Traveling is educational, exciting and fun. Thanks to modern technologies, it has never been easier to explore the world. According to the United Nation’s World Tourism Organization (UNTWO), 1.5 billion international tourist arrivals were recorded in 2019.
Every trip abroad is unique and memorable in its own way; however, for a devout Christian, nothing compares to the profound, transformative experience of visiting the Holy Land.
It is not surprising that tourism to Israel increases steadily from year to year. In 2019, Israel welcomed 4.55 million tourists and more than half of these were of Christian faith.
For most, this is a life’s dream. Many respond to the call of their heart and make the journey the first opportunity they get.
“Make it happen,” says Boaz Shalgi, founder and chief executive officer of E.D.I. Travel, a veteran Israeli travel company that specializes in Christian tourism to Israel. “That is what I tell my potential clients. Take it off your bucket list today and treat yourself to a life-changing experience.”
Boaz, born in the holy city of Jerusalem, is a seventh-generation Israeli with a warm smile, engaging personality and a passion for his country and profession. He has been a licensed tourist guide since 1995, and for over two decades, he has brought Israel to life for tens of thousands of visitors, Christians and Jews alike. He manages E.D.I. Travel together with his wife Magie. They have three children and live in a kibbutz in the Galilee, in northern Israel.
Israel, the cradle of Christianity, offers Christian pilgrims a wide range of educational options and uplifting experiences. First and foremost, the opportunity to visit the new and old city of Jerusalem, walk the Via Dolorosa on the path to Jesus’ crucifixion, visit the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the Church of Saint Anne, the Pool of Bethesda and other landmarks.
In addition, must-see sites across the county are Bethlehem, Nazareth, Megiddo, Caesarea, Mt. Arbel, Zippori, the Jordan River, Capernaum. Mt. of Beatitudes. Beit Shean, Qumran and much more.
Because of Israel’s proximity to Jordan, many Christian tourists connect to their faith through visits to Mt. Nebo, Madaba, Jeresh and then come back to Israel for a visit to holy sites around the Sea of Galilee and add a visit to the Golan Heights and Tel Dan.
Another option is to follow the footsteps of Paul, one of the most influential spiritual leaders of his time, to Thessaloniki in Northern Greece and Ephesus in Turkey.
E.D.I Travel, for instance, offers this exciting itinerary, too, which includes the Meteora monasteries as well as a 3-night cruise around the Greek Isles and Turkey, including visits to Corinth, Ephesus, and Heraklion on Crete, among other sites.
“There are so many things to see, and the combinations are endless,” says Boaz. “That is why so many of our clients return again and again.”
Whatever you choose, Boaz promises that Israel is a destination like no other.
And, to make things easier, he offers five tips that will ensure a perfect pilgrimage and an unforgettable experience.
- Choose a travel agency that can provide impeccable service.
“I can’t stress enough the importance of choosing the right tourist company,” says Boaz. “From the moment you step foot in Israel, you need to be able to sit back and relax so your mind can be free to take in the most incredible experience of your lifetime. I believe that a good tourist company is a one-stop shop. At E.D.I., we take care of everything and put a tremendous amount of effort in preparing for each trip. The advance work certainly pays off, and our customers enjoy everything so much more when everything runs smoothly.”
- Make sure the proposed itinerary reflects your specific needs.
“In spite of its tiny size, Israel is a country that has so much to offer that a dozen trips would not be enough to see everything,” Boaz points out. “So, we work together with group leaders to make sure that each itinerary is customized to the specific needs of the group. If this is your first trip to Israel, we want you to see the sites that are the most meaningful for you. If this is a second or third trip, we will use our creativity to make it as interesting, educational and exciting as your first trip, and include new sites and adventures.”
- Make sure you have a phenomenal guide who is very knowledgeable and well versed in the Old and New Testament.
“A phenomenal guide doesn’t just take you through the itinerary,” explains Boaz, “but on a journey through time and history, from the roots of Christianity to a modern-day Israel As one of my clients put it, you are standing in ‘the places where the kings and prophets of Israel walked, where Jesus changed the world, and where the disciples proclaimed the gospel.’ You come here not only to see the sites but to connect to your faith, to be enlightened and inspired. An outstanding guide makes that happen for you.”
- If traveling in a group, ensure your tour group is led by a church pastor or spiritual leader who can enrich your experience.
“I like to work closely with a group’s spiritual leader, and I see them as full partners in this project,” he says. “I have been guiding groups for more than 20 years, and I always appreciate the contribution of pastors, deacons and other teachers to the success of the trip. Many of these leaders have become my dearest friends.”
- Don’t delay!
“Life is short,” Boaz reminds us. “My clients often tell me that the experience they had was so exhilarating that they wish they had taken this trip long ago. So, my best advice to you is, ‘Make it happen.”
For more information about E.D.I. Travel, visit www.editravel-israel.com.