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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Discovering Israel

Thanks to my love of travel and adventure, I have been fortunate to visit many countries and even live in a few of them over the past several years. As the director for the Emory Travel Program, I am able to share my passion for travel with alumni and friends of the University through our over 20 different trips offered each year.

With a passport nearly full of stamps from far-off places and photo albums bursting with memories and people met along the way, nothing can compare or even come close to my most recent travel experience.

I have found over the years that opportunity often knocks in unexpected ways with the challenge being able to recognize an opportunity when it presents itself to you. My such opportunity came in the form of an application to participate in an exchange program to Israel in early June. The Israeli Ministry of Tourism was looking for alumni educational travel planners to take part in a program where they would show us their country in exchange for our thoughts and feedback on developing travel to Israel for the alumni market.

From June 1–10, I toured the breathtaking country of Israel with alumni travel planners from Duke, Harvard, Northwestern, Tulane, Washington and Lee, and Smith College—just to name a few. From the Western Wall in the Old City to the Golan Heights, from the Sea of Galilee to Nazareth, from floating in the Dead Sea to the shores of Tel Aviv, I can honestly say I have now seen all that Israel has to offer and I sure am impressed!

The historical sites will overwhelm you with emotion, the hospitality and friendliness of the people will warm your heart and soul, and the food will delight your palate like no other. What started out for me as opportunity instead became a gift, the gift of a lifetime to see a country that has grown and evolved in such a short time and to meet people actively involved in working on achieving peace in the Middle East.

I have been back in the U.S. for a couple weeks now and I still find my mind drifting back to my incredible journey of a lifetime and hoping that a return trip is in my future. If you have traveled to Israel, I am sure that you share my enthusiasm when I say this is a travel destination that can't be missed. If you haven't been, what are you waiting for? Direct flights are available from Atlanta to Tel Aviv daily ... go!

-- Allie Hill, director, Emory Travel Program, EAA

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