As a private tour operator/DMC in Israel, I keep in touch with travel agents around the world about the perception of travel to Israel and the Holy Land. I spoke to professional travel agents and asked:
Do you think Israel is a safe place to send clients?
Here are the responses from travel agents in North America;
Betty says: YES !!! Actually the voyages of antiquity replaced Egypt with Israel…
My reply: Thanks for the update Betty, although I am sorry that Egypt is not a destination – so much history there!
Mary says: Yes, I perceive Israel as safe but unfortunately, many of my clients do not. There is a perception out there that the entire region is unsafe and unstable. I think it is a matter of informing clients (just like Mexico in my opinion).
My reply: Thanks, Mary. I just had the experience where a son wanted to bring his mother on a Holy Land trip over Christmas, but the mother had been advised by her travel agent in the mid-west that Israel is unsafe. She cited the travel warnings by the US State Dept. The State Dept does say that but the areas named are not areas we take our clients to: West Bank, Gaza or Golan.
Patty says: I’d go back there in a heartbeat. I was recently there in December with 50 pilgrims and majority of them have not been to the Holy Land. Many were advised by their friends and family not to go due to Syria’s situation, bombings, etc. but nobody cancelled in my group. There were some concerns from the pilgrims, of course but that’s expected. In their minds they think that Israel is at war all the time and we will be caught in the thick of it. Their perception of Israel changed for the better, I think, after taking that leap of faith coupled with reassurances from the few pilgrims who has been there before. Now they all want to go back! 🙂
My reply: Thank you! Patty- nicely said. It always amazes me to see the transformation of perceptions before and after a trip to Israel. Visitors are amazed that the streets are safe, there is no shooting or crowd scenes. Security around the country is very good but very invisible, if you know what I mean. It is a hard sell but once people come over they return home and spread the word – so that helps.
Harold says: I leave for a 10-day Holy Land FAM on February 10, 2015. Some of my friends and family are telling me I am nuts. The Holy Land has always been a life long Dream/Goal of mine and I am excited about Immersing myself in the land and culture. No place is totally safe and if it is my time to go, I can’t imagine a better place to leave from than the Holy Land.
My reply: Good for you, Harold! Each and every one of my clients reports at the end of the trip how grateful they are to have dared the nay sayers and visited Israel. It is true that there is much more freedom in towns to let kids and teens out on their own, families out in the evening on the main streets and in outdoor markets. So yes, follow your instincts and come on over. And please look me up!
Nancy says: I have had many friends travel to Israel and every single one of them has returned and the first thing they said was, “I just couldn’t believe how safe I felt!” (almost as if they thought they were travelling to a war zone. I also met a very nice Israeli at a hostel in Beijing, China and he said Israel is very safe. He said his parents allow his 16 year old sister to go out for late night walks in the middle of the night (something they would never let her do in another country). I hope this is helpful.
My reply: Thank you Nancy. Unfortunately, the news reports highlight conflict. I just got back from an evening in Tel Aviv – lots of people out, restaurants, bars and clubs are full. Thursday night in Israel is the equivalent of Saturday night in the USA because on Friday in Israel, most people have off from work. So party and date night tend to be Thursday. Anyway, gorgeous evening in Tel Aviv tonight!
So what are you waiting for? Book your journey of a lifetime!