COVID-19 Update

Richard Page & Meredith Hill Page, daughter of founder Ed Hill…veterans of over 200 trips to Israel.

May 15, 2020

We trust that you and your family – and if you’re a pastor, your congregation – are staying well physically, spiritually, and financially through the health crisis we have faced for over 2 months. I believe all 50 states have now reopened – at least to some degree. Everyone wants (and needs) to get back to work, and if you’re like us…back to church! Our prayers continue for those who have lost loved ones and friends, those still battling the virus, healthcare workers, the nation’s economy, our overseas travel partners, and for the crisis to continue to abate.
Israel Travel Status. As the COVID-19 outbreak worsened, Israel decided to only allow travelers to enter the country who could be quarantined in private residences for a period of 14 days. EHT had over 200 passengers scheduled to go to Israel in March, and it was necessary to advise those groups that they could no longer travel on their scheduled dates as Israel had effectively closed it’s borders to tourism. However, all March groups have rescheduled for dates in the fall, and April and May groups are also rescheduling for fall or early 2021.
We are excited to share good news! Israel has begun to lift its lockdown and is reducing restrictions placed on citizens, schools and businesses. Churches, national parks, and other sites we visit are reopening . Hotels are preparing to reopen with new procedures to ensure the highest levels of hygiene and sanitizing. As a preferred USA tour provider, our most important job is to ensure the safety and comfort of our groups, and we will only engage suppliers (hotels, bus companies, guides, sites, etc.) who exceed every one of our and your expectations.
September groups are still a “go!” We believe that travel in general will begin returning to some sense of normalcy by then. From mid-March on, our staff has worked from home, but we have now begun working from our offices again with limited hours. Our March groups have already been rescheduled for November dates…check out their new confirmed dates under “Israel Tours.” It is apparent that the desire to visit Israel has not lessened, as we are hearing from pastors and tour hosts who wish to schedule new tours for next year and beyond.
Ed Hill Tours has been making travel dreams come true for Christian travelers since 1962…not only Israel, but other Christian-interest destinations such as Jordan, Greece, Italy and other countries in Europe. Through the years, we have gone through many other “storms”…wars, terrorism, economic downturns, and other health crises. Although the COVID-19 situation has been unlike any other, we believe the expertise we have gained through other crises, has informed our response to this one.
“This too will pass.” We believe that our nation and the world will recover from this unprecedented crisis and that soon the desire for exceptional travel experiences will be as strong or stronger than ever. Ed Hill Tours remains dedicated to the care and safety of those who trust us to operate their travel events, and we will continue to do so with honesty, professionalism, and fairness. Keep your faith strong and don’t stop dreaming of an amazing journey in the not too distant future.
May 26, 2020
Israel Reopens…  
Israel has been at the forefront of limiting the spread of COVID-19. And the country is now working to implement new health and safety guidelines, designed to keep citizens and tourists safe as domestic tourism begins to reopen and as international flights start to resume.
“Israel is one of the countries ahead of the curve in flattening the curve, taking steps to get back to a new normal,” said Anat Ben Yosef, consul for tourism affairs, Western Region for Israel Ministry of Tourism. Already, hotels, restaurants, national parks and attractions have begun to open, but not without the application of extensive safety measures.
On May 4, parks and nature reserves opened for local visitors, as well as shopping malls and other stores. Museums such as the Israel Museum and Shrine of the Book (Dead Sea Scrolls) opened on May 17, to be followed by swimming pools and amusement parks at the end of May. We are happy to report that many churches are reopening as well – the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem was scheduled for May 24, and the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem on May 26.
All of our 2020 spring groups (March, April, May) chose to reschedule for fall dates and early 2021. Our first group to go is scheduled for September, and we have no doubts that they will experience a great tour.  Many pastors and tour hosts are telling us they want to go back to Israel soon. We believe that within 6 months, we will be seeing an unprecedented demand for future tours through 2021 and 2022. In fact it is already becoming difficult to acquire airline and hotel space on many of the most popular travel dates.

“How media, coronavirus modeling crashed economy”…

A long read but worth it. It is not the intent of Ed Hill Tours to downplay the seriousness of the COVID-19 health crisis or to project any particular political view. However we believe the following article illumines what has driven most of the severe and at times draconian actions associated with the crisis. (Author: Newt Gingrich – Shared from Fox News Opinion)

Two generations of over-protecting our children, seeking safe places, announcing “trigger warnings,” hyperventilating on social media, and having the news media starving for things to fill continuous 24/7 cycles have all built up to a crescendo of noise.

“If it bleeds it leads” is an old rule of local news. You can add to that the need to create suspense and to hype each event as big, bigger, the biggest ever (just think of weather reports during hurricane season).

The bigger the threat the better.

The larger the number the better.

When the Imperial College of London reported in mid-March that its model predicted the COVID-19 virus could kill as many as 2.2 million Americans and more than 500,000 Britons if governments did nothing to control the spread of the virus, it became the benchmark for radical policies that were unbelievably destructive to society.

What might have been a dangerous but manageable pandemic (which would be the fourth since 1975) suddenly became the species threatening, Spanish Flu-Black Death-end-of-times threat that required the most radical, draconian public health restrictions and economically suicidal behavior in modern history.

