Student Finds Inspiration in Israel

by Sarah Cushing - Office of Marketing | Oct 29, 2015
Samantha Gendi
Israel may be small in size, slightly smaller than the state of New Jersey, but it holds a rich and vibrant history dating back to ancient times — back when Jesus walked these ancient lands and as far back as the time of Abraham. University of Valley Forge (UVF) student Samantha Gendi, a junior in the Digital Media Communications program, traveled to Israel from June 2–22 with the global missions community, Eagles' Wings. She learned more about the country, Christianity and the Bible that she has so often studied. "You're driving around the country and there is so much history everywhere," Gendi said. "You look around and right next to you is the valley where David fought Goliath." 
Eagles’ Wings is a global missional community. Founded and guided by Robert Stearns, Ph.D., Eagles’ Wings serves to impact the nations, train the next generation, and unite and empower believers. The community is based out of Buffalo, New York, with hubs in the New York City area, and internationally, Karlsruhe, Germany and Jerusalem, Israel. Eagles’ Wings' corporate vision is powered by three main values: the restoration of biblical spirituality, unity of the body of Christ and God’s enduring covenant with Israel.

Eagles’ Wings strives for a “right understanding and relationship with Israel and the Jewish people." As the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has become a common point of conversation on university campuses, Eagles’ Wings developed the Israel Experience trip as a way to equip students to become educated ambassadors. The trip offers more than a tour of Israeli history; it offers a time of in-depth education and relationship building that will change first students’ lives and then the world.
Gendi learned about the Israel Experience trip in February through an email from Kevin Beery, Ph.D., UVF vice president of academic affairs. Every year, Eagles' Wings prepares a summer trip to Israel and offers scholarships to college students with a passion for Israel. "The program provides the biblical context for young leaders to understand the current events in Israel and the consequences of the ideologies involved," Beery said. Gendi applied for and received a full scholarship from Eagles' Wings to travel to Israel. Her team consisted of three leaders and nine other students from various colleges and universities. 
The trip began in Tel Aviv, the first modern Jewish city built in Israel, then continued to Galilee, the Dead Sea area, Bethlehem and Jerusalem. They also visited Sderot, a city less than one mile from the Gaza border and often at the frontline of missile exchange. The city has been an ongoing target of rocket missiles since 2001. Every house, bus stop and playground in Sderot has an air raid shelter. “They looked like giant caterpillars where the kids could run and play,” Gendi said. “In the playground we saw a little boy just run into the shelter to play as if it was the most natural thing in the world. I think we all sensed how wrong that was and our hearts stopped.” 
“I had never thought of photojournalism as something that I might do with my digital media major, but now I hope to go back and complete my internship in Israel,” said Gendi. “I realize there are things happening in Israel that people need to see, and if I have a way to show them, I'm going to do it.”
Sitting on the outskirts of modern day Jerusalem, the City of David is one of the largest archeological digs in Israel. “We were in the ruins of David’s palace,” Gendi said. “We went through the narrow water tunnels King Hezekiah had built.” The tunnels lead to the Pool of Siloam, where Jesus healed the blind man in John 9. The road from there leads up to Jerusalem, the same road that travelers would take to the festivals in the city. Gendi marveled at seeing biblical verses come to life. “You read the Songs of Ascent (Psalms 120–134) where they go to Jerusalem, referencing this particular road through the mountains.”
On one of the nights, they stayed at a Bedouin camp in the Negev Desert. “It was around the area where Abraham would have been when he first heard from God and traveled to what would later become Jerusalem,” Gendi shared. “It was really cool to sit there, look up at the sky and see the same stars that God told Abraham to look at when He said to him, 'Your people will be as countless as the stars.'”
Looking up at the stars back in Phoenixville, Gendi continues her education with the hope of returning to Israel to show, through her photography, the heavy reality of life there. After seeing "The Righteous Among the Nations," an exhibit at Yad Vashem, a world-renowned center in Israel for Holocaust research and commemoration, she became inspired to return. A core focus established by the founders of the center is to recognize those gentiles who risked their lives to help the Jewish people of the Holocaust.
Gendi is studying Hebrew and plans to seek a photography internship with one of the media opportunities she learned of in Israel. "We can't wait for another Holocaust to become ’the righteous among the nations,’" Gendi said. "We need to be aware of the conditions that exist in Israel now. That's why I want to go back — to show the world the reality of what's happening."