News

Experiencing Israel Differently

by Office of Marketing | January 24, 2014
Photo of group in Israeli airport
At the end of the fall semester, Dr. JoAnn Smith, Professor of Deaf Pastoral Studies, had the opportunity to lead a group of Deaf students and pastors on an odyssey through the Holy Land. Dr. Smith, along with her family, five VFCC students, VFCC Professor Ed Graham and a number of Deaf pastors with their families toured Israel – retracing the steps of the biblical figures of our faith.
 
The excursion came through the inspiration of a student. Karen Golembeski, a sophomore in the Deaf Pastoral Studies program, suggested the idea last year and after Dr. Smith had the trip approved, it was opened up to other Deaf students and ministers. This trip is believed to be the first Deaf group from an Assembly of God institution for higher education to extensively tour Israel. 

For the students in the Deaf Pastoral Studies program, the trip was completed in conjunction with Old Testament Survey – headed by Professor Graham. According to Dr. Smith, everything was made accessible to the students; as she put it, “it was a trip that was in their own language.” As a result, they were excited the whole way through; even the tour bus driver remarked how pleasing it was to see the group constantly smiling. “We went everywhere!” said Dr. Smith. “It was an amazing ten-day trip … I was just blown away by the magnitude and breadth of history.” 

The group spent a total of eight days sight-seeing. After beginning in Jaffa (the oldest port in the world), their route continued to Caesarea (where Gentiles first heard the Gospel from Peter), Mount Carmel (where Elijah challenged King Ahab and the prophets of Baal), Megiddo, Nazareth, the Sea of Galilee, Dan, Caesarea Philippi, Capernaum, Bethsaida, the Mount of Beatitudes, the Jordan River, Bethshean, Jericho, Bethany (where John baptized, Elijah and Elisha crossed the Jordan and Joshua led Israel into the Promised Land), the Dead Sea, Masada (sight of the Jewish rebellion against Rome), En Gedi (where David fled Saul), the Qumran Caves (where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered), Bethlehem and Jerusalem (including the Temple Mount, the Pool of Bethesda, Stephen’s Gate, the Upper Room, Mount Moriah, the Mount of Olives, the Garden of Gethsemane, the House of Caiaphas, the Wailing Wall, the Judgment Hall of Pilate, the Way of Suffering, Golgotha and the Southern Wall Excavations of The Temple).
 
“It made the Old Testament pop,” continued Dr. Smith. “Each one of the students told me, ‘I interpret the Bible so differently now.’” One great example of this includes their journey through Bethlehem and the American Sign Language (ASL) sign for "manger". The sign imitates a traditional wooden Roman manger; however, the authentic ancient manger in Bethlehem is actually carved in stone.
 
As one can imagine, this experience changed the lives of those who participated. The attendees will forever benefit and be blessed by this unique tour of the Holy Land; not only will they see scripture in a new light from here on, they will also see life in a whole new light.