21 Essential Items for Your Ultimate Israel Packing List

Israel is one of my favorite places on God’s beautiful earth. Known throughout the world as the Holy Land, it is one of the planet’s foremost religious, spiritual, and cultural centers. From cosmopolitan and trendy Tel Aviv to soul-stirring and ancient Jerusalem, this country is a must-see.

I have led numerous tour groups to Israel over the years and just returned from a very special Advent tour. Visiting Bethlehem during Christmastime was truly incredible. I understand from experience the most important things you need to take in order to make your journey enjoyable, comfortable, and memorable.

Israel’s cultural, geographical, and religious diversity can make it difficult to know what to pack for your visit – especially if this is your first time. From essentials, basic necessities, Bible, spiritual growth tools, and understanding the dress code, this is a comprehensive packing list. Ready?

What to Pack for Israel – 21 Essentials

1. Power Adapter

In Israel, the power outlets require 230 V, 50 Hz, and type C and H power sockets, which is different from what we use in the United States. Though some European plugs will fit into Israeli outlets, it is best to use an international power adapter that works for nearly every country. I have used this one for years and it continues to work like a dream with hair dryers, straight irons, and everything in between. Just be sure that whatever adapter you take works in an Israeli outlet.

Ladies, I use this hairdryer, because it comes with a built-in international converter. Used with the adapter above, I have never blown a hotel outlet!

2. Pashmina Shawl/Scarf

A pashmina scarf or shawl for ladies will be endlessly useful when traveling in Israel. It can be used for layering, as a head or shoulder covering for entering holy sites, tied into a skirt to cover your knees in religious sites, or as a swimsuit cover up at the beach during summer travel. Versatile, stylish, portable, light, and breezy, I never regret bringing one of these on my trip.

3. RFD Protected Bag or Wallet

Whenever you travel to a big city in Israel or a particularly crowded, touristy destination (such as inside Jerusalem’s old city walls), it is imperative that you protect yourself from the risk of pickpockets. The best way to avoid being the target of pickpocketing is with a quality cross-body bag (for men, a neck wallet).

I have carried this one for years, and have it in both purple and brown. It is large enough to hold your valuables, such as cell phone, ATM cards, credit cards, cash, and passport, and has separately organized pouches so you can quickly and easily access your journal, map, water bottle, and other necessities.

4. Travel First Aid Kit

When traveling to a faraway destination like Israel, medical supplies are smart. Israel’s terrain contains hills, sand, and rocks, so small scrapes and blisters may rear their ugly heads. The last thing you want hindering your progress or causing unnecessary discomfort is an exposed, untreated scrape or blister.

I always pack this first aid kit because it is compact and covers just about everything that could arise. And very important: I have carried it through international TSA several times without issue.

5. Packing Cubes

If you want to become the savvy traveler you always dreamt of being, start using packing cubes! I have used these packing cubes for years. They will help keep you organized while traveling, which prevents becoming overwhelmed trying to find what you packed. These cubes also come with a separate bag to store your dirty laundry so as not to mix them with your clean clothes.

6. Travel Insurance for Israel

Whenever you travel to a foreign place, regardless of the destination, it’s imperative to make sure you’re covered in case of an emergency. Getting travel insurance is simpler than you might think.

I prefer to use Trip Insurance Consultants because of the variety of coverage and price levels it contains. My church also uses them for travelers on our mission trips. By planning ahead and getting travel insurance you can potentially save yourself the hassle and the expenses that come with flight cancellations, lost items, theft, and medical emergencies. It’s one of those things that I simply do not travel internationally without.

7. Long Skirt

As Israel is one of the world’s most significant religious centers, women should be sure to pack a long skirt or dress for visiting holy or religious sites. In Jewish or Muslim neighborhoods throughout the country, particularly in Jerusalem, modesty is key.

As Israel can get quite warm, especially during the summer, you will want to have a breezy, lightweight skirt to keep cool and covered. You can also use the pashmina listed above to cover your shoulders and knees at religious sites, rather than packing an extra skirt. Easy!

8. Camera

There is nothing worse than traveling to a spectacular place, taking photos, and later realizing that they are low-quality. In a destination as fascinating as Israel, you will want to have an excellent camera to properly capture the experience.

