29 Jun, 2015
The Society of Biblical Studies, a US-based organisation that promotes responsible travel in the Holy Land, is to hold its 2015 National Conference between 18-19 September 2015 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, under the theme of “Christians and the Holy Land: What does the Lord Require?”
The conference is designed to better acquaint the estimated 1.6 million annual Christian tourists with “moral dimensions of Holy Land travel that commercial tourism generally ignores” and counter the “misguided theologies” that dominate the guided tours. It will give voice to speakers and experts “whose perspectives are often underrepresented or totally ignored in mainstream media and Church circles.”
The two lead speakers are Prof. Stephen Walt, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, and author of The Israel Lobby & U.S. Foreign Policy (2008), and Prof. Ilan Pappe, European Centre for Palestine Studies, University of Exeter, United Kingdom.
Other speakers listed on the programme so far are: Mrs. Jean Zaru, Presiding Clerk, Ramallah Friends Meeting Quakers; Mr. Mark Braverman, Program Director Kairos USA; Dr. Sara Roy, Senior Research Fellow, Center for Middle East Studies, Harvard University; Mr. Avner Gvaryahu, Jewish Relations Coordinator, Breaking the Silence; and The Rev. Peter Miano, Executive Director, The Society for Biblical Studies.
The SBS lists amongst its objectives as being “to restore an understanding of authentic pilgrimage as a learning and spiritual exercise” and “teach the ingredients of conflict resolution, peacemaking, and reconciliation and their application in the world.”
According to the announcement posted on the website, “The National Conference is designed to acquaint Christians with moral dimensions of Holy Land travel that commercial tourism generally ignores. We have invited speakers representing a range of perspectives and areas of expertise in order to introduce participants to issues and dynamics in Israel and Palestine. We have chosen experts whose perspectives are often underrepresented or totally ignored in mainstream media and Church circles.”
It adds, “Paradoxically, Christianity in the Holy Land is overwhelmingly represented by Christian tourists. They travel on guided tours often carrying misguided theologies. They rarely consider the moral dimensions of Christian travel in the Holy Land. What does the Lord require?”
The announcement notes that Israel and the West Bank receive about 2.9 million tourists per year and about 55% (1.6 million) of them are Christian. Most of these are from the United States.
“By contrast, the dwindling indigenous Christian community in Israel and the West Bank numbers about 110,000 people. This means that Christian tourists outnumber indigeneous Christians in the Holy Land by about 14 to 1! Christian tourists outnumber Jewish tourists by about 2 to 1. Moreover, Christian tourism in the Holy Land generates about $6.5 billion per year. In addition, many more millions of dollars are invested by foreign Christian churches in schools, hospitals, vocational training projects, etc.
“The volume of Christian tourists in the Holy Land and the amount of money represented by Christian tourism and church investment has enormous impact in the Holy Land, but this impact is not necessarily and not always beneficial. The National Conference is designed to acquaint participants with moral issues that pertain to Christian travel. What does the Lord require?”
Click here for further information: http://www.sbsedu.org/L3_events_natconf18.9.15.htm