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Passages Trip Educates Students on Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Trinity CommunicationsFebruary 04, 2018

Professor Sylvie Raquel (left) blessing junior Katie Winn (right) with water from the Jordan River where Jesus was baptized. | Photo by Sarah Chapman.

Originally written by Sarah Chapman, Digest staff writer.

Trinity College senior Sawyer Henderson will never forget worshiping as a group near the Pool of Bethesda and being able to hear the Muslim call to prayer in the background. According to Henderson, it felt as if the students’ voices were competing with the call to prayer over the loudspeaker.

“The surreal feeling of standing in a place where three major world religions have roots was impactful,” Henderson said.

Henderson was one of twenty undergraduate and graduate students who, along with Associate Professor of Biblical Studies Dr. Sylvie Raquel, participated in a 10-day educational trip to Israel with the Passages program. In total, approximately 500 students from colleges and universities throughout the U.S. were in Israel with the Passages program, not only exploring the rich biblical roots of their faith, but also experiencing the complexity of modern Israel.

The students returned to campus on Jan. 10, jet-lagged and full of stories to tell.

Raquel had an overwhelming encounter with Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus was arrested before his crucifixion. It was sobering to identify with Christ in his agony as he chose God’s will over his own, she said.

“I will never look at that moment of his life the same way,” Raquel said.

According to Raquel, both the divine and human attributes of Christ became more real to her than ever before. She believes this trip is impactful for students, because it allows them to experience firsthand the rich historicity of their faith.

Other biblical sites visited included the City of David, the Mount of Olives, the Garden Tomb, Nazareth, Capernaum, the Jordan River, and the Mount of Beatitudes.

TC junior Katie Winn was captivated by the consistency between Israel’s past and present.

“It is evident that God is still at work to protect and preserve the land of Israel to this day,” Winn said.

One of the goals of the Passages program is to educate students about all sides of the modern conflict in Israel. The group had the opportunity to hear from speakers ranging from secular Jewish political figures to an Arab Christian pastor ministering in a predominantly Muslim area.

Students also visited a residential community called a Kibbutz near the Gaza Strip border. They experienced firsthand the effect of Israeli-Palestinian conflict on residents of the area, as bomb shelters lined the streets to provide safety when missiles were launched from the Gaza Strip. Despite the conflict, there was an overwhelming theme of hope in the land. Raquel was surprised that she felt safer in Israel than in some parts of Europe.

Trinity’s current plan is to be on Passage’s yearly rotation, enabling up to 40 Trinity students per year to go on the trip for less than $1,000 each.

For the trip participants, their experience of Israel is far from over. Part of the Passages program requires students to complete projects, such as speaking at events or writing blog posts, to process what they have learned and help tell the story of Israel.

Three students opted to take an even deeper dive into the rich history and current geopolitical situation in Israel and are taking a class taught by Raquel to earn three credit hours.

These students, along with other trip participants, will be leading an open forum in March to share what they have learned with Trinity students and staff and the surrounding community.

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