Dome of the Rock, Jerusalem

Booked: Middle East Travel

Upcoming trip to Israel, Jordan and the West Bank

I have long been interested in the Middle East, an interest that was significantly heightened during my time at LSE during grad school. We had some of the greatest scholars from around the globe teaching and hosting lectures on everything from the macroeconomics of the Gulf and Syria-Iraq relations to neoliberal development in Palestine. I attended a number of public lectures hosted by the school and found myself more and more intrigued by Israel and Palestine.

When my in-laws mentioned they were going to Israel with a group this fall, our interest was piqued. Along with a safari in Africa, a visit to Israel and the West Bank was at the top of my bucket list. After some discussion, we knew that we wanted to join if there was room. After some planning and research, we finally booked our tickets to Tel Aviv and will be bound for Israel this fall.

Israel

NorthIsraelPack_1-974x350

Photo courtesy of Abraham Tours

The trip that we’ll be participating in with Scott’s parents involves a mid-sized group from his church in California. Now, we’re normally not tour people. We both enjoy planning and the process of finding the right hotel, the right adventures and restaurants that pique our interest. We like the opportunity to engage with locals and not feel like tourists (though that’s exactly what we are). Still, this trip made sense with a group. We could certainly visit Israel on our own and I wouldn’t have any concerns about us planning a trip by ourselves, but going with our church allows us to gain deeper insight while we’re traveling through the country.

Whether or not you’re religious, the religious history of the region for all Abrahamic religions is a hugely intriguing part of the experience. We’ll start in Tel Aviv and head north to Tiberias and Galilee, visiting Jesus’ old stomping grounds in Nazareth. From there, we’ll head to Jerusalem and explore the countless historical and biblical sights in the region.

West Bank + Jordan

Petra, Jordan, Abraham Tours

Photo courtesy of Abraham Tours

We’ll be spending about 12 days exploring Israel with the church but we’ve decided to go a few days early to explore the region beyond Israel. The likelihood that we’ll enter the West Bank with our group is highly unlikely. Even visiting Bethlehem, one of the holiest of sites in Christendom, is not part of the itinerary due to its location. When I knew we were going to be exploring Israel, I began searching for ways to explore the West Bank – to see not just Bethlehem, but to explore Hebron and the bustling city of Ramallah. I looked into visiting a refugee camp in the West Bank  and understanding the region from a conflict perspective from both the Israeli and Palestinian points of view.

To do this, we’ll be heading to Jerusalem immediately upon arrival to explore the region with Abraham Tours. We’ll be doing a tour of the Judean Desert by Jeep, exploring the countryside and visiting an old inhabited monastery which will be our first brush with the Palestinian Territories. Following that, we’ll delve a bit deeper in a West Bank Tour, where we’ll have the juxtaposition of visiting historical sites of Bethlehem and Jericho alongside of the Taybeh Brewery and Ramallah. 

With a couple of extra days in the region, we’ll also be making our way to Jordan to visit Petra (another bucket list trip for me!). We had hoped we’d be able to visit Jordan briefly during our trip but weren’t sure that time would permit. Fortunately, we’ll be arriving with time to do a two-day Jordan tour offered by Abraham Tours. We had looked at doing day trips but this tour also affords us the opportunity to see the area beyond Petra, exploring Amman and staying overnight in a Bedouin Camp.

In all honesty, I’m still pinching myself. I couldn’t be more thrilled to explore each of these distinctly different regions and to glean deeper insights from each locale. I’m warning you in advance: I’ll be on writing overdrive this fall. I can’t wait to share photos and my experiences with you during our time there.

Have you been to Israel, the West Bank and/or Jordan? What did you think? Any key takeaways, places or restaurants we have to visit?

xo,

Shannon Kircher

More about Shannon Kircher

Shannon Kircher is the founder and editor of The Wanderlust Effect, formerly The Traveling Scholar. Founded in 2009, she has continued to document her international escapes as an expat in Europe and the Caribbean. She is a former resident of London and San Francisco and now calls the island of Anguilla home. In addition to The Wanderlust Effect, Shannon is the Director of Marketing for the Frangipani Beach Resort and is on the Board of Directors of the Omololu International School in Anguilla.