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In response to the events of October 7th in Israel, we’ve reimagined our travel experiences for students. Our new focus emphasizes faith formation, education, humanitarian efforts in Israel, and advocacy for our Jewish friends.
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After the attacks of October 7th in Israel, we’ve revised our travel experiences for students—focusing on faith formation, education, humanitarian efforts in Israel, and advocacy for our Jewish friends.
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A Pilgrim’s Lament

Miroslav Volf warns that Christians must not be “accomplices in war, rather than agents of peace.” I wrestle with these words. Since October 7, my spirit has been that of Yehuda Halevi with “my heart in the east, and I in the uttermost west.” I am not the only one with my heart in the Holy Land. Manhattan has been engulfed by protests emanating from the conflict between Israel and Hamas. In November, the New York Public Library, where I work, was defaced by protestors advocating for a ceasefire in Gaza. In April, the quad between Columbia University’s Butler Library and Low Memorial Library was the epicenter of protests about the war that swept across the United States. On the Wednesday of Passover, I stepped foot on campus to return esoteric books on Hasmonean coinage only to walk through a jeremiad of a press conference led by House Speaker Mike Johnson against the protesters encamped in the quad below him. With both sides firmly ensconced in the righteousness of their own opinions, Columbia’s campus lived up to David French’s description of America in Bonnie Kristian’s book, Untrustworthy, as “awash in speech yet lacking in knowledge.”

In many ways, I know Israel better than most parts of my home country. My first pilgrimage to the Holy Land took place with Passages in 2019. Since then, I’ve returned five times to teach English in Galilee, study Jewish-Christian relations, volunteer on an archaeological dig, and fall more in love with the people made in the בצלם (b’tselem or image) of the Holy One. Each life snatched from us in this nightmare is beloved in the sight of Jesus. In every number or statistic, I see stories —the man I broke bread with in Kfar Aza who died defending his family in Netiv Ha’asara, the Galilean teenager I danced with now injured by Hezbollah, the students I played games with who are on the frontlines of war, and my brother in Christ who lost his father and teenage sister in Gaza. When I consider this war, I see the faces of my friends. My prayers are those of Romans 8 –groanings too deep for words.

I travel to the Holy Land to encounter the Holy One, but I do not choose when or where I can glimpse Him. On my last visit, 3 months into the war, I felt the love of Jesus the most not in Galilee or Calvary but rather in a Brutalist building in Tel Aviv. It was in this building that I met Ilay David. Ilay’s brother, Evyatar, spent his 23rd birthday being held hostage by Hamas. Ilay, 27, has put his life on hold to do everything he can to rescue his brother. Seeing Ilay’s deep love for Evyatar and his longing to free him from captivity in Gaza reminded me of my Savior’s love for me. I continue to pray for Evyatar and Ilay as three months in captivity have turned into six.

Munther Isaac, a pastor from Bethlehem, quipped in a Christmas broadcast that God is under the rubble in Gaza. What Isaac says is true, but only partially. The God under the rubble in Gaza was shot on the killing fields of a music festival in Re'im. He is with the hostages, prisoners and captives. Our Savior is also among the extra empty seats of those who grieved this Passover. Who, even in commemorating Moses’ victory over Pharoah,  also memorialized the suffering of their ancient enemies, the Egyptians, by spilling wine out of their glasses. In the face of unfathomable suffering, we worship the One who gathers every tear in a bottle, who binds up the brokenhearted and carries them close to His heart. Our hope is not grounded in a near-sighted optimism but rooted in the Suffering Servant. Mitri Raheb,  another pastor from Bethlehem, states that as Christians, our “hope is not a feeling. Hope is what you do.”

I struggle to express my grief and love for the Holy Land. “I’m sorry” or “my condolences” fall flat.

The phrase ցավդ տանեմ tsvat tanem, from Jerusalem’s Armenian Quarter comes closer. It loosely translates to “let me take your pain away.” Even that fails. I cannot heal such deep wounds. Only the Wounded Healer who answered the cries of Sarah, Hagar and Mary can do that. Until that day, I pray for peace from Galilee to Gaza. May Jerusalem always be a house of prayer for all nations. 

Daniel Anger

Passages alumnus, researcher and library worker in New York City

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