Text Size A A

imagine News

Regarding President Trump’s Israel statement

Dear Friends,

President Donald Trump recently made a statement to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and directed the State Department to begin the process of moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. With this statement, we’ve been asked: what does this mean for future travel and safety in Israel? I cannot see the future, but I can provide my opinion with experience from the last 26 years of specializing in Israel tours and helping churches and ministries with the logistical planning of their trips. Even with all the hype from the news media coming out of the Middle East from Israel’s neighbors, there is still no safer time to be in Israel. No one yet knows the final outcome or if this is a bargaining chip for future peace with the Palestinians and Israelis.

 We do know that Israel is the safest country in the Middle East. We do know that Israel welcomed its 3,000,000th tourist in 2017 last month, and we do know that life continues in the streets as normal for those who live in Israel. Thousands of tourists are continuing with their travel plans today, as if nothing has changed. Without turning on the news or picking up a paper, those currently in Israel would not even know that the atmosphere is different. That being said, whenever there is a possible threat or concern, Israel’s security is at its best making sure that all measures are taken to ensure the safety of tourists and all residents of Israel. Their number one priority is that the country remains safe, calm and life continues as normal.

 I’ve learned from experience and constant communication with our many friends, partners, guides, and others living in Israel, that if anyone felt for a moment it was unsafe, we would know immediately. Not only would the Israeli Government not allow travel, but the U.S. would not permit travel either if they felt, even for a moment, that it wasn’t safe to travel. If Israeli parents are allowing their children to continue to go to school each day then, as a parent, I see they feel it’s safe and life continues as normal.

 We have many groups in Israel as I write this letter. I will also be in Israel later this month and bringing my son with me, and if I didn’t think it was safe, I wouldn’t travel myself. It’s perfectly safe. Honestly, my concern is when things are too quiet and too calm for a long stretch of time in Israel, this is when I am more concerned. At this time, security is at an all-time-high with the recent comments made by President Trump, thus making it one of the safest times to travel. One still needs to use common sense: avoid any potentially large crowded demonstrations, and refrain from using public transportation whenever possible. Just like in America, there are some places you would never go, and others that you would avoid at night; Israel is no different. Our tours never visit areas that are advised to limit visitation to, such as the Gaza Strip, which none of our groups go near. Bethlehem, Jaffa, Jericho, etc. are all safe areas to visit today, as is going up to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. If for any reason it is unsafe, your tour guide and driver are constantly in communication with the local authorities, and we work closely with our partners in Israel to advise you accordingly.

 Please keep in mind that the majority of what we hear from the media, especially regarding the Middle East, is hype that we may never witness or experience. Faith is the antidote to fear!

 Best regards,

Rick Ricart

Traveling to Istanbul, Turkey

Istanbul sunsetRick Steves, a American expert on European travel, shares his thoughts on traveling to Turkey considering the recent event in Istanbul.

In light of Tuesday’s terrorist attack on Istanbul’s Atatürk Airport, it’s understandable that those dreaming of travel to Turkey are concerned about their safety. I would not fault someone for thinking now is not the time to vacation in Turkey.

But personally, I would travel to Turkey tomorrow with no more concern than if I were traveling in the USA. The tragedy of 41 innocent people being killed during the Istanbul airport bombing is heartbreaking. But so are the more than 30 people killed every day, on average, in gun homicides in the USA.

Turkey is a huge country of 80 million people that faces some serious challenges. And being an ally of Europe and the USA while being on the border of so much sadness in the Middle East (and recently coming to terms with a friendly agreement with Israel) all combines to put Turkey in the target of terrorist groups.

Should I react by not traveling there and, in doing so, contribute to Turkey’s economic hardship? Is traveling there after the recent bombing reckless from a personal safety point of view? Should I embolden the terrorists by reacting the way they want me to? How you answer depends on your perspective. But I choose to answer with a hearty “no.”

 -Rick Steves
 

Refer to Win

Refer a Pastor to Us For a Chance to Win a $500 Visa Gift Card

How to Enter:

1. Click here to refer a pastor to imagine. All you have to do is provide their name, church name, phone number & email address and you will receive ONE entry into the contest.

2. Both you and the pastor you refer will receive FIVE entries into the contest if they contact our office for information about hosting a tour of their own.

3. If the pastor you referred BOOKS a tour with us by July 31, 2016, you both will receive 20 entries into the contest.

 

Contest Rules:

  • You may refer more than one pastor.
  • imagine employees are not eligible to participate.
  • Referred pastor cannot have hosted a tour with us before.
  • A winner will be randomly selected, notified and announced in August 2016.

 

Greece & Turkey Travel Update

In light of recent events in Turkey and around the world, we would like to share with you a letter from one of our group leaders who recently returned from Greece and Turkey. As they share below, even with some inconvenient delays, the group took situations that could have been irritating and instead joyfully turned them into opportunities to pray, study, worship together, and encourage locals. Their attitude and outlook on every situation reflected Christ’s love and peace and contentment. 

