Question of the Week: Spiritual Travel Advice

Yaakov asks:

I have a non-religious friend that is visiting Israel for the first time. He has asked me for some travel advice. What advice would you give him that might pique his spiritual curiosity?

12 comments on “Question of the Week: Spiritual Travel Advice

  1. Pay a professional guide. They really know their stuff. They can recommend things you would never think of. And you will be helping a fellow Jew in a not so great economy.

  2. Depends, of course, on his interests.

    For my take on it, Israel is literally the land of the Torah. A chance to see some of the countryside with a guide (professional or not) and a Tanach in hand can be really powerful. To see Israel truly, one has to see it as the land of Tanach and Chazal and continuing, ongoing Jewish history. That’s why as a young man I only wanted to be a tour guide and follow literally and figuratively in the footsteps of Aharon Bier z’l and Haim Mageni.

  3. I arrived in Israel today to visit my daughter and just walking through the Old City is amazing.We also saw an induction of new soldiers at the Kotel.

    On the plane, there was a gentlemen going up a down the aisles politely asking people if they wanted to put on tefillin. And the Chabad tefillin booth was very busy.

    I would suggest the tunnel tours for a non frum visitor.

  4. I think the question of overwhelming someone is important. You need to know your friend and know what he/she will agree to try.

    I assume that most Jews visiting Israel will go to the Kotel. Perhaps its more important how they do so. Maybe you can suggest one of the very good religious tour guides who will give them some perspective from a religious historical background.

  5. When giving someone travel recommendations for Israel, it’s hard to strike the right balance. You don’t want to overwhelm your friend by cramming too many things “beyond the basics” into his or her first trip. However, since most people have at least a year or more between their first and second trip to Israel, we find it hard to leave anything out.

  6. Don’t forget to send him to Rabbi Mordechai and Henny Machlis for Shabbos meals! They are the king and queen of Shabbos hospitality in Yerushalayim. Everyone is welcome to join them for a meal on Shabbos. If this display of hachnosas orchim doesn’t overwhelm him, the overflowing kindnesses of the Machlis family certainly will.

  7. I would say something like this. You probably want to visit Jerusalem, and you may be interested to see some religious areas. The thing is, if you just walk and look around it might not be that interesting. So why not drop by a yeshivah that is known for being warmly welcoming to visitors, so you can meet some people personally. One idea is R’ Shalom Arush’s yeshivah for BTs, Chut Shel Chessed. The website says that “Chut Shel Chessed’s doors are open to everyone and we warmly welcome visitors. On your next visit to Israel, please stop in to see for yourself our thriving Breslev community.”

  8. The Shabbos meal is a great idea. I suggest R’ Gutman Locks ( and mystical paths blog), who, as mentioned in one of his books, often has Shabbat visitors. He has a kiruv tefillin booth at the kotel.

  9. Suggest that he visit the Kotel, and Baal Teshuvah yeshivot like Aish HaTorah and Ohr Somayach.

    Suggest that he prepare for his visit to Israel by learning basic Jewish prayers and basic mitzvot before he goes to Iarael.

  10. First, send him to the Kotel and the Kotel Tunnels Tour. Tell him to write out his hopes and prayers on a slip of paper to be placed into the Kotel. Hopefully, someone will grab him at the Kotel and ask him to put on Tefillin. Even if not, it’s a good way to start off his trip. Second, tell him to take one of those armored buses from Jerusalem’s Central Bus Station to the Mearat HaMachpelah in Hebron (assuming that it is one of the days when Jews are allowed to go there and that the whole place has not been closed down due to any terror incidents). That takes care of two days. He could also include a trip to Masada, a visit to Kever Ruchel, and a visit to the Holocaust museum at Yad Vashem. Also, many visitors enjoy the Ir David Old City tour and side trips to Ein Gedi and the Dead Sea. If you can get him to stop in at one of the baal-teshuvah yeshivos like Ohr Sameyach, that would be wonderful.

  11. Those are both good recommendations, Gary.

    Perhaps, also, you can, set him up for a shabbos meal at a warm, welcoming family that you personally know or know of.

  12. I recommend a visit to the OU Israel World Center in Jerusalem, where many lectures and activities are held.

    A trip to Safed (Tzefat) may also be nice. It is a city rich in tradition and religious symbolism. It also has a modern component, so your friend would see these elements side by side.

    The OU or other organizations that have offices here in the US may be able to provide information about day trips to Safed and other places of interest.

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