The camera that I use and highly recommend is high quality yet, comes with all necessary items, and is small enough to carry everywhere in your front pocket.

9. Prescription Medications

This almost goes without saying, but I’ll list it anyway. If you take regular prescription medication, pack it in its original bottle and be sure to pack a copy of the prescription, as well. Should an unforeseen event delay your return home, you do not want to be caught without a way to refill your necessary medications. I simply use my smallest packing cube (mentioned above) to hold any and all medical items.

Also, do not leave behind your essential over-the-counter medications, such as ibuprofen. With all of the walking and the hilly terrain, ibuprofen is a lifesaver!

10. Daypack

Israel is a very compact country, about the size of New Jersey. Yet it is absolutely packed with sites, cities, and diverse activities. Your days may include exploring cities, visiting museums and holy sites, hiking in the desert, and swimming in the Dead Sea.

A reliable day pack to carry a good supply of water, electronics, and any outfit changes is a necessity. I have used this reliable backpack for years and it is still going strong.

12. Portable Charger

Another incomparably useful travel item is a portable charger. If you’re relying on your smartphone to navigate or use as a camera and it runs out of battery in an inconvenient place, you may find yourself in a bit of a bind. A small, easy to carry portable charger can be a lifesaver when you really need it. I have this charger with both two and three USB charging portals. They charge many devices at once many times over.

13. Sunglasses

Israel enjoys a mild, Mediterranean climate, so you can expect a lot of clear, sunny days year-round. A good pair of UV-protected sunglasses will be essential to shield your eyes from the intense rays of the desert sun. In this pic, I climbing En Gedi where David hid from King Saul’s jealous rage. It was a gorgeous day.

14. Comfortable Walking Shoes

Plan to do a lot of walking when in Israel, especially in cities like Jerusalem, Jaffa, and Tel Aviv. The traffic congestion makes walking the preferred mode to get where you are going faster. You will want comfortable shoes that look appropriate, especially when you enter religious sites like churches or synagogues. I prefer Skechers, but any comfortable shoes with excellent support will work.

Quick story: During one summer trip to Israel, a woman in our group tried to enter the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem with open-toed sandals. Although the sandals were not necessarily the problem that time of year, the blingy cross plastered on top of them was highly offensive to the locals. They equated the crosses on her feet to “walking on Jesus” in disrespect. Blingy is cute, just be courteous as to what that bling contains. Nice sandals are just fine.

15. Rain Jacket or Travel Umbrella

Some will say that you do not need to bother. I have been caught in rainstorms more than once, trust me you need one or both. A waterproof jacket with a hood works just fine for any kind of weather. If it’s a cooler time of the year, the jacket also serves as an extra layer for warmth instead of a heavy coat (which you do not need).

16. Water Bottle

Israel is a dry country – it’s the desert! You need to be sure to remain hydrated. It is a good idea to carry your own water bottle so that you always have a ready supply of fresh water. Yes, bottled water is abundantly available, but we do not need any more plastic in the world’s landfills. I love to take this one because it folds up to fit easily in my airline carry-on bag and saves space.

17. Extra Pair of Glasses or Contacts

If you wear contacts, like me, you will need to pack an extra pair. When those desert winds blow, the air contains sand particles – especially during their dry summers. I always pack a pair of extra contacts, as well as backup eyeglasses. If you strictly wear eyeglasses, it’s a good idea to pack your spare pair just in case uneven terrain causes a stumble.

18. Washcloth

Out of all of the hotels (of various shapes, sizes, and price ranges) that I have stayed in throughout Israel, only ONE supplied washcloths. They are not provided as a hotel staple like here in America, so it’s a good idea to pack one for washing your face or other basic necessities.

19. Swimsuit and Water Shoes

You can swim almost year-round in Israel thanks to its mild climate. You may opt for a water hike through Hezekiah’s Tunnel, a float in the Dead Sea (this pic at the Dead Sea is from my 2019 tour), or other water activities. Hotels can provide towels, so do not take up valuable luggage space by packing a towel. Just be sure to take a few extra plastic bags in your daypack for your wet swimsuit and water shoes.

