Two years ago, Passages Israel was on target to have successfully brought 10,000 American college students to Israel since 2015.
But COVID had other plans.
In fact, 200 of the students with Passages got stuck in Israel when its borders were closed in March 2020. They had to cut their trip short – the first domino that felled the tourism industry for two years.
Fast forward two years and Passages now finds itself in a much different position.
In an interview with ALL ISRAEL NEWS, Passages Israel CEO Scott Phillips said that the organization is poised to bring hundreds of Christian college students to Israel this summer and will hit the mark of 9,000 young adults since the organization began seven years ago.
“These students have been itching to get into Israel for a long time,” Phillips said.
And perhaps there is no more crucial time to bring these students to Israel than now, Phillips noted.
“Statistics are showing that less and less of Gen Z – … 4% of them – ascribe to a biblical worldview,” Phillips told us. “Twenty to 25% of these students … when they go to college, maybe they were raised in a Christian home, maybe they came to faith at an early age or in high school, but they go to college and many times they put their faith on the shelf.”
“This is really the challenge for the Church,” Phillips said.
“We believe in helping students discover the roots of their faith, that their faith goes back thousands of years, even before Jesus, there was something that led to Jesus and Jesus was not born in a vacuum. He was born in the Land of Israel.”
This understanding can lead to revival, Phillips noted.
Another challenge facing the Church is that support for Israel has waned among the younger generation of Evangelicals.
“Those numbers are sliding,” Phillips said. “We have such a unique opportunity to stand with Israel, to stand with the Jewish people in a time where Israel and the Jewish community need us.”
As organizations such as Passages work to present Israel to this generation, support for Israel “may look different than an older generation support of Israel.”
“And that's okay. That's good. It's a new generation and has different characteristics and so we're here to really help build those bridges of friendship.”
Passages' trips to Israel are designed to give students a tangible sense of Christianity. In addition to experiencing the land and visiting biblical sites, the trips also introduce students to the realities of modern-day Israel – which can be complicated. By meeting the people including Palestinians – both Christians and Muslims – students hear different perspectives.
“They want something authentic. They want to make their faith their own,” Phillips said.
“For us to be able to take them to the birthplace of Christianity, where their spiritual roots as Christians exist, it really helps give them that spiritual identity,” Phillips said.
The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.