Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Safety Update: January 5, 2009

UPDATE MONDAY 1/5/09: Just spoke with my friends Amer and Essam in Jerusalem leading a group of pilgrims. Referring to the recent fighting in Gaza they said: “There is always fighting down south in Gaza. This is nothing new. It has absolutely no effect on us in Jerusalem or anywhere else in Israel.”

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For the last week the news from Israel has shifted from Christmas in Bethlehem — with huge numbers of pilgrims visiting the place where Jesus was born — to news of fighting in Gaza. The perception is that everyone in Israel is in danger and tourism will shut down.

However, the reality is much different. I know because I’ve been there over 60 times and have friends there now — and I know how it is and how it works.

The area within the blue circles in the map are the areas we visit as pilgrims. The area in the red circle is Gaza where all the fighting is contained. Gaza has always been a hot spot with lots of fighting. There are very few months that there is not trouble in Gaza. But for the rest of Israel, it is life as usual.

As you can see from the map, Gaza is way to the south on the border of Egypt. It is far from anywhere we go as pilgrims on our trips. There is no danger or reason to fear. The fighting is contained way to the south. If there was a riot within a walled-off neighborhood of Detroit it would not hinder visitors from arriving in the Metro airport and visiting our city of Ann Arbor. And so it is in Israel.

The year of 2008 has seen a record number of visitors to Israel and yet not one of them was hurt or threatened even though the fighting was going on way down south in Gaza. Don’t let fear keep you from the Holy Land.

So, join us in March for our Ave Maria Pilgrimage. For more info visit our pilgrimage site here.

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