How to travel to Jerusalem from Dubai Part 2
How to travel to Jerusalem from Dubai
This is the second part of how to travel to Jerusalem from Dubai. Be sure to read the first part before you continue…
“Hi. Please don’t stamp on my passport. I work in Dubai and I have to go back,” I boldly told the female Israeli immigration officer at Tel Aviv Ben Gurion Airport. I had just flown in from Amman, Jordan via Royal Jordanian. Perhaps it was my confidence or maybe it was the fact that I work in Dubai that caught her off guard. She was speechless for a second. Then she asked, “Where will you be staying?”. “Yitzhak Rabin Hostel,” I readily replied.
Golgotha, Place of the Skull
“What is the address of the hotel?” She asked. Panic took hold of me for a second. I realized that all my papers (hotel confirmation, conference registration, etc.) were in my checked-in luggage. I completely forgot to keep the documents with me. If she would have asked for my papers I would have nothing to show. I acted brazen anyway and said, “Oh, I’m sorry. I have it on my phone. I could not memorize it because it’s so difficult to pronounce.” I quickly scrolled down my notes on my phone and showed it to her. “How do you plan to get there?” “My friend explained to me in an email how to take a cab from the airport.” I slipped a copy of my friend’s email down the glass window.The Western/Wailing Wall at last!
As the immigration officer skimmed through the email I kept praying, “Dear God, please don’t make her ask for my papers.” “Please don’t.” Then I heard the all too familiar ‘Bam’. I knew I got the necessary entry stamp to Israel. “That’s it?” I thought. “Please enter and wait on the side,” the immigration officer said, motioning me to walk through the small glass door. “Oh no, what now”? I wondered. I went through the small glass door and waited, happy that I made it through though unsure of what lay ahead. Within minutes, a smiling female officer wearing the ubiquitous green Israel Defense Forces uniform approached me. She looked very young, almost in her early 20s or even much younger.
Jerusalem in the foreground, Palestine in the background.
She took my passport and ruffled through the pages. “Why are you coming to Israel?” She asked, her smile never left her lips. “What a very friendly officer,” I thought. I said, “Well, because I’m a Christian and I have always wanted to go to Israel.” “Why do you want to visit Israel?” She prodded. “Well, because I believe in Jesus and He is my Lord.” “He was born here and I want to walk where He walked, sit where He sat.” “He chose to be born among the Jews because He loved you and me.” “Jesus loves you.” i pointed to her. She smiled. Either she was thinking I was out of my mind or she really liked the idea. I smiled back.
“What are you going to do here? “I’m a volunteer at the Feast of Tabernacles or Sukkot.” “What is Sukkot?” She continued, still smiling. “You don’t know Sukkot?” And then I quickly realized she was just pretending. She smiled again. “Well, Sukkot is a reminder of when your forefathers wandered in the desert for 40 years, of how God dwelt with them and provided faithfully for them. It’s a foreshadow of what’s going to happen when the Messiah returns.” “You’re volunteering so you’re getting paid?” “Oh no, I actually had to pay to volunteer.” She laughed. “Okay, welcome to Israel,” she said as she handed me back my passport. For a second I could not believe my ears. All I could utter was, “Thank you!” I almost wanted to hug her. The ‘questioning’ lasted less than five minutes. I couldn’t believe it. “Really?” “I can go?”
A huge contrast to what everybody said, Jerusalem was the safest city I had ever been in at the time. It was the quietest too. Where else can you find an entire nation grinding to a halt in observance of Yom Kippur? Only in Jerusalem, only in Israel.
I almost ran to the baggage claim area but managed a brisk walk instead. I picked my suitcase from the conveyor belt and proceeded to the exit gate. I looked at the security guy, wondering if he would stop me to check my suitcase. He looked away instead . So I went straight through the automatic glass doors and voila, I was out of the airport and officially in Israel. I couldn’t believe it. I wanted to jump and cry and shout all at the same time. I controlled myself and grinned from ear to ear. “Where was the interrogation?” “Where was the body check?” “Where was the suitcase check?” “Where was the detention?” There was none of that, I told myself. With a heart almost about to burst with gratitude, I quickly looked for the ‘sherut’ or shared taxi that will take me to Jerusalem. (Later on I would find out that some Filipino pastors were not allowed to enter Israel and were forced to fly back. Others, some of whom I had met, were interrogated for hours before being allowed entry. Sad. But these stories made me even more grateful.)
