Physical Demands of the Pilgrimage
The pilgrimage is physically demanding. Porters will move luggage onto and off of busses and the street, but no more. Pilgrims are responsible for carrying their own luggage through the airport, in and out of guest houses, and up and down stairs. Pilgrims will be walking and climbing along long and irregular and unpaved paths without banisters. The itinerary will involve some very early mornings and a 10-hour time difference. Guest houses may offer wake-up calls, but alarm clocks are strongly recommended because awaking on time is the responsibility of the pilgrims. Take these issues into consideration before registering for the pilgrimage.
Preparing for Pilgrimage
A pilgrimage is not the same as a mere group tour. The destination is holy, and our visit brings us nearer into the heart of God in the same way that Christ’s incarnation brought God closer into our hearts and our world. We’ll prepare for our pilgrimage before leaving town by prayer and study.
A current passport is required for entry into Israel, and pilgrims are responsible for obtaining their passport and paying associated fees. Information about obtaining a passport is available here. IMPORTANT: Your passport MUST be valid six months AFTER our planned return on Oct. 20, 2017, i.e., must expire no earlier than Apr. 20, 2018, or you will be denied entry into Israel.
- Treat fellow pilgrims, guides, and service providers with respect and courtesy.
- Observe cultural and religious customs as directed by the tour operator, e.g., not crossing legs in churches or other formal settings, women covering heads in some places, not wearing crosses or other religious symbols at the Temple Mount or other places where they may be considered provocative to others
- At all times, obey the instructions of the tour operator.
Safety and Security
No one can ensure safety and security in the United States or in the Holy Land. However, Israeli security in airports and public spaces is among the best in the world, and we will take reasonable precautions to prevent harm to our pilgrims.
In the weeks leading up to our departure, St. Margaret’s and Iyad Qumri Pilgrimages will review US State Department advisories and other sources to ensure that known danger is avoided. Our pilgrimage the individuals involved will be registered with the US State Department Smart Traveler Enrollment Program so our government can assist, in a worst-case scenario, with locating and evacuating us safely.
Travelers should limit their use of credit cards to avoid the interception of private credit card data. This logo indicates that your credit card has RFID, and that your credit card information can be read and easily stolen. If you have that logo on any of your credit cards, we recommend strongly that you either not take that card abroad, or that you invest in protective sleeves [example] to block the radio signal on the card(s).
What and How to Pack
We strongly recommend that you pack as lightly as possible. Two or three lightweight, wrinkle-free outfits that can be washed out in a sink and dry quickly overnight are sufficient. There are no occasions for dressing up. Laundry valet services are offered at the St. George’s Guest House and Sisters of Nazareth Convent. Average Jerusalem high/low temperatures for mid-October are 81/59°F. Clothing should be conservative but casual. Shorts are never appropriate in public in the Holy Land, and should be worn in your guest room only. Lightweight long pants or crops are recommended. Capri/yoga pants are discouraged. Short sleeved shirts and blouses are acceptable, but sleeveless blouses are discouraged. Comfortable closed-toed shoes (two pair recommended) and socks suitable for walking and hiking are recommended, and are acceptable at all venues. Keep jewelry to a minimum, and steer clear of jewelry or clothing that indicates your religion, nationality, wealth, or political views. Women should take a light pashmina to use as a head scarf at a handful of religious sites. Allow some empty space in your suitcase to accommodate gifts you purchase during the pilgrimage. Other recommended items to pack include:
- Light jacket (wind breaker) and/or sweater — safe to leave on the bus any time
- Sandals or water shoes and swim suit for swimming in Dead Sea
We recommend an old pair of tennis shoes and an old swim suit that you can throw away when you’re done swimming in the Dead Sea. Towels are provided at the Dead Sea.
- Bible and/or Prayer Book
- Phone/tablet/computer chargers and adapters
- Travel alarm clock (or use your phone; learn that app before you go!)
- Toiletries (including shampoo; won’t be included in the lodging)
- Dual-voltage hair dryer, curling iron, etc. See notes on electricity in Israel.
- One small rock (golf ball size or smaller; we’ll explain why when we get there)
- A hat and sunglasses
- Optional: light umbrella. Very doubtful that you’ll use it.
- Your housekey, if you’re leaving other keys at home
- Light zippered bag or backpack. It’s safe to leave this on the bus any time.
- For your carry-on bag
- YOUR PASSPORT!
- Any medications that may make a long long flight easier
- Tablet or other device for watching movies. Plane will show movies, too.
- Noise-cancelling headphones are GREAT on planes.
- Books, magazines, or other diversions
- Sleeping mask and/or ear plugs may help some people sleep.
- Travel pillow [example] is optional
Using Your Cell Phone in the Holy Land
Most modern cell phones will work in the Holy Land. If you want to make calls from your cell phone or use data services, check with your carrier about a month before the pilgrimage to arrange for a reasonably-priced temporary roaming plan. (See Verizon Wireless or AT&T, for example, at $10/day for full voice and data coverage.) If you don’t want to use cellular voice or data services, you still can use your phone’s WiFi connection for online services. And through your WiFi connection, you can use services like FaceTime, Google Voice, and Skype to place telephone calls. Both St. George’s Guest House and the Sisters of Nazareth Convent have WiFi.
When traveling abroad, or when calling an international destination from the United States, it’s important to add a plus sign (+) and the correct country code before dialing the telephone number. In the United States and Canada, the country code is 1. So, for example, to place a call to St. Margaret’s from abroad (including from a US cell phone outside the country), the correct number would be +1 760-346-2697. The country code for Israel is 972. Country codes for all other countries can be found here.
Electricity in Israel
For phone, tablet, and laptop chargers and some other electrical items (e.g., some CPAP machines), you can plug directly into a 220V outlet with a simple adapter. If you’re not sure, look at the label on your device, and find the word “INPUT”. If the label says that it can accommodate 220V (e.g., the label at the left indicates 100-240V~), you can plug the item into a 220V outlet with a simple adapter. We recommend this one if you want to charge USB devices (like your cell phone or tablet), or this one if you don’t.
Items like hair dryers, curling irons, shavers, and anything else that either has a motor or generates heat will require a transformer. However, a preferable option is to purchase 220V or dual-voltage items that don’t require the transformer. See examples amazon.com of 220V hard dryers, curling irons, and shavers.
For much more detailed information, check here.
Side trips are strongly discouraged. They are disruptive to the itinerary, and divide the community of the pilgrim group. The pilgrimage guide and leadership are not responsible for your safe and prompt return from side trips you arrange outside the pilgrimage at your own risk.
Questions should be referred directly to Lane Hensley at St. Margaret’s. Please note that our travel agency deals only with issues surrounding the flights, and not with anything that happens on the ground in the Holy Land.Last updated: October 4, 2017 at 18:12 pm