A new subsidized program will enable Christian student leaders from universities and colleges across the United States to experience Israel firsthand.
Based on the highly successful Taglit-Birthright program, Covenant Journey takes students looking to become advocates for Israel while strengthening their Christian faith, on an 11-day trip to the Jewish state.
Israel wholeheartedly supports the project, which was unveiled Friday at the Israeli Embassy in Washington as part of the embassy's Annual Christian Solidarity Event..
Donations from sponsors including the Museum of the Bible and the Philos Project will enable participating students to tour ancient Biblical sites as well as discover modern-day Israel for only $500.
“There's one thing better than standing with Israel, and that's standing in Israel," Israeli Ambassador to the US, Ron Dermer, stressed. "It is critical to bring the next generation of leaders in the Christian Community to Israel."
"If they walk in the places where the patriarchs and the prophets and the kings and that young Rabbi from the Galilee walked, then they will stand with Israel here and they will strengthen their Christian identity."
It is rare, if not unprecedented, for an official representative of Israel to speak out in favor of strengthening Christian faith. Mentioning Jesus alongside the kings and prophets is a tricky matter, as well, for an ambassador of the Jewish state, and Dermer skirted possible controversy by calling Jesus "the rabbi from Galilee."
The chairman of the board for the Museum of the Bible and one of two keynote speakers for the event, Steve Green, concurred with Dermer's sentiment but was more explicit.
“Visiting the Holy Land – where Abraham journeyed and gave birth to the nation of Israel, David conquered Goliath, and the Prophets and Apostles wrote and lived – and walking where Jesus gave his ministry, is without question, a life-changing experience," he said.
"As young adults experience Israel firsthand, their faith is strengthened, their knowledge of the Bible is increased and their understanding of the connection between the Bible and the Land of Israel is put on solid ground," Green explained.
"It will create a foundational platform from which they can become goodwill ambassadors for Israel and the Jewish people, and the Covenant Journey participants will never be the same."
The other keynote speaker, philanthropist Paul Singer, also focused on how seeing Israel firsthand would influence Covenant Journey's participants.
“By enabling Christian students to visit the land of Israel and see it firsthand, Covenant Journey is raising up a generation that will not only be stronger in their faith, but will also be introduced to the real-life people who live there. The students will discover ancient Israel and modern Israel at the same time."
"And for me, as Jew, that’s huge," Singer continued. "At this point Covenant Journey has become part of my journey, and I’m proud to say that I support everything that it stands for."
"I truly believe that Jews, Christians, and all of Western civilization will be reaping the fruit of this project for years to come."
Hundreds of students are set to embark on Covenant Journey trips this summer, with many more to follow during next year's winter break as well as in the years to come.