Middle East Trip: Connecting Personal and Global Transformation
December 29, 2013-January 17, 2014
Interested in joining us for a deeply transformative program taught on the shores of the Galilee, and applied and reinforced immediately throughout our 20-day trip in Israel?
We provide this unique opportunity to face our own transformation as we meet locals, professional peace builders, and tour historic Bible sites, in partnership with the Educare Unlearning Institute, an educational organization dedicated to helping individuals live freely and authentically from their deepest truth.
All participants will attend a tailored program called Living Beyond Our Stories taught by Sandy Wilder, Janessa Gans Wilder, and her husband Forrest as we tour Israel and the West Bank.
Living Beyond Our Stories focuses on Personal Awakening and Interpersonal Communication so the content learned will be reinforced by immediate opportunities for application in a setting that is yearning for peace. We will take a deep look at how our self-concepts are formed and how we unconsciously live in “stories” that determine our view of reality. Through a process of unlearning we will learn to release the beliefs, concepts, opinions and stories that create limiting self-images, views of others and worldviews.
We will explore and practice a listening/communication model that allows us to deeply listen to others. Through this listening we will learn to help others deeply inquire and tap into their own space of clarity and inspiration.
Equipped with our deepened self-awareness and listening abilities we will meet with Israelis and Palestinians as they share their individual stories based on their history and collective narratives. We will understand and experience:
- The foundational beliefs behind the longest running continuous conflict in the world today.
- Why the violence continues.
- The history of the conflict: what happened, how, why?
- The stranglehold the past has on their present view of reality.
- The cycles of victim and victimizers on both sides.
More than cognitive learning and an awareness of history, we will use our daily experiences to reflect deeply so as to allow grace to release whatever reinforces our own belief in separation. We will find ourselves listening through new eyes and an open heart as we watch our natural compassion and clarity pour forth, increasing our desire for connection and oneness with all life.
December 29: Depart from home city.
December 30: Arrive in Tel Aviv, Israel.
Group members will arrive at the Ben-Gurion International Airport in the modern city of Tel Aviv on the Mediterranean Sea to convene with trip leaders for orientation, introductions, and coursework. The next morning, we will head via bus to the Galilee region in northern Israel to our lodging on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, near Tiberias.
December 31 – January 4: The Galilee region and Golan Heights.
These four+ days in this beautiful, historic, and peaceful area will be rich with space for deep dialogue, listening, and reflection as we dive into the content of the “Living Beyond Our Stories” program. Here we begin to unpack the concept of story in our individual lives and in the Holy Land, both in ancient and modern times.
From our central location on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, a knowledgeable Biblical scholar and tour guide will lead us to nearby Biblical sites, such as the ruins of Capernaum, the ancient city of Bethsaida, and Mount Beatitudes, where Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount. We will also explore where Jesus fed the multitude of 5,000, and the beach where he appeared to his disciples after the resurrection, according to tradition.
In addition to the Biblical understanding we will gain, we will delve into the politics of the area and the factors that continue to drive conflict. We will meet with local leaders in the region, hearing a variety of political, religious, and cultural views. Among other excursions, we will travel to a Jewish kibbutz on the very northern tip of Israel along the contentious Lebanese border, to hear the perspective of residents, and to the famous monument, Tel Hai, to discuss Israel’s founding, pioneer days, and challenges with neighboring Lebanon and Syria.
We will continue exploring northern Israel with a visit to the Golan Heights, one of the most beautiful parts of the country. The Golan Heights was formally annexed by Israel in 1981, although it is not recognized by the United Nations. We will visit a Druze village along the Syrian border, meet with local residents, and tour archeological sites.
January 4-6: Tel Aviv.
We will head back south by way of Nazareth, a primarily Arab city in the region, where we will meet Arab Christians and tour the Biblical sites. In Tel Aviv, we will receive briefings from the Israeli Defense Forces and U.S. officials, and meet with representatives of the Bereaved Families Forum, locals who have lost loved ones due to the conflict. We will continue to have space for inspired solitude and deep dialogue around the theme of “who would we be without our story”.
January 6-9: Bethlehem.
Next, the group will travel to the birthplace of Jesus to visit the Church of the Nativity and Shepherd’s Field. We will also meet with Palestinian Christians and local peace organizations, and tour the separation barrier and a refugee camp. Touring the neighboring Jewish communities within the West Bank and meeting with their residents will allow us to hear directly about these “settlements” often mentioned in the news, but rarely seen first-hand by touring groups. Situation permitting, we will also visit the Cave of the Patriarchs, the second holiest site to Jews, and the resting place of Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, and Jacob, and meet with the Jewish and Palestinian communities there.