Fresh wind blew across my face. “Wow. The smell of real, fresh air.” I thought. In the distance I could almost make out the green mountains. I stopped, closed my eyes and opened my arms wide and uttered a silent prayer. “I’m here. I made it. Thank you, God. Thank you, Jesus. Thank you angels.” Anyone who saw me then would have thought I was acting strangely but I didn’t care. I was just so thankful I made it. I arrived at my hostel almost an hour later. As I was volunteering in the Feast of Tabernacles through the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem, I had to share a room with two other ladies. Our hostel room had two white bunk beds standing against the walls. There was a small lamp and an en-suite bathroom. The room was very basic but I loved it anyway. Thankfully, since I was the first one to arrive, I got the lower bed.
At the Mount of Olives.
I freshened up and went out to explore the hostel grounds. Comprising 77 spacious rooms, Yitzhak Rabin was located in the Givat Ram area, a stone’s throw away from the Hebrew University and the Israel Museum – home to the Dead Sea Scroll inside the Shrine of the Book. (This museum turned out to be a must-see.) At the foyer I found my fellow volunteers and/or ushers/usherettes from all over the world. It was fascinating to see the different nationalities represented in Jerusalem. It was an exciting foretaste of what was foretold in Zechariah 14:16. “Then everyone who survives of all the nations that have come against Jerusalem shall go up year after year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Booths.”
A 6-day event, we were advised to arrive a week before to get familiar with the venue and the program itself. After a week-long back to back familiarization trips and rehearsals, we were given a break and were driven to a remote area in the wilderness where a replica of the Tabernacle stood. Exploring the Sukkot (tabernacle) was almost surreal. I remembered the scary stories of high priests dying after entering the Holy of Holies section for being unworthy and/or unclean. At the same time I was also greatly encouraged to know that we no longer have to fear because through Jesus we now have the freedom to come before the Holy God. That we no longer need to burn offerings because Jesus was already the perfect and ultimate sacrifice.
Yad Vashem, a must-visit museum. Bring loads and loads of tissues. If you want to know the gravity of what happened during the Holocaust, this is the place to be. Be warned, it’s not for the faint of hearts or apathetic ones either. Or maybe apathetic ones or those in denial should visit this place all the more.
How to travel to Jerusalem from Dubai – at Damascus Gate!
After a couple of hours exploring the grounds we headed back to our hotel in the bustling city of Jerusalem. The following day we kicked off the Feast of Tabernacles with the En Gedi Celebration. As thousands upon thousands representing various nations descended upon En Gedi, I couldn’t help but stand back in awe. I had never seen so many countries represented in one place. It truly was a foreshadow of heaven. Interspersed with exhortations, worship services and a lot of dancing, the 6-day Feast of Tabernacles culminated with the Jerusalem March which for me was the main highlight of the event. To be given the opportunity march around the city of Jerusalem where Jesus himself probably walked was simply unparalleled.
Grains of salt cover these rocks in the Dead Sea.
Experiencing how to travel to Jerusalem from Dubai left me a plethora of memories to treasure including the times spent with this bunch of ebullient volunteers from all over the world.
After the 6-day event, two of my new friends and I decided to make a day trip to the Dead Sea, Masada and Jericho. We hired a Palestinian driver which proved to be a smart move as his Arabic came handy when driving through the Palestinian side. The Dead Sea was a bit of a disappointment for me though. Fuelled with excitement by all the photos and videos of people I had seen floating freely on the Dead Sea in the past, I swam excitingly only to realize I could not keep afloat. On top of that, the minute I entered the water, stinging pain shot through my arms and legs.
