Still Safe to Go to Israel? Update for Radio Shows Today

by Steve Ray on 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.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Debbie Nahas January 5, 2009 at 1:02 AM

I am an American but have a Lebanese last name. I will be traveling to Israel soon on a pilgrimage. Will I have any trouble getting through entry with my name and is it safe to travel now. Especially with Lebanon maybe attacking the northern part. Please let me know as soon as possible. Thanks

STEVE RAY HERE: It is very safe to travel in Israel as long as you stay away from Gaza. With Lebanese descent you can expect extra time to enter Israel. They will probably take you aside and ask a lot of questions but if you have nothing to hide and keep your answers simple and direct you should have no problem in the long run. With my pilgrimage groups I have special agents who help you through the process.

Su January 5, 2009 at 5:11 PM

you should update this blog and cannot be serious in saying that it is safe to travel to Israel right now. My mom is about to go with her church to Jerusalem, so you must be insane to tell people, “Yeah, sure, go ahead. It’s safe!” You’re psycho!!!!!!

STEVE RAY HERE: Have you ever been to Israel? Do you know what it is like? I have been there 60 times! You have a lot of nerve — though I suspect you might be speaking tongue in cheek. What is going on in Gaza is very limited and restricted to the south. Pilgrimages go no where near this. I have been there many times when there is fighting in Gaza and it has NO effect on the rest of the country. Sorry to disagree, but those who sit in front of the TV and extend it to every street corner of Israel are the one’s who need to get serious.

Kate Hayes January 7, 2009 at 8:23 PM

My husband & I have signed on for the “Footprints of St.Paul” pilgrimage 3/3-3/14.You said that Israel is safe as long as we stay away from Gaza. How about Greece, the 1st leg of our journey ? Thanks.

STEVE RAY HERE: Greece is a beautiful and safe country too. We will be in Athens and Corinth two days before boarding our ship. I have been to Greece many times, the most recent only three months ago. It is delightful and no problem.

I also assume the fighting in Gaza will be over long before we get to Israel, but we have no worry. Even IF it ever was a problem, we have immediate communications and would NEVER take you into harms way. Please email me at sray@me.com if you want to talk and I will gladly give you my phone number so we can talk in person. Can’t wait to show you the land of St. Paul AND Jesus and Mary!

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