A Message from Iyad:
Over the years I have found that the more prepared pilgrims are in every way, the more fulfilling their experiences have been. These are the ones who have taken care of all of the details before even leaving their own country. They already know what to pack, what to expect and some of the basic cultural rules. I have listed below the concerns that my pilgrims have had in the past. I hope this will help you to also be better prepared.
Remember that you are on pilgrimage for a short time. It is a chance to surrender to the mystery of the journey, without all the props and masks and distractions of daily routines. You have a unique opportunity to rest in the hands of your leaders, in the hospitality of the wonderful people of Palestine, and in the guiding love of God. Traveling lightly, including shedding your worries and preconceptions, will open your heart to the adventure and the Holy journey we will be sharing.
Canon Iyad Qumri
Licensed Tour Guide
Please NOTE that all asterics (*) are extremely important
It is essential that you have a current passport in hand six months beyond your time of arrival to Israel. Visas to Israel are not required for persons from Australia, Canada, the United States and Western Europe. If you are planning to travel from Israel to Jordan you must have an up-to-date Visa before you arrive in Israel. If you are coming from Jordan to Israel you can get a Visa in the Jordanian airport.
Photography and Cameras
Care should be taken not to photograph any military or police personnel or installations. Visitors should also be discreet about taking photographs in Jewish Orthodox areas and of Jewish Orthodox people. Most sacred sites will indicate whether photography is permitted. Bring extra memory cards and batteries from your home country, as these items are very expensive in Israel and Palestine.
You will not want to bring many books. However, pack a journal and perhaps a map, a guidebook to read at night, a Bible or prayer book if it is small. Sometimes a kindle, ipad, or cell phone is a great place to store your books. . even for storing a Bible or Prayer Book. Excellent books are also for sale at St. George’s College and the nearby Educational Bookshop.
Transportation from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem
Transportation from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem As your guide, I will provide luxury coach transportation for the group arriving at the Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv and also for the group’s departing transportation at the end of the pilgrimage. Pilgrims and baggage will be transported to our hotel in Jerusalem, approximately a 45-minute drive.
It is best to have a group flight, but sometimes people want to travel on their sky miles or arrive earlier or stay later. If you arrive in Tel Aviv within 45 minutes of the group flight, you may take our scheduled group transportation to the hotel. This is all included in your total package fee.
Plan to be able to walk comfortably for 20 minutes at a time. Bear in mind that the terrain is sometimes rough and dusty. In most areas there are places to sit and rest while waiting for the group. Comfortable walking shoes are essential!
Electricity and Electronics
The electrical current in Israel and Palestine is 230V 50Hz alternating current. Both lands use a unique electrical outlet that requires a Type H adapter plug to accept US 2 and 3 prong plugs. Most US phone and camera chargers need only an adapter plug (see the Internet or a local travel store). If you bring a hair dryer that is dual/international voltage, just ensure you switch it to 220-240V before turning it on. If it is not dual voltage, you will need an adapter plug AND a transformer strong enough for it. If you buy a transformer specifically made to use in Israel/Palestine, the only adapted plug that comes with it may be at the end of the cord that connects it to your room's electrical outlet. It may not come with a separate Type H adapter plug and you may want a separate one anyway; don't depend on a guest house to have one to loan to you for your hair dryer.
Extending Your Stay
Sometimes pilgrims want to extend their time in the Holy Land either by adding days prior to their scheduled pilgrimage or adding days immediately after the pilgrimage. Unfortunately because of the number of pilgrimages that I lead, I am unable to make hotel or travel arrangements for your extended stay. However, I do have several airport transportation suggestions.
First, it is easy and safe to take a service taxi to and from Ben Gurion Airport. It is called a sherut (she root). It brings you to your hotel in Jerusalem, but will probably stop at other hotels to drop off passengers. The sherut stand is located in front of one of the exits and is clearly marked “Service Taxi to Jerusalem”. The price per person is approximately $11.00 (US dollars) or NIS 45.00. This of course is subject to change.
Several mobile telephone applications now enable travelers to make international calls for free in many cases. Travelers who still plan to reply on SIMM cards may want to check beforehand whether their US carrier can provide international connectivity without swapping out the US SIMM card. Verizon is one carrier that can do this. For comparison, in early 2019 two SIMMs each for two weeks cost US$100 at Ben Gurion International Airport, somewhat less than Verizon would have charged for two weeks (but with Verizon calls would not have needed adding country prefixes to US numbers, a little convenience).
All meals are included. Breakfasts and dinners will be served at St. George's Guesthouse or at the Sisters of Nazareth. Lunches are in local restaurants along the way. Your guide will pay for the lunches and tips. In addition there are several nights when you may want to enjoy the local restaurants on your own. When you do this, the hotel must be notified the day before. The cost of the missed meal cannot be reimbursed. , Indicate any dietary restrictions on your leader’s registration form. Also beverages during your evening meal are purchased separately from your waiter, so it is wise to bring some extra money with you to the dinner table. All varieties of soft drinks, mineral waters, beers, and wines are available.
