Many tourists travel to Israel to learn more about their religious roots, but is this the only reason to visit?
I’ve been struggling with putting my thoughts about my time in Israel into words. I’m not a religious person, so I wasn’t sure how I would feel about visiting a country with so much religious history.
Since I’ve always been better at expressing myself through photos, I think a series of photos accompanying my first impressions of Israel seems appropriate.
If you follow us on Instagram, then you may have seen some of these already, but I added a couple more to this post — which I have yet to share anywhere else.
Is it Worth Visiting Israel if You’re Not Religious?
Nearly half of the passengers on my overnight flight to Israel were dressed in traditional Hasidic attire — a dark three-piece suit and black hat, with long curly locks of hair known as “Payos.” At first light (Israel time) I awoke to a large portion of the plane praying in the aisles and emergency exit spaces — many of them wearing Tefillin.
I traveled to the Sea of Galilee — which looks more like a lake — on my first day in the country. If you have read the bible, then you probably already know this is where Jesus walked on water.
Continuing my tour of holy sites, I visited the Town of Jesus in Capernaum. This cat looked a lot like my kitty who passed away this year. It felt like a good omen or just a nice welcome to Israel.
After Tiberias and Capernaum, I made my way to Tel Aviv — where apparently surfing is a popular sport. I had no idea. Nobody back home (ahem… Scott) believed me when I told them there are waves in Israel.
The Western Wall is an important site for those of Jewish faith and has been a site for Jewish prayer and pilgrimage for centuries. The courtyard is separated into two areas — one for the men and one for the women. It is said that if you write a prayer on a piece of paper and insert it into the cracks, then your prayer has a better chance of being heard by God.
Military service is mandatory for all citizens of Israel after the age of eighteen. It’s not uncommon to see young soldiers walking the streets with guns.
Now to answer the question in the title of this post: Is it worth visiting Israel if you’re not religious? After spending eight days in the country, I’ve decided there is plenty more to this country than religious sites.
I explored areas from the Sea of Galilee down to the Dead Sea — and even though I did enjoy learning about the religious history of this country, it’s hardly the only reason to visit. In the coming weeks, I’ll be sharing my thoughts about the local cuisine, browsing the street markets, the surf scene in Tel Aviv and meeting friendly locals.
Getting to Israel
Now that EL AL Airlines offers direct flights from LAX to Tel Aviv (yay!) it’s become so much easier for those of us on the West Coast to travel to Israel. I drove from San Diego to LAX and booked a Park and Fly reservation at Four Points LAX. I usually despise traveling all the way to Los Angeles in order to catch a flight, but staying here made it surprisingly easy, even with a 4am wake up call.
The shuttle to the airport was waiting outside in the morning for the less-than-five-minute ride to the airport. I also highly recommend checking out their beer selection at Brewsters Bar downstairs, which will put you right to sleep!