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Adventure in the Promised Land with ICEJ’s Israel Impact Tour for Young Adults

ICEJ USA is bringing the next generation of Israel advocates to the promised land.

It’s 8:00 a.m. on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, and the sunrise is glistening on the water. A group of 20 Christians have boarded a boat to sail the path that Jesus walked. Although hundreds of such Christian tours commence every day, this one is different—its attendees are all young adults from 12 states across the United States.

ICEJ USA staff members Peter Ecenroad and John Vedder, along with Israeli tour guide Eli Biton, are eager to take the group to Israel’s most meaningful locations for the Christian faith.

Looking out over the group taking photos, Ecenroad shared, “It’s everyone’s first time in Israel, and they are so excited to soak up Israel’s history.”

Ecenroad continued, “I’ve been working with young adult trips to Israel for the past 20 years, and it bothered me when the coronavirus pandemic shut down our tours. I was upset about COVID to begin with—everybody was. The shutdown of international travel tested my patience and showed me how much I really believe in these tours.”

ICEJ USA Impact Tour Jordan River baptism

“I want the young adults to take away three things from our journey: to be inspired to draw closer to Jesus, have lots of fun, and show Israel and Judaism’s ‘true face’ to fellow Christians,” Ecenroad exclaimed.

The next day, under a clear blue sky, eight young adults were baptized and made a public confession of faith in the waters of the Jordan River.

Twenty-two year old Noah, a college student on pilgrimage from Florida, emerged from the Jordan River beaming with happiness. “It’s like I’m reborn. Being baptized represents new life and my commitment to God.”

Noah continued, “Being here in Israel, walking where Jesus walked and where so many significant things took place, has been awesome. I feel like back home there can be a lot of negative things and darkness that can tend to bring me down. I’m thankful for how encouraging and positive Peter, John, and Eli have been as our leaders during this trip. It’s been amazing!”

At 8:00 a.m. the next day, five buses are lined up at the entrance to Kfar Hanokdim, a desert oasis near Arad in Southern Israel. An energetic group of young adults carrying suitcases and backpacks are putting on helmets and smiling with anticipation.

“Two groups just completed a camel ride, and now it’s our turn,” says Vedder. “It’s fun watching some people name their camel and then attempt to take a humorous photo that ends up on Instagram.”

At 9:00 a.m. the next morning, we make our way through the Old City of Jerusalem, where merchants pushing handcarts cry out for the right of way through a procession of monks in rope-belted robes and masses of tourists. Hidden behind a high wall near the start of the Via Dolorosa, we find the 11th-century Saint Anne’s Church, built next to the Pools of Bethesda. Its cool, geranium-decked courtyard is an unexpected oasis from the bustle of the ancient city.

The church’s acoustics are well suited for our group as we sing “Agnus Dei” and “Bless the Lord O My Soul” at the start of our trek through the sites of the Via Dolorosa. During our journey, our tour sang about redemption through our Messiah at the Mount of Beatitudes, Magdala, Saint Anne’s Church, and the Garden Tomb.  

Over the centuries, Jerusalem has taken on a redemptive significance, based on its root meaning ir shalom—city of peace—with the hope that it will be restored as a place of harmony, and worship, for all nations. We concluded our time in Jerusalem by praying Psalm 122.

ICEJ USA Impact Tour participant Abigail

Twenty-two-year-old Abigail from Tennessee shared, “I feel like the fighting between the Muslims, the Jews, and Christians throughout history—and how there is still a fight over this region of the world—shows how clearly there is a good and an evil in this fight. The Lord has really put on my heart to reach out to Muslims, and I’m about to go into an area where I can share my faith, be bold, and hopefully make a positive difference,” Abigail said.

“The young adults share how they grew to love Israel by reading their Bibles, but after visiting Israel, many express how they are feeling a new push to want to act for Israel. Bringing young adults into Jerusalem for a face-to-face experience with Israelis, and visiting the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum, is helping the Christian community to see the clear persecution that the Jewish people have always been under,” Ecenroad said. “Being an advocate for Israel in the United States brings much-needed support for a small people group who are fighting for their survival.”

The Israel Impact Tour continues to be a life-changing experience, and the proof is in the responses from the young adults, as they return to the United States with a much deeper connection to Israel and an eagerness to engage with both ICEJ and the Jewish community in a more meaningful way.

Stay connected…

To connect young adults from your family or church with our Israel Impact Tour, please contact ICEJ USA Young Adults Coordinator Peter Ecenroad via email.