Americans & Coffee
After a number of trips to the United States, I now understand how much Americans enjoy their coffee . . . which brings me to the topic of coffee. Yes, it is true; many hotels and restaurants in my country serve the instant coffee, Nescafe. If you are not a fan of Nescafe then you now have several options. One, I have heard from other pilgrims that Starbucks in the U.S. sells an instant coffee product called VIA which is great as a substitute for brewed coffee and it’s containers are small and travel well. Recently Folgers and several other brands are offering their products in small easy to pack containers.
There will be planned “free time” within our itinerary, usually two half days or one full day. I will be happy to suggest a variety of activities for you to choose from, including particular shopping areas and additional places of special interest.
English is understood and spoken widely in most tourist areas. Arabic and Hebrew are the official languages in Israel. I speak English, Arabic and Hebrew so I can always help you out!
With today's increased attention to payment (credit, debit) card security, travelers will be wise to tell their payment card security departments before they go when and where they will travel to avoid ATM actions and charges being denied out-of-hand. (Even then security departments are likely to require travelers to authorize single large purchases at the time.)
Summer (Jun/Jul/Aug/early Sep): Temperatures will be in the high 80º’s, 90º’s. However, Tel Aviv, and Tiberias will be hot and humid. Jerusalem is dryer and cooler, particularly at night. Masada and Eilat are extremely hot, but dry. (110º+!). No Rain!!!
Spring and Fall (late Mar/Apr/May & late Sep/Oct/Nov): Daytime temperatures will be very pleasant, in the 60º's to 70º’s in most of the country, however it will be hot at the Red and Dead Seas. Jerusalem temperatures will be comfortable in the 40º to 50º’s in the evening. There will be some rain - nothing torrential.
Winter (Dec/Jan/Feb/early Mar): Winter weather can fluctuate. Some winters are mild and sunny, some cooler and overcast. There can be occasional heavy rain and, in January and February, even snow sometimes. It will probably be in the 50º’s and 60º’s in most places, but in the 40º’s in Jerusalem and the hills of Galilee, it will be cold at night.
Travel Insurance is strongly recommended. Airlines can cancel flights and individuals may cancel their trips for a number of personal reasons. There are now policies available that cover cancellations for any reason. I don't recommend a particular company. You might use these websites to help make your decisions:
State has its insurance regulatory agency which should be able to tell you about a particular firm's
We will be staying in traditional, clean, modest, and comfortable places, which are appropriate for a pilgrimage. These accommodations are close to the local culture and also the traditions of welcoming pilgrims to the Holy Land.
In Jerusalem we are staying at St. George's Pilgrim Guest House. This cathedral close contains a beautiful garden, St. George's College and is also the home to the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem. The Guest House provides the perfect retreat for pilgrims. The rooms are climate-controlled, have TV, and good bathroom and showers. The staff is top-notch and noted for good customer service. The food is super and they have a modest rooftop deck for early morning or evening gazing over the Old City. I am very happy we were able to book it for our group! You will feel so much a part of the local culture while still feeling comfortable and secure. There are some rooms with a balcony and a lovely view of the Old City. Click for more information.
In Nazareth we are staying at the Sisters of Nazareth Guesthouse! At the Sisters of Nazareth Guesthouse, the rooms are a bit smaller than at St. George's Guesthouse, but have been fully updated, have climate control, and are noted for their very clean upkeep. There is a lovely courtyard for pilgrims to gather in the evenings. Breakfasts are simple, usually consisting of delicious bread (home made), jams, cheese, fruit, hardboiled eggs, juices, and coffee. Click for more information.
What to Wear and What Not to Wear!
Women – Please dress conservatively in skirts, slacks or capris (that cover the knees) for Holy Land sites. No tank tops, shorts or sleeveless blouses, please. Short-sleeves are fine. Bermuda shorts are fine for the walking tour in Galilee. You will want to be able to dress up slightly for church on Sunday and for a few special nights. You will also need a sweater or light jacket for potentially cool evenings.
Men – Long pants, jeans or khakis, are necessary most days. Bermuda shorts are fine for the walking tour in the Galilee. You might want some long-sleeved shirts for church and a few special nights.
*Hats, Sunglasses and Sunscreen for Everyone - You will definitely need a hat and sunglasses, also sneakers and/or walking shoes that can handle cobblestones. Otherwise, shoes are entirely up to you. Do not forget your sunscreen!
Jewelry - A watch is helpful but a lot of jewelry is unnecessary. Many people enjoy finding a silver or gold cross - or some special earrings while on the pilgrimage.
Laundry - Many pilgrims hand wash a few items in their bathrooms; they will dry overnight. There is also a laundry service available at St. George's Guesthouse for an extra charge.