Meeting

We will have an in person meeting on Tuesday, April 19 at 7:30 pm at Houston Hillel, 1700 Bissonnet (corner of Dunlavy) near Rice University. We will provide dinner. Because of finals, this will be our only meeting before the trip. At our Tuesday meeting we will give you KN95 masks and hand sanitizer for the trip. 

 

Departure

We leave Bush Intercontinental Airport at 4:30 pm on Tuesday, May 24 on United 1792. You must be at the United ticket counter no later than 12:30 pm. Yes, that’s four hours early. Lior will fly with you from Houston. I will meet you in Newark. 

 

We land in Newark at 9:00 pm EST, and then depart on United 90 at 10:50 pm. We will stay as a group in Newark.  We arrive in Israel the next day at 4:20 pm.

 

Our return flight - United 1764 - lands at Bush at 3:30 pm on Thursday, June 2.

 

MTF Waiver

The Maccabee Task Force requires you to sign their waiver. Make sure you complete both sections at the end of the waiver. This waiver is in addition to the one you signed for Houston Hillel. Those of you who were scheduled for the trip this past winter have already sent me this waiver. Everyone else, please sign and email the attached waiver to me. 

 

Covid concerns and testing (May change. We’ll update you.)

REALLY REALLY IMPORTANT AND A BIT COMPLICATED - You need a PCR test in the US taken within 72 hours of arrival in Israel. If I’ve done my math correctly, you need to take a PCR test after 8:20 am Central Time on Sunday, May 22, but it might be better to have a test early Monday morning if you’re certain you’ll receive the results before we depart Newark. Also, make sure your name on the PCR test results exactly matches the name on your passport. If you can, try to get your passport number entered so it also appears on the PCR test results. 

 

You will have to fill out a health declaration/entry form upon arriving in Israel. Upon arrival you will undergo a mandatory PCR test which our tour provider will arrange at the airport. If current procedures don’t change we will also proceed to a fast 4-hour test right outside the airport so we can be out of quarantine in time for a late-evening walk in Jerusalem. 

 

Within 24 hours of departure from Israel to the US we will arrange for a registered antigen test, which is what the US currently requires for entry.

 

You will not be able to go with us if you test positive for Covid upon departure, so I suggest that from now until departure you make it a habit to wear masks in public more often than you’ve been recently. If you are turned away at the airport because of a positive Covid test you will be on your own, and logistically and financially responsible for your own travel arrangements home. 

 

You can find Israel Covid info at this link - https://israelsafe.com/

 

Itinerary

I have attached our itinerary. It may change depending on security issues and other random issues. You can easily check out the Wikipedia pages for the sites or google the organizations. Here are links to our hotels:

Montefiore Hotel - http://montefiore-hotel-jerusalem.hotel-dir.com/en/ 

Deganya Bet Guest House - https://dganit.co.il/welcome-to-the-degania-bet-resort/ 

Tel Aviv - https://www.beit-daniel.org.il/en/merkazim/mishkenot-ruth-daniel/ 

 

Contact Information

Stop what you’re doing and right now put my and Lior Ashkenazy Dor’s contact info in your phones. We’re your trip leaders, along with a tour guide who will meet us in Israel. 

Kenny - kweiss@houstonhillel.org, 713-459-5642. 

Lior - lior@houstonhillel.org, ‭713-248-9883‬. 

Please make sure you have WhatsApp on your phone and that you’re part of the Perspectives 2022 group chat.

 

Packing

Make sure you review our suggested packing list - https://www.houstonhillel.org/packing-list

 

Group roster

I’ve attached a list of our group with contact information. Let me know if I made a mistake with your information. Please enter everyone’s cell numbers and email addresses in your phone so we can better communicate with each other. 

 

Emergency contacts during our trip

  • In an emergency your families can email me at kweiss@houstonhillel.org or call me on WhatsApp at 713-459-5642.  ‬

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. Most hotels in Israel have free Wi-Fi available for hotel guests. Many cafes and restaurants offer complimentary Wi-Fi service. Since September 2013, both Tel Aviv and Jerusalem offer citywide free Wi-Fi networks. 

 

Miscellaneous insights

  • Israel typically does not stamp passports. You will most likely receive a small piece of paper in lieu of a stamp. Hold on to the paper throughout the trip. 

  • After going through passport control, please head to baggage claim. Get your bag, and then find the group. Do not leave baggage claim alone.

  • Yes, you can drink the tap water in Israel.

  • You will not need your passport when shopping or dining, but it’s a good idea to carry it with you. You can also put it in the safe in your hotel room if you don’t want to carry it with you.

  • Today 1 shekel is worth about 31 cents. Inflation is not a short term issue in Israel. You don’t need Shekels before the trip; ATMs are everywhere, and for some fun you can choose to use them in Hebrew or Russian instead of English.

  • If, before noon on Sunday, April 17, you email Kenny with the subject line “Yes, I read the email!” and include your Zelle info he will send you $10 which will take care of lunch one day during our trip. A little treat for those of you who read important emails when asked.

  • Value Added Tax (VAT) is 17%, and is included in most prices in Israel. If you purchase a single item for 400 shekels or more (~$125+), you may be entitled to a VAT refund. Learn more at https://www.touristisrael.com/vat-refund-in-israel/17200/

  • You can bargain in open air markets like in the Old City, but not in stores or restaurants.

  • Tell your ATM and credit card companies that you’re traveling so they don’t flag your purchases and freeze your cards.

Security

I hope that you are starting to pay attention to news from the region, and connecting with news sources on both sides of the conflict and not just relying on American newspapers. 

 

From the moment we land in Israel our tour provider and guide will be in touch with current security issues, and will make real time recommendations about possible changes to our schedule based on the most recent news and security assessments in Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Gaza. Nonetheless, the Waiver that each of you signed acknowledges the risks of traveling to Israel. 
 

You’re going to see soldiers with guns, and you’ll probably see people in shorts and t-shirts with guns. It’s normal. Be aware of the things around you. Don’t leave your stuff, like backpacks, anywhere. Make sure it’s always with you. For security reasons, do not share our itinerary with people you meet on the trip.