Seven Basic Resources to Prepare for Your Israel Trip
by Gordon Govier

There are many reasons to travel to Israel. These tips won't be for everyone. But for those who cherish the opportunity to "walk where Jesus walked," an Israel trip (or pilgrimage) is a great investment in increasing your understanding of scriptures and the Biblical world from which scriptures emerged.

The Mind Can Only Digest So Much New Material
I didn't have a good answer for these questions until a few years ago when I was working on a writing project. The preparation for this writing project included a tour of one of the most geologically unique areas of the world by an expert naturalist. As I later reviewed my recording of the interview conducted during this tour, I was embarrassed to hear myself ask a question of my guide about something that he had just explained five minutes earlier. I realized I wasn't able to absorb all of the new information he was giving me. It was all new and I had very little frame of reference to hang it on.

So, if you're going to Israel, give yourself a basic understanding to prepare yourself and get the maximum return on your investment in this experience. My friend Andrew Larson has written an article that expands on this idea of preparedness (or avoiding the embarrassment of unpreparedness).

There are a lot of travel books and videos you can read and view in order to get the historical, biblical, archaeological, political, and cultural background of Israel. Here are a few that I consider exceptional.

Seven Basic Resources

  1. The first book that I recommend is, of course, the Bible. If you're reading the Bible on a daily or regular basis you've already made a huge step in preparing for your Israel trip. Some Bibles, such as study Bibles, feature extra resources. I would highly recommend The Archaeological Study Bible, published by Zondervan.

  2. But not everything you'll see in Israel is from the Biblical periods. My second recommendation will help you understand the great sweep of history for this region, as represented in its archaeology. This book is The Source, by James Michener. Published in 1965, this historical novel is a thick book but an easy read and will introduce you to many of the peoples and periods that have shaped this region.
    Book Summary || Book Analysis

  3. Another acclaimed book that will introduce you to the complicated modern political environment of this region in a compelling way is The Lemon Tree by Sandy Tolan. (For a quicker read, a recent speech by Israeli diplomat George Deek, a Palestinian Christian, deftly describes the political dynamics of modern Israel.)

  4. Among the videos available. I highly recommend the series called Faith Lessons, featuring Bible teacher Ray Vander Laan. Ray does a great job of connecting Bible lessons to the biblical world.

  5. Biblical Archaeology Review is a bi-monthly publication with excellent photography and articles that are written by top archaeologists and Bible scholars.

  6. Artifax is a quarterly publication that I edit which features news digests, with abstracts of news articles about the latest discoveries in Israel and surrounding countries. The two magazines complement each other well.

  7. Then, finally, there's my own podcast/radio program, The Book and The Spade. This weekly program has been offering "backgrounders on the Bible through Biblical Archaeology" since 1983. We've featured interviews with over 200 archaeologists and Bible scholars. You can download or listen to the latest program at or search our archives at

Looking for more recommendations on Biblical Archaeology books? Here's a list from one scholar.

And here are some more helpful guidelines on other aspects of preparing for a Holyland Tour from Wayne Stiles.

For more information on THE BOOK & THE SPADE HOLYLAND STUDY TOURS contact SCRIBE MEDIA by email.