Journey to Jerusalem

Alumni and Friends' journey was a memorable one

For nearly two weeks beginning Dec. 26, 2014, more than a dozen alumni and friends took a “Journey to Jerusalem” that left a lasting impression. Dr. Randy Keeler, associate professor of religion, led the delegation, whose members evaluated the trip afterward. Following are a sampling of reflections on the trip’s significance by four of the alumni travelers.

Alumni & Friends' Journey to Jerusalem

Abby Carr ‘12
To be truthful, the entire journey to the Holy Land was completely influential in my life.

The primary reasons that I love traveling are the opportunities to have my worldview changed drastically, to be submerged in a different culture in order to learn everything that I can from the people who are a part of that culture, and then to take what I have learned and share it in as many ways as possible on my return to the United States.

The most significant experience of the trip for me was the Western/Wailing Wall. It was powerful to be a member of a minority religion while on the trip; at the same time, it was heart-wrenching to see the Wall and how close (both in proximity and spirituality) that people were to their holy place (the Dome of the Rock), but unable to physically be there for the varying reasons that prevent them from doing so. In addition, I absolutely loved experiencing Masada. It was beautiful and so full of history.

It was always a dream of mine to go to Israel. I honestly had the time of my life (I turned 25 while on the trip!), and came back a better and more well-rounded person. I think about Israel on a daily basis and know that its impact on my life is one that will never be forgotten! I would go back to Israel/Palestine in a heartbeat.

Edie (Nofsinger ’69) and Rod Landis ‘69
The trip to Israel was something we had wanted to experience for a long time, one of those “bucket list” wishes. As expected, having the opportunity to experience the land and culture and then add the biblical context was life-changing and faith-deepening for us.

There were so many memorable experiences it is difficult to single out just one. This trip’s experiences ran the gamut of emotions: the excitement of different cultures; the joy of having the opportunity to experience the land Jesus was born in, lived in, ministered in, died in and loved so much; the sadness of the turmoil being lived out daily and everything in between was incredible. We are visual people, so having this opportunity to experience Israel/Palestine firsthand was especially exhilarating to us. Although it has been over 2,000 years since Jesus lived, there was so much history still there that many of Jesus’ teachings came to life in a new way and have expanded our understanding of the times. Being able to apply these new experiences to biblical truths causes one to stretch and grow, which is what life is all about.

One highlight for us was being in the area that is believed to be similar to the Garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives and seeing the bedrock where Jesus is said to have prayed before his arrest, knowing God’s plan for him in the days ahead (Mark 14:32-42).

A second highlight was visiting Dominus Flevit (“The Cry of the Lord”), a small Franciscan church that is believed to mark the place where Jesus wept over Jerusalem and its future (Luke 19:41-44), which was especially poignant considering the tension being experienced today.

Experiencing the food, the markets in Jerusalem and Bethlehem, celebration of Orthodox Christmas in Bethlehem, etc., gave us unique insight into the daily life in Israel/Palestine. It is a country of contrasts in topography, cultures and politics (just to mention a few things), with an uncertain future. May we all pray for peace and justice in its future.

Joan Wismer ‘79
There were so many significant experiences for me on this trip! They included: being in places where Jesus and his disciples had been, reading relevant Scriptures at those sites, singing in churches (sometimes with other groups), seeing ruins that are thousands of years old, wandering on my own with a friend through the streets and markets of Jerusalem and Bethlehem, and learning much more about the Israel/Palestinian conflict.

Now I find myself listening for news from this area and being much more interested in that news than I was before. Although this was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, it really is just the start of my understanding of this area of the world.