Rabbi Rod Meyers and Sally Goodgion are going to the Holy Land during the pandemic.
“It is going to be so different to see the Holy Land without the crowds.”
That’s what Sally Goodgion, 81, says about her Jan. 25, 2022 group trip to Israel – her 18th – during the pandemic.
Can you imagine a world where you could visit the Holy Land without the crowds? That world exists right now, and if a trip to Israel is on your bucket list, believe it or not, now might be the time to go.
A travel company in Kent is offering an opportunity for you to accomplish that life goal, as they are planning their first foreign trip since COVID to Israel on Jan. 25. With the widespread availability of vaccines and very few people traveling, many would argue now is the best time to take that vacation you have been putting off for so long.
Two years ago, before the pandemic was in full swing, local travel agency Catalyst Travel planned a trip to Israel. While it was canceled then, the company has renewed its plans to take people to Israel, marking this as the first time since the pandemic started that they have taken people on a trip outside of the United States. As with nearly every country on Earth, the Omicron variant has been ripping through Israel’s population like wildfire. Like every other nation, the country has put into place specific guidelines for people traveling to it. First of all, you must receive a negative result from a PCR test 72 hours before your flight. For people who had COVID but recovered from it recently (8 days prior), you must provide a certificate of recovery to Israel’s Ministry of Health. For those who haven’t traveled internationally since COVID, most countries require proof of vaccination for entry and Israel is no exception – to even get on the plane you must provide proof of vaccination. And of course, you must self isolate for 24 hours after you arrive.
With all these restrictions and a new variant to Coronavirus, many would ask “why travel now?” Well, considering that the new restrictions in Israel allow visitors from the United States, of course some people are going to visit. There are other reasons however – for a lot of people in the group it’s going to be their first-ever visit to the Holy Land, so they have a lot of things to be excited about seeing and doing. Catalyst Travel has gathered together a group of 19 people to go on this trip, most coming from the Seattle area; however, the trip has enough appeal to attract several people from the wider United States.
With a group this large and heading to a place surrounded by controversy, it’s fair to assume there will be differing opinions surrounding some of the group’s thoughts and opinions going in. To combat this, Messianic Rabbi Rod Meyers has set the main focus of this trip as being about peace and creating what he calls, a “shared narrative”; according to Meyers:
“A shared narrative is about hearing the other person, their story, their feelings, how they perceive it and then making that story your own.”
During their trip to Israel, the group will be building a shared narrative with both Israelis and Palestinians, including some Palestinians who have been profoundly affected by the conflict, some of whom have even lost family. Many people assume that the conflict in Israel comes down to religion, or culture, but according to Meyers that’s not necessarily the case.
“It’s actually (about) land; Culturally, we’re almost identical,” he said. “Our food, our lifestyles are so similar and our faiths are similar too,” and “an enemy is someone we haven’t heard yet.”
“It comes down to who makes the best hummus,” Meyers quipped.
Meyers and his group will be heading to Bethlehem, Galilee and Tel Aviv, but perhaps the most interesting part of the trip will be taking place in Ramallah in the west bank, a part of Palestine that has been embroiled in conflict for decades. With a trip taking place in both Israel and Palestine, two countries in conflict, it would be fair to assume that it might be dangerous. However, both Meyers and Goodgion have no fear of traveling to the Holy Land.
“Everyone there will take care of us,” Meyers said. “Both on the Palestinian side and on the Israeli side we’re in really good hands and our safety is paramount to each of the groups – they want their story to be shared too, especially here.”
When questioned regarding any fears she may have, Goodgion unequivocally stated:
“No. I don’t have any fears. In my belief system, I’m not supposed to do things in fear. I’m supposed to do (them) with good judgment, but not fear.”
If the 81-year-old Goodgion is not afraid to take a trip to Israel during this time, what’s your excuse?
If you’re interested in learning more about this trip, feel free to get in touch with Anthony at Catalyst Travel at [email protected] or (253) 852-0880.
Brooks Schaefer is a young writer whose credits include Highline College’s Thunderword and South King Media’s publications and videos. He is enthusiastic about the future of online journalism. Send story ideas and good thoughts to him at [email protected].