20. A Copy of Your Passport

This has literally saved my bacon in the past. Always, and I mean always, carry a copy of your passport. I tuck mine safely in my carry-on luggage side pocket. If you lose, or simply cannot find, your passport, this copy will be a lifesaver in getting you back home with much less hassle.

21. Bible and Journal

Last, but by no means least, Christians need to take your Bible and a journal. You are walking where Jesus and His disciples walked! I have used the same travel Bible for years. Each time I have read or taught from a particular passage, I wrote the date and location in the margin. Years later, each time I come across one of those marked placed, I remember the sounds, smell and feel of each location as if I was there again.

Journaling along the way is so important! I have used this one for years because it is a handy size and uses refillable, lined paper. The handmade leather has only gotten more beautiful over time.

Traveling to Israel will deeply impact your spiritual journey more than any other location. Ever. Out of all the places on earth, God chose Israel as the birthplace and ministry of His Son, Jesus Christ. Walking in His footsteps and experiencing Jewish culture will forever change you from the inside out.

I hope you this list has been helpful! I pray that you will join me on my next Holy Land tour in March 2024 (details here).

Trust me when I say that you will never read Scripture the same again.

God will turn your life, heart and soul upside down.

In the best way.

Caesarea Aqueduct, December 2022

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Giving Thanks on the Sea of Galilee

The crisp, clear morning air felt invigorating as our group of 35 pilgrims climbed aboard this old Israeli fishing boat on the Sea of Galilee last week.

Across the water on a distant hillside, we could see the city of Tiberias.

Along another shoreline, palm trees waved in the gentle breeze from the village of Magdala where Mary Magdeline lived.

We set sail on smooth waters and marveled at the 360 degree view of the very shores where Jesus performed so many miracles.

Some were overcome with emotion. Some could only grasp for words to convey their amazement. Some could not wipe the smile from their faces at the sheer joy of sailing where Jesus had sailed!

And we gave thanks.

I read portions from Matthew 14 where Jesus walked on water. Where Peter walked on water. Where Jesus rescued Peter even when Peter’s faith faltered in the storm.

As Scripture rang out over the glassy surface, we remembered how He had faithfully rescued each of us from storms, as well.

And we gave thanks.

We read where Jesus calmed frightening storms, swirling waters, and anxious hearts as His peace filled us to overflowing like those ancient boats overflowed with fish.

Teaching and reading Scripture from a boat on the Sea of Galilee, Nov. 2019

Then as worship music played, we praised God on the very water where God in the flesh had sailed.

We sailed past Bethsaida where Jesus fed the 5,000 with two small fish and five barley loaves and gave thanks that He fills for our every need. We glimpsed the temple ruins of Capernaum where Jesus taught near Peter’s home and gave thanks for His living and active Word.

JESUS.
HAD.
BEEN.
HERE.

Jesus sailed with us that very day on the boat.

By the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus is with us every moment of every day. Wherever you find yourself this Thanksgiving, take comfort that you are never alone.

His love never fails, never stops, and is never conditional. His unconditional love for us took Him all the way to the cross.

And for that beautiful truth, we give abundant thanks.

The Dead Sea, An Oasis, and Goats Galore

After six hectic tour days, today was truly a soul refreshing break. Strengthened by another delicious breakfast at the hotel, we loaded up the bus and headed toward our first stop: Ein Gedi.

Ein Gedi is a lush oasis in the middle of the Judean desert. After miles of desert and desert mountains, our eyes feasted on field after field of date palm trees (a successful cash crop here). Who knew these existed in such abundance here!

Ein Gedi literally means “the spring of the kid (young goat)” and we saw some of those goats almost immediately! These Ibex are wild and in abundance in these desert mountains, and it was such a treat to see them roaming wild!

Ein Gedi takes its name from a freshwater spring which flows from the rocks over 650 feet above the Dead Sea. When King Saul heard that David was in the vicinity of Ein Gedi, he gathered several thousand soldiers and hunted for David in these very caves. There’s a LOT of history in these caves.

It was in these very caves where David hid from Saul and wrote many of the Psalms (1 Samuel 23:29). We started out the day hiking up to the springs where David spent much of his wilderness time running from Saul.