As always, the safety of our passengers is our top priority, and we are in constant communication with our groups traveling and our partners overseas. Our tours to Greece, Turkey, Israel, Jordan, and Egypt are continuing as scheduled. 

Dear imagine,

We returned at the beginning of March from a meaningful tour of Greece and Turkey with 23 people. There was some apprehension on the part of several travelers due to the recent bombing in Istanbul, (and now in Ankara) but mostly people did not appear to be in dread or fear of travel.

In Greece we were met with some delays due to farmers who were protesting the paying of taxes and were lining up their tractors blocking entrance onto the freeways in northwestern and northern Greece.  Even so, we enjoyed seeing the Acropolis, Corinth, Delphi, Meteora, Berea, and Philippi.  We read scripture and used time when the bus was not moving due to the backup to share a Bible study on the Apostle Paul.  On one night of a long journey we sang hymns and songs for over an hour to pass the time. The hospitality in the hotels was marvelous even upon late arrivals! Dinner was served graciously and we were blessed.

We also came upon buses of refugees from Syria who were stalled and could not travel.  We shared a few moments with some of them giving them gloves, a bit of food and money.  They had been at this rest stop for 2 days.  These were families and people who were upset that they had paid much money to get this far and now could not get out of Greece due to border closings in Yugoslavia. What was their future?  The conversations we had with them left our group with hearts full of compassion. When we were delayed getting to our hotels, no one could feel sorry for themselves.  We at least had a destination and would get there!  Our prayers continue for these misplaced persons.

When we came into Turkey, many of our people were amazed that it looked so clean and modern.  I think some thought it would appear more like a war zone or a third world country.  Everything was beautiful in the fields and farms along the Aegean Sea.  The food was fabulous and all of the sites, Troy, Pergamum, Izmir, Ephesus, and House of Mary were amazing experiences of history and Biblical truth.  The hotels were gorgeous; everyone was pleased. Many came away with rug purchases in Ephesus for a lasting memory.

Our last days in Istanbul were full with the visit to the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia,and Topkapi Palace. There was a greater understanding of the history of Christianity, Islam, and the Turks after being here. We took a cruise on the Bosphorus which revealed the spacious and populated area of Istanbul. We were not hassled by anyone except some vendors in the Grand Bazaar and Spice market just encouraging us to buy.  It was sobering to be at the site of the Egyptian obelisk where a suicide bomber killed several people a month earlier. We prayed over this place for our enemies and for God’s love to overcome evil.

We realize that there is no place on earth that is exempt or free of suffering or possible terrorism. But, I do see how this trip confirmed the faith of people to be free of fear and controlled by a deeper message of living by grace and surrendering themselves to what the Apostle Paul witnessed: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7).

Thank you Rick and all at Imagine Tours & Travel for making this kind of travel possible!

Pastor Johan and Sonja Hinderlie

Update on safety in Turkey

Dear Friends,

With the recent events in Turkey, we would like to share with you word from our partners in Istanbul.  They have assured me that the authorities are doing everything possible to ensure safety for tourists and all those in Turkey at this time. The safety and security of our passengers is always our top priority.

Since the events that took place today, the authorities are taking this very seriously. The Turkish authorities have cleared the whole area and are investigating the situation with their central intelligence. They have apprehended four persons that may have been involved in planning the event. Regardless, security is at an all-time high and there are over 200,000 tourists in Istanbul right now from all over the world; most are from Europe and approximately 20 percent are from the U.S.A.

The remaining sites are all open and again security is heightened everywhere (similar to how Paris handled recent bombings) and day-to-day local life and activities continue as normal. Some areas are closed for now and they’re tentatively scheduled to open later this week.

At this time for anyone in Istanbul now, their sightseeing will be revised as needed and they believe everything will reopen by the end of the week. Since the situation is still fresh, we will continue to receive updates in the days ahead. 

Best regards,

Rick

 

Letter from Director General of Ministry of Tourism

November 30, 2015

Dear Friends,

We welcome you to enjoy the warm weather, tourism sites, museums, holy places, attractions, restaurants and night life – all open and operating as usual in Jerusalem, Telv Aviv and in all areas of the country.

Currently, more than 100,000 foreign tourists are on holiday in Israel. Groups and individuals continue to arrive daily and they feel safe and are enjoying themselves. Everyday life in Israel is normal. Children go to kindergarten and school, local residents go to work and business continues as usual. The headlines about the situation in countries along the Mediterranean Sea are not relevant to our daily lives.

A wide range of international events are taking place at various locations in the coming days and weeks, including the 19th International Harp Contest in Acco from November 23 – December, the European Short Course Swimming Competition in Netanya and Superstar American comedian Jerry Seinfeld will perform in Tel Aviv in December as part of his world tour. Christmas celebrations are underway preparing for the thousands of foreign tourists who will partake in the festivities.

