Houston Hillel Perspectives 2021
Please read very carefully!
Houston Hillel Perspectives is a 10 day educational trip (plus two days travel) to Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The purpose of this trip is to educate Jewish and non-Jewish student leaders at Rice University and the University of Houston about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Houston Hillel Perspectives is offered by Houston Hillel and is limited to a total of 25 Rice University and University of Houston student leaders of all backgrounds.
Houston Hillel Perspectives is offered, organized and conducted by Houston Hillel, a Jewish student organization that was established at UH in 1946 and Rice in 1940. The trip is funded by a generous grant from the Maccabee Task Force. The trip will deepen your knowledge about one of the world's most discussed regions. Participants will meet with journalists, grass-roots activists, decision makers, and everyday people from Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and will take part in dialogues of co-existence. Trip participants will visit cities and sites in the Palestinian Authority and Israel (including adjacent to Gaza) considered central to all three major religions, and will receive a unique opportunity to learn about the history and current issues of one of the world's most debated conflicts.
We have not yet finalized our travel plans. At this time we plan to fly on United Airlines departing from Houston's Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) on Sunday December 26, 2021 and return to IAH on Friday January 7, 2022. Our flights include very brief stops in Newark. (We're staying in the airport terminal during our layovers.) There may be the possibility of joining and/or departing our group at Newark, although you will be responsible for all arrangements and fees related to these changes. Do not arrange for domestic travel until your participation has been confirmed by Rabbi Kenny Weiss. The first day of classes at Rice is January 10 and UH January 18.
How much is this trip really going to cost me?
Houston Hillel Perspectives is a heavily subsidized trip, including flights from Houston to Israel and back, hotels, travel throughout the trip, and most meals.
Participants will be responsible for the following expenses (estimated at $500 to $800+ per person):
A $200 non-refundable deposit is required to secure a place in the program.
All food prior to arrival in Israel and after departure from Israel, along with most lunches and many of the dinners in Israel.
All travel costs prior to departure from IAH and after arrival to IAH.
Other personal expenses, such as passport fees and personal shopping.
Please speak with Kenny if you have a sincere financial need and require assistance.
What else should I know?
The trip will be led by Rabbi Kenny Weiss, Houston Hillel's Executive Director, and Lior Ashkenazy Dor, Houston Hillel's Israel Fellow. Kenny will be physically present with the group beginning when everyone meets at IAH, throughout the entire trip in Israel, concluding when we return to IAH. Once we depart the plane at IAH the trip has concluded and you're on your own.
Remain at Rice or UH's main campus as a full-time student for at least two semesters after the completion of the trip (graduating no earlier than winter 2022), although exceptions are possible for those graduating one semester after the trip returns.
Attend a few pre-trip meetings.
Be fully vaccinated against Covid.
Also, we hope that you will be willing to reconvene on campus to discuss your experience.
Some of the trip information and requirements may change due to security needs.
The Perspectives trip travels throughout Israel and into the Palestinian Authority, including Ramallah and Bethlehem. However, due to Covid uncertainty we may have to adjust our itinerary. Also, while we do not know what Covid procedures will be in place in Israel during our trip, you can see the current requirements at this website: https://www.gov.il/en/departments/guides/flying-to-israel-guidlines. There is a chance that if you contract Covid during your time in Israel you may be required to quarantine in Israel and prevented from leaving the country.
If you have any questions about Houston Hillel Perspectives or the application process please contact Rabbi Kenny Weiss, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Click here for the waiver that you need to sign and return in order to participate.
Emergency contacts during our trip.
Kenny and Lior will share their Israeli cell numbers with you when you arrive in Israel, but you can always use WhatsApp to contact Kenny and Lior at their US mobile numbers.
If your family or friends outside Israel need to reach you, Kenny or Lior while you're in Israel they can contact Kenny and Lior with WhatsApp and their email addresses.
