Most Christian tours of Israel and Palestine ignore the conflict. Our tours do not. Learning about the contemporary situation and meeting Israelis and Palestinians is a significant feature of all of our tours. We call them immersion tours because the tours intend to immerse you in the places and people of Israel and Palestine. We include a number of aspects (ancient, contemporary, intellectual, spiritual, physical) in our tours, which taken together lead to a full experience of the land, the people, the cultures, the sacred texts, the history, the sites, and the conflict. We recommend that tour participants be 14 years of age and up.
Christian Immersion Tour
This is our most common tour. All of our tours have some of the features of this tour. There is certainly a focus on study and learning, but we also include places that engage your body and your spirit. We aim to give you a full experience. This tour can be ten days on the ground or twelve days on the ground. The twelve-day trip includes sites in the Negev, the southern part of Israel. Regardless of length, we devote about 30% of our time to the contemporary situation and 70% of our time to the biblical/archaeological/historical situation, so to speak.
This tour includes many of the well-known and beloved biblical and archaeological sites throughout Israel and Palestine. I teach groups about history and archaeology, and how these disciplines aid biblical interpretation. I love questions. Good questions lead to learning. Questions guide my teaching. Most participants leave Israel and Palestine with more questions than answers. That is by design. We explore the humanity and divinity of the Bible and of Jesus. These are some of the questions that guide our study: What was Jesus’ message? How does it fit with and diverge from Second Temple Judaism? How does Jesus’ message fit with and diverge from the Old Testament? How should we understand the kingdom of God, the central topic of Jesus’ teachings? How did the disciples understand Jesus’ ministry? Why was Jesus killed? What is the theological meaning of Jesus’ death? How is each gospel unique? What is the nature and purpose of God’s relationship to Israel? What are the origins of the Israelites? And much, much more.
Our groups meet Israelis and Palestinians who explain the roots and consequences of the conflict. Some of the questions addressed are as follows: Why are these two peoples fighting? What is the Israeli narrative? What is the Palestinian narrative? What does the Israeli occupation look like? How does it work? How do Israelis justify the occupation? What is the West Bank? Who is in control of the West Bank? What parts of the West Bank does the Palestinian Authority control? Why is water so important? What is life like for a Palestinian in the West Bank? What is life like for an Israeli Palestinian, a Palestinian with Israeli citizenship? How do Israelis feel about the occupation? What does an Israeli settlement look like? Who lives in the settlements? And so much more.
Arts Camp and Fitness Camp + Christian Immersion Tour
In 2015, we did our first Arts Camp with Palestinian youth in Bethlehem. We did a Fitness Camp at the same school in Bethlehem in 2016 and added a new school in Bethlehem for the Arts Camp. These two camps give Palestinian teenagers a chance to explore skills in fitness and the arts, and give Americans a chance to be in fellowship with and to encourage Palestinian Christians. Palestinian Christians often feel forgotten by the worldwide Christian community. American Christians often have misconceptions about Palestinians. In addition to the camps, which occur on four mornings, the trip includes a shortened version of our Christian Engagement Tour. We stay in Galilee and Bethlehem and visit many biblical and archaeological sites and include interactions and speakers focused on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Look for this tour again in June 2020.
Interfaith Immersion Tour
This tour includes participants from all three Abrahamic faiths (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam). We go to significant sites for all three religious traditions, allowing participants to deepen their understanding of all three faiths. Much of the tour, probably 60%, focuses on the contemporary situation. We visit people and places that are significant for understanding the contemporary conflict. We have a number of speakers, Palestinian and Israeli (Muslim, Christian, Jewish), who discuss their outlook on and experience of the conflict. Regardless of one’s understanding of the conflict or one’s understanding of the three Abrahamic faiths, this tour will deepen knowledge of both.
Home Rebuild Project
In September 2020, we will be partnering with Holy Land Trust, a Palestinian organization that strengthens communities to find nonlinear solutions to problems, to rebuild a demolished Palestinian home. Palestinians in Area C of the West Bank need a permit from the Israeli military in order to build a home, and Israel grants very few of these permit applications. Between 2009 and 2013, 34 of 2000 applications were approved. In 2014 and 2015, one application was approved. Thus, most Palestinian homes in area C are built without permits and thus subject to demolition. In 2016, Israel demolished 274 Palestinian homes, leaving 1,134 Palestinians homeless, 591 of whom were children. The rebuilding project will be about 10 days. Holy Land Trust will find local Palestinian builders for the project. Participants will help the builders and interact with the family and community. There will be a few visits to holy sites. Most of our time will be spent at the rebuild site.
