Hillsdale stu­dents will have the oppor­tunity the visit the Holy Land this summer through Pas­sages. Heidi Yacobin | Courtesy

For the first time in four years, Pas­sages, spon­sored by the Philos Project and the Museum of the Bible Foun­dation, is offering an addi­tional oppor­tunity for Hillsdale stu­dents to travel to Israel over the summer in addition to their annual Christmas Break trip. For $750, stu­dents can spend 11 days in Israel between June 30 and July 10.

Appli­ca­tions are due March 1, and Pas­sages will notify appli­cants by March 15 if they have been accepted to the program.

Pro­fessor of History Paul Rahe, who works with Pas­sages to garner student interest along with Assistant Pro­fessor of Religion Donald West­blade, pro­jected that Pas­sages will have trouble filling all their spaces this trip and believed that they will accept “just about everyone who applies.”

According to Rahe, Pas­sages offered Hillsdale a summer bus the first year they approached the college; however, because most Hillsdale stu­dents intern over the summer, there were fewer appli­ca­tions than there were over Christmas break.

According to senior Emma McCormack, the campus ambas­sador for Pas­sages, the oppor­tunity to go in the summer may provide a better expe­rience.

“The summer trip is a rare oppor­tunity for Hillsdale,” McCormack said. “If the group is smaller, par­tic­i­pants won’t be as crowded at the sights, will have the oppor­tunity to get to know each other better, and there may even be a couple of sights smaller groups can go that the huge groups can’t.”

The pil­grimage begins in Tel Aviv. From there, the itin­erary includes Jaffa, Nazareth Village, Jerusalem, the Sea of Galilee, the City of David, and the Garden of Geth­semane, each stop inter­spersed with lec­tures on Israel’s spir­itual and political history. Pil­grims will have the oppor­tunity to pray and reflect at the Garden Tomb, the Monastery of St. Anne, and the Wailing Wall, to swim in the Dead Sea, and to walk the Palm Sunday Road.

Benzing House Director Emily Barnum ’18 trav­elled to Israel twice with Pas­sages, first as a sophomore and again this winter as a chap­erone. She said Israel “is a very com­pli­cated place and an intense place, but I loved it and am drawn to it.”

“I think my favorite part def­i­nitely was the people I met,” Barnum said. ”And I feel like that is a key part of the Pas­sages trip. They let stu­dents hear from Israeli sol­diers, we went to a kibbutz in the Gaza Strip, and we heard from a woman and her family who have expe­ri­enced the ten­sions living there. I think just getting that first-hand tes­timony of what it’s like in Israel is really com­pelling.”

For senior Sammy Roberts, Israel is most beau­tiful for the same reasons that it is most tur­bulent.

“It’s very much a Western country; it was settled by Jews from Europe, and so it’s very familiar in many ways. They have Jewish McDonald’s all over the place,” Roberts said. “But it’s also very exotic, you see Eastern Chris­tianity there. It’s nothing like you’ll encounter any­where else in Europe or America, but even in other parts of the world because in history, really, Jerusalem is the boundary line between the East and the West, between these two pillars of human civ­i­lization. You get this amazing blend that you don’t get any­where else.”

Roberts first went to Jerusalem with Pas­sages his sophomore year, but since then he has made it an annual tra­dition, returning as a Pas­sages Fellow for the past two winters. With grad­u­ation in the spring close on the horizon, Roberts accepted an offer to join the Pas­sages team as Director of Catholic Ini­tia­tives.

Both Barnum and Roberts said the Pas­sages trip to Israel was a trans­for­mative expe­rience.

“I don’t know how to explain it, but the intensity is just really fas­ci­nating, and it feels really real,” Barnum said. “Faith matters when you’re in Israel, and I think some­times here, we lose touch with it because it’s not like you’re actually warring over a piece of land and what nar­rative properly belongs to that piece of land. So it’s a really fas­ci­nating place.”

Sim­i­larly, touched by his expe­ri­ences, Roberts said he is eager to con­vince inter­ested stu­dents to apply for the pil­grimage.

“The Pas­sages Israel trip is this perfect com­bi­nation of going to the reli­gious sites, but also learning about the modern country and seeing the way the dynamic unfolds there,” Roberts said, encour­aging stu­dents to apply. “It’s just incredible, espe­cially over the summer.”