[an error occurred while processing this directive] This article is from the EMU News Archive. The approximate date of publication was in September 2006. Current EMU news is available at www.emu.edu/news
by Laura Lehman Amstutz
The Middle East is often in the news, but seldom do people from North America get to meet people who live there.
Next spring, Dorothy Jean Weaver, professor of New Testament at Eastern Mennonite Seminary, and Kevin Clark, adjunct instructor at EMS , will lead a group to Israel/Palestine to tour the country and meet with Jews, Muslims and Palestinian Christians who live in the region.
"Places, People and Prayers, a cross-cultural encounter with the Holy Land " will take place May 4-23, 2007 . Weaver and Clark will lead the 23-day tour that will include touring Jerusalem , Bethlehem , Nazareth and Galilee .
"This trip takes people to the world of the Bible," said Weaver. "That's one of the reasons I put places first in the title. My assumption is that the first reason and the most obvious reason that people think they want to go there is to see the places." The tour will take in many of the traditional tourist sites of Israel/Palestine, such as the Church of the Nativity, the Via Dolorosa and the Sea of Galilee .
"Once you have been there, you can never read the biblical scenes around Galilee in quite the same way," Clark said. "The vision of it always comes to mind."
Although visiting the places will be a key component of the trip one unique aspect is the opportunity to meet and have conversations with various people who live in that region.
"We have a lot of contact with people that live in that part of the world. We talk with them regularly in what we call 'people to people conversations,'" said Weaver. "Otherwise, we're just going from one pile of old stones or one ancient building to another without paying attention to the people living in this world. This makes the trip unique."
Weaver has spent several years cultivating relationships with Jews, Palestinian Christians and Muslims in the area. She said, "We'll have lots of opportunity to meet with people - Jewish people, Palestinians, Muslims and Christians and talk with them one-on-one."
"These conversations are essential to the trip," said Weaver. "I think it's also important to go there as Christians and as North Americans, to see the current situation that exists. We have a very special role to play in the circumstances as they are currently shaped in the Middle East .
"One of the joys for me in the trip is helping people to work through the their thoughts and feelings as they see the effect of U.S. and Israeli policies, as well as what's going on in the West Bank itself," said Clark .
Because of the emotional nature of the trip, the group will also spend time worshipping with Christians and Jews, as well as having daily prayer time together to help them process the things they see and experience on the trip.
"Because we become a community together, we need to deal with the emotional and theological experiences that challenge us," Clark commented. "We gather together in the evening for an opportunity to recognize that God is with us and to listen to each other as we struggle together through difficult issues."
He continued, "We're not just there to take in information but that we're there as part of a spiritual journey as well. We hear the conversations of those who are doing work in the land, and we see the sights that are familiar to us through scripture, but we also integrate those together in a journey of faith.
Seminary credit for the tour is available through Eastern Mennonite Seminary. The cost of the tour is $4,112.
For more information, visit www.emu.edu/seminary/crosscultural or call Dorothy Jean Weaver (540) 432-4276