Cell service in Israel
You probably don't need an Israeli SIM card during the trip. WiFi is available throughout Israel, including public WiFi on the streets of large cities, and WhatsApp is a great tool for connecting with trip participants and people back home. Ask Kenny if you're interested in getting an Israeli SIM card at your own expense. Of course, you can also set up an international calling plan with your mobile provider.
Click here for a suggested Packing List for our trip.
You can bring one suitcase and one carry-on. Check united.com for baggage limitations. Try to bring as little as possible! A backpack is a great carry-on because you'll want a backpack to carry around during each day of touring. You do not need to limit yourself to a carry-on size suitcase, but remember that you need to carry your own luggage throughout the trip. Keep in mind that we will not have access to laundry services.
Some frequently asked questions
Where will we go and with whom will we meet?
Click this link for the itinerary from our most recent trip. (Our itinerary will be very similar, but not exactly the same.)
What's up with Covid in Israel?
Answers coming soon!
Do I need to be fully vaccinated against Covid before the trip?
Yes. You must have received all the required doses for a Covid vaccine no later than November 15, 2021.
What personal protective equipment (PPE) should I bring?
Houston Hillel will provide each participant with 15 disposable face masks, two small bottles of hand sanitizer, and one packet of 50 sanitizing wipes. You'll receive these at the airport prior to our departure. You may choose to bring additional items that suit your preferences.
Can I drink the tap water in Israel and the Palestinian Authority?
Tap water in Israel is safe to drink. The tap water in the Palestinian Authority is also generally safe to drink. However, out of caution you should drink bottled water in the Palestinian Authority.
Can I choose not to have an Israel stamp in my passport in case I travel to some countries that don’t recognize Israel?
Yes, just let the passport officer know.
Will I have easy internet access?
Most hotels in Israel have free Wi-Fi available for hotel guests. Many cafes and restaurants offer a complimentary Wi-Fi service. Since September 2013, both Tel Aviv and Jerusalem offer citywide free Wi-Fi networks.
What is the currency in Israel?
Israel’s currency is the Shekel; you’ll find it abbreviated as NIS (New Israeli Shekel). One shekel is worth about 31 cents.
What credit cards are accepted?
You can use your ATM card to obtain shekels at ATM’s throughout Israel. You can also use American Express, MasterCard and Visa cards at most Israeli hotels, restaurants and stores. Before the trip, remember to notify your credit card companies and bank about your upcoming trip so they don't freeze your card!
Should I purchase Shekels before the trip?
You don't need to. ATMs are all over the place.
What taxes can I expect to pay in Israel?
The VAT (Value Added Tax) in Israel is 17%. It’s already included in most prices in Israel. VAT is waived for tourists at hotels, tour companies and car rental agencies. Like in Europe and elsewhere, tourists can receive a refund of the VAT they paid on purchases when departing the country through the refund program. The purchase amount in one tax invoice, including VAT, must exceed 400 NIS in order to qualify for a refund.
When do I tip and when can I bargain?
If you pay by credit card in a restaurant in Israel the credit card slip typically does not allow you to include a tip. Therefore, you should leave a tip in cash. Taxi drivers are not usually tipped. You can bargain in open air markets but not in stores or restaurants.
Is everything closed on Shabbat in Israel?
Shabbat (the Sabbath) is the Jewish holy day of the week observed every Saturday. Shabbat starts at sunset on Friday and ends at sundown on Saturday evening.
All public offices are closed on Shabbat, as are banks, most stores and businesses. However, throughout Israel there is a growing number of shops open on Shabbat. In most cities, public transportation (trains and buses) do not operate on Shabbat. Most non-kosher restaurants are open on Shabbat. Radio and TV broadcasts operate as usual.
Are all the restaurants in Israel kosher?
Not all of the restaurants in Israel are kosher. Places offering kosher food usually display a kashrut certificate granted to them by the local rabbinate. Most hotels serve kosher food, as well as some restaurants, but there is no binding law.