3384 Al Aqsa MosqueBlog

Israel Calling

Finding a Way to Israel and Palestine

Of all the destinations we travel to, Israel and Palestine are kind of special. Actually, no, they're very special.

We won't deny the Middle East is a complicated place, but in terms of delivering an educational school trip, it can't be beaten. Students of religion, history, geography, culture, food, politics and current affairs will all find something to learn at every turn. While lots of places claim to be unique, Israel is. So why aren't more schools opting to travel there? Read on to find out more...

The landscape blows your mind, with deserts to the south, mountains in the north, a long Mediterranean coastline and the Dead Sea bang in the middle. Known as the Holy Land by Christians, Jews and Muslims alike, Israel and Palestine define the notions of ‘steeped in history’ and ‘cultural melting pot’. There are recognisable place names from the bible (the Sea of Galilee, Jericho, Bethlehem and Nazareth) and those that are less favourably from the news (the Gaza Strip, the Golan Heights, Ramallah) but whatever you know about Israel, there’s probably a lot more that you don’t.

Tel Aviv’s a thriving contemporary city and financial hub. Buzzing restaurant and art scenes underpin its urban-cool vibe and it has some really spectacular beaches. What’s most fascinating about Israel is how this modern side rubs along with the ancient and spiritual. Even within Israel itself, the relationship between modern secular Israel and traditional ultra-orthadox Judaism is not always an easy one.

Bearing this in mind, you won’t be surprised to hear that Israel is our most requested destination. Note: that’s our most requested, not our most booked. Which is a shame, as an educational trip to the Holy Land can be a real rite of passage. So why are so many enquiries from uber-excited teachers, not turning into bookings? Two reasons: safety concerns and cost, both of which contribute to low sign-up rates. So, let’s look at each in turn.

Safety

Many people think Israel and Palestine are dangerous and that running a school trip here is foolhardy (to put it politely). The fact is though, Israel is one of the safest places we travel to. How come?

∘ Tourists have never been targeted in the troubles 

∘ Tourism is burgeoning, with the last few years being among the busiest ever (nearly 4 Million tourists visited Israel in 2018)

∘ In the event of isolated disturbances, itineraries can be changed at very short notice

∘ There’s a reassuringly conspicuous IDF securitypresence across the country

∘ Our in-country operations team knows its stuff – it’s been arranging travel within Israel since 1966

∘ We use experienced local tour leaders who are fully qualified, multi-ligual and have led tours in the region for at least 3 years

∘ We don’t use public transport in Jerusalem – only private buses with authorised, known drivers

Medical care and emergency response in the country is world class

You wouldn’t believe the number of students returning from a trip to Israel saying ‘I don’t know what all the fuss was about! I felt perfectly safe.’

Cost

As Israel’s a highly developed country with a high standard of living, it is, unfortunately, pricey to travel there. However, the main reason it proves too costly for many schools is low uptake. Obviously, the fewer travellers you have, the more expensive it is. Many schools interested in visiting Israel end up with under a dozen takers, making the cost unviable.

So, if you’re interested in launching a trip to Israel, we have a few suggestions to maximse your changes of getting a viable group size:

∘ Mention the plan to run the trip in as many classes as you can

∘ Open it up to ALL students, not just those studying RE and/or politics – Israel is probably the most cross-curricular educational destination there is

∘ Publicise the trip in a school assembly – we can provide images

∘ Put posters up around school advertising the trip – we can design them for you

∘ We understand lots of people will have concerns (unjustified in our view/experience) so we’re very happy to come up and give a full infomation evening to parents

What else can we do? Because we really believe that Israel is an unmissable destination with loads to offer, we’ve had a rethink and come up with a new plan to help make it viable.

For schools that have previously booked trips to Israel with us and have successfully recruited good group sizes, we’ll continue to sell bespoke school trips on dates of their choice. For schools that haven’t run a trip to Israel with us before, we’re going to start running ‘open’ Israel trips based on fixed departure dates (with the first trips heading out in February and October 2020). That means if a school has 6 or 8 committed students they and one teacher can join up with students and teachers from other schools, and travel as part of a bigger group.

This will hopefully mean we can create bigger group sizes and a lower cost for everyone. Of course, if a school happens to get a large group of 20 or more students together, we will be happy to run a private trip for them on the same dates as the open trip (or different if they prefer).

One way or another we’re committed to sharing an eye-opening Israeli experience with a new generation of travellers! Get in touch for more information, itineraries, costs and to discuss potentially launching a school trip to Israel.