The morning grew warm and the climb was not for the faint of heart, but we did it! The hidden springs along the way and shade toward the falls felt refreshing from the inside out. It felt like we climbed Mount Everest, so naturally we took a group victory picture!

From Ein Gedi, we headed through the desert to Qumran. This settlement was home to the Essenes, a devout set of Pharisees who moved out to Ein Gedi because they disapproved of many religious practices in Jerusalem. From here they wrote all of the Old Testament scrolls over and over by hand and sealed them in clay jars to faithfully preserve the Old Testament texts. The only book not found was Esther. The scrolls were discovered by a boy in 1947 and have verified the accuracy and reliability of Scripture. Hallelujah!

Then we headed to the Dead Sea! The saline content in the Dead Sea is 37%, which means no living organism can survive in it. The beautiful, panoramic view of the Dead Sea from the highway roads was truly stunning!

We finished this day refreshed and better acquainted as brothers and sisters in Christ. What a most perfect day!

Walking Through Old Town Jerusalem & Bethlehem

It’s hard to know where to begin when you travel through Jesus’ life in 10 hours. On this crisp 45 degree morning, we began at the Temple Mount in Old Jerusalem, which is built on Mount Moriah (the place believed to be where Abraham offered his son, Isaac, as a sacrifice to God).

Atop this Temple Mount stands the famous Gold Dome of the Rock. The morning sun glinted off of the gold-plated dome made it feel like it would burst into flame at any moment!

As we left the Temple Mount, we walked the Vio Dolorosa, the last steps that Jesus walked through Jerusalem toward Calvary. The route winds itself through the Old City of Jerusalem, starting at a school near the Lion’s Gate and ending at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (the traditional site of Jesus’ crucifixion).

The old streets bustled with people of many languages, shopkeepers hawking their wares, and street vendors offering a strand of beads for a few shekels. It was a sensory overload as vivid color and noise were everywhere – except inside the churches. There is a Lutheran Church in Old Town Jerusalem and it was fun to see Wayne behind the altar (even if it was only for pictures)!

The Via Dolorosa took us through the 14 stations of the cross where it was powerful to see the traditionally-held places where Jesus was condemned by Pilate, received His cross and then fell under its weight.

It seemed only fitting that such a spiritually meaningful journey ended at the Church of Holy Sepulchre. There has been a church on this site since 326 AD and is believed to be the location where Christ was crucified. Old Byzantine mosaic tiles and beautiful frescos were lit by dozens of suspended lanterns placed there by Christians, Greek Orthodox, Armenian and Roman Catholic churches.

There was so much history and spiritually powerful meaning along this route that I could hardly catch my breath at times.

Finally, our group gathered at the Western Wall for a personal time of prayer and reflection. Some of us wrote out prayers on small pieces of paper and stuffed them into the cracks of the Wall as we prayed (a tradition there). Tears ran down my face as I prayed for the people and situations that God laid on my heart.

We walked out of Old Town of Jerusalem inspired, tired, and awed. Then it was time for Bethlehem! We enjoyed a scrumptious lunch upon arrival, then given a rare opportunity to see how olive wood is gathered and carved by hand and machines.

Naturally, a stop in the shop that produced those items was given! (That’s a post for a different day.) The angels made the announcement HERE! The shepherds heard the message HERE The star shone RIGHT HERE.

The Church of the Nativity sits just next to the Shepherds’ Hill Church, both honoring Jesus’ birth and the proclamation of the shepherds: “While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a Son. She wrapped Him in cloths and placed him in a manger.” Luke 2:6-7

We are back at our hotel in Jerusalem for the evening, marveling at God’s grace, love and provision for each of us.

Sunrise on the Sea of Galilee

Today was simply incredible! My morning began by watching the sun rise over the Sea of Galilee as its cool breezes and lapping waves provides the soundtrack to my prayers. As I looked out over the calm waters, the realization hit home hard: Jesus walked on THIS water. Jesus performed miracles on and around THIS water. Jesus preached by THIS water. JOY!!

We enjoyed another incredible breakfast at the hotel, then it was “All Aboard!” in a replica wooden “Jesus boat” to set sail across the Sea of Galilee. The captain welcomed us by turning the boat into an American vessel for our journey by playing the Star Spangled Banner. The American and Jerusalem flags waved majestically side-by-side in the morning sun as we sang our national anthem.

