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July 29, 2010July 29, 2010  0 comments  Uncategorized

A dozen Christian graduate and undergraduate students are visiting Israel as part of a unique tour designed to help them grasp historical, modern and spiritual perspectives of the Holy Land and to be able to take that outlook back with them to their universities and their countries.

The Eagles Wings’ Israel Experience is underway right now for its seventh consecutive year with 12 students touring the country and meeting with government leaders, Holocaust survivors and people from the various cultures represented in the nation.

The tour “allows them to see the complexity facing Israel and the Middle East and the reality of Israel’s working democracy and continual efforts towards peace,” according to Michael Onifer of Eagles Wings, who is leading the group. “It also allows them to see the contrast between treatment of women, and religious and ethnic minorities in Israel in contrast to other nations in the Middle East.”



Onifer said the program supplies “emerging Christian leaders” with an experience that will help them present Israel’s story from a firsthand perspective when they get back home. So far, 100 students hailing from nations such as the United States, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, Finland, Venezuela, China, Kenya and Brazil have gone through the program. 

Havilah Mendez, 20, of Baltimore is in Israel for her first time. When she joins Messiah College in the fall she will be a sophomore political science major. Seeing for herself the rocket battered city of Sderot on the Gaza border in southern Israel and the Western Wall -- two controversial places in the headlines -- helped her form her own world view, she said.

“These two places are something I will remember when I go back to school,” she said.

“Israel has a lot to offer especially to my own generation,” she added. “Israelis are so welcoming and so tolerant, something I think that people in my generation don’t necessarily know. Israeli young people are like American young people. It is an energetic and lively environment. I would encourage people to come travel and visit, not just the spiritual sites, but cultural ones as well.”

Amely Schneider of Rodgau, Germany has a similar message to bring back to Christians in her country.

“First I’m going to tell them what I saw on the spiritual side, like for example the Golden Gate or the Western Wall,” the 22-year-old math and chemistry student said. “On the other hand it is important for me to show the political side, that Germany should stand up for Israel and support the Jewish people.”

Seeing life in Sderot, she said, opened her mind to a completely different world in which some people live. On the spiritual side, Amely said touring the tunnels under the Western Wall was like going back in time.

“It is such a holy place for the Jews and we, as Christians, have our roots in Judaism,” she said.

 



AJ Bennett of Toronto, studying international business at at York University and the University of Phoenix, is the campus coordinator for Christians United for Israel. Although this is his first trip to Israel, Bennett grew up with stories about the Israelites while living in a town rife with racism and anti-Semistism.

Now, he said, simply walking the streets of Jerusalem has been an affirmation of his faith.

“The world has been blind to Israel’s justice and I felt that confirmed being here,” he said.

His visit has also confirmed another goal: to bring groups to Israel and engage communities not necessarily interested in making pilgrimages to the Holy Land.

“Jerusalem is pivotal, central to the Bible,” he said. “It makes no sense to not visit a land that is mentioned from Genesis to Revelation and the story is not finished yet, so to have the opportunity to step into the story, where the story will finish.”

Just as Muslims make a pilgrimage to Mecca every year, Christians should rise to the challenge to visit Israel instead of just blessing the nation from afar, Bennett said.

Students have gone on to use their experiences in Israel when they got back home. One helped write a speech for Sen. Sam Brownback to Israeli parliament. Another worked at the White House during President George Bush’s administration. Recently, an Israel Experience student interned with Jerusalem’s deputy mayor and another is now the national coordinator on college campuses across the U.S. for Eagles Wings’ Day of Prayer for the Peace of Jerusalem.

The Eagles Wings’ Israel Experience is possibly the only Christian zionist program of its kind that operates on a collegiate level focused on academics and advocacy. Applications are accepted at www.eagleswings.to. The scholarship program is open to all university and graduate students with college-level English.

 

By Nicole Jansezian, Travelujah

Nicole Jansezian writes for Travelujah.com, the only Christian social network focused on travel to the Holy Land. Travelujah is a vibrant online community offering high quality Christian content, user and expert blogs, travel tours and planning services for people interested in connecting with or traveling to the Holy Land.



March 15, 2011March 15, 2011  0 comments  Uncategorized

“There will be a time in the future when Galilee of the Gentiles, which lies along the road that runs between the Jordan and the sea, will be filled with glory.” Isaiah 9:1 (New Living Translation)

A new project has the potential to fulfill a major need in the Galilee for tourist accommodations and perhaps a bit of biblical prophecy as well.

