North Central College - Naperville, IL

Middle East trip immerses students in complex issues

The historical, cultural and political significance of Israel and Palestine shaped the itinerary for a new student trip conducted by the Office of Ministry and Service in August. Immersion into both Israeli and Palestinian areas as well as tours of key biblical sites provided students and staff with life-changing experiences. The group used an independent tour company to access the different areas, many of which represented traditional pilgrimage sites.

“Every day we visited places that are important to multiple religions, places written about in history books and places in political dispute today,” says Luke Wilson ’13, who’s majoring in psychology and organizational communication.

The group first spent four nights in Bethlehem, visiting an orphanage and a Jewish settlement in the West Bank called Efrat. “It was a typical neighborhood subdivision except for the walls and guards,” says Whitney Roberts ’08, assistant director of ministry and service. “From there we were immersed further in learning about the conflict by visiting the Palestinian city of Hebron, viewing firsthand the land boundary conflict between Palestinians and Jewish settlers. Our students were confronted with the complexities of both sides of the situation and it was our job to wrestle with what the truth is.”

The remainder of the tour consisted of visiting the Dead Sea, Jericho, Nazareth, Sea of Galilee, Golan Heights and Jerusalem. A commercial seaport called Haifa on the Mediterranean Sea was another memorable stop. The trip will likely be repeated for North Central students next summer.

“Our students come from various backgrounds and these areas are significant to many faith traditions,” says Brian Rainville, director of ministry and service. “The cultural experiences were amazing and we received a real-life education into what we see on the news every night.”