  • The combination of news media desperation for something about which to be hysterical, the Chinese Communist Party’s role in hiding and then lying about the new virus, and absurdly overstated claims of supposedly scientific modelers has led to the greatest self-inflicted economic disaster in history.

The Chinese Communist dictatorship’s deception is the first great scandal of the COVID-19 virus. We should have thorough congressional hearings into the dictatorship’s role from November 2019 through February 2020.

But, the extraordinary influence of supposedly expert modelers is the second great scandal. We should also have congressional hearings into their destructive impact. In some cases, modelers completely misinformed government leaders, the news media and ultimately the public about the scale of the threat.

The most influential model was the one created by the Imperial College in London, which estimated more than 500,000 Britons would die and more than 2.2 million Americans would die if governments did nothing. The model projected that in both countries the hospitals, intensive care units and ventilators would be overwhelmed.

Faced with a projection that five times as many Americans could die this year as were killed in all of World War II, President Trump had no choice but to close the country. To tie the comparison to a more recent event, the Imperial College model predicted almost 1,000 times as many Americans would die from the virus as died in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Estimates of imminent death on this scale can make almost any radical response seem rational.

Unfortunately, too few people examined the assumptions behind the Imperial College model. First, it assumed an infection rate of over 80 percent of the population of the United States. By comparison, the deadliest pandemic in modern history was the Spanish Flu (also H1N1) of 1918-1919. It only infected 28 percent of the U.S. population.

Second, the Imperial College predictions were based on a model of taking zero precautions. Of course, this is an entirely irrational assumption based on basic human behavior. Just because the government is not forcing you to stay inside your house, limit contact with people and wash your hands doesn’t mean that human beings will not take the precautions. All our experience from past pandemics shows this.

So, projections that were disconnected from common sense and reality were able to guide public policy. The truth is, we should have immediately expected these dire predictions to be complete bunk. It turns out the chief author, Neil Ferguson, has become famous for making wildly absurd predictions about public health issues. As the Committee To Unleash Prosperity reported in its newsletter, citing reporting by the British newspaper The Telegraph:

“Ferguson has been wrong so often that some of his fellow modelers call him ‘The Master of Disaster.’

“Ferguson was behind the disputed research that sparked the mass culling of 11 million sheep and cattle during the 2001 outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease. He also predicted that up to 150,000 people could die.

“In 2002, Ferguson predicted that up to 50,000 people would likely die from exposure to BSE (mad cow disease) in beef. In the U.K., there were only 177 deaths from BSE.

“In 2005, Ferguson predicted that up to 150 million people could be killed from bird flu. In the end, only 282 people died worldwide from the disease between 2003 and 2009.

“In 2009, a government estimate, based on Ferguson’s advice, said a ‘reasonable worst-case scenario’ was that the swine flu would lead to 65,000 British deaths. In the end, swine flu killed 457 people in the U.K.”

I’ll add that Dr. Ferguson has since resigned because he was caught breaking the draconian lockdown rules he championed in order to carry out an affair.

This deserves a serious congressional investigation. We were being guided in national policy by people who had no realistic scientific basis for – or demonstrable faith in – their claims. In effect, much of our pandemic public policy was being driven by fake science (which exists as a partner with the fake news and enthusiastically creates hysteria whenever it can).

For perspective, nearly two weeks after the Imperial College’s March 16 report – and despite the media’s rabid embrace of it – National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci’s initial top-end prediction for American fatalities was 10 percent of the Imperial College’s ludicrous 2.2 million figure. By April 9, after reviewing more real data, Fauci downgraded his prediction to roughly 60,000. As of this writing, the latest CDC numbers are at 68,279. This is much closer to Fauci’s prediction.

The whole role of hyping supposedly scientific, dire modeling predictions on issues like climate change is a key to understanding the bad policies left-wing scientists are trying to browbeat us into endorsing.

There is a rule in computing: Garbage in, garbage out. If you enter the wrong assumptions, you will get the wrong answers. The idea that using a computer suddenly makes some projection scientific or valid is ridiculous. Garbage data leads to garbage answers. (In fact, Ferguson’s COVID-19 model used 13-year-old code that was written for influenza – not a coronavirus.)

If we look at all the different models of the COVID-19 viruses and their impacts on government policies, we will discover an extraordinary range of mistakes, which led to extraordinary damage to society.

Congress should investigate the entire modeling-advising process just as it should investigate the Chinese Communist dictatorship’s role in spreading the virus in the first place.

By Newt Gingrich – Shared from Fox News Opinion.

Debunking Israel Travel Myths…

Since it’s inception as a nation, Israel has experienced times of unrest, terror attacks and wars, yet Israel is actually one of the safest places on earth. For instance, most crime as we know it in the U. S. is not prevalent or non-existent in Israel. Israeli security, both on ELAL Israel Airlines and in the country, is probably the best in the world. To our knowledge, no tourist visiting Israel has ever been killed. Of course, EHT travel itineraries never go to any area of possible danger, including most cities and towns in the West Bank or anywhere in or near the Gaza Strip.

