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A mosque can be seen in an Arabic community in Israel, as viewed from a helicopter flying from Tel Aviv to the Golan Heights, an Israeli-occupied territory captured from Syria in 1967.
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Photo by Bobby Ross Jr.

Vignettes from Israel: Why these Christians travel to the Holy Land


Jesse and JoAnn Long in Caesarea on Israel's Mediterranean coast.

Jesse and JoAnn Long in Caesarea on Israel’s Mediterranean coast.

LCU professors tout ‘spiritual journey’

Jesse C. Long Jr.’s expertise in the Old Testament and archaeology comes in handy as he and JoAnn, his wife of 44 years, lead groups to the Middle East.

He is the dean of the Bible college at Lubbock Christian University in Texas, while she is a nursing professor at LCU.


Related: Is the Holy Land the Promised Land?


Most recently, they organized a 13-day spring break trip to Israel and Jordan.

“We are intentional about not just learning about, but experiencing, the Land of the Holy One,” Jesse Long said.

“We’ll have a devotional each evening,” he said. “My wife and I frame it as a spiritual journey.”

He wishes every Bible major could experience the Holy Land.

“It’s really a shame that it costs so much,” he said. “I think it changes the way that people read Scripture. It’s something that can be really formative.

“Especially a young person can really be formed spiritually. So that’s needed for all our Christian universities and schools, if we could make this available to students.”

“It changes the way that people read Scripture. It’s something that can be really formative.”


Clint Burnett at the Tel Shimron excavation site in Israel.

Clint Burnett at the Tel Shimron excavation site in Israel.

Following, kind of, in the footsteps of Jesus

For Clint Burnett, frequent trips to Israel make the Bible seem more concrete.

Burnett, who leads the Churches of Christ campus ministry at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, earned a Ph.D. in biblical studies with a New Testament focus from Boston College.


Related: In Israel, a missile attack and a monk stir reflection


“I don’t think I’ve had a religious experience as I’ve traveled,” Burnett said. “I can tell you that I’ve had a more profound appreciation for the Bible.

“As a historian and also someone who excavates, I know that as I’m walking, I’m not walking where Jesus walked ­— because he probably walked 4 or 5 feet below where I’m treading,” he added. “But it’s really, really cool. It makes it real that these are actual places that we read about.”

One memorable experience: He woke up to air raid sirens after missiles were fired from the Gaza Strip. But since his bedroom was that residence’s bomb shelter, he stayed put.

“It was a surreal kind of moment to think about how different life is there,” Burnett said.

“I’ve had a more profound appreciation for the Bible. … It makes it real that these are actual places that we read about.”


Dale Manor with the sherds of a broken strainer jar found at the Beth-Shemesh excavation site in Israel.

Dale Manor with the sherds of a broken strainer jar found at the Beth-Shemesh excavation site in Israel.

A gift that proved to be ‘worth every penny’

Since 2000, Dale W. Manor has served as the field director for the Tel Beth-Shemesh Excavation Project in Israel. Manor, professor of archaeology and Bible at Harding University in Searcy, Ark., first traveled to the Holy Land in the mid-1970s.

“It was a gift to me from my parents after I graduated from Pepperdine with my bachelor’s in Bible,” Manor said. “My dad said, ‘This trip will be worth every penny, over any class you ever took at the university, as far as enhancing your Bible understanding and so forth.’”


Related: The long road from Baghdad


His father was right, Manor said.

Over the years, he has traveled to Israel more than 30 times.

Since beginning work with the Tel Beth-Shemesh Excavation Project, he has made the trip almost every year, sometimes more than once, he said.

“I’m always learning something that I can use in a meaningful way to help illustrate and explain what’s going on in the Bible,” Manor said. “I really do believe it enriches the communication of the message to the congregation and the class.”

“I’m always learning something that I can use in a meaningful way to help illustrate and explain what’s going on in the Bible.”

Filed under: International Israel

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