Is it safe to go to the Holy Land?
May 22, 2017
If any of you have told many friends and family that you are going to the Holy Land, you probably have been told “you’ve got to be crazy!”
Based on impressions created by the news media over the years, this reaction is quite understandable.
But the truth is, you are not crazy at all to go on a Holy Land pilgrimage this year, or just about anytime. In fact, you are generally safer on a Christian pilgrimage in Israel, even with unrest in the West Bank and a war in Syria, than you are in most major American cities. The media focuses attention on violence in the Middle East in a way that distorts our perception of reality.
For example, over Fourth of July weekend of 2014, there were over fifty shootings in Chicago with 14 fatalities. Did you see a news report on this with footage of blood and body bags? Probably not. By way of contrast, virtually every act of violence occurring in Israel is front page news.
My assertion that Israel is safer than the US, even in the midst of strife, I tell you from both statistics and personal experience. The number of deaths from violence in the city of Baltimore is 33 per 100,000. The rate for the whole USA averaged together is 4 per 100,000. The rate last year for Israel, including terrorist related killings, is a scant 1.9 in 100,000. Only Canada is safer at 1.7! As you will see when you get there, Israel has just about the best security in the world. And the vast majority of all residents, Jew, Christian or Muslim, are generally friendlier and more hospitable than people you encounter in the US.
When it comes to personal experience, I have taken more than twenty groups to the Holy Land since 1999 and have been there when there were all kinds of things going on that would scare you to death if you watched TV news. In fact, I landed with a group of 92 pilgrims in Tel Aviv on the very day in December 2008 that Israel launched a ground invasion of Gaza. We were there while Hamas shot rockets into Israel and when Israeli troops invaded Gaza. The suffering then was great in Gaza. And it was not safe to be within 12 miles or so of the Gaza border.
But as for us — we never would have known a thing was happening had it not been for frantic phone calls from relatives in the US wondering if we were OK. Fortunately, we not watching the news, unlike family members back home. In Jerusalem, Galilee, Mt. Carmel, all the areas of a typical pilgrimage, things went on completely as normal. No tension, no air raid sirens, no lights in the sky or noise of war.
The last time it was truly too dangerous to travel to Israel for a pilgrimage was during the Yom Kippur war of 1973. There has been sporadic violence since then. But it has never even come close to posing a threat to pilgrims or a cause for canceling a pilgrimage.
Passengers need to know that, in the unlikely event that serious strife breaks out that could threaten pilgrims, our trip will be canceled and everyone refunded, regardless of whether they have purchased trip insurance.
BTW, I still recommend trip insurance since a medical emergency or an unexpected death in the family, etc., either during or just before the trip, would be taken care of totally in this way.
I mentioned the high murder rate in Chicago and Baltimore earlier. Would I travel to either of these cities? Of course! I spent two wonderful days in Chicago a while back, and my daughter got married in Baltimore in July 2015. When it comes to both cities, I happen to know the places NOT to go. I and our Jerusalem tour company also know where NOT to go in the Holy Land.
Desire to come to the Holy Land but not sure this is the right time? Don’t wait till “things calm down.” Things will never “calm down” totally in the Middle East. You’d be waiting forever. Don’t let fear rob you of what will be, should you go with us to the Holy Land, one of the greatest experiences of your life!
Yours in Christ,
Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio
P.S. To learn more of what it’s like walking in the footsteps of Jesus in the Holy Land, listen to this five minute podcast where I speak about my experience there on national radio. If you have additional questions about security on our trip, call us at 1.800.803.0118.