I simply want to assure you of my expectancy of our meeting in Israel! I am so excited for every one of you!!
This communiqué is going to ALL WHO ARE REGISTERED FOR TOURS. Therefore, I will distinguish between pastoral leaders and those either traveling with a group from a church or simply as an individual or couple who have joined a group and have been added to a combined bus of “us all” who will be in His Land together this month.
TO ALL TRAVELING … I offer these pointers, on the basis of my having led 30 tours to Israel in the past 37 years.
Listen closely to your guides. Every bus member should be sensitive and respectful in listening to the information the guides communicate. Also, your guide should be consulted before you decide to do something independently of the group—this includes exploring or shopping on your own. I cannot stress this strongly enough: it’s an essential part of maintaining judicious security regarding your belongings, your protection and your security.
Plan wisely—please don’t miss our conference gatherings. There are six occasions: Sunday through Tuesday each evening and Monday through Wednesday each morning. (NOTE: Because so many have flights to catch, earlier Wednesday evening plans have been altered and absorbed into our six assembly times.) I cannot adequately describe the sense of the Holy Spirit’s call to us as we come to the City where God has placed His Name! Let’s all answer the call and receive the reward of His presence, power and purpose for us—each one, and all together!!
Enjoy your breakfasts—especially! Breakfast in Israel is one of the things I like best about traveling there. The selection is usually broad enough to answer our familiar breakfasting as Americans, but it is wider than we’re used to and—according to virtually every one I’ve traveled there with—highly enjoyable! Get to the buffet early! Days are full, and, irrespective of your habits at home, you’ll need a solid nutritional foundation for your busy, and sometime strenuous, days.
Make your journey a lifetime spiritual highlight! The only regret I have ever heard anyone express upon returning from Israel is this: “I wish I had invested more of myself in ‘tuning in to God,’ as well as ‘tending to my trip.’ ” If you aren’t with a group being “pastored,” try to connect with those on your bus who are having that aspect of the tour served. [Note: Most Jewish guides are very well informed and highly interesting. However, their information is not always connected to those things that “speak to your heart.” They are very understanding of our values as Christians, and are in no way insensitive—to the contrary, their knowledge of both the Old and New Testaments is remarkable, and their desire to serve is fully worthy. Still, a few sites very much need “more,” and pastors on your bus will be able to bring refreshing additions that, almost uniformly, the guides will welcome.]
TO ALL PASTORS:
Your role is pivotal—even if this is your first trip. As my notes above indicate, you are free—and needed—to help “shepherd” the bus you are on. Offer your partnership to the bus’s guide. He or she will have occasions when your help is needed, and it is good for the guide to know your role as a ministry leader among our larger group.
Use sensitivity regarding “witnessing.” PLEASE! It is wise to understand that the BEST WITNESS any of us can bring to the Jewish community—including your bus’s guide and driver, is to respect, honor and show the love of God in manners and attitude. It is in no way cowardly or unfaithful to refuse to be aggressive or assertive. Our sensitivity to the sordid history Christianity has dealt to the Jewish community is important as travelers in the Land, and our friendship and love as representatives of the Messiah will do more to “win” than unwise efforts at soul winning during this present moment. [As a footnote: In our pastorate, we saw hundreds of Jews come to the Savior, but they were won by “love” not “words.”]
Be knowledgeable of the custom of tipping guides and drivers. Many agencies affirm that “all tips are included” in their package, and in normal terms that is true. However, there is a common custom that you might weigh: the decision is yours, and this note contains no intention to issue a requirement—it is simply to inform you if you have never traveled to the Land or led a group. On the last day of your touring with your guide, you might consider talking with the people on your bus (having asked the guide and driver to give you a private moment with the people). If you do so, make clear you are not doing anything other than giving them an opportunity to express their special appreciation for their guide and driver. Explain that it is a custom and that, because many people in the travel industry have irregular engagements, the special gratuities help them sustain their families. Have two of your bus participants available during the day to receive “voluntary gifts” toward the tip fund. Note: It is standard procedure that the guide receives 65 percent of the donations and the driver 35 percent. Again, this is at your discretion: I offer it for your consideration as you may choose.
THANK YOU, PASTOR for your strong leadership amid the host of our flock traveling with us. Please use your influence to remind and reinforce the items mentioned for “All Travelers.” As we do this together, I guarantee that the eternal as well as the temporal benefits of our journeying to Israel will be garnered!