Biola University History Professor Guides Students on Middle East Trip

Judith Rood Sees the Middle East ‘Behind the Headlines’

Oct. 22, 2009 By Jenna Bartlo

Biola University Professor of History and Middle Eastern Studies, Judith Rood, joined students from the First Evangelical Free Church of Fullerton college ministry group on a trip to Israel July 13-29, 2009. Rood taught the students about Middle Eastern history, political issues and geography through three hour sessions held for three Sundays at the church prior to the trip.  Accompanying the group as they travelled, she also went on a separate fact-finding mission to learn more about the current situation in the Middle East.

Rood played a significant role in equipping the students with knowledge about the Arab-Israel Conflict. She felt called by the Lord to act as a resource and guide.

“I didn’t want this trip to be a tour,” said Rood. “I wanted the trip to have substance.”

Upon arriving in Israel, she helped students orient themselves in the Jerusalem and Bethlehem area by providing cultural and historical information that prepared students for their ministry to Jewish and Arab children in cooperation with Musalaha, a Palestinian-Israeli Reconciliation ministry.

While students worked as camp counselors in Petakh Tikva, a city outside of Tel Aviv, Rood traveled the streets of the West Bank researching for a future intensive study tour program for Biola students, faculty and staff.

“I stayed in the West Bank and traveled with Palestinian guides to learn about what is actually happening ‘behind the headlines,’” said Rood.

She wanted to talk to people and hear their stories, having the opportunity to view how the people are doing in a place that is torn by war and conflict. Rood had many highlights and made various connections with people during her time there.

“I met with the mayor of Bethlehem, college students at Bethlehem Bible College and fellow Christians—Israeli and Palestinian, and Jews and Muslims,” said Rood. “I also had the opportunity to travel to Ramallah to meet my sponsored Muslim child through World Vision and it was very special.” 

The trip to the Middle East further enriched Rood’s knowledge in many aspects through her interactions with people. Traveling through Palestine, she noticed a more relaxed mood in the West Bank.

“It’s strange when the area is usually deserted and gloomy. You usually feel despair, but it was different this summer,” observed Rood.

Rood comments that the Israeli population is tired and frustrated; although Israel is strong as a country their fear of distrust from the Palestinians weakens their resolve to pursue peace. From a Palestinian perspective, she noticed that many are relieved that Israel has loosened travel restrictions in the West Bank, and the stabilization of the Palestinian Authority, which has resulted in an overall improvement in the economy there. Rood also saw how the Palestinian landscape has been changed by Palestinian real estate development in the shadow of the massive Israeli housing projects dominating the crests of the hills overshadowing the villages in the rural areas around Bethlehem and Ramallah.

She was amazed at how people have shifted in their ways of thinking and notes it to be a historic demographic shift.

“Old ways are passing in Israel and Palestine. People are moving spiritually in new directions,” said Rood. She was excited to be there and witness the shift that was occurring spiritually, culturally and economically.

According to Rood, the trip was enriching and she was proud of the students’ efforts traveling to a foreign land where people were culturally different, the weather was hot and there was a language barrier.

“They did a wonderful job and it was a rich trip. I had a tremendous opportunity working with John Nitta (college ministry pastor at EV Free) and Musalaha,” she said. “I saw God’s fingerprints everywhere.”

The trip was an outreach ministry that worked with the Musalaha ministry based in Israel and Palestine providing a five-day camp for Jewish, Arab Palestinian and Israeli children. Jon Nitta, and students raised $26,000 to help Musalaha offer the camp, making it possible to cover the costs for the children. Biola students Tracy McDaniel, Blake Henderson, Samuel Rood and Kim Winter were members of the team of college students involved.

Rood hopes to organize a study program and serve as an advisor to a mission team in the Middle East with Biola students in the future.

Written by Jennifer Thach, Media Relations Intern. Jenna Bartlo, Media Relations Coordinator, can be reached at (562) 777-4061 or through email at jenna.l.bartlo@biola.edu       

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