We have never had an incident in over 12 years and more than 55 tours. Safety is a primary concern to us and we keep abreast of conditions on the ground. We do not take risks with safety. Our biggest safety concerns on tours are dehydration, especially, but also twisted ankles and falls. Israel and Palestine are rocky places with uneven terrain. The U.S. State Department has travel warnings for Israel and Palestine. This has been the case since our tours began in 2006. Currently, they warn most specifically against going into Gaza. We do not enter or travel near Gaza. We do go to sites throughout Israel and to some sites in the West Bank.
Every year, Gallup comes out with a Global Law and Order Index for a variety of countries. The score for each country gauges “people’s sense of personal security and their personal experiences with crime and law enforcement.” For 2016, Israel’s index score was 80 and the Palestinian Territories’ index score was 76. For some comparison, here are some other notable index scores: United States 85, France 80, Italy 80, Greece 78, Lebanon 76, Haiti 70, Mexico 65, and South Africa 58. You can download the report here.
The price per person ranges from $3600-$4200 for all tours (except the Home Rebuild, which we hope will be significantly less). Our tours are all-inclusive. A typical tour ranges from ten to twelve days on the ground in Israel and Palestine. We work hard to keep the price under $4000. This is more difficult during peak tourist season (May-October). Tours need a minimum of 15 people to be viable. We prefer to have groups of 15-30 people. Our tours do not fund our work; we do not aim to make money off of them.
- Airfare from a major U.S. hub
- Lodging at 3-star hotels that we know and trust
- All meals
- Unlimited bottled water
- Transportation in comfortable bus
- Entrance fees
- Honorariums for speakers
- Licensed Palestinian guide
- Palestinian bus driver
- Tips for guide, driver, hotels
- Trip insurance
- Health insurance
- Snacks and non-water drinks (all breakfasts and dinners will include a variety of beverage selections and most lunches will include a beverage selection of juice or soda)
Some Tour Specifics
- Tour participants must have a valid passport which does not expire within 6 months of the beginning of the tour.
- We recommend that tour participants be 14 years of age and up.
- U.S. citizens, and citizens of many other countries, do not need to apply for a visa prior to arrival in Israel. Israel will give tour participants a free, 3-month tourist visa upon entry.
- Israeli officials will interview tour participants upon entry and exit. There interviews are typically short and simple. Sometimes Israeli officials interviews individuals in the airport before they board their flight for Tel Aviv. No tour participant has ever been denied entry into Israel or exit from Israel.
- A $500 deposit is due at least three months before the tour and the remaining balance is due two months before the tour.
Level of Fitness:
- Participants need to be able to walk a minimum 5 miles a day on uneven terrain. Very few days will involve less than 5 miles of walking.
- The pace will not be aggressive. We function as a group and we will set the best pace for the sake of all the members of the group.
- We always do the teachings in the shade and usually with a place to sit.
- It is imperative that participants drink lots of water. We allow for many bathroom breaks and we will always keep you updated about when the next bathroom break will occur.
- There will be longer and more difficult hikes/climbs on a few occasions. Those unable to do these hikes/climbs will take the bus and meet the group after the hike.
Biblical and archaeological sites we typically include (Interfaith Engagement Tour sites in bold below):
- Sea of Galilee Boat Ride and Boat Museum
- Jordan River
- Church of Annunciation
- Mount Arbel
- Peter’s Primacy
- Church of Multiplication
- Mount of Beatitudes
- Caesarea Maritima
- Old City of Jerusalem
- Church of the Resurrection/Holy Sepulchre
- Via Dolorosa
- Mount of Olives Overlook
- Dominus Flevit
- Church of All Nations/Gethsemene
- Noble Sanctuary (Islam)/Temple Mount (Judaism and Christianity)
- Western Wall
- Archeological Park near Noble Sanctuary/Western Wall
- St. Anne’s Church/Pools of Bethesda
- Hezekiah’s Tunnel
- Pool of Siloam
- Israel Museum
- Dead Sea
- En Gedi
- Jericho Road
- Caesarea Philippi/Banias
- Tel Dan
- Valley of Elah
- Church of the Nativity
- Mount Carmel
Twelve-day trips always include these sites in southern Israel:
- Tel Arad
- Ein Avdat/Wilderness of Zin
- Maktesh Ramon
- Ein Gedi
Speakers and places on the contemporary situation (variable based on availability):
- Daoud Nasser, Tent of Nations
- Salim Muyaner, Musalaha
- The Parents Circle Families Forum
- Yad Vashem, Holocaust Museum
- Military Court Watch, Gerard and Salwah
- Nabi Saleh, city in West Bank
- Sam Bahour, Palestinian/American writer, businessperson, activist
- Tour of East Jerusalem or Hebron with Israeli tour guides, Green Olive Tours or Breaking the Silence
- Canaan Fair Trade
- Sahar Vardi, American Friends Service Committee (Quakers)
- Jonathan Cook
- Israeli settlement of Efrat
- Rabbis for Human Rights
- Dr. Munther Isaac