Everyone has a favorite travel location that they wish they could visit again and again. For HW Home President Ron Werner, this destination is Israel. And he has been fortunate enough to revisit his favorite slice of the world over two dozen times. In fact, he credits the man he has become in part to his work and experiences there. Today, he is sharing his favorite memories of traveling in Israel, what he loves about the country, and advice for first-time explorers who want to make the most of their time there.
Why do you love traveling to Israel?
“People often say that personal travel allows them to relax and recharge. I travel to learn, to see, and to be inspired. I travel to grow. The combination of history, connection, culture, and intellectual advancement paired with gorgeous beaches, spectacular dining, and engaging lifestyle makes it the perfect destination to fuel my creative spirit, energize my soul, and spark my intellect. Over the last 34 years, I have made over two dozen trips to Israel. Each one different. Each one special.”
What kinds of activities do you typically do while there?
“I have the unique pleasure of serving on the national board of the Jewish National Fund and as President of the JNF’s Mountain States division, so my trips to Israel are a mix of work on behalf of JNF and JNF Missions as well as visiting family and friends. Israel is a state full of learning experiences, too. In a couple of weeks, I will be on another trip to Israel and am looking forward to visiting the crusader city of Akko, and the Bahai Temple UNESCO site. We’ll also work with local officials on our development activities. Such missions allow us to learn, improve Israel and return home as enriched advocates.”
If someone has never traveled to Israel before, what do you think they need to know before going?
“First off, it’s not what you are shown on CNN. Israel is a modern, robust nation. It is a high-energy, active setting based on thousands of years of history. It is safe. You can learn, grow, witness and be a part of history, and enjoy an active vacation. Research your trip and study some history in advance whether you plan to use a guide, plan it on your own, or join a tour. Eat the food. Then, if you can, try any of the following activities: climb Masada, float in the Dead Sea, visit the Western Wall, take a tour of the Via Dolorosa, walk the streets of the Jewish Quarter in the Old City, eat falafel and hummus, enjoy local dairy and produce, stroll the beaches, see the Golan Heights (and the wineries), visit the 2,000-year-old mosaics at Tzipori, spend time in the Negev Desert including the Ramon Crater, and/or ride horses. And remember to turn your phone’s data roaming off or use a local SIM card. ”
What is one of your favorite memories from your trips there?
“There are so many! I have always been fascinated by Masada. There is something incredible about hiking up the side of a mountain fortress (once Herod’s weekend palace) and knowing you are taking the same steps as a small band of zealots who fled Jerusalem and held off an entire Roman legion for three years. I also love activities in the Negev Desert, such as horseback riding from Mitzpe Ramon. One night I had the pleasure of hosting a Rhodesian BBQ in the base of the Ramon Crater for friends! Floating in the Red Sea and spending time on the beaches in Tel Aviv are a few of my favorites as well. My best memories come from combining thousands of years of history and vibrantly living today.”
Where are your favorite places in the world to visit? Tell us about your experiences in the comments!