Hello, DordtLife readers! My name is Anna and I am one of the new additions this year to the DordtLife bloggers. Some things about me: I am a Sophomore majoring in Theology: Christian Ministry and Leadership. I love mornings and getting up early. Some would say I am slightly obsessed with CrossFit. I am a member of Concert Choir. I happily (and sometimes stressfully) live hour by hour out of my planner (yes I am type A). I am one of the most “typical” Dordt students on campus because my house is less than 5 blocks from campus and both of my parents work here. And finally, this summer I went to Israel for two weeks with 15 students from Dordt.
Did you know that Dordt offers several short term off-campus programs? These short term off-campus programs are often faculty led and are classes that you get credit for! Why not go sightseeing in another country like Zambia, Central America, Nicaragua, Ukraine, Italy, or Israel, for two or three weeks and get three credits at the same time?!
I cannot say THANK-YOU enough to Dordt for giving me the opportunity to travel to Israel and have my life changed forever. Because this trip was such a big highlight of my summer, I want to share with you the top 10 moments of my trip.
1. Getting to know 14 other students from Dordt that I barely knew before we left. 24 hours of travel there and back and two weeks of being in Israel made all of us close real quick. We got to know each other’s quirks, pet peeves, interests, and talents. I will forever be grateful for the friendships that were formed, the many laughs we shared, and the countless inside jokes we created.
2. Walking through the valley of the shadow of death in the desert in complete silence. This was an experience. It was 100 degrees outside but I walked away from the experience so thankful for a God who promises me that “even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for my God is with me; his rod and staff comfort me…surely his goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever."
3. Exploring the water falls of Ein Gedi. Ein Gedi is one of the two fresh water springs located on the shores of the Dead Sea. Ein Gedi was a place of refuge for David as he fled from Saul. 1 Samual 23:29 says, David “dwelt in strongholds at Ein Gedi.”
4. Climbing Masada at 5:00 in the morning to see the sunrise over the Dead Sea. Masada is an ancient fortress plateau that overlooks the Dead Sea. A winding, steep path travels to the top where there are many ruins including King Herod’s Palace. The view from the top was worth the early rise and the tiring climb.
5. Singing Away in a Manger in the cave where Jesus was born. While in Bethlehem, we visited the Church of the Nativity and went down into the cave where it is believed Jesus was born. Our tour guide suggested that we sing a song so we chose Away in a Manger. It was a humbling and chilling experience that caused the birth of Jesus to feel so real.
6. Visiting the Church of the Holy Sepulchre where it is believed to be the place where Jesus was crucified. What a diverse church and place. People of all different Christian denominations come to visit and connect with the site in different ways. Some people want to see the actual rock that the cross was in, some want to see the grave, some just want to be in the place and reflect. I was amazed at the amount of tourists filling the church and interacting with the space in different ways.
7. Walking through Hezekiah’s tunnel that is carved under the City of David in Jerusalem. We walked through the 530-meter-long tunnel with headlamps on through thigh deep water. It was built during the reign of Hezekiah to bring water from one side of the city to the other and is known to be the greatest works of water engineering in the pre-Classical period.
8. Taking a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee. (and no, no one got out and walked on water)
9. THE FOOD. On this trip, I truly believe I found my new favorite food. It is a falafel pita sandwich filled with fried falafel, hummus, tahini, and vegetables. I cannot wait for the day I can go back and find my favorite restaurant in the city of Jerusalem.
10. Praying at the Western Wall. On our first day in Israel, we went to the old city of Jerusalem and made our way to the western wall. It was an experience, to say the least. Getting to pray at the Western Wall with people of all types and with all different beliefs was chilling. The Western Wall is one of the walls of the temple mount—the temple where Jesus sat on the southern steps and said to his parents, “Why were you searching for me? Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house? (Luke 2:49)” The temple where Jesus shared parables and taught crowds of people.
Trying to summarize this trip in only 10 highlights is nearly impossible and there was so much more that we saw, learned, and experienced. Every day I find myself reliving the memories and thinking about the country of Israel. It is a country that is filled with conflict and people groups that are not in agreement with each other. Learning about the rich history and narrative of the country was eye opening and has made my heart yearn for peace for the people living there.