Anne Ayalon, founder and president of The Galilean Resort and Campus, is spearheading an ambitious project that is aimed at drawing Christians to the area for vacations, conferences, concerts, educational courses as well as spiritual revival in this highly significant region.

“The more you develop the Galilee in the right way, the more pilgrims will come,” she said. The concept of the resort and campus, Ayalon said, will inspire “spiritual renewal in the area.”

Currently the Galilee is benefitting less from the surge in tourism to Israel than other popular destinations such as Jerusalem. Ayalon said that many Christians, polled as they leave Israel, express a desire to spend more time in the Galilee. But with a dearth of accommodations around the lake, many tourists visit the area without spending the night. Even if they do, few tours offer more than one or two nights in the region where Jesus spent the bulk of his ministry.

“What’s going on in Israel for Christians is in the Galilee,” Ayalon said. “All the places that have meaning to the Christians are in the Galilee.”

Much of the activities in the Gospels were centered in or near this region. Jesus crossed the lake several times. Here, he called many of his disciples to follow him. Several churches have been built memorializing miracles he performed and sermons that Jesus preached in this region. The Galilean is designed to capitalize on that, allowing pilgrims to park in the area for longer than a day or two. The resort features 250 rooms, but the center include much more than just accommodations. The grounds and adjacent campus will include a performing arts center suitable for lectures, concerts, films. The campus will host day and evening courses. An amphitheater on the lake will seat 1,500. The grounds would also be complete with a library, chapel, shops, spa, pool and a conference center. Approximately $60 million is needed to develop the project.

And while the amenities will make the resort attractive to Christian groups, The Galilean is not just envisioned to fill a tourism need for Christians, but to add spiritual and educational dimensions to the time they spend in Israel, starting with learning about the Jewish roots of faith at the source.

David Zwebner, founder and managing director, said one mission of The Galilean is to “create a better understanding between Christians and Jews.”

To that end, Jewish rabbis and teachers will be part of the campus outreach. Noted rabbis and pastors including Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, Robert Stearns, Brad Young and others, are also on the board of the Galilean and will help in developing the curriculum which will focus on educating Christians about their faith’s Jewish roots. Ayalon said the goal is to build “bridges of understanding and respect between the two faiths” and to educate Christians about the Jewish roots of their faith and understanding God’s purposes for Israel.

The concept is backed by a line-up of significant evangelical Christians from the US and based in Israel. including Gary Bauer, David Cerullo, John Hagee, Pat Robertson and Michael Little from CBN and Jay Sekulow. Naim Khoury of Bethlehem is also backing the idea as is Brazilian Pastor Rene Terra Nova.

In 2010 - a record year for tourism to Israel - 2.3 million Christians comprised 69 percent of all tourists to the country. This number is up from 497,000 in 2004. But that is still a pittance compared to the 2.2 billion Christians worldwide today and the 34 million tourists to the Vatican annually.

Should the project succeed, Galilee could eventually rival Jerusalem as a spiritual Mecca for Christians with its idyllic setting on a swath of land upon or near where Jesus fed the 5000, preached the Sermon on the Mount, and healed all who were brought to him.

“It is these places that are going to create spiritual enrichment for the Christians that are going to come here,” Ayalon said.

 

By Nicole Jansezian, Travelujah

Nicole Jansezian writes for www.travelujah.com, the only Christian social network focused on travel to the Holy Land. Travelujah is a vibrant online community offering high quality Christian content, user and expert blogs, travel tours and planning services for people interested in connecting with or traveling to the Holy Land.


May 26, 2011May 26, 2011  0 comments  Uncategorized

Two organizations, one Jewish and one Christian, have released statements on the relationship between Jews and Christians, encouraging understanding and dialogue between the two religions with certain established boundaries.

The Israel-based Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding and Cooperation and the American-based Hebraic Heritage Christian Center both released statements on Tuesday defending the other religion and promoting mutual understanding and cooperation between members of the faith. They recognize the potential to partner together in the spreading of a monotheistic religion based on the God of Israel.

