Thirty-five students of Nyack College, including myself, began the new year in the Holy Land. From January fifth to the seventeenth I joined the GS-L trip to Israel. Our group was lead by Dr. R. Steven Notley and Professor Jeffery Garcia; both are professors at Nyack’s/ATS’s Manhattan campus. We were also joined by Dr. Carlo, one of the deans at ATS in Manhattan. After nearly fifteen hours of travel we began to explore the attractions that Israel offers to tourists and religious pilgrims. We were able to see and experience many biblical sites and receive thorough explanations of the connections between the site and the scriptural text from the professors who acted as our guides for the trip. Not only was our journey educational, but it was spiritually enlightening as well.
The professors who guided us are qualified and knowledgeable about the biblical lands. Dr. Notley lived in Israel for sixteen years and received his PhD from Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He has been leading tours of Israel for over two decades. Professor Garcia is currently pursuing his PhD and is familiar with the biblical lands because of his experience leading tour groups throughout Israel. Dr. Carlo has been on multiple trips to Israel, so he was able to offer a lot of supplemental information. These three professors educated us on the geography, history, and culture of the places we visited. In many ways these site visits changed the way I read certain parts of Scripture.
This is a picture of me standing on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea at the port of Caesarea. Caesarea is a port city built by Herod the Great in honor of Augustus Caesar. It served as the place of residence for the pontiff of the province of Judea in the Roman Empire. We toured the enormous, elaborate first-century palace complex located near Caesarea’s harbor. When the Apostle Paul was imprisoned for two years, it was in this complex. The remnant of the palace complex lead scholars to believe that Paul’s detainment was not as grueling as is often assumed.
In this picture some of our group is exploring the ruins of Omrit, the excavation site of a temple dedicated to emperor worship. This site did not have scriptural significance, but it was very interesting to learn about the sites history. Like Caesarea, the temple at Omrit was built by Herod the Great in honor of Augustus Caesar.
Here Mitchell Woodford and I are posing with Dr. Notley and Professor Garcia in a boat sailing across the Sea of Galilee (which is more commonly known in Israel as the Lake of Galilee or the Lake of Gennesaret). This is where Jesus and Peter walked on water and where Jesus calmed the storm. It is much too small to be considered a sea (about thirteen miles long and eight miles wide), which is why it is referred to as a Lake by the residents. Being able to see and sail on the Lake gives me a more realistic picture of Jesus’ activities on and around it.
The stories you read in the Bible come alive when you are able to see the land and the culture that surround them. Not only were we able to learn about the history of Israel but we were educated about the nation’s current status as well. It is vibrant, lively, and culturally rich, but there is a lot of religious and political unrest. In many ways Israel, and especially Jerusalem, lacks peace. The Bible mandates that we pray for the peace of Jerusalem, and this trip made the peace of Jerusalem a legitimate concern for me. I thank Nyack College and the GS-L program for giving me the opportunity to travel to Israel.