Is it Worth Visiting Israel if You’re Not Religious?
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!
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I have several non-religious friends who had fun in Israel when we traveled there. Sure, they didn’t join me when I went on a quick kosher tour, but after that? We had a great time driving around with a rented car. What’s so awesome about the country is that even though it’s really small, it’s packed with so many things to do. If you like history and architecture, Israel’s got it in spades. Like beaches? Head to one of the coastal cities along the Mediterranean or go down to Eilat in the Red Sea. I could go on and on. It’s a nice place, period.
So not a devout Christian. Should I go on a ministry tour of Israel? Would love to see the sites mentioned in the Bible but don’t want to get stuck with religious teaching. Any advice. Was looking at discoverisraeltour with dr bob ross ministry … have friends going thought I will tag along.
Hmm I don’t really know much about ministry tours. I would ask the guide or the organizer. Either way, it’s a lovely country to visit!
“Is it Worth Visiting Israel if You’re Not Religious?” – IMHO, it is twice more interesting to visit Israel when you’re visiting not only mainstream religious tourist attractions you’ve seen a hunderd times on tv, internet etc.
Completely agree – forget the religion if you want to, the history is fascinating. Never had Israel on my travel radar but had an unbelievable time there.
Israel has many areas of interest but the rules, regulations can land you in big trouble for disturbing the Statuesque and you dont even know it. too bad, years in a nasty prison for what? a cell? Be careful, you could also end up an “agunah”.
Israel is a country that really intrigues me. I’m not religious myself, but the religious aspect of Israel fascinates me, and I cannot wait to explore it in the future.
i have never been visited israel..Feeling like amazing to see your religious israel pics ..i really waana to go there …These pics are reall outstanding …hope so in future i visit israel …:)
I would really love to visit Israel and I’m not religious at all. It seems like a fascinating country with so much to explore. I love hearing about people who have been and had a great time.
Having recently traveled to Israel I certainly agree with you. There are many other types of attractions aside from religious ones that are worth checking out. Also, I found the differences in cities, separated by only a few hundred kilometers, quite fascinating.
You seem to forget to mention a very important thing, and that’s Customs at the airport.
Before you get anywhere close to Israel expect to be interrogated, and interrogated again.
If you are simply a tourist, and do not have family there expect to be treated as a criminal. You are definitely not wanted!
Also, expect that every piece of your luggage will be checked at least twice, with a fine tooth-comb both upon entering and leaving, and if your baggage is locked they will simply “break” open your locks without even thinking asking you or reimbursing you for the lock.
It seem common courtesy means nothing to these people.
Be fully prepared to spend (at-least) 4-5 hours both entering and leaving the airport.
And lets not even mention the totally unhelpful attitude of the staff.
All this makes for a truly unpleasant and extremely frustrating experience.
I for one will NEVER come back to this horrible country.
Many years ago when I had returned from my third trip to Israel, my grandfather asked me if I went to Shabbat services there every Saturday. I told him I was no more religious there than I was in the States. You don’t have to be religious to love Ha’aretz. you just need a sense of adventure.
Every brilliant photo you posted gives a reason to travel to Israel. I am sold.
Amongst the other interesting things in Israel (religion not being one of them) is a new(ish) long-distance hiking trail so you can see some of the countryside on food…
I met a guy from Israel this summer and he said it’s a really fantastic trail.
Really interesting post. I’m not very religious either (in fact, I’m pretty much the opposite), and yet Israel intrigues me. I AM very interested in history, so there are plenty of places there that I’m sure I would enjoy regardless of the religious connections.
Yes, you would definitely enjoy it then. I normally get bored with too much history, but I found most of it really interesting.