Two groups of Hillsdale College students attended a 10-day trip to Israel over Christmas break to learn about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and visit biblical sites. Coordinated by Passages in partnership with The Philos Project, 41 students attended the general Passages trip to Israel and nine attended a specialized trip for student journalists.
Senior Jonathan Moy said he attended the general tour both for spiritual reasons and to absorb the culture in order to better understand the conflict.
“It’s one thing to hear from Americans,” Moy said. “It’s better to hear from Israeli and Palestinian citizens.”
The group visited historical and holy sites like the Garden of Gethsemane and Hezekiah’s Tunnel, stayed in Jerusalem, and heard from various speakers on the conflict in Israel.
“Everyone in America thinks they have a solution for Israel and Palestine,” Moy said. “Passages wants us to leave with more questions than answers. I feel like that was accomplished.”
In addition to the group of Hillsdale students on the general Passages tour of Israel, a group of Hillsdale College journalists were part of the first Dateline Jerusalem group.
Arranged by Vivian Hughbanks ‘16 and Nicole Foy, a reporter at the Idaho Press Tribune, the group attended journalism-specific events in addition to visiting locations typical of other groups. The Dateline Jerusalem trip lasted 10 days and was attended by 29 students from 16 schools.
“I think it’s important for student journalists interested in pursuing a career as a foreign correspondent in the region to have a solid grasp of the geopolitical significance and religious heritage of the Holy Land,” Hughbanks said in an email.
In addition to visiting locations such as the Garden of Gethsemane, the Western Wall, and Nazareth, the group also heard from various reporters and other media contacts, as well as visited a newsroom in Jerusalem.
“Our bus had an expanded itinerary,” Hughbanks said. “In addition to the typical sites and speakers, we met with journalists and media watchdog organizations, toured the newsroom of [Israeli wire service] Tazpit Press Service, and included time during the program for students to conduct interviews and work on their stories.”
Each student was required to write an article on the trip.
Senior and journalism minor Brendan Clarey said he was surprised at how much journalism was on the trip.
“The journalism part was really appealing to me,” Clarey said. “It’s not just a pilgrimage.”
Clarey added that going on the trip impacted how he will report and consume international news.
“In America, we like to have binary conflicts,” Clarey said. “It’s way more complicated than the news media wants to let on.”
Clarey added that he was impacted in particular by a speech about bias in the wire services, which provide articles for outlets around the world.
“I’m going to think twice before reading Associated Press or Reuters,” he said.
The dateline tour was also the first Passages group to visit the Temple Mount complex.
“The schedule was packed — I think we were all completely exhausted by the end of the trip — but each participant filed at least one story before we got on the plane home,” Hughbanks.
Hughbanks said that, overall, this first journalism trip went well.
“We had a great group of student journalists from across the country, and each took advantage of different angles the itinerary provided,” Hughbanks said. “I’m hoping that the excellent work of the participants on this trip will set a good precedent for future trips.”