I read the account from Matthew 14 of Jesus (and Peter) walking on the very waters on which we sailed. The captain played several familiar worship songs as we sang, visited, sat in silent awe, or let emotions roll down our cheeks. Meanwhile, these words rang fresh in our minds: And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” Matthew 14:32-33

We disembarked to tour through the Jesus boat museum where we saw a beautifully preserved fishing boat that had been discovered and excavated in the 1980s that dated back to Jesus’ day. The archaeologists identified 12 different types of wood used on that boat, indicating its constant fishing use over a long period of time. There is a good chance that Jesus knew or came in contact with the owners of this very boat!

By 10:30 am, we were back on the bus headed to the Mount of Beatitudes. It was a busy, bustling place. Wayne gathered us on the steps facing the front of the church and led a powerful devotion while reading the beatitudes from Matthew 5.

As we drove away from the Mount of Beatitudes toward Capernaum, the panoramic view of the rolling hills and mountains around the Sea of Galilee was simply stunning.

Capernaum is the seaside location where Jesus spent much time with Peter and teaching in the synagogue. Built over the original black stone synagogue of Jesus’ day, the remains of a white stone synagogue stood dramatically. A boat-shaped church has been built over the site of Peter’s home to help preserve it.

We had worked up quite an appetite, so we stopped at a local establishment and ordered the famous “Peter’s Fish.” Yes, they serve it head and all! I’m not accustomed to my food staring back at me, but this was a special exception.

All gone! 😂

Our next stop was Tabgha, a Byzantine church dating from 350 AD, commemorating the place where Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes to feed the 5,000. We walked on intricate mosaic tiles that were over 1,500 years old!

Our final stop for the day was at the Jordan River where John the Baptist baptized Jesus. We remembered our baptisms in a special ceremony in the Jordan River. God’s gift of baptism was celebrated with joy, tears, and raw, beautiful emotion. How very appropriate that the Jordan River ends at the Dead Sea — the lowest place on Earth. “Our sins are carried to the depths of the sea to be remembered no more.” Micah 7:18-20

We are back at the hotel on the Sea of Galilee for the night, my mind still whirling at what we experienced today. It is sobering and surreal to walk the very same places as Jesus and His disciples walked over 2,000 years ago. Sweet dreams, fellow disciples.

Pastor Snow

After nearly eighteen hours of travel, our group of 35 pilgrims arrived safely in the Holy Land. We were tired but exhilerated! Our Imagine Tours guide met us at the airport holding this greeting sign that provided us all a hearty chuckle to start our adventure.

I’m uncomfortable. 🙂

After climbing aboard our bus, we headed straight toward Jaffa – the modern name for the biblical city Joppa. The Hebrew word Joppa means beauty, which was evident by its breathtaking location overlooking the Mediterranean Sea.

Our first order of business was to try out the local fare for lunch that included falafels and shawarma (meat cut into thin slices, stacked in a cone-like shape, and roasted on a slowly-turning vertical rotisserie).

Our first meal in the Holy Land!

We walked through Joppa seeing the seaport that Solomon used to import cedar logs from Lebanon which were used to build the original Temple of God in Jerusalem. It was from here that Jonah attempted to flee God’s calling to preach to the rebellious people in Nineveh.

Little Luther waving from Jaffa

We wound our way through narrow stone streets and walkways to spend some quiet time in the Church of St. Peter, which is believed to have been built over the site of Simon the Tanner’s home where Peter received the missionary vision from God in Acts 9-10.

St. Peter’s Church in Jaffa, Israel

Wayne gathered us for a time of prayer overlooking the city to pause our busy feet and minds to ask God to bless our time for this great spiritual adventure.

Wayne gathering us for prayer overlooking Jaffa, Israel

We concluded our day with a delicious meal of local fare of grilled fish, a plethora of fresh vegetables, and mini lamb burgers at our hotel in Netanya, Israel. Even though we were in the middle of a bustling city that is home to nearly a quarter million people, the sea breeze and beautiful shorelines of the Mediterranean Sea beckoned within walking distance.

Thank you, God, for getting us here safely an starting off our adventure in such stunning surroundings!