Twenty California Baptist University students and three faculty members traveled to Israel from Dec. 29, 2019, to Jan. 8, 2020, to visit biblical sites such as the Sea of Galilee and the garden of Gethsemane.
The group also visited political sites such as the West Bank and the Gaza border along with historical sites such as the Western Wall. They learned about Israeli history and culture and current issues affecting the Middle East.
“(The students) get a sense of events in the Bible coming to life,” said Dr. Anthony Chute, associate dean of the School of Christian Ministries. “Most students come back with the feeling that the Bible is new again. Because of the cultural and political issues, you also get what life is like living in Israel.”
Passages, an organization that works with Christian college students in planning trips to learn about and explore Israel, worked with CBU to organize the trip. The chosen applicants attended two informational meetings and watched training videos that provided background information about Israel.
Janelle Smith, sophomore Christian studies and Christian behavioral science double major, participated in the trip.
“It had a really big spiritual impact on me personally and so many people who went,” Smith said. “Just going there and being in the places where the Bible passages happened created a whole new way to visualize it. I am not going to read the Bible the same way ever again.”
Emily Key, senior creative writing major, is another student who went on the trip. Like Smith, she said she believes that visiting Israel helped her comprehend Jesus’s characteristics and life in a deeper way.
“One thing that the trip as a whole emphasized was the humanity of Jesus,” Key said. “Seeing the places, hearing the stories in those places and having conversations with people really emphasized that for me.”
In addition to influencing participants spiritually, the trip allowed Smith, Key and the others to learn more about the political and cultural aspects of modern Israel. The students listened to speakers discuss issues such as terrorism and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
After listening to speakers with unique perspectives on various issues, Smith said she believes she more thoroughly understands the current circumstances in the Middle East.
“One thing that was especially cool was that we heard from people who were unfiltered by the media,” Smith said. “Learning the history, as well as talking to real people was eye-opening and life-changing.
Now, I feel like I can partici- pate in conversations about the Middle East and have some sort of perspective.”
This was the third trip to Israel that CBU has coordinated through Passages.
Chute said CBU plans to send students on the trip for as many years as the Passages program continues.
“At the heart of it, (the trip allows) Christians to go to Israel and experience the roots of Christianity, get a better perspective of our faith, walk in the footsteps of Jesus and feel the tangibility of Scripture,” Smith said. “When you see the geographic context of (the Bible), it makes understanding it a lot clearer.”