What to Bring on a Holy Land Pilgrimage




Gila's Tips for ToursWhat to bring on a Holy Land Pillgrimage

You're excited about coming to the Holy Land for the first time and you don't want to forget anything important.  You know you should be traveling "light," so what are the necessities?  From 30 years of dealing with pilgrims who have forgotten essential items, here's my list:  
AIRLINE TICKET OR RECEIPT AND PHOTO I.D.  Of course these days most people have e-tickets.  But it’s good to bring some proof that you purchased a ticket instead of just blindly trusting that the computer has remembered your reservation.  Personally I don’t trust computer memory!
BATTERIES.  Be sure that you pack an extra set of batteries for every electrical appliance and digital gadget that you bring.  And don’t forget the battery charger AND the converter with a double or three-pronged plug.  On average, one person on every tour forgets his battery charger!
COMFORTABLE HAT which you intend to wear.  This will help prevent dizziness and dehydration in the wilderness.  You never know if you will get stuck there fighting your temptations for forty days and forty nights.
However, you won't need a hat if you join Gila's special summer offer:

WALK JERUSALEM BY NIGHT accompanied by stories of Solomon's quarries, Solomon's stables, Solomon's porticoes, Solomon's pantry and Suleiman's dream.  And for good measure: the escapades of Charles "Chinese" Gordon, Dr. James Barclay, the Baroness Angela Burdett-Couts and Captain Charles Warren.

The tour starts at Damascus Gate and ends at Dung Gate (or vice versa). You choose the starting hour and the starting point.  For more details email Gila. This exclusive evening tour outside the Old City walls is designed for anyone wanting to stretch his or her legs around Jerusalem and enjoys good old-fashioned story-telling.  (May 1 to September 25)

DIGITAL CAMERA.  But don’t forget the “memory” that goes with it!  Under the sunny skies of the Holy Land, you will find an infinite variety of photogenic subjects.

Sheep and goats in the Valley of Elah where David fought Goliath

Photo:  Gila Yudkin

You'll want to have enough "memory" to photograph these goats on your last day!

EMPTY DUFFLE BAG to pack all your olive wood camels, 14-piece nativity sets, Ahava moisturizers, Dead Sea mud, Jordan River water, Holy Land olive oil (it’s non-cholesterol and guaranteed to open your arteries!) and other souvenir items.

Olive wood souvenirs

Photo:  Gila Yudkin

You'll need an empty duffle bag to fit all your olive wood souvenirs!

FIRST AID KIT.  A personal first aid kit may come in handy with bandages, antibacterial ointment, and some aspirin.  I found that many Americans pack a pharmacy in their suitcase.  If you plan on bringing a new pair of sneakers that you haven’t yet broken in, (don’t laugh – it happens nearly every tour!) then I would suggest a week's supply of "Blister Block."
GLASSES.  If you are blind as a bat without them, then bring an extra pair. Don’t forget sunglasses.  The glare off the limestone, particularly in Jerusalem is blinding for people with blue eyes.  Reading glasses are a must as well, if you need them.  You want to be able to read your Bible on site.

Before you come:  Listen to Gila's one-hour Temple Mount audio tour -- by MP3 or CD.  This will bring you up to speed on the main characters you will meet during your own tour of the Temple Mount such as Abraham and Isaac, David and Solomon, Jesus and his disciples, and Gabriel and Mohammed.  Now also available in PDF format including a Temple Mount plan, and guidelines for passing the Temple Mount security check.

HOLY" DRESS also goes by the name of “modest attire” and it’s arbitrary and in the eyes of the beholder.  One can’t visit most holy sites dressed in shorts or a low-cut shirt.  Wrap-around skirts (which are unfortunately out of style) are recommended for women who want to wear shorts.  Pants that zipper above the knees which can be worn either as shorts or long pants are a popular item with Holy Land travelers.

The young couple to the right are visiting the Temple Mount when it's ninety degrees in the sun.  Note their shirts come below their elbows and their knees are covered.  Lori is wearing a purple shawl to cover her bare midriff.

As weird as this may seem, these outfits are considered "holy dress!" 

