By Jessica Sokoloff
“Welcome to Israel. Your life will never be the same!”
This quote was the first thing BCC Salem saw as they stepped off the plane in Israel, and it proved to be quite accurate for this group of young people.
A unique opportunity
In mid-October, over 90 youth from BCC Salem traveled to Israel for the trip of a lifetime, visiting many historical sites and spending time together with several other youth groups. Through this trip, the Salem youth had the opportunity to learn more about Christian history and the life of Jesus, which brought the Bible to life in a deeply personal way for many.
Anti-terrorist training & Bedouin life
The highlight of the first day of travel was a visit to Caliber 3, the leading counter terrorism & security training facility in Israel where BCC Salem got an introduction to the Israeli Defense Force (IDF), learned some Krav Maga, and completed anti-terrorist training with active military members. It was very enlightening to hear about, and role play, some of the threats and situations Israeli people encounter every day.
When asked about this experience, Ella says, “I was so inspired by [the IDF’s] love and dedication to their country and how happy they were to have us visit. They motivated us throughout the training, and I’m really glad I tried everything and didn’t give up!”
After spending the night at a Bedouin camp and receiving an introduction to Bedouin life, the group woke up bright and early to watch the desert sunrise. Ellen says, “It was amazing to watch the stars at night and the sunrise in the morning and realize that Abraham, who was a Bedouin, and Jesus, had previously looked at these same stars and wandered in this same desert!”
Masada, the Dead Sea, and Gilgal
Day 3 took the group to the Masada fortress, where they hiked up the ramp to the ruins of King Herod’s palace and heard the gripping story of the Jews’ resistance against the Romans.
After a dip in the Dead Sea, they went on to visit Gilgal, where the Israelites camped after crossing the Jordan River.
Kevin enthusiastically shares, “We heard an encouraging message about stepping forward in faith like Joshua and Caleb did and surrendering ourselves completely to Christ, as well as how God will be with us like it says in Joshua 1:5: ‘I will never leave you or forsake you.’”
Jerusalem – The Holy City
“I want to give my whole heart to keep God’s commandments so He can mold me into who He wants me to be.”
The next location: Jerusalem, a site of historical and spiritual significance, proved to be a highlight for many. The first stop was the Mount of Olives, where it is written in the Bible that Jesus will one day return. After listening to a faith-building message, the group spent the day visiting other sites of Biblical significance like the Garden of Gethsemane and Mount Zion. The group also visited the Upper Room where Jesus had his last supper with his disciples.
Sasha shares: “The upper room was the most memorable experience for me. We heard about putting aside our own will to do God’s will, and sang the song ‘Bend me, mold me, help me thy word to obey,’ by Johan O. Smith. I want to give my whole heart to keep God’s commandments so He can mold me into who He wants me to be.”
After exploring the old city, BCC Salem joined another youth group from Denmark for dinner and a joint youth gathering.
After such a busy day in Jerusalem, it was nice for the group to begin the next morning at the tranquil Mount of Beatitudes – where Jesus gave the sermon on the mount, before driving to look over the Valley of Armageddon, and explore the village of Nazareth, where the young people experienced a ‘living museum’ that showed what a typical village would have been like in Jesus’ time.
On the last full day of travel within Israel, the youth experienced an eventful morning at the Golan Heights, where they heard amazing stories about the Yom Kippur War and other wars that have taken place, showing how God still fights for Israel – even in modern times. The group then went on to Caesarea, where much biblical history came to life in a beautiful coastal location. From Caesarea, they traveled north to see Mount Carmel, where Elijah defeated the prophets of Baal.
Conference at Shefayim Kibbutz
Continuing northward still, the group arrived at the Shefayim Kibbutz where they met up with a number of other youth groups to end the trip with an edifying international conference together. This was also a highlight of the trip for most, as many committed their lives to God and found their faith strengthened.
One statement that was repeated by many who were asked about the trip was: “Salem will never be the same!” Learning more about Jesus’ life made Him much more living to these young people, and this experience bound them together in a special way.
A new resolve
“I was left with a resolve to live a faithful life to my Creator”
David summed it up nicely: “Spending 10 days with a group of my closest friends, sharing the experience of witnessing places we’ve read about in the Bible and those stories coming to life as we looked out over the different landmarks and landscapes – there was so much to absorb and think about. It’s impossible to recall all the details, but in the end I was left with a resolve to live a faithful life to my Creator.”