With C4i’s ongoing mission to reach out with a critical, biblical message about Israel today, it’s only natural that we frequently receive questions about the nation. What is it like? How is it different from Canada or the US? And most of all, what should someone know before visiting?
Wonder no more! Here are the answers to some of the most common questions people tend to have about the Holy Land.
Is Israel safe to visit?
This is an understandable question. When you look at the news and you see stories about Hezbollah attacks, escalating Syrian tensions, and other worrying reports, it’s only natural to wonder about the risks. Thankfully, we’re happy to say that (generally) you are as safe in Israel as you are in any major developed nation.
Israel is a very security conscious nation with an active and present police and military force. All major tourist and historical sites are kept under careful watch and incidents are extremely infrequent. While terror attacks like rockets and flammable balloons are an unfortunate reality of Israeli life, these mostly occur around the West bank. If you are sticking to the major cities and interior of Israel, you should never have a problem.
When it comes to more pedestrian crimes like theft, the rules are the same as visiting any other unfamiliar nation. Stick with your friends, don’t wander off alone, and don’t leave any belongings unattended. In this respect, Israel is no better or worse than anywhere else. Generally, if you use a little common sense, you’ll get along fine!
Do I need to bring cash?
Both Visa and Mastercard are largely accepted in Israel. When it comes to hotels, restaurants, and most shops, you shouldn’t have any problem paying with plastic.
That said, it’s still a good idea to carry shekels with you as you travel. You never know when some little mom & pop shop or market stall will catch your eye and it would be a shame to miss out on the perfect memento because they couldn’t accept your card. It’s also good to have cash for things like taxi rides and tips. Tipping culture does exist in Israel, generally in the 10-15% range at restaurants. You can use your discretion for things like luggage carriers and hair stylists.
What are the top spots to hit?
This is largely going to depend on your personal tastes and what you want to get out of your trip to the Holy Land. As Christians, it’s obviously a great chance to connect spiritually to the history in the Bible and the lands Jesus lived in. Key locations are going to include things like the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Gethsemane, the Jezreel valley and Mount Tabor.
If you are the adventurous sort and want to connect with Christ in a different way, the Jesus Trail can be a fantastic experience. This long winding hike retraces the steps of Jesus taking you to a wonderful variety of both major Christian sites and a few little ones tucked away off the beaten path.
And if you just want to glory in the sheer splendor of the Holy Land, natural wonders like the Dead Sea, Ramon Crater, and Harod Spring Nature Reserve are all great places to visit.
If you plan on visiting for your first time, why not come on one of C4i’s tours? These guided tours group you with likeminded Christians in a tour of many of the spots we just mentioned and many others. It is a fantastic way to connect spiritually while also seeing some of the natural beauty and culture of Israel.
What about the language barrier?
Don’t worry if you don’t speak a lick of Hebrew. English is extremely common in Israel. In major towns and cities, you’d be hard pressed to find yourself in a situation where nobody could understand you. A little further out in the country you might run into fewer English speakers, but if you’re sticking to typical tourist locations like attractions, restaurants, hotels and hostels, it is practically guaranteed that an English-speaking host will be there to help.
How is life different in Israel?
Well, that’s a really big question! Generally, life in Israel is fast-paced and vibrant. While every individual is unique, typically people in Israel are a little more direct and to-the-point than you might be used to. Don’t be offended if someone is a little blunt, and don’t be afraid to toss it back either. As long as you are respectful and match the tone of those around you it will be smooth sailing.