Thompson Travel owner Sharon Thompson says it’s good to have a destination that gives you a sense of peace, and Israel is hers

On September 30, 1992, Thompson Travel International officially became a travel agency and tour operation. It grew over the years selling package holidays, city breaks, cruises and flights all over the world.

Faith & Culture Tours is one of the business’s trading names. We take tours to faith and cultural locations worldwide, from trips to the Far East or the battlefields of the First and Second World Wars, to walking trips and river cruising.

“While some of the destinations are relatively obscure, it is a positive to have a few more places back on the list so we have more to sell to clients for when the travel ban is lifted.”

My late father, Maurice, started the company with the aim of leading as many people as possible to see a land he had experienced, and where he believed his faith began. Thirteen years ago, on his 52nd visit to Israel, he suddenly passed away while in the country he called his ‘second home’.

The country was among nine destinations added to the UK’s travel corridors list last week in the latest update from the transport secretary. While some of the destinations are relatively obscure, it is a positive to have a few more places back on the list so we have more to sell to clients for when the travel ban is lifted.

A place of peace

I visited Israel many times when I was younger, but I didn’t pay much heed to what my father tried to show, which I only understood when I went back myself. It’s not exactly your ‘chicken on a spit’ kind of holiday; it’s more of an experience than a sunshine break, and a place more suited to a guided tour than an individual journey, I suppose.

“Trips to Israel have helped give me peace and understanding through the challenges of 2020. I learn something new every time I visit.”

Israel is a fascinating destination that has never failed to attract people from all over the world, and visits there have helped give me peace and understanding through the challenges of 2020.

I learn something new every time I visit. I hate the word ‘religion’ as it conjures up all sorts of problems and arguments, and it’s what puts some off. I’m also astonished as to how a country so small causes so much controversy, when it is a place of peace for so many.

Profound and moving

From the Med Sea to the Dead Sea, and the Red Sea to Galilee, it’s my profound, moving and inspiring place. I can’t deny my faith there, while I stand among those looking for proof of a being greater than us.

Where else can you float in a sea where it’s impossible to sink? It’s a place where cosmopolitan cities are within reach of historical sites, and modern baristas meet falafel and flatbread shacks.

“During the past nine months, everyone in our industry has been pushed to their limits. Many people are finding it hard to see light at the end of the tunnel.”

The mountains of the north and desert of the south come face to face with each other through the city that connects the flourishing landscapes with the barren – Jerusalem! Armenian, Christian, Arab and Jew, and those who are just there to see what all the fuss is about, reside within its old city walls.

Israel has an ability to make you want to learn more, to make you want to return. My next visit to the country is due in April 2021.

During the past nine months, everyone in our industry has been pushed to their limits. Many people are finding it hard to see light at the end of the tunnel.

I’ve no answers, but I know faith brings hope and that keeps me going. I hope you know of a destination that gives you peace and I hope that the world will be open to us all again.


Covid-closure-SHuTTERSTOCK

Living through lockdown 2.0 in Northern Ireland

New lockdown restrictions in Northern Ireland mean a shift back to homeworking again.

I was going to say that at least it’s fallen in our quietest time of the year, but that would be an understatement. It’s good to have lockdowns if we see the benefits, but right now I’m not sure what the government here is doing. Business owners are given a week to get sorted after an announcement, which causes panic shopping and queues at the hairdressers. It feels like the world has gone mad. I’m just praying it will be sane again in 2021. Wake me up when this latest lockdown is over!

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