Exploring the Holy Land over the Holidays


What better way to spend the holiday season than to walk in the very places Jesus walked thousands of years ago? The Passages program, a Christian organization that sends college students to Israel in order to learn firsthand about the roots of their faith, allowed DBU Patriots to do just that, extending the unique opportunity to explore biblical sites in Israel just days after much of the world celebrated Christmas.

Embarking on a 10-day trip that included visits to the renown Western Wall, the Garden of Gethsemane, the Jordan River, Jerusalem, Nazareth, Bethlehem, the Sea of Galilee, the Mount of Beatitudes, and numerous other locations that have biblical significance, DBU students marveled as the Bible came to life before their eyes.

DBU Patriot Ana Martinez, who traveled with Passages through DBU, shares:

“Ein Gedi was one of my favorite sites because it was the most beautiful mountain I had ever hiked before. There are many phases to it; there were parts that were dry, parts that were full of vegetation, and we got to see the most beautiful waterfall. Also, King David is one of my favorite Bible characters and it was in Ein Gedi that he spared King Saul’s life when he was in one of the caves. It was incredible to stand in the area where David trusted the Lord so much that he refrained from making his own decisions and decided to obey the Lord with patience.”

Patriots also had the opportunity to learn more about Israeli culture, as well as hear from a variety of speakers native to the Holy Land. Shadi Khalloul Risho, one among a minority of indigenous Aramaic Christians, was a favorite among DBU students. Risho serves as Chairman of the Aramaic Christian Association in Israel and serves as an acting Paratrooper Captain Reserve in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF).

Through speakers like Risho, Patriots were able to attain unique insight into what life is like in Israel, both in terms of the political and social atmosphere. The experience also allowed students to grow in their faith and better understand the Jewish religion and people. This is true for two students, Jordan Freeman and Stephanie Ziesse, who had the opportunity to travel with the Philos Hispanic Leadership program through Passages.

“On my trip to Israel, I learned just how important my faith is to me,” DBU Student Jordan Freeman explained. “Israel being such a religious country, I expected to feel very equal and ‘at peace,’ but wherever there is a lack of Jesus Christ, there is a lack of true faith because our faith comes from Him. We also have a very particular way of sharing Christ that just doesn’t work in that world. I learned that we are so used to pointing to the Father through the Son, but sometimes we may have to point to the Son through the Father.”

Words alone cannot fully describe the experience DBU students had during their stay in Israel. With tours of the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum, visits to the Garden Tomb, and a walk in the Jerusalem tunnels that ascend toward the Temple Mount, students on this year’s Passages trip could talk for hours and hours on the impact this opportunity had on their life.

In a few sentences, DBU Student Stephanie Ziesse sums up how the trip transformed her personally:

“It was an incredible experience that changed my spiritual life, my relationship with God, and my personal growth. The trip allowed me to see the cultural differences and the conflicts that are lived day by day in Israel. Every day, I prayed for what God is doing in the world and I thank Him for being able to share the good news and the message of salvation with others.”

Written by Faith Myers

Faith Myers is a member of University Communications at Dallas Baptist University.