The Shelter Hostel offering hospitality as ‘Trail Angels’
Well known in Messianic circles for their Shelter Hostel in Eilat, believers John and Judy Pex have been “Trail Angels” for Israel’s national hiking trail for 13 years now.
The couple, based in the southern Israeli port town, provide free shelter facilities to Israelis and other hikers who are tackling the renowned Israel National Trail (INT).
The Israel National Trail — Shvil Yisrael (שביל ישראל in Hebrew) — is an organized marked hiking trail that crosses the whole of Israel from north to south. It is approximately 1,000 kilometers in distance and traverses diverse and beautiful terrain such as the Negev desert, the Red Sea and the Galilee. It also takes the hiker through inspiring and important cities like Nazareth, Haifa, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
Trail Angels are people who live along the INT and offer a place to sleep, sometimes in their home, or camping or a tent, to hikers on the trail.
The Pex’s are experienced backpackers. Prior to their marriage, John had sailed around the world with the Dutch Marines and Judy had spent three years living in an Eskimo village in Alaska before hitchhiking around Europe.
Well acquainted with the needs of travelers, the Pex’s were glad to extend their Shelter’s ministry of hospitality as Trail Angels.
“We are excited to do this as many Israelis do the trail after the army or university,” Judy told KNI. “These young people are often open minded about the things of God and are curious about who we are and what we believe.”
The trail generally takes six to eight weeks to complete and is usually hiked in the fall or spring.
So far the Pex’s have hosted some 200 trail hikers since last spring’s hiking season began.
“It is easy for us as well because we can host them at the Shelter,” she added. “For us it is a great way to show God’s love to young people who need to see and hear about it.”
Not all the hikers who come to the Shelter are young adults, though. In fact, the Pex’s themselves walked the trail when in their 50s.
“It was wonderful,” Pex recalled. “It took us 42 days to finish.”
Indeed, Pex was inspired to write a book about their experience called: Walk the Land: A Journey on Foot through Israel.
“(Hikers) don’t need to reserve a place at the shelter beforehand. They can just come. We often have food left over to give them and if we have any free beds they can have them. Otherwise they can camp outside and join in with whatever is going on at the Shelter.”
An older British hiker, who is Jewish and in his 60s, told the Pex’s he liked how they and the volunteers at the shelter prayed.
As Pex has formerly written about the hostel: “We aim to create a community where people from every background, religion, country, and language feel welcome and accepted. We want to share our lives with all who come through our gate as we meet their physical, emotional, and spiritual needs.”
To learn more about the Shelter’s involvement with the Trail Angels organization watch this video made by the Israel Broadcasting Company.
For more about the Shelter and its interaction with Israeli hikers, read Judy Pex’s book Come, Stay, Celebrate: The Story of the Shelter Hostel in Eilat, Israel.
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Karen Faulkner is a British Israeli citizen. She has a Master's degree in Human Rights & Transitional Justice from Hebrew University, Jerusalem.