Video: Late afternoon in the Muslim Quarter of Old Jerusalem)
We hope you enjoy your trip to the Holy Land. If you found these travel tips helpful (or overly sarcastic) please hit the ‘Follow Blog’ button somewhere on the site. We aren’t sure where that button will appear on your device, but we have faith you can find it.