I type this sentence from the departures terminal of the Tel Aviv airport. The folks pictured below are winging it home at this very moment.
Look closely. These are the faces of sturdy students for sure, even if a bit odd.
Seth Bryant (second from left) was their chief. He pastors the New Hope Christian Church in Roanoke, Virginia and brought this team from the other side of the world. They came for a 12-day experience in Israel-Palestine. There’s nothing odd about that.
Fact is, the itinerary for most two-weekers is fairly predictable. One cannot come here and dodge places like Caesarea-by-the-Sea, Tiberias, Jerusalem, and Bethlehem. The paths between these sites is well-worn by the feet of millions.
Sturdy students, however, do other special—or shall we say, odd—things. Here are a few extras that set the New Hope crew apart from the typical tour group.
1. Walking two different portions of the Jesus Trail. New Hope hiked from Nazareth to Sepphoris and again from the heights of Mt Arbel to Magdala. Given the mid-summer temperatures this year, that was a real feat!
2. Spending time visiting with members of the Christian HolyLand Foundation. Learning about the challenges and rewards of contemporary ministry in Galilee proved to be a high point of the journey.
3. Substituting a drive through Palestine (West Bank) for the usual cruise down the Jordan Valley. As it turned out, the group picked up sites like Jenin, Samaria, Jacob’s Well, and Shilo. These are not sites on the beaten trail. Another extra was doing lunch in Nablus that included world-famous knaffeh and coffee!
One other thing that set this group apart was the variety of hotel experiences. One cannot imagine a stronger contrast than the setting of Kibbutz Lavi and the setting of the Angel Hotel. The former is an old Galilean commune frequented by Orthodox and Ultra-Orthodox Jews; the latter is a boutique hotel run by a family of Arab Christians inside Palestine.
Sprinkle a few nights on the Mediterranean and the Sea of Galilee between these and it adds up to a full cultural experience.
Not every group is ready to embrace these kinds of experiences, but this one sure was.
I guess they were a little odd.
But they made memories that will last a lifetime.
Sam, an old camel friend of mine who lives in Jericho, is known to snoggle the unwary tourist from time to time.
If you’ve never experienced a camel snoggle, you’re not living life to the fullest. Why don’t you consider joining one of our future trips? Our 2020 and 2021 tour schedule may be found here.