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Students return from March travel to Israel

Students return from March travel to Israel
Meredith Berry-Toon

When Matt Glaser '81, Canterbury’s Director of Information Technology, realized that there was a two-week opening in March for faculty to offer a trip for students, he immediately jumped on the opportunity to lead a tour of Israel. “I have been to Israel many times and always felt it is a place that all, whatever their faith, should visit,” he reflected . “While Canterbury has many great trips—including to Lourdes, France, to take pilgrimage—I thought the opportunity for Canterbury students to see where so many world religions began would be awe-inspiring.”

The group flew into Tel-Aviv and spent two days exploring the coastal city. They wandered through bustling alleyways and stall-lined markets on Friday evening, observing families and friends gathered outside, enjoying the late afternoon sun before selecting fish for Shabbat dinner.

After Tel-Aviv, the tour led students north to the Sea of Galilee. The group spent two days walking in the footsteps of Jesus' youth, donning traditional shepherd gear before exploring the historical and biblical cities of Caesarea, Nazareth, Caesarea Philippi, and Haifa.

“My favorite part was visiting the Dead Sea, Masada, and Ein Gedi,” noted Maddie Sweeney ‘22, a Third Form student who signed up for the trip as soon as the information was released in the fall. “I have always wanted to visit the Dead Sea, to visit a place that I had learned about in class in person. The trip was incredibly memorable for that as well as other impactful reasons.”

After floating in the salty waters and slabbing gobs of mud on their bodies from the shores of the Dead Sea, the group camped outside in Bedouin tents and spent an evening around a campfire, baking pita, chopping vegetables, and stirring in lentils. The next morning, they all woke up early enough to see the sunrise over the hills that round the landscape between Jerusalem and Nazareth.

“Through this trip, I wanted to give student the opportunity to understand Israel for themselves and to develop their own perspective,” noted Matt. “This initial group has now developed their own, constantly changing narrative of such a widely-discussed region.”

While driving through the north of the country, the tour stopped at a peak in the Golan Heights. From there, students had a view into Syria and Lebanon with Mount Hermon in the distance. The group observed the UN Headquarters poised at the fenced barrier between the designated end of Israel and could even hear the motion of the Syrian city of Damasus from a distance.  During the group’s final reflections on their trip, each student noted this experience as an impactful moment, peering from their physical elevation into the sprawling valley below as the view sloped toward the capital.

The last few days of the tour in Jerusalem brought the different facets of the trips—religion, politics, people, and personal narratives—together.

As reflected by Meredith Berry-Toon, one of the faculty chaperones, “As a group, we discussed our growing personal narratives about the region. Distinctly different than what we hear at home or in domestic news, what had we observed? Been told? Found out from the people we met? None of us have set answers, but the time moving in and out of Israeli and Palestinian-controlled regions definitely helped shape a more nuanced personal perspective, especially moving in and out of checkpoints in the West Bank.”

The trip came to culmination on the final Friday afternoon. After visiting the Austrian Hospice (a sanctuary in the middle of the city with sweeping views of the Dome of the Rock, Western Wall, and Church of the Holy Sepulchre), the group began their final journey to the Church via the site of the Stations of the Cross. While finishing up a history lesson at the fourth station, a pilgrimage of Christian monks and and other individuals forged their way through the tiny street. While the group  (over 100 people) recited the Hail Mary in four languages (English, Hebrew, Spanish, and Latin) in front of the station, the Muslim call to prayer began to ring from the Mosque that was physically next door. Both prayers were rung out in tandem, sharing the cramped air together. “Many Hasidic Jewish individuals wove their way through the street as the pilgrimage paused. The group stood there silently, surrounded by the sounds before moving on our way,” noted Meredith. “We were stopped to observe this coalescence because of the size of the pilgrimage. Otherwise, those around us kept moving, observably unphased by the intersection of these three and seemingly very partitioned ways of life. In this alleyway, it was all just part of a Friday evening in the city.”

Those interested in learning more about this trip and other international and domestic travel opportunities for Canterbury students, please contact Julio Omaña, Director of International Travel at

Israel Photos