January 9-13: Dead Sea, Jericho, Masada.
Jericho, at over 10,000 years old, purports to be the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world, with archeological remains that date to pre-pottery times. At 823 feet below sea level, it is also the lowest town on earth. We ascend by cable car up to a monastery atop the cliff where Jesus traditionally was tempted by the devil, and will take in the sweeping views of the Jordan Valley looking across to Jordan beyond. We will also tour Masada, an ancient palace and desert fortress of Herod the Great, overlooking the Dead Sea, and learn of one of the Jewish people’s greatest symbols of heroism and self-sacrifice, in their stand against the Romans in 73 CE.
Relaxing by the Dead Sea, the lowest point on earth (1,388 ft below sea level, and over 33 percent salinity, one of the saltiest bodies of water in the world) will be a novel treat. We will have time to decompress and greater space for inspired solitude and deep dialogue with our group at our retreat setting in Ein Gedi, one of Israel’s most important nature preserves, replete with nature walks and a spa.
January 13-17: Jerusalem.
We will spend our final four days in Jerusalem, soaking up the history, mystery and majesty of this ancient, holy, and troubled “city of peace”. Jerusalem is where the themes of conflict, peace, and story will come in to stark relief. All sides, religions, and groups share the same piece of real estate and often the same religious figures, albeit with different stories and attachments.
We will see those divisions up close, and yet meet with Israeli and Palestinian peace groups who, despite these tensions, have found ways to bridge divides and to drop the limitations.
Beginning with an overview of the city from the Mount of Olives, we will descend down into the Old City to tour religious sites, such as the Garden of Gethsemane, the pools of Bethesda, and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the spot where it is believed Jesus was crucified and (for three days) entombed.
We will also visit Jewish and Muslim religious sites, such as the Western Wall of the Temple Mount (the site of Herod the Great’s ancient temple), and the Dome of the Rock, with its golden dome that features prominently in panoramic pictures of Jerusalem.
In addition, we will learn more about the calamity of the Holocaust with a tour of Yad Veshem, the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem, and meet with local rabbis and officials. Space for inspired solitude, deep discussion, and closing lessons with our group will continue.
January 17: Depart Tel Aviv for home city.
“I found the trip a magnificent “laboratory” in which I could witness and challenge entrenched “narratives” about reality–both my own and those of others. During the process, I found my heart breaking open to embrace it all–the hatreds, the suffering, the joy, the beauty, the cruelties, the kindnesses–and I was able to experience the silence in which it all mysteriously unfolds.”
–Marilyn Wood, Germantown, Maryland
“I learned so much it is impossible for me to express, and seeing the Middle East first-hand helped me understand the conflict so much more. I learned a ton about Biblical stories from the sites we visited. I learned that I need to dedicate my life to Truth, and I had an incredible inner transformation.”
–Dillon Siewert, Georgia
“Visiting each of the Biblical sites was so enriching. I’ll never read the Sermon on the Mount quite the same way again!….All of the speakers we heard helped me to better and more fully understand the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. As each person spoke with us, I gained a deeper understanding and felt more compassion for the situations in the Middle East. Listening to each individual tell their story caused me to recognize how important it is that I pay attention to my own personal narrative as it relates to judgment, fear, and conflict…For me, each activity of the entire trip was a rich experience, colorfully and seamlessly woven together into a beautiful tapestry called, “Living Beyond Our Stories”. Meeting the people, seeing the sights, and experiencing the transformation lessons (all in 18 days) was a deeply moving experience for me. I felt a depth and intensity about it all that goes beyond words.”
–Vicki S. Chicago, IL
“This trip made me grateful for the life I live, and gave me a new understanding and sympathy for those involved in the conflict. Mainly, I realized that it is possible to do good here, and that I want to be a healing agent!”
–Chris Peesel, Sterling, VA
After receiving a B.A. in Economics from Union College, Sandy played professional soccer and then coached, counseled, administered and taught at Principia College.
Sandy started the Educare Learning Institute in 2002 and transitioned to it full time in 2009. Prior to that he was the President and CEO of Communico Ltd., a consulting and training company focused on helping leaders to create cultures where customers love to do business with them and where people loved to work.
