You’ve decided to take a trip that will include stops in biblical lands. For most, that means a trip to the land of Israel. I am sure you won’t come home the same!
But there’s something else you need to know. You will get twice as much out of your trip if you’ll also invest some time preparing for it.
By preparing academically, practically, physically, mentally, and spiritually you can maximize the benefit you will receive from your trip.
Academic Preparation: Learn Some Basic Geography
This may seem unnecessary, but it will make a huge difference.
- If you determine to know where you are, you will better appreciate (and remember) the sites and their biblical significance.
- Not only that, but your Bible reading will make more sense for the rest of your life.
Basic Israel Geography. If you don’t have one already, buy a good Bible atlas. Before your trip, use your atlas and learn the names of Israel’s geographic areas as well as their locations:
- Galilee (including the Golan Heights)
- Samaria (Including the Jezreel Valley)
- Judea (including the Shephelah)
- Negev and Wilderness
This is a wonderful resource to have at home. If you bought it now, you could study it beforehand, but it’s too large and rigid to bring with you on the trip.
Basic Jerusalem Geography. You can learn the basic geography of Jerusalem in about 5 minutes. Dr. Charlie Dyer taught people to visualize Jerusalem as an ice cream cone inside two hamburger buns. (See the graphic below.)
- The ice cream and cone are the Temple Mount and the City of David.
- The two buns represent the Western Hill and the Mount of Olives.
- The three major valleys of Jerusalem lie in between the cone and the buns.
Get a road map of Israel and follow along during your journey. Some have even highlighted the roads taken. Your bus will have WiFi, so if you have a Smart Phone or Tablet, you can use the Google Maps app to find your location. Just make sure you’re accessing the Web via WiFi and not over an expensive overseas network.
Take a Small Bible or a Digital Tablet. You probably don’t want to take your three-pound study Bible to Israel. For one thing, it’s too heavy for the suitcase and for your daily journey. But you also don’t want it to suffer any damage from travel.
- Get a smaller Bible you can easily carry, or…
- Plan to use a digital tablet. Not only can you put your whole Bible on it, you can also journal in the mornings, take pictures, and Skype with family back home. If you do take a digital tablet, you might consider applying a matte film to the screen. It’s great not only for protection but it cuts down on the glare from the bright sunlight.
- I have used my Kindle in the past. It doesn’t do as much as a tablet, but it is much easier to read in the bright sunlight. If you plan, you can be sure to have all the books and documents loaded on to it that you might need.
- Whatever you choose should be light, easy to access from a small backpack or fanny pack, and easily used in dusty, windy conditions.
Don’t Forget the Basics.
- Hat and Sunscreen: You’ll be in the sun a lot, and you’ll need protection. Especially down by the Dead Sea. You may want a broad-rimmed hat or one that has flaps that cover your ears and neck.
- Good Shoes: Be sure to get some comfortable walking shoes and break them in before you get there. They must have a closed toe, and some ankle support might be needed. You know how much foot and ankle support is best for you.
- Modest clothing: Some “holy sites” require “modest” clothing—which includes pants or skirt that cover the knees and shirts that cover the shoulders. Without these items, you may not enter the sites. If you travel in very warm seasons, men might want a pair of pants that have legs that zip off.
- 220 Adapters and/or Converters. You’ll want to charge your camera battery and other electronic devices, so be sure and look into this carefully before you go. Most people will not need converters, but you will want one or more adapters depending on the number of electronics you will bring. Israel uses European outlets, so you will need this type of adapter. Most hotels provide a hairdryer in your room.
Get in Shape. Every tour I have led has had stragglers. Some lag behind because they’re physically unable to climb stairs, walk briskly, or navigate uneven terrain. You’ll enjoy the trip much better if you get used to walking a lot before you go.
Prepare for Jet Lag. It may take your body a couple of days to adjust to the new time zone. You can really help yourself if you’ll follow the advice in Overcoming Jet Lag, by Charles F. Ehret and Lynne Waller Scanlon. You can probably also find some good advice on the Internet. Staying hydrated on the flight over will help as well.
You’re anticipating a trip of monumental significance to yourself in many ways. You should not neglect to prepare mentally. During your trip, some things will not be the way you imagined them. Circumstances may require an itinerary adjustment. You may suffer physically from the long plane ride or the diverse climate. You should prepare yourself to have to handle adjustments and to be gracious to tour-mates who act differently than you expected. You should be ready to admit physical difficulty so others can enjoy the trip, and let the guide know about even minor health issues that might arise. He knows where clinics are and where medical help can be arranged. Prepare yourself with an “others first” mindset.
A trip to Israel (or any other Bible land) is far more than a vacation. It will change you spiritually, and you will want to be prepared for that.
Here are a couple of ways to prepare for your trip spiritually.
- Pray. Ask God to make you sensitive to what He will teach you and to help you retain it. Pray for your guide, driver, and group leader. Pray for your group to be free of injury, to have no lost luggage, and to have a spirit of unity. Also for good weather.
- Use Your Itinerary during Quiet Times. Before your trip, devote some weeks to connecting the sites you’ll visit with their biblical significance. Here are some ways:
- Look over the sites for each day, and make a list of them. Get a good devotional book with a site index and read a devotional about each site. Currently, my wife and I are reading Devotional Treasures from the Holy Land by John DeLancey. I’ve also compiled a large number of information sheets for many of the sites here. Jot notes and Scriptures down on the list you’re making.
- You could make this list and its devotions your quiet times before your trip—and each day on the trip. Live in expectation of the truths you will re-experience each day.
There is a lot there to get started on, but I’m sure you “can’t wait” and you will “get to it!”
The outline for this post and much of the content I saw originally at Wayne Stiles’ site. His post has several pictures and also links to some helpful resources. I have added details to this post to make it specific to my 2023 Pastors Familiarization Tour guided by Mark Sugarman and Imagine Travel and Tours. You may very well want to read Wayne’s post also.