How Not to Tour Israel
By: Daryl Hedding, ICEJ USA Deputy Director
I just returned from leading two back-to-back tours of Israel, and let me tell you, I don’t recommend it. Not the touring of Israel—THAT I highly recommend! I mean the back-to-back part.
It was my privilege to co-lead the two-bus Foundations Church tour of Israel alongside Pastor Michael Hines, a former staff member of the ICEJ and architect of our tours program. That was followed by the Freedom Church tour with Pastors Paul and Laurie Andrews, who really became like family by the end.
Touring can be tiring at the best of times, even if you’re not speaking and running the day-to-day mechanics of a tour. But that was not even the most challenging part of going for a twofer.
What I found out is that déjà vu is a real thing and can be extremely confusing. This hit me on two fronts. The first was at several sites where, amid my presentation to the group, I found myself speaking words I could not be certain I hadn’t already uttered to this particular group. Was I repeating myself? Or was I saying the same thing in a very similar way to the group I had before? To this day I cannot quite be sure.
The second came from the group members themselves. It’s not uncommon to answer familiar questions from pilgrims along the way. However, when you get very particular questions—like one elderly gentleman asking how he could get Israeli coins for his collection at home—you start questioning your sanity when a week later, another elderly gentleman asks you the same question, and you are not sure if you already answered him or if it’s a new person asking. I am not certain which, but I did help him (or them!) out as best I could.
My general feeling and prayer is that the groups never noticed my semi-state of confusion. But if they did, they were kind and chose not to point it out. In fact, despite my issues, both tours went extremely well and everyone, including me, was blessed along the way.
And that’s the remarkable thing about touring Israel. You will probably face some obstacles and difficulties. My second group was delayed for eight hours and missed a whole night in Israel. Some people got sick, and others suffered from common belly issues (usually solved by cutting back on the delicious hummus, as hard as that may be). However, through it all, I have yet to be on a tour of Israel when God doesn’t meet those on the trip—including me—in a significant way.
And that makes it all more than worthwhile.
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