With Educare, Sandy coaches individuals and facilitates programs, retreats and vision quests that help people face conscious transformation through unlearning that which their conditioning has made unconscious. He facilitates a safe, dynamic space to come home to where each of us feels nurtured and challenged to awaken to the wholeness and oneness in Truth.
Forrest currently serves as the Resident Counselor of a men’s dormitory at Principia College. With his wife, Janessa, Forrest led a college study abroad to Israel, the West Bank and Jordan at the beginning of this year, and in 2010 he helped lead another student abroad to Peru.
Prior to this, Forrest worked for College Summit, an NGO in Washington, D.C. with a mission of improving college enrollment rates in low-income communities across America. Over a span of eight years, in several different roles with the organization, he worked in fundraising, opened a new regional office in West Virginia where he ran the program for several years, and served in a national management role supporting program implementation across the country.
Forrest received his B.A. in English Literature, with Honors, from Principia College in 1998, and has traveled in every continent except Australia. Besides crossing borders, he also loves to play and coach rugby, read, write, learn more about religion, play chess and fish. He and Janessa were married last August, and can’t wait to return to the Holy Land.
November 15, 2013
Age and Fitness
All participants must 18 or older and be of average fitness. We will be walking over uneven surfaces and climbing up and down hills and stairs, sometimes for extended periods of time. Temperatures will vary from the 30’s to 65 degrees Fahrenheit, with the probability of rain and a possibility of some snow. Some locations may not be handicap accessible. Any concerns about health conditions need to be raised upon registration.
The Educare Learning Institute and Euphrates Institute have created a sliding scale for this offering in an effort to keep it affordable to a wide range of people. We set forth no criteria and trust that each individual will pay what he/she feels is appropriate.
The fee is $4,950—$6,250.
- Course facilitation
- All course materials
- 18 nights accommodations: double occupancy, (for single occupancy add $1,300, availability pending)
- 18 breakfasts
- 9 lunches
- 15 dinners
- All ground transportation in the Middle East
- All group sight seeing and entrance fees
- Group tips (individual tipping is optional)
- Airport fees and departure taxes
- Baggage fees
- Meals on your own
- Passports fees (no visa necessary for US citizens)
- Personal charges and optional activities
- Baggage fees
- Individual tipping (guides, drivers, etc)
- Travel insurance
$400 deposit is due upon registration (non-refundable)
Final payment is due by: November 30, 2012.
Cancellations and Refunds
Refunds will be made up until October 31, 2012 (less the $400 Registration fee). After that date all fees are non-refundable and non-transferable to another date or program.
Forms of Payment
If you desire to pay by Credit Card or PayPal please add 3% to fees.
All checks are to be made payable to: “Educare Learning Institute” and mailed to:
Educare Learning Institute
711B Wind Rivers
Grafton, IL 62037
Exchanges of attendees are acceptable upon conversation with trip leaders.
A passport is required for US citizens and must be valid at least through Aug 1, 2014.
Questions or Additional Information
- Janessa Gans Wilder: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Forrest Wilder: email@example.com
- Sandy Wilder: SanfordCWilder@gmail.com
Middle East Undergraduate/Graduate Program in Israel, West Bank, and Jordan.
Euphrates partners with the Center for Ecological Living and Learning (CELL) to offer student abroads to Israel, Palestinian Territories, and Jordan. The program focuses on a theme of sustainability and peace building. Explore the work of various organizations in Israel, the Palestinian Territories and Jordan, and see inspiring peace building efforts as well as environmental sustainability initiatives, some of which involve cooperative efforts across boundaries.
You will visit and learn about some of the peace and sustainability initiatives in the region, including those which bring cross border cooperation through focus on sustainability. Explore the region’s rich historic and scenic areas and learn more about the religious, historical, political, and cultural background of the region and the conflict.
• Discover the possibilities of peace and sustainability in the Middle East
• Visit the timeless and scenic areas of Israel, Palestine, and Jordan
• Gain a first-hand appreciation of the religious, historical, political, and cultural background of the region and the conflict
• Volunteer with peace and sustainability organizations
• Take a leadership role in peace/sustainability upon your return
• Receive 15 college credits while integrating classroom knowledge with real-life applications
To learn more about the abroad, including how to apply, visit the Middle East Abroad page on the CELL website.
Read the 2011 Travel Blog