“I’ve heard it is expensive to visit Israel.” Travel costs to almost anywhere seem to become more expensive every year, and some destinations, such as London, Paris and Tokyo are very expensive. However, compared to those and most other destinations, Israel is still in the moderate category. Prices charged by different tour companies can still vary widely as we’ll explain in more detail later in this blog.

“Large tour company have better tours.” Not necessarily! That’s like comparing the overall quality of a large hotel to a small hotel based only on the size of the building. In comparing tour companies specializing in Christian group travel, EHT is a moderate sized company. Our travel partner in Israel is typically recognized as their largest incoming tour operator. However, simply being a large company is no guarantee of the best travel product, and certainly not the best personal service. For instance, we know of  large travel companies that consistently use older buses, lower level guides and drivers, and less expensive hotels. Why? Because the tour company saves a lot of money using old buses, employing lower level or inexperienced guides, and lower quality hotels. We use only the latest coaches and hotels rated Superior 4-Star and 5-Star in excellent locations, and our guides are experts in the Christian tour, they’re among the most requested in Israel, and have worked with us for many years.

“The hotel you stay in doesn’t really matter since you only sleep there.” Just sleeping in a 2 or 3-Star hotel is usually not a pleasant experience, but groups do much more than just sleep at a hotel. The typical touring schedule means groups are usually at their hotel from around 5 pm until 8 am the next morning. That includes dinner and breakfast, and the better the hotel, the better the food and service. Of course, the budgets of most groups does not include the very finest luxury hotels, but that’s not necessary to enjoy an excellent hotel and very good service.

“The best tour companies include lunches.” Very seldom does a tour host ask EHT to include lunches, but of course we can do so if a tour host wishes to.  However most tour hosts soon realize that the cost of the “free lunches” plus a profit to the tour company will be added to their overall tour price. However a tour company advertises it, that is not a free lunch! When lunches are included, the group will have lunches at pre-selected stops where everyone is effectively paying the same amount for lunch no matter what they eat, even though some will bring their own lunch, or choose to eat nothing. Tour members don’t realize they have already paid for lunches in their tour cost, but the tour company can say they included “free lunches.” As the old saying goes, “there is no free lunch.” The same applies to the “free water” on the bus some companies advertise…an amount was already added into the tour cost!  

“All airlines are basically the same.” Not true. Airline travel in general is certainly not “glamorous” or as easy as it once was. Most airlines put as many seats on their planes as possible to produce more revenue. Of course, the comfort, food, and service is much better in Business Class for those willing to spend considerably more. Most international flights now also have “Premium Class”, which is priced between Business Class and Main Cabin. To save money, some tour companies may use charter flights which typically use older planes, offer less service, and can have long waits at connecting airports…usually not a fun experience! Some tour companies will use flights on an airline that connects in Europe. This can work reasonably well or can be a nightmare! Groups can find themselves with no escort at the connecting airport, and are left to find their way around a huge, crowded foreign airport on their own. Then they must go through a long security line after having gone through one before leaving the U. S. Large European airports such as Frankfurt, London, Paris, or Istanbul can be intimidating to even experienced travelers. That’s why we prefer nonstop flights to Israel on ELAL, United, or Delta from gateways such as New York-JFK/Newark, Miami, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Toronto. EL Al has recently added service from San Francisco, and offers limited schedules from Las Vegas and Orlando. Note: Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, most airlines are currently operating many less flights, and travel to Israel is still limited to mostly Israeli citizens. We will update when this situation changes.

“Most tour companies charge about the same prices.” or “Some tour companies offer really good deals.” The old adage, “You get what you pay for” certainly applies in the travel/tour industry. While it is true that airlines usually offer the same rates to various tour companies, hotel rate can depend on loyalty or the volume a tour company does with a hotel chain or individual hotel properties. Prospective tour hosts should be aware of deceptive advertising such as when a tour company advertises a “come on” price that sounds too good to be true, that’s exactly the case…it’s not true! A price stated in LARGE PRINT is usually not the actual price. It can be just the “Land Only” price, which does not include airfare. Or a tour company’s ad may leave out a major item such as the airline fuel surcharge – now termed “carrier-imposed fee.” This fee alone has been $600 to $700 to Israel. Most understand this type of advertising is “bait and switch,” but a first-time tour hosts can easily be deceived. These companies invariably are not able to retaining clients, because once fooled, most will not be fooled again.

“Pastors always add an additional profit margin to their selling price.” Certainly not most or even the majority. At present, most Deluxe 10 or 11-day Israel tours are priced between the high $3000’s to $4500, including air and land, and using very good hotels, 2 meals a day, all entrance fees, etc. To make the tour as affordable as possible for the most passengers, pastors who work with us typically do NOT add an additional profit amount to their tour price. So if you see a 10 or 11-day Israel tour selling for $5500 or more, the tour is either staying at the very finest hotels (Ritz-Carlton, King David, Waldorf-Astoria) or the tour host is adding a hefty profit amount for themselves. While it is not our intent to say that is wrong, it IS our intent to clearly state that significantly higher tour prices do not necessarily mean a tour is higher quality in any way.