“I am a seventh-generation Jerusalemite. Most Israelis are second generation — their parents came after the Holocaust. But my family came here over 200 years ago. We are from the tribe of Levi, and that gives us deep roots in the community.”
In a place where history and ancestry are everything, Boaz Shalgi enjoys a heritage that gives him enviable tourism credentials. He can trace his family’s history to the 15th century and its lineage to the priestly tribe of Israel. And he grew up traveling in the world, which gave him an appreciation for the places his family has been as well as the Holy Land where they have lived for two centuries.
“My family was deported from Spain in the 1400s during the Spanish inquisition,” he said. “Then they migrated to Turkey, then from Turkey to Iran, and then 200 years ago, from Iran to Israel. To me this is the fulfillment of prophecy because God said he would bring his people back to his land. God is sending a message through me to his people.”
Today, Shalgi is the owner of EDI Travel, a tour company and travel agency that he took over from his parents six years ago. The company specializes in faith-based tours of Israel, which align perfectly with interests that have fascinated Shalgi since childhood.
“We got to travel a lot, and I lived in Africa for six years when I was a kid,” he said. “But I think it’s beyond travel; what triggered me is a passion and love for the text of the Bible. It’s one thing to travel around the world just for the sake of traveling. But what I share with people is the word of God. People come here and walk where the prophets walked, where King David walked and where Jesus walked.”
History & Harmony
Shalgi knew from a young age that he was interested in Israel’s history. So after he completed his compulsory service in the Israeli Defense Forces, he went to university to study biblical geography, Judaism and Christianity.
“I wanted to be a tour guide,” he said. “To be a guide in Israel, you have to have a license, and that requires two years in university.”
After he finished school and began guiding, he noticed an interesting phenomenon: Although he is Jewish, he found himself leading many Christian groups on tours through Israel. This interfaith platform allowed him to draw on his family heritage to help create harmony and understanding between Jews and Christians, which remains a key component of EDI tours today.
“You learn more about your Messiah if you know more about Judaism,” he said. “Jesus was Jewish, but for centuries, Christians didn’t acknowledge that. But today, people come to Israel and want to do the things that he did as a Jew. When I take them around, there are things that I explain to them from a Jewish eye and tell them what Jesus would have done.”
As an example, Shalgi cited the story of Jesus raising a widow’s son from the dead. Though most Christians understand the story as an example of Jesus’ supernatural power, the Jewish culture and customs of the time shed additional light on the event.
“I educate people on the Jewish law, which said that if someone lost her husband, she lost all her possessions to the family of the husband unless she had a son. So here’s this lady — she loses her husband, she loses her son, and she’s about to lose her belongings. Jesus raises her child so that he will be alive, and she’ll get to keep the little she has.”
EDI operates some 80 tours a year, each of them customized to the needs and interests of the visiting groups. Shalgi still escorts about 20 of those tours each year.
With decades of experience and a schedule that still takes him on the road twice a month, Shalgi has explored nearly every inch of Israel, which is no bigger than the state of New Jersey. Even though he has seen all of the significant sites more times than he can count, he still has favorite locations that he always looks forward to visiting.
“Galilee I love,” he said. “It’s not very developed in terms of big cities; it’s still the countryside and small farming communities, so you see almost an identical picture of what our ancestors saw when they walked here thousands of years ago.”
Shalgi also loves taking groups to Masada, a desert fortress in southern Israel that was besieged by Rome in the first century. It gives him another opportunity to share his proud heritage and faith with travelers of various faiths.
“Masada is one of the pinnacles of Jewish resistance against the Romans,” he said. “I tell people that the faith legend I share with them there is one of the most important ones in the country. It’s about a group of Jewish people that risked their families’ lives in order to give God glory.”
Wherever he is in Israel, Shalgi makes a point of appreciating the significance of his homeland and the privilege it is to share it with others.
“I don’t ever take it for granted,” he said. “Every time I see the Temple Mount or the Mount of Olives, even though I’ve been there already a thousand times, it doesn’t matter. I say, ‘Wow, I’m blessed to be here. My work is to take people to see these amazing sites.’”