Judith was born in Washington, D.C. She and her Dutch-born husband, John, have lived in Eilat, Israel, since 1976. Thirty years ago John and Judy began The Shelter Hostel, a guest house for travelers from all over the world, a drop-in center for anyone searching for physical, emotional, or spiritual support—a way of life for the Pexes. John is also the pastor of the Eilat Congregation, a multi-cultural, non-denominational fellowship. Judy and John are the parents of four grown children and the happy grandparents of seven. In her free time Judy enjoys reading, writing, hiking and camping in the mountains around Eilat, snorkeling in the Red Sea, traveling and photography, but most of all spending time with family and friends.
Learn more about Judith, her books, and the Pexes work and ministry:
by Judith Galblum Pex:
A Conversation with Judy
You have traveled much of the world. In Come, Stay, Celebrate! you describe your trips to Jordan and China to visit friends and people you had introduced to Christ. What are other favorite cities/places you have visited?
Usually the latest place I’ve been becomes my favorite, though I prefer the more remote locations over large cities. The most moving experiences were visiting our two foster children whom we adopted through Compassion International—Jasmine (in Tamil Nadu, India) and Jule (in Rwanda). And another incredible experience was going with Galit, who is like an adopted daughter for us, back to the village in Gondar, Ethiopia where she was born. She had left there with her mother twenty years previously as a young girl and walked to Sudan from where they were air-lifted to Israel with Operation Moses.
For people who have not yet read your books: What drew you to Israel?
- I was traveling around the world, searching for a purpose in life. After hitchhiking alone through Europe for a year, my goal was to reach India where I thought I would find a guru. I decided to stop in Israel on the way. I’m Jewish and have relatives here, so I thought it would be a comfortable place to rest before the big trip East. I never dreamed that Israel would become my home.
What prompted you and John to start a hostel?
- There are several reasons. Both of us had traveled a lot and felt that we understood what kind of place backpackers were looking for. At the time, no such hostel existed in Eilat. When we started the Shelter we had three children and couldn’t travel as we used to, so a hostel enabled us to keep meeting people without leaving home. Furthermore, we have always opened up our home to guests and we really needed a hostel just to accommodate all the folks who were staying with us.
Your first book, Walk the Land, is a memoir about your experiences while hiking the Israel Trail. What activities, besides hiking, do you enjoy for fun and relaxation in the south of Israel?
- Sometimes we just go out to the desert, either the two of us, with our kids, or with friends, for a meal or to sleep out, without walking. For about six months of the year I go swimming nearly every day in the Red Sea. I love looking at the fish and the corals, and it’s my exercise.
How many languages do you speak?
- Besides English, I speak Hebrew and Dutch (John is from Holland) fluently, and some French, which I studied in school.
Do you have a favorite Bible verse?
- I have many favorites but one special chapter — Isaiah 53. Verse 6 is the key: “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” It is amazing how clearly Isaiah speaks about the Messiah, 700 years before Yeshua, Jesus, was born. Many Israelis, when they read this chapter for the first time, think they are reading a portion of the New Testament.
Many Israelis have learned about Yeshua, their Messiah, through John’s and your ministry. You have amazing stories to share. What surprises people the most to learn about you?
- When people meet me today they are often surprised to hear that I was a hippy/traveler and that I lived for three years in an Alaska Eskimo village above the Arctic Circle.
You’re definitely adventurous and up for a challenge! What were your biggest challenges—and rewards—in raising four children in Israel?
- Our oldest son was born our first year in this country, and I had no family and no fellowship of believers in Eilat. I think that raising children in a different culture than the one you grew up in is always a challenge. But, on the other hand, raising children anywhere isn’t easy. All four of our children served in the Israeli Defense Forces which also presented challenges. I am thankful to have raised them in an international, multi-cultural environment. They feel very Israeli, but have three passports, and are citizens of the world. The best part is seeing them develop into independent adults whom I enjoy being with.