True religious pilgrimage has historically been a spiritual journey brought people from near and far to visit what are considered by many to be authentic holy sites connected to the life and times of Jesus.
“Then Jesus arrived from Galilee at the Jordan coming to John, to be baptized by him. 14But John tried to prevent Him, saying, “I have need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?” Matthew 3:13
For most, the religious pilgrimage has now become synonymous with motorized boats sailing across Israel’s primary water sources, big hotels with puffy towels, restaurant chains preparing imported foods from all over the world to meet the needs of savvy travelers, fleets of gas guzzling jeeps to serve tourists seeking to explore the beautifully rugged Galilean landscape, Golan heights, desert and more.
But there are ways to travel and enjoy the landscape that need not be so negatively impactful on the environment. Friends of the Earth Middle East, also known as EcoPeace, is extremely focused on improving the environmental issues impacting the Jordan River and are urging tourists to be more environmentally sensitive in their travels. (The organization brings together Jordanians, Israelis and Palestinians over their shared interest to rehabilitate the Jordan River and preserve its water supply which has sustained residents in all three areas for thousands of years.)
A number of new low impact, yet fun, activities have become available to tourists seeking to explore the region more deeply while they also visit many important pilgrimage sites. For instance, rather than sailing on a motorized boat along the Sea of Galilee, there are now special electric boats that can take small groups of up to 12 people. True, more expensive, but cleaning up our environment is no bargain. On a recent tour of the lower Galilean hills, we paddled canoes down the Jordan River and watched as a family of turtles found their home on a shady tree branch that had fallen along the shore line. Later on, rather than take the extreme 4 by 4’s up the hills, we opted for electric buggy’s, part of a new fleet being offered by one supplier near Mul Hagolan.
In addition to physically experiencing the land in a more environmentally friendly manner, its also quite interesting to see the area in the context of the many ancient cultures that lived here and how they sustained themselves as much as 8000 years ago. The Museum of Yarmoukian culture located within kibbutz Mul Hagolan, near the Jordan River presents a fascinating display of archeological findings including stone tools, clay utensils and Fertility figurines. Our tour included a lecture by a culture expert who discussed the traditional techniques historically local cultures to sustain themselves in terms of food preparation, housing construction, cooking utensils, and more and how today’s more modern but not always better techniques have replaced the ancient methods. However, because of the impact on the environment there has been a resurgence of interest in learning these techniques in order to protect the environment as well as the cultures.
As you plan your visit, consider the environment and, if you wish, ask Travelujah how you can tour Israel in a more environmentally friendly manner.
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Elisa L. Moed is the Founder and CEO of Travelujah-Holy Land tours, the leading Christian travel network focused on Holy Land tours. People can learn, share and plan their Holy Land tours with Travelujah.