After days of exploring Petra and Wadi Rum, scrambling over crags and hidden tombs, I must have had scratches that I was not aware of. Bathing in the Dead Sea, one of the world’s saltiest seas, was like bathing with open wounds in a pool of salt. Within five minutes I rushed out of the water. As I was wearing shorts over my one-piece bathing suit, every time my shorts hit my burning legs I almost cried out in pain. I spent our time at the Dead Sea sitting on one of the rocks jutting out, envying the people having a great time in the sea. Some kind of ‘how to travel to Jerusalem from Dubai’, huh? I so loved being there just the same.
Masada, our next stop, turned out to be an extraordinary place though. Perched atop a rock cliff rising 450 feet above sea level, Herod the Great built Masada between 37 and 31 BCE. It was located at the western end of the Judean Desert and overlooked the Dead Sea. Built as a refuge for King Herod, the fortress features a casemate wall around the plateau. Masada also had storehouses, massive cisterns to trap rainwater, barracks, palaces and an armory. Remnants of the original mosaics can be found throughout. Masada was once a refuge for the Maccabees, Jewish rebels in 66 CE. These were the same rebels who chose to kill themselves rather than surrender to the invading Roman army. They chose to die as free men rather than live as slaves. To many, Masada epitomizes the determination of the Jewish people to live free in their own land; a gripping testament to their resilience.
Window to the world.
Small-scale replica of Masada.
I had never heard of Masada before until my newfound friends brought me to Masada. I was so glad I tagged along. Should you have an opportunity to visit, please do. It was one of the best sites I visited in Israel. Most of the fortress was still very much intact big thanks to its unique location. My visit to Masada was also the perfect end to my visit and/or pilgrimage to the Holy Land. We did pass by Jericho, dubbed as the ‘oldest continuously inhabited city in the world’. But there wasn’t much to see there except for the remnants of the original city wall. It was an interesting visit just the same. And that’s how to travel to Jerusalem from Dubai or the United Arab Emirates.
Good to know:
On top of the tips provided above on how to travel to Jerusalem from Dubai, here are still a few more things to consider. If you really want to save, I would highly recommend joining the Feast of Tabernacles as a Volunteer. There are various roles you can commit to – worship, admin, welcome, children, etc. Check the Volunteers page. I probably paid only AED1,500 (in 2008) or USD408 and it already included shared accommodation and meals to boot. Please check with the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem for actual costs.
A sherut from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem costs about $18 as of writing. Although it’s convenient it could take a while before they leave as they wait until the taxi is full. Then it goes around the city until each passenger has been dropped. If you’re not in a hurry, it can be another way of exploring Jerusalem right after you arrived.
Otherwise, here’s another way to travel to Jerusalem from Dubai. Consider this package from Trip500.com. For less than $800 you get to see both Petra and Jerusalem. only If you don’t have enough time and would rather join a package tour, you might want to check out Al Safina Travel, they also organize Holy Land tour packages but no tour details are mentioned on the site. Call them at Tel:+9714-2349700. They also have offices in Ras Al Khaimah and other emirates.
Or try the 8-day Christian Heritage of Holy Land Tour. If you don’t have 8 days, for sure there’s room for flexibility. You could probably negotiate which tours you could join and which tours you want to skip. Perhaps you’d end up with an even more reduced rate. Tours start from Tel Aviv. Basing from my own experience, that shouldn’t be a problem. As now you know you can fly to Amman via flydubai (be sure to book it from my website so I get a commission please and help keep this site running :)) and cross to Jerusalem either by bus or by plane.
At the Jerusalem March. So happy to have bumped into this Philippine delegation.
Catholic adherents might want to use St. Mary’s Pilgrimage. Call them at +9714- 5515446, +97155-1530653 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. They are located in Rania Business Center #506, Al Barsha 1, Dubai. They are walking distance from the Mall of the Emirates.
Excellent Tours also offers a 7-day, 6-night package. This is also tailored for Catholics.
A friend of mine also did her tour with Jayson tours. You can check their sample Holy Land itinerary. This is also tailored for Catholic adherents.
How to travel from Dubai to Jerusalem Part 2