You might check with your denominational leaders or the groups above to get some help. Personal or group trips are still possible although you need to clearly plan with some person or organization who knows where to go and who to see. Churches and church groups are asking people to come and see them and report back what they see and experience.
Planning your own unique trip
Personal or group trips are still possible although you need to clearly plan with some person or organization who knows where to go and who to see. Churches and church groups are asking people to come and see them and report back what they see and experience.
If you have your own group or want to recruit one from your church, community or organization, you can plan your own trip or you can work with a travel agent to plan a trip. Some people like to work with a travel agent in the Middle East and many of them are used to helping you plan an alternative type of trip. Be clear about which one of them plans what part of the trip. You don't want an overlapping schedule.
Another alternative is to work with your travel agent using a standard tour for the basics and modify it. You can change it by adding opportunities here and there or you can plan a special whole day or half day. Here are some examples of whole day alternatives. You will have to be insistent about what you want or the guide will take you wherever he or she wants.
1. Introductory briefing on previous evening
2. Meet with a local church representative to discuss
the concerns of local Christians
3. Visit a heritage or cultural center or museum of folklore
4. Lunch and discussion regarding issues raised above
5. Meet with a person from a human rights agency
1. Introductory briefing on the bus to a site
2. Visit a family in a refugee camp or a
person working at the site. See parts of the camp.
3. Lunch and discussion. A time for questions and answers.
4. Take a tour of an Israeli settlement with a settler
5. Meet with someone from a human rights group
A group that helps people plan trips can help you set up the examples above or specialized programs around such topics as education, environment, health issues, women's issues, development projects, religious issues, etc.
With the help of these planning tools you can do the planning yourself and just use the travel agent for airplanes and ground transportation and, perhaps, hotels. Your North American or U.K. travel agent will probably be working with a local travel agent in the Middle East. Ask who they work with.
At this site you will find a series of pages for various planning tasks. There will be some overlap of information because some of the pages are designed to be printed, copied and given to members of the group traveling together. Don't forget to plan in orientation and study before the trip, worship and discussion during the trip and evaluation afterward.
Two books you might find helpful are:
Who are the Christians in the Middle East? by Betty Jane Bailey and J. Martin Bailey, published by William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company in Grand Rapids, MI.
Women of Bible Lands - A Pilgrimage to Compassion and Wisdom by Martha Ann Kirk, published by Liturgical Press, Collegeville, MN.
Both of them cover a broad range of Middle Eastern countries.