Fam Trip, January 9-19, 2017

Sometimes a too-good-to-be-true deal is exactly that. Not this time.

The Jerusalem Center for Biblical Studies has pulled out the stops in designing a unique educational experience for professors, pastors, and their spouses. It has all the earmarks of our regular study-tour, minus the sticker shock (well, you might be shocked, but not that way!).

Enjoying pastries at the Shepherds' Field in Bethlehem.

Departing on January 9, 2017 (that's not the January around the corner, its the next one so you can plan it), this study-tour will do an 8 day romp through Israel-Palestine. The good news is that the price is an all-inclusive $1,498 (with some fine print) out of New York. Yes, you read it right. That number includes round-trip airfare to Tel Aviv, hotels, ground transport, most meals, and, of course, my running narrative (sorry, my ego made me throw that in). Realize that as you read these words, an air ticket to Tel Aviv alone is ringing in at about $1,600.

As a biblical studies professor who has worked in ministry training for more than 25 years, I know the impact that a trip like this can have. I've seen it with my own eyes. I also believe that an experience like this can be formative for young pastors or invigorating for more experienced hands. At this price, it might even make a perfect gift for a congregation wishing to thank a staff member or a nice way to celebrate an anniversary of service.

The big hush-hush is that this experience is designed as a "familiarization trip." Fam trips are a common practice in the travel industry. They function as an incentive to leverage folks who themselves are in positions of leverage. Fam trips seek to encourage potential leaders to do a future trip of their own, in this case, to return to Israel-Palestine at a later date with their own congregations, students, friends, etc., in tow.

Buffet dining every morning and evening. There is something here for everybody.

Hence, the red carpet is rolled out, the best foot is put forward, the wine is chilled, the fatted calf is served, and, of course, leaders are given the opportunity to test the waters firsthand. What is involved in organizing a tour? What are the challenges/rewards? Do I have the resources to do it? What would my group experience? Where would we stay? How might such a trip mesh with the ministry goals of our own program? What are the benifits of traveling with JCBS? These are the kinds of discussions most appropriate for a "fam trip."

Of course, it is possible that you and your spouse could enjoy the amenities of  five-star hotels, walk through (and under!) the streets of Jerusalem, and pick through archaeological ruins from the biblical period and then, in the end, decide that this is not something you care to do again. You just might. But I (and JCBS) am betting against it. For me, it is an easy bet. I think the land sells itself. JCBS has more on the line, however, as they let this experience go at below-cost pricing. This is to your advantage.

Consider our loaded itinerary for 2017.

Jan 9-10 (Mon, Tues). Travel from New York to Tel Aviv. Transfer to Bethlehem for orientation and rest. Overnight in Bethlehem.

Jan 11 (Wed). Church of the Nativity, Shepherd's Field, The Herodion, Overnight in Bethlehem.

Jan 12 (Thus). Jordan River Baptismal site (Qasr al-Yahud), Qumran (Dead Sea Scrolls), Dead Sea swim, Wilderness of Judea (Wadi Qelt). Return to Bethlehem for overnight.

Jan 13 (Fri). Excavations in Jerusalem (City of David), Hezekiah's Tunnel, Pool of Siloam, Mt of Olives, Garden of Gethsemane, Mount Zion, Garden Tomb. Overnight in Jerusalem.

The Herodium. The fortress-palace of Herod the Great.

Jan 14 (Sat). Nazareth, Sepphoris, Mount of Beatitudes, Capernaum, Tabgha. Return to Jerusalem for Overnight.

Jan 15 (Sun). Temple Mount (Haram al-Sharif), Pool of Bethesda, Via Dolorosa, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Western Wall and the Jerusalem Archaeological Park. Transfer to the airport for return flight home.

Jan 16 (Mon). Return to the USA.

The trip requires only one weekend away from Sunday responsibilities. It fits in the low-season of the travel calendar, and offers a time of relaxation after the Christmas season rush.

I do hope you can join us! If you have any questions, feel free to contact me (markziese@gmail.com) or give the stateside office of JCBS (Lakeland, Florida) a call (863-646-7394, ext 1-590). Be sure to identify this opportunity as tour JF17 and the date as 010917F.

The brochure and registration form may be found here or by clicking the picture below.

Greg Marksberry and ministry leaders from First Church of Christ, Burlington, Ky.

Greg Marksberry and ministry leaders from First Church of Christ, Burlington, Ky.