In addition, international conferences and exhibitions are going on in venues throughout the country as planned.

We look forward to welcoming you to Israel.

Sincerely,

Amir Halevi

Director General

Letter form Israel Ministry of Tourism

Dear Friends,
Headlines about the situation in Israel can be alarming, but the reality is that everyday life in Israel is normal. Children go to kindergarten and school. Local residents go to work and business continues as usual.

Currently more than 100,000 foreign tourists are on holiday in Israel. Groups and individuals continue to arrive daily and they feel safe, enjoying the warm Mediterranean weather, tourism sites, museums, holy places, attractions, restaurants and night life. All of these locations are open and operating as usual in Jerusalem, as in all areas of the country.

A wide range of international events are taking place at various locations in the coming days and weeks, including the Jerusalem Open House Festival from October 22-24. The Israel Museum in Jerusalem continues to celebrate its 50th Year. TUNE IN TEL AVIV, Israel’s international live music industry conference and showcase, is recognized as the most important industry event taking place in the Middle East from November 11-15. From October 15-22, the Manofilm Festival of Contemporary Art in Jerusalem invites guest to visit galleries and exhibition venues around the city. Wheels of Love, an annual Bike Ride extending over five days in Jerusalem, is taking place from October 19-25, with over 700 riders from Israel and overseas. The Terra Sancta Organ Festival (Holy Land Organ Festival), an international music event and a cultural activity, produced by the Custody of the Holy Land, is happening in Tel Aviv-Yafo , Nazareth and Jerusalem. In addition, international conferences and exhibitions in the field of health, medicine, and graphics, just to mention a few, are going on in venues throughout the country as planned.

The Ministry of Tourism is in contact with all relevant authorities to monitor the situation and ensure the safety of our visitors from abroad.

We look forward to welcoming you to Israel.

Sincerely,

Amir Halevi
Director General

Israel Ministry of Tourism

Update from Israel Ministry of Tourism

Dear Friends,

We would like to update you about the current situation in Jerusalem. We understand that some of your passengers may have concerns regarding travel to Israel, due to recent media reports. Our primary concern is always the safety of our guests, and you may rest assured that we are doing our utmost to make sure that all runs smoothly while touring the Holy Land and the Holy City of Jerusalem.

We completely understand travelers’ concerns; the situation in Jerusalem is without question not positive this week, but those being targeted are not tourists. We have groups in Israel now and more heading there today and tomorrow. None of our groups have canceled, nor should they, as tourism is still operating as normal. This is not to make light of the recent events, but to put the situation into perspective.

Jerusalem is a safe tourist destination and the locals are going about business as usual. All of the Holy Sites are open and operating and no restrictions apply, with the exception of the Temple Mount, which we are recommending groups not visit until things return to normal there.

We are in constant contact with the groups we have in Israel. Please see the below update received this morning from the Israel Ministry of Tourism.

October 13, 2015

“Dear Friends,

Headlines about the situation in Israel can be alarming, but the reality is that:
Everyday life in Israel is normal. Children go to kindergarten and school, local
residents go to work and business continues as usual.

We welcome you to enjoy the tourism sites, museums, holy places,
attractions, restaurants and night life- all open and operating as usual in
Jerusalem, as in all areas of the country.

Currently more than 100,000 foreign tourists are on holiday in Israel enjoying
the pleasant Mediterranean weather and surroundings. Groups and individuals
continue to arrive daily and they feel safe and enjoy themselves.
A wide range of international events are taking place at various locations in
the coming days and weeks including the Haifa International Film Festival,
International Yoga Arava Festival, Jerusalem Open House Festival, Israel
Museum Jerusalem 50th Year Celebrations, 4 2 4 Dead Sea Rave at Masada
Arena, The Dead Sea With International Headliners Skrillex, Zedd and more,
just to mention a few.

In addition, international conferences and exhibitions are going on in venues
throughout the country as planned, the most prominent being the
International Astronautical Congress in Jerusalem with over 2,000 participants
and journalists from around the world.

The Ministry of Tourism is in contact with all relevant authorities to answer
questions which may arise.

We look forward to welcoming you to Israel.”

Sincerely,
Amir Halevi
Director General Israel Ministry of Tourism

imagine Tours & Travel is in constant contact with our Israel office partners, professional guides, as well as other contacts we have on the ground to get the latest news and details of what’s happening throughout Israel. We are also in constant contact with our groups to make sure that all is well, and we hear that they are having a marvelous time and feel completely safe throughout the tour. Our guides and bus drivers receive regular updates from the authorities, advising them of any possible locations to avoid. At present, tourists are visiting all sites listed in their programs. We would be happy to address any further questions or concerns you may have.

Best regards,

Rick Ricart
President/Owner
imagine Tours & Travel