I just returned from my one-week trip to Jerusalem, and I was sitting jet-lagged in church on Sunday when the priest at my Episcopal church was talking about how we choose to see the world. In the sermon, he talked about seeing the world with “wondrous eyes.” This phrase has stuck with me, since it is with wondrous eyes that I see all of the places I travel to, but especially how I saw Jerusalem and Israel.
First of all, one week is hardly enough to see Jerusalem, Israel, and the Holy Land, but it IS enough if that is all the time you have. I went to Israel for a conference (the TBEX Jerusalem conference for travel bloggers), and so my time was particularly short. Not only did I have just one week, but I had a 2-day conference smack in the middle of my week. Nevertheless, I managed to see the Old City of Jerusalem (including the Church of the Holy Seplecure, the Wailing Wall and the Via Dolorosa), the City of David, the Israeli Museum, Yad Vashem (the Holocaust museum and memorial), the Mahane Yehuda marketplace, Bethlehem, Jericho and Masada.
For anyone from the three major Abrahamic faiths, Jerusalem and Israel is a place of wonder and amazement. For me, as a life-long Christian, I could hardly believe that I was standing at and seeing the actual places from the Old and New Testament in the Bible. My emotions overwhelmed me several times; at the Wailing Wall while praying, at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the early morning during services and at the Unction Stone, at St. Annes while a youth group sang Amazing Grace, and at Bethlehem, both in the cave and when my guide sang Our Father in the language of Jesus. I was very glad to not be with a large tour group for my visit since my husband and I could visit these places at our own pace, pausing were our spiritual needs and desires led us.
Besides the religious places we visited, we were also in awe and filled with wonder at several archeological sites–Masada, the City of David, Jericho and the Israeli Museum with its Dead Sea Scrolls, world’s oldest Bible and much more.
I’ll have separate articles and photos (many already on my Instagram with micro-blogging) on many of the places we visited, some guide services and short tours that we used, and our accommodations.
But, overall, if you only have one week to visit Israel (time and/or budget-wise) you should definitely do it, taking into account the following advice:
Take a direct flight if possible. United Airlines, for instance, now had daily direct flights from San Francisco and Newark to Tel Aviv
Go on your own, using day Guides and tours where needed (for instance, to get to the West Bank in Palestine for Bethlehem and/or Jericho, plus there are good walking tours in the Old City of Jerusalem). You can better see the things you truly want to see at your own pace.
Israel will feel safer than you are expecting. Use common sense, but I did not feel in danger or uncomfortable even once during our trip; I certainly felt as safe as I do in any major U.S. or European City.
You can do Israel in luxury or on a budget; we did a mix…we stayed at the upscale and well-located David Citadel Hotel, but you can find Guest Houses and Hostels as well. For food, there is abundant and delicious street food so even on a budget you won’t go hungry.
Be realistic. You won’t be able to see everything in one week. We had to leave Galilee for next time, and also Jordan and Petra which were high up on our list.
There is good public transportation in Israel and Jerusalem, and when that doesn’t work or isn’t possible, taxis are plentiful.
You will be jet-lagged, and minimizing jet-lag in a short trip is key. I always find that arriving in the evening and staying up until a normal bedtime will help you get over your jet lag quicker than arriving earlier in the day.
The major downside to one wondrous week in Israel? It will leave you hungry for more. Mr. Travelholic and I are already planning our next trip!