Is it Safe to Travel to Israel? Ask the Pilgrims Who've Traveled throughout for Ten Days
by Steve Ray on January 5, 2013
What was their experience? We traveled from Tel Aviv to Galilee, from the border with Lebanon to the border with Syria. We’ve been to Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Did our pilgrims ever feel in danger? Quite the opposite. Listen to their own words.
Just shows how the media can give a distorted impression of a country. I suppose travelling to Israel would be no more dangerous than travelling anywhere else. Although there are some risks, as long as you take sensible precautions, you reduce the likelihood that anything bad will happen.
My wife, daughter and I just returned from Steve and Janet’s tour of the Holy Land; needless to say it was a wonderful experience. During one evening of free time I was able to walk to the Jewish shuk (market), the Mehane Yehuda, just over a mile from our hotel, the Notre Dame Center. It was evening and crowded with hundreds of people but I had no sense of discomfort (except not being able to understand Hebrew). The next day I took my daughter along and I would never have done this if I felt there was the least danger. The only threat is to our pre-conceptions. I have to admit that I did not have a burning desire to visit the Holy Land but my wife did so I went to support her. I knew it would be a fantastic experience if only for the history, architecture, culture, and food but I did not want to build up any spiritual expectations (I had heard stories of people going to holy places in search of spiritual illumination or consolation and their disappointment when this did not happen to them). Our spiritual experiences are varied but It’s my experience that memorable spiritual events are usually consistent (not weird) but completely unexpected. For all the visual wonder of the church of the Nativity, I had an odd emotion – I just wanted to hold a baby. (It’s curious that when my daughter, Carolyn, went to India, she was frequently asked to hold a baby so the parents could snap a picture of their child in the arms of a foreign woman – we never figured out why – but no babies for me to hold in Bethlehem). We returned to our home parish in Cincinnati and went to Mass where we heard a psalm about Mount Zion. This was not just a metaphor or abstraction because I had just walked on Zion; and this was not just an intellectual connection but it was quite emotional. And then moments later the gospel was about the disciples going out in pairs to villages and I thought, ‘we probably went through some of those same places ourselves’. And later, we heard of Jesus collecting his disciples on a boat to get away to a quiet place – we were also on the Sea of Galilee and put ashore in a quiet place. The gift that keeps on giving, wouldn’t you say?
Note: I’m a bit miffed that the Wall Street Journal published an entire page on Jerusalem (Weekend; Travel & Adventures, Feb. 2, 2013) the week I was in Jerusalem – couldn’t they have printed this a week earlier? I guess it’s better to be in Jerusalem than just read about it but if you’re going to Jerusalem in the future it’s a quick read.