I am happy to announce that Briercrest College and Seminary is planning a study tour to Israel in the spring of 2018. The 13-day trip will be hosted by my colleague, Dr. Wes Olmstead, and led in Israel by Yoni Gerrish, the director of JCF Biblical Study Tours and a licensed Israeli guide with over twenty-five years’ experience leading academic study tours.
Yoni was our guide on our previous Israel study tours in 2009 and 2011, and does a fantastic job. Instead of overwhelming group members with extraneous details and constant chatter, Yoni’s tours are carefully designed to illuminate the biblical text and its implications; he is also willing to share personal examples from his own life as a follower of Jesus in Israel.
Even though I will not be able to go along this time, I am excited about the trip because I know from experience what it is like to have my reading of the Bible transformed as a result of experiencing the “Holy Land” firsthand.
I will never forget landing in Ben Gurion Airport for the first time, boarding an airport shuttle bound for Jerusalem, and taking in my first glimpses of the plain of Sharon and the Judean hill country. I was familiar with Israel’s basic geography, but it wasn’t until the bus geared down to make its final ascent up the highway to Jerusalem that I really realized why the Bible always talks about going “up to Jerusalem,” and why there is a collection of Psalms of Ascent in the Psalter.
Each year on Palm Sunday I remember walking into Jerusalem with a crowd of Christian pilgrims at the beginning of Holy Week seventeen years ago. As we crested the Mount of Olives and the golden Dome of the Rock came into view where Herod’s magnificent Temple had stood in Jesus’ day, I could imagine the disciples saying, “Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!”
Both of these experiences took place in 2000-2001 when as a young PhD student I had the opportunity to spend a year of study at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. As a poor PhD student, travel outside of Jerusalem was mostly limited by the constraints of Israel’s inter-city bus service.
Participants on next year’s study tour will have no such restriction. In just 13 days, the group will travel from Israel’s southern border in Eilat to its northern extent at Tel Dan and the Golan Heights, visiting more ancient sites along the way than I ever did during my year of study in Israel.
The tour will begin in the south of Israel with stops in Beersheba and Eilat on the Red Sea, as well as several hikes, including one through the biblical Wilderness of Zin (pictured above). The group will then progress north along the Dead Sea, and then across to the Mediterranean Sea, before settling in for several nights at a Kibbutz Hotel on the Sea of Galilee, as a base for day trips around the Sea of Galilee and the Golan Heights. (This means that those who like swimming will have the chance to swim in the Red Sea, Dead Sea, Mediterranean Sea, and the Sea of Galilee.) After touring Israel from south to north, the final four days will be based out of Jerusalem, where—among many other activities—group members will have the opportunity to visit Bethlehem and the Herodium in the West Bank, to walk on the Temple Mount, to stand on the Mount of Olives, and to stroll through Jerusalem’s Old City.
For more information and to sign on to this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, see the tour website: http://briercrest.ca/israeltour/.