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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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Travel Painting in Israel

This was one of the first sites we visited on our first day in Israel. It was amazing to stand on Mount Precipice and look over the Jezreel Valley. So many victories for God's people had happened in the valley and surrounding mountains, such as Mount Gilboa and Mount Carmel. The land was rich with agriculture, and I loved the way it looked like a patchwork quilt blanketed over Israel. Overall, the site reminded me God's power, protection, and faithfulness. I sketched the Jezreel Valley as I stood on Mount Precipice and later painted it on the bus.

On the opposite side of Mount Precipice stands Nazareth. I was amazed by the way you could look off the mountain in one direction and see fields of agriculture and then turn around and see the clusters of buildings on the hillside. Seeing rich agriculture and bustling cities all from one pace showed me two sides of Israel, and I knew I wanted to capture both. I began to sketch the town where Jesus grew up while standing on Mount Precipice just before we spent time exploring the city, and I later finished sketching and painting on the bus.

After exploring some of the remains of the church and synagogue at Capernaum, my group took some time off to the side to do a devotional under a tree by the Sea of Galilee. Afterward we all took some time to ourselves to reflect. There was another group there singing worship songs and many people scattered around the shore praying or writing. It was a very peaceful spot for reflection. I found a bench off to the side and painted the Sea of Galilee and the tree where my group had sat together to pray and read God's Word.

The Jordan River was one of the places I somewhat struggled with feeling like I was at a tourist attraction rather than a Biblical site. There were so many baptisms taking place, yet it was difficult for me to feel a sense of reverence as I passed "I was baptized in the Jordan River" t-shirts in the gift shop. Reading about Jesus' baptism with my group helped me to refocus and remember why we were visiting this site to begin with. Taking the time to sit on the side of the Jordan and paint the site using water from the river gave me time to reflect and imagine what Jesus' baptism might have been like.

Kfar Aza was a kibbutz we visited near Gaza. It seemed like such a happy and peaceful place on the surface, but as a woman who lived there began speaking to us, it became clear that things were not as they appeared at first glance. As I sketched a house from the community, I began jotting down notes from what she said about the effects of Gaza on her community around the edges. The page began to feel chaotic, cluttered, and somewhat messy. I chose to leave it that way, sketched out and scribbled over but unpainted, because I felt that this captured the rawness and chaos of the situation and of my thoughts on it as well.

Floating in the Dead Sea was an amazing experience. I kept starting to tread water out of habit, but then I'd remember I just had to float. I picked up some salt that was crystalized on the shore. The shore was packed with people and umbrellas, and I knew I wanted to capture that liveliness and color I saw as i looked out over the Dead Sea in my watercolor. I crushed up some salt from the Dead Sea and added it to my painting, which caused the sea in my painting to dry lighter and more splotchy. Once it was dry, I began to brush the salt off the page, but I was surprised to find that some bits of salt had stuck to the paper, adding texture and a bit of sparkle to the Dead Sea in my painting.

The Garden of Gethsemane was a place where we had some very intentional time set aside for reflection. I walked through the garden and noticed rosemary and red poppies growing everywhere, both symbolic of remembrance of the past and peace for the future. I thought of the way Jesus prayed in this garden: "not as I will, but as you will." It's a prayer I often struggle with for my own future, so it was meaningful to be at the place where Jesus wrestled with God's will but chose submission on our behalf. I found a spot o the edge of garden to pray, reflect, and paint what I saw.

We had a beautiful view of the Elah Valley in the morning fog. This was the valley where David defeated Goliath. We sat at the top of a hill overlooking the valley and read from 1 Samuel 17 as a group before taking individual time to reflect. It was amazing to remember how David had faced Goliath with only a few stones, leaving behind the armor that King Saul had offered and instead trusting God alone to protect him. It was a good reminder that when we fully trust God rather than relying on the strength of man, he fights our battles and uses us to accomplish his will, even when the obstacles in our path may seem insurmountable. I sat on the edge of the hilltop and sketched the valley to later watercolor as a reminder of this truth.

Before this trip, I had not visited a beach in 7 years. I was so excited to have time to go down to the water, walk along the shore, and collect shells at a place far less crowded than the Dead Sea. It was incredibly peaceful to stand there and watch the waves meet the shore. Although we ended up having multiple flight cancellations that kept us in Israel for 2 extra days, this was originally supposed to be our last day in the Holy Land. I could think of no better way to say goodbye than to stand on the coast and paint Israel on last time using water from the Mediterranean.

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