The release of the statements is groundbreaking, especially for an Orthodox Jewish organization.

christian, jewish relations“From an Orthodox perspective we’ve never really dialogued with Christians officially,” David Nekrutman, executive director of the CJCUC, told Travelujah, the only Christian travel social networking site. “The statement is solely the opinion of the CJCUC - it doesn’t represent world Jewry, but it should be seen as a catalyst of conversation.”

Tension and misunderstanding have long marked the relationship between Christians and Jews on a theological and religious level. Centuries of mistrust, plus theological differences, have driven a wedge between the two religions. But an awakening among Christians, particularly Evangelicals, has stirred a pro-Israel sentiment and a desire by many to seek out the Jewish roots of the Christian faith.

Nekrutman said that it would be prudent for Israel to reach out to the Christian hand extended in friendship toward the Jewish state.

“We can ignore the friendship (Christians) have extended to us,” he said. “Or we could take the approach that we wish to have this long overdue conversation and see if we can work together to better the relationship.”

christian, jewish relationsCJCUC’s Founder Rabbi Shlomo Riskin recognizes that many in different streams of Christianity have become sincere  friends of the Jewish people and the State of Israel. “It is vital that we strengthen our relationship with them. We are certain that through these relational dialogues we will find far more which unites us than divides us,” he said.

According to the HHCC, based in Atlanta, the aim is to usher in “new era of Christian-Jewish relations based on mutual respect and support.”

“As Christians, we benefit from the input of Jewish scholars and spiritual leaders into our understanding of the faith of Abraham and the Hebrew Scriptures. As Christians we also share the Jewish call to bless all people,” the HHCC statement reads.

christian, jewish relationsHHCC President John Garr said Christians must recognize that “they are indebted to the Jewish people of history and the present for the core elements of their faith.”

Both statements draw lines that should not be crossed and highlight areas where Christians and Jews will continue to disagree. The Christian statement says there should not be any active proselytization of Jews.

Riskin and his organization have been criticized by Jewish groups who say that Jews should not associate with Christians for fear of conversion.

“When you’re pioneering you are going to have people criticize what you are doing,” Nekrutman said. “The criticism comes from a minority group that doesn’t have the backing of the major Jewish world.”

The CJCUC statement has been years in the making. The center, located in Efrat, has long hosted Christian groups for day long educational experiences, tours of the Efrat area, seminars and dialogue. Nekrutman said tourists may come and interact with the people of the land.

“What better way to experience the land than with the people here in an open honest dialogue?” he said. “Tens of thousands of people have come through and walked away knowing something unique has happened. You walk away with a difference experience of Israel and a different approach in how to look at the Bible.”

The CJCUC statement concludes: “If Jews and Christians can become partners after nearly 2,000 years of theological delegitimization and physical conflict, then peace is possible between any two peoples anywhere. That p
eace would be our most powerful witness to God’s presence in human history and to our covenantal responsibility to carry God’s blessing to the world. It is the very essence of which the messianic dream is made of.”

The full statements can be read here for CJCUC and here for HHCC.

 

 

By Nicole Jansezian, Travelujah

Nicole Jansezian writes for Travelujah, the leading Christian social network focused on connecting Christians to the Holy Land. People can learn, plan and share their Holy Land tour and travel experiences on Travelujah.


October 3, 2011October 3, 2011  1 comments  Uncategorized

 

At a time when Israel faces caustic criticism and a rising tide of anti-Semitism from nations around the world, Christians gathered in Jerusalem - and thousands more tuned into a live broadcast - to pray during the Global Day of Prayer for the Peace of Jerusalem on Sunday.


This year's attendees included an array of Christians including Palestinians taking part in the Jerusalem event. Around the world, 300,000 churches had signed up to host their own gatherings to pray while the event was broadcast live on God TV, a Christian satellite channel.


“It is incredibly moving to see so many Christians who have come together for the purpose of praying for the peace of Jerusalem,” columnist Michael Freund, director of Shavei Israel, told Travelujah. “These people sincerely love Israel and they believe it is part of their obligation to bless Israel. We gladly welcome them.”


Christian leaders from Jerusalem and around the world called for prayer including Rebecca Brimmer, director of Bridges for Peace, who noted that the supplication was originating from and were prayed for the city where God chose to put his name. This was the first time that a Catholic priest joined the line up in the Global Day of Prayer for the Peace of Jerusalem. A pastor from Indonesia, the country with the largest Muslim population in the world, also prayed for Israel.


christian, jewish relationsRobert Stearns, executive director of Eagles’ Wings, and founder of the global prayer day, said this year's prayers for the city were especially poignant and timely.