"Modest" attire is required on the Temple Mount

INSURANCE. Your travel agent will most likely offer an option of travel and accident insurance. It’s highly recommended.
JOURNAL.  Bring a journal to keep track of your insights, impressions, and Bible passages that have jumped out of the pages at you.  Later on you will realize how life-changing this Holy Land experience was.
KLEENEX.  Little packs of tissues will come in handy when using a public W.C. (water closet).  If it’s free, then there is no toilet paper!  (It also may not have been cleaned since the Crusader period!)
LAUNDRY SOAP so you can hand-launder personal items.  In the summer months underwear dries almost immediately.
MEDICATIONS.  Bring a good supply of whatever medications (over-the-counter and prescription) you take on a daily basis.  It’s recommended to bring their generic names as well.
NUTS and high energy snacks.  You will probably be walking more than you do at home.

Hiking along the headwaters of the Jordan at Caesarea Philippi

Photo:  Gila Yudkin

Bring high energy snacks for the hike to the waterfall at Caesarea Philippi

ONE DOLLAR BILLS.  Lots of them.  There’s lots you can buy for just one American dollar: an attractive 3-foot panoramic poster of Jerusalem, a pamphlet detailing all the Stations of the Cross and their biblical references, twenty bookmarks in a packet, thirty postcards (now some of them are left-overs from the pre-1967 Jordanian period).  But I wouldn’t bring $2 bills.  To a local, they look counterfeit and are not negotiable.
POCKET BIBLE.  This is your most important guide to the Holy Land.  Bring a Bible with print large enough to read.  And don’t forget your reading glasses!

Thinking of proposing during your holy land pilgrimage?  See Ask Gila where is the best place to propose on my holy land pilgrimage....

QUESTIONING MIND.  This is a good opportunity to gain first-hand understanding of what’s going on in this crazy part of the world.  Your questions will keep the guide on her toes and help customize the commentary to your interests.
RAIN GEAR.  A poncho and umbrella are highly recommended from November through April.  It won’t rain every day (hopefully), but we need abundant rain, at least at night, for our holy soil to produce the seven biblical species of wheat and barley, olives, figs, dates, grapes and pomegranates, as well as our new crops of mangos, peppers, oranges, grapefruits, kiwi, strawberries, bananas and melons.  From May through October, however, it almost never rains.
SENSE OF HUMOR.  You will be in unfamiliar territory where people’s behavior and volume and tone of speech may be construed as aggressive or insulting.  A healthy dose of self-deprecating humor goes a long way towards winning over reluctant gatekeepers and indifferent hotel clerks.
TUXEDO.  Only kidding on this one.  Informal dress is what goes in Israel.  But not too informal – a bare midriff will keep you out of the holy sites.
UP-TO-DATE PASSPORT.  The airlines require that your passport be valid for at least six months past your scheduled return date.  Photocopy your passport’s identification page and keep it separate from the original.  If you lose your passport, you will find yourself waiting in a long line at the American Consulate during the few hours it is open!
VITAMIN M.  That is, M & Ms:  plain, peanuts, almonds, peanut butter, minis, maxis, you name it.  Spoil your guide!  Once I had a participant who used a package of M & Ms intended for me as an “honorarium” to the airline steward who gave him a bulkhead seat!

If you want to be fully present to take in the sights, sounds and smells of the Holy Land, listen to Gila's riveting audio highlights of Jerusalem and Jericho before your tour.  This one-hour listener-friendly audio CD will give you enough background so that you can soak in the spiritual ambiance of each site on tour.

WATER SHOES.  Bring rafting sandals or plastic crocs for renewing Baptism vows in the River Jordan, floating in the Dead Sea (the beach has lots of sharp pebbles) and for Hezekiah’s Tunnel.
XTRA BATTERIES.  Yes, it’s mentioned under “B,” but you have probably forgotten batteries for the appliance which is hardest to find batteries for in Israel.
YOUR FAMILY.  A holy land pilgrimage strengthens ties across generations and creates a common narrative of faith experiences.


ZEST for adventure and spiritual growth!

Copyright 2008, 2015 Gila Yudkin.  Permission needed to reprint in any medium.

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