The Bible brought to life in the Holy Land … and hotel quarantine

By Nicole Jansezian| Wycliffe Today Autumn 2022 |

A new phenomenon has developed here in the Holy Land: tourists are finding it hard to leave. Literally. Registering its highest numbers of infections in January since the pandemic began, Israel became the world leader in per capita infections – registering more new cases in January alone than all of 2021. At the same time, the Israeli government decided to reopen the borders to tourism early in January, under strict conditions. The tourists are now coming back, but the limited influx means that they have many sites and even entire hotels to themselves. Groups travel as a contained ‘capsule’ to reduce exposure to coronavirus.

The Wycliffe Australia Israel Study Tour 2022, however, may have set a new record when 10 of the original 20 on the trip found themselves positive for COVID-19 after a mandatory PCR test prior to flying out. That meant a five-day quarantine and then several more days waiting for the few-and-far-between flights out of the Holy Land.

Tour leader and SIL translation consultant, Keith Benn

Keith Benn, a Wycliffe Australia member and SIL International translation consultant, led the tour. He spoke to All Israel News from his ‘corona hotel’ room and offered a bright side to the situation:

The challenges have actually made the trip better, not worse. An easy trip is not necessarily the best trip. In fact, it’s been good being in hotel quarantine – we’ve been able to recover, think back over what’s happened in the last three weeks, share and pray together and we’re leaving here with a medical certificate saying we’ve recovered from coronavirus. 

After their release from the quarantine facility, the 10 who had to quarantine were moved to the Austrian Hospice in Jerusalem’s Old City to await their flights out. Despite their unexpected challenges at the end of the trip and many of them needing to get back home to family and jobs, everyone in the group said they would do it all again. Margaret Peters said the challenges of travel were not daunting to her. In fact, it was worth the life-changing revelations they picked up as their tour guide and other experts described the various biblical sites. She recounted the wonder of a group member from Africa who had been translating the Bible into his own language for years but on this trip saw an Israeli fig tree and pomegranates for the first time.

The team consisted of four Tanzanian trainee translation consultants, one Kenyan trainee translation consultant, one Filipino translation consultant and 14 Australians. The trip is designed to help Australian Christians understand the great need for Bible translation around the world and to give national translation consultants and trainees an opportunity to see the Holy Land, to help them in their work of Bible translation.

The city of Jerusalem (Photo by Robert Bye)

While most tourists say that the Bible comes to life when coming to the Holy Land, that same impact can serve to transform biblical language for a translator – literally bringing the Word of God to life. Keith Benn said this happened to him with the Parable of the Sower. The story makes little sense in Australia, where farming looks different. But when the tour guide showed them the tiered, 

rocky soil of the land in Israel and how those levels were transected by paths on which these seeds would have been thrown, Jesus’ words were illuminated in real life: ‘He showed us the path, the rocky soil,’ Benn said. ‘It was so obvious these seeds would dry up.’

With this sort of revelation, and undeterred by challenges, Wycliffe is boldly booking another trip in January 2023.

This article is an abridged and adapted version of an original story by All Israel News reporter, Nicole Jansezian. Click here for information about the 2024 tour.

Banner image supplied by Malcolm Barker

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