“The need has never been greater,” he told Travelujah. “The whole world is taking sides regarding Jerusalem.”


Stearns also noted that in his 10 years organizing this event that cooperation between believers has never been stronger. Palestinian Christians prayed for the peace of the city alongside Jews and international Christians. Prayer was also lifted up for persecuted Christians around the world and for Israel's neighbors, including the Palestinians.


“We are not praying because we have all the answers,” Stearns said. “We are praying because we need God's wisdom.”


Gidon Ariel, an Orthodox Jew who runs Root Source, which promotes understanding and cooperation between Jews and Christians, said that Israel gets to know who her friends her during the tough times.


“This (event) speaks to Israel that you have friends and you are not alone,” he told Travelujah. “These Christians are taking up what they believe to be their responsibility as believers in the God of Israel as he wrote in his Bible to (pray for the peace of Jerusalem).”


Knesset Member Gila Gamliel, deputy chair for the Knesset Christian Allies Caucus, and Naomi Tsur, deputy mayor of Jerusalem, were some of the Israeli dignitaries who addressed the event.


By Nicole Jansezian, Travelujah


Nicole Jansezian writes for Travelujah, the leading Christian social network focused on connecting Christians to the Holy Land. People can learn, plan and share their Holy Land tour and travel experiences on Travelujah.

 


November 20, 2011November 20, 2011  2 comments  Uncategorized

Archaeologists and researchers from Hebrew University have deciphered an inscription bearing the name of Frederick II written in Arabic, declaring him king of Jerusalem, right before he peacefully conquered the city through a treaty rather than a battle.


The discovery is unique because it is the only Crusader inscription in the Arabic language found in the Middle East. Frederick II was the Holy Roman Emperor. The inscription reads: “Frederick II, 1229 of the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus the Messiah.” Professor Moshe Sharon and Ami Shrager of Hebrew University deciphered the inscription.

 

 

Researchers did not expect that a Christian king would have written his title in Arabic, the language of the Muslims who were the main combatants of the crusaders at the time. The Crusades, which stretched frmo 1095 to 1291, were religious wars designed to restore Christianity to the holy places in and near Jerusalem.


Frederick II led the Sixth Crusade – and won Jerusalem through diplomacy, not war.


“Frederick II led the Sixth Crusade of 1228 to 1229 and succeeded, without resorting to arms, in achieving major territorial gains for the Crusader kingdom,” Sharon said. “His most important feat was the handing over of Jerusalem to the Crusaders by the Egyptian sultan al-Malik al-Kamil as a result of an armistice agreement the two rulers signed in 1229.”


Before signing the agreement, Frederick fortified the castle of Jaffa, and apparently left in its walls two inscriptions, one in Latin and the other in Arabic. The small bit of the Latin inscription that remains was previously attributed to Frederick II, Sharon said.


Frederick had a colorful reign in Jerusale. Sharon said he opened a zoo and a university plus had a harem that included a Muslim woman.


The Latin portion of the inscription was partially preserved, enough to ascribe it since the end of the nineteenth century, to Frederick II. But the Arabic portion of the inscription baffled researchers for some time.


“It’s not so easy to read Arabic inscriptions, and particularly this one, which was written in an unusual script, and it is on stone and it is 800 years old,” Sharon told LiveScience. “It was written by an artist and this artist decided to create a special script for this royal inscription and it took us a very long time until we were able to find out that, in fact, we were reading a Christian inscription.”


The unique Arabic inscription is almost completely intact. It lists all of the titles of Frederick II. Even in Sicily, where Frederick’s main royal palace was located, no Arabic inscription has been found regarding his title.

 

 

Apparently, Frederick II, despite having been excommunicated by Pope Gregory IX, crowned himself king of Jerusalem in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. He knew Arabic and maintained a close relationship with the Egyptian royal family.


Sharon said that it was unheard of to find a Christian ruler in Jerusalem who knew Arabic, was interested in Islam and had Muslim scientists and ambassadors in his court.

 

By Nicole Jansezian


Nicole Jansezian writes for Travelujah, the leading Christian social network focused on connecting Christians to the Holy Land. People can learn, plan and share their Holy Land tour and travel experiences on Travelujah.


 


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