Tag Archives: featured

13011209903_b100fcb93e_z

The Bible in context

Again time has elapsed. We have just finished a two week intensive course at Jerusalem University College which mostly consisted of extensive field trips to biblical sights. The focus of this program was to look at the influence that geography, archeology and history have on biblical interpretation.

Our time at JUC has been so rewarding. The stories of the Bible and especially Jesus’ ministry are so much richer with the historical and cultural context which has been explained to us. It is incredible how much context matters and how much more elaborate the story becomes when placed alongside the cultural context of its day. It is so refreshing to see myself and my classmates learning so naturally outside the typical classroom.

We spent some time towards the south of Israel/the Negev, at the Mediterranean and nearby sites, then did a two day trip to the Dead Sea area where we visited Masada, Ein Gev, and Kumran, the location of the Dead Sea scrolls.

13011209903_b100fcb93e_zFollowing that we did a four day, three night trip to the northern part of Israel, the Sea of Galilee which was central to the ministry of Jesus. Galilee, due to its location is this “cosmopolitan hub” where the international community is connected through trade, so it is a lot more secular than other regions in Israel, like Jerusalem which is more isolated and therefore more conservative. I find it so fascinating that this is the location that Jesus chose for the majority of his ministry. It just goes to show how strategic Jesus was in placing his ministry in this geographical region where it could spread so easily. The message wasn’t only for Jewish people, it wasn’t restricted to a gender, or race, or tribe, or anything! It was for everyone, no exceptions. Jesus took his message and life to the crossing point of the world at that time, and that’s huge! I love it. For me this is a sort of confirmation that we are called to a radical life of being uncomfortable, of going out into the unknown, into the most worldly places to interact with people who are different than us; a place where we can share the good news of Jesus and continue His ministry to the ends of the world.

With JUC now behind us we are passing swiftly on toward further darkness, but we’re also moving toward a new sun. We’re getting pretty good at this transition stuff, and with each passing one we come closer and closer to the end of this journey. I can only speak for myself when I say that the beginning of the end is coming all too quickly! I have been so privileged to have this experience and am saddened that it is drawing to a close.

Time has definitely not been on my side this trip– there is simply not enough of it!

Thank you all for your prayers, I know our God is listening!

-Natalia Derstine

Angela at Efrat

Eyes and ears open

Judean wildernessIt’s been a busy couple of weeks over here in Israel. Throughout our three weeks in Beit Sahour we took Arabic classes, which helped us to interact with our host families and people on the street in a new way. We were no longer just tourists. When we would try out the new words we learned people would break into a surprised smile and respond in Arabic. We were reminded that we are still “in school” when we had to take our Arabic test, but I think overall we did pretty well for only having seven sessions.

It was difficult to say goodbye to Beit Sahour. After three weeks we had become comfortable with the small town atmosphere and it had started to feel like home after having moved around so much in Egypt and Jordan. We got to know our host families well, and it’s always hard to say goodbye to people who have so quickly become friends and family.

We spent a night in Jerusalem before going to the settlement–Efrat–as a way to prepare and take a breath from being so busy. As we walked through the city streets the differences were startling. In just 8 miles we experienced two very different cultures and lifestyles.

While it was good to be in Jerusalem for a night as a buffer, there is only so much Angela at Efratpreparation you can do for our upcoming culture shock. We needed to just jump right in. And we did. We only had three days in the settlement of Efrat so we kept our ears open in an attempt to learn as much as we could. We had a tour of the settlement and had the opportunity to hear from multiple esteemed people in the community. This was a challenging experience for all of us, as it forced us to take on multiple perspectives. I think the best part for all of us was the conversations we had with our host families. Personally, I found my host family to be very open and willing to answer any questions I had about Judaism and the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. Also I think we all really appreciated the conversations that we were able to have with some of the young people one evening after watching a short film about checkpoints.

We are all taking in so much and trying to process everything which is close to an impossible task, but for now I’m satisfied to follow the advice I received from my host dad: constantly keep your eyes open to observe and your ears open to hear, if you get more confused you are on the right track. There are no simple answers to this conflict, and although we’ve experienced so much we are not experts and will not be able to solve the problem. This humbling realization is what we carry with us throughout the rest of our adventures.

-Morgan Kratz