Flashback to 2019. Israel is enjoying a record shattering year of tourism in 2019, flights to the country are up, and interest has never been higher. Everyone in the tourism industry is wondering just how long the good times will last. Well, they would get their answer. Enter 2020 and the yearlong fight against COVID. Overnight Israel’s tourism industry went from a rapidly expanding and thrilling concern to a barren wasteland of cancelled reservations and empty airports.
Today the vaccine is being distributed throughout Israel, but at the time of writing this article the country is STILL closed for people not holding Israeli passports. If you were planning on a 2020/2021 tour, it’s been a pretty disappointing time! But there are some silver linings. While nothing can compare to the real thing, you can scratch the itch by visiting the Holy Land virtually!
Tel Aviv Museum of Art
The Tel Aviv Museum of Art has been doing an incredible job of making their museum accessible during this difficult time. Hosting multiple virtual exhibits, you can enjoy the leading lights in Israeli arts and culture from the comfort of your own home!
There are a few different formats for checking out the exhibits. Some include video featurettes that walk you through the exhibits giving details and context to the works and artists behind them. Others simply have high resolution copies of the artwork in question available to be perused. But by far, the most elaborate of these online exhibitions are the "360’ Virtual Tours.” These incredible tours present the museum similar to Google Maps street view, allowing you to pan a camera around in every angle and move about the exhibit as if you were really there. With a few clicks you can zoom in on a work and even read the info label or caption that contextualizes a work.
Not a techy person? No worries, this virtual tour works right in your web browser and is operated with your mouse, no need to download anything or learn any fancy new controls. If this still sounds a little intimidating, use the walk-through feature which will take you through the exhibit in a guided fashion. You can click to stop it at any time to take a longer look at something and resume when you’re ready! A fantastic way to get a dose of Israeli culture any time you want for free!
Google Street View
Not a fan of museums? More of a street life kind of person? No problem! Another great option to get a taste of the Holy Land experience is to simply explore some sites on Google Street View!
The beauty of exploring Israel like this is that your imagination is the only limit. If you’ve ever heard of a place in Israel that interests or excites you, just plug it into Google and view it at street level! It’s not the same as being there, but it’s close!
Take a road trip
With spring weather finally arriving but COVID still a real threat, many of us are starting to get a little stir crazy. Chase those lockdown blues away by taking a virtual road trip with a young Israeli couple!
At first you might think this video is nothing special, a dashcam of a couple out for a ride. But look closer, this isn’t a normal YouTube video, it’s a 360 experience one! That means YOU control the camera! Rubberneck to your heart’s content as you wind through Israeli country roads and visit some city locations. It’s a brief escape, but it might just be the thing you need to brighten up your day!
We know these virtual options are a far cry from the experience of traveling to the Holy Land. The awe of being able to see historic sites that have stood for thousands of years in person, or the magnitude of being able to retrace Jesus’ steps as he spread the gospel, those are not feelings you’re going to be able to capture on a computer screen or YouTube video. All we can do is hold on for now, pray for stability and a quick end to this crisis, and plan for when we are able to travel freely and enjoy this world that God has given us.