Originally appeared here at The Jerusalem Post
, January 11th 2018
The 10 day trip, [Scott] Phillips said, is a “hybrid,” a “fifty-fifty mix” of the biblical and the modern – on the one hand trying to “strengthen the faith of the Christian college students,” and on the other hand trying to “connect them with modern Israel.”
The first goal is achieved by visiting the religious sites, by having Bible study on the buses; and the second, by traveling to the borders with Lebanon, Syria and Gaza, visiting the Knesset and Yad Vashem, and hearing from a wide array of speakers representing a spectrum of different views about Israel, the conflict with the Palestinians, and Jewish-Christian relations.
Phillips, who worked formerly as the Midwest Christian Outreach director for AIPAC, said Passages is very clear and upfront with the students about its goals and orientation.
“We tell the students that we want to be honest with them, and that we see Israel as a good place. We tell them that is who we are, it is what we do. We tell them we hope they believe that it is a good place when they leave, but that on the trip we are going to be non-prescriptive, and we are going to offer them various perspectives.”
Phillips said that he does not use the term “pro-Israel,” because “a lot of times that can connote that we are anti someone else. And that is something that this demographic say they are very concerned about.”
The demographic Phillips referred to consists of younger Evangelicals, those whose support for Israel – according to recent polls – is “waning or neutralizing.”
One of the founders of the program is Rivka Kidron, who served from 2009 to 2013 as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s adviser for Diaspora and Christian affairs. During that time she met numerous Evangelical leaders, and it became clear – as a result of the polling and anecdotal evidence – that the members of the younger generation were not as supportive of Israel as their parents, and that “if we didn’t do something to change that, we would lose support from that community in the future.”
Kidron said there were numerous reasons for the shift, including a media environment where there is more “biased and negative” coverage of Israel than in the past. “So unless they connect personally and learn firsthand, they don’t have the opportunity to understand the narrative beyond what they hear in the news. Passages serves as an antidote to what they are seeing,” she said.
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