As a student with a Christian upbringing, Chris McClain never thought his first trip abroad would be to Israel.
McClain, a political science and pre-law junior, admitted that he had never given the country much thought.
But after participating in Israel Uncovered: Campus Leaders Mission, he already wants to go back.
In addition to McClain, two other MSU students joined the 35 total who went on the trip sponsored by The David Project — an organization which works to promote a positive image of the country on college campuses.
“It was amazing to me to see what I was missing,” McClain said.
“I tell everyone that it’s almost like going to see a movie and I have to see it again to fully grasp the complexity of the place.”
A home to three major religions, ethnicities from across the globe and a bustling city life, Israel was not what McClain was expecting.
Although students, such as Jewish Student Union President Alex Waldman, might have an innate interest in the country, one of the key aspects of the program is including students who have shown little interest in Israel, such as McClain.
By doing this, director of marketing and communications Jamie Lacroix said The David Project hopes to open participants’ eyes to a country they otherwise might not have explored.
Along with visiting some religious landmarks, the trip took students to locations that highlight the culture of Israel, such as a leadership academy for Israeli students going into the military, Campus Team Manager Phillip Brodsky said.
By featuring a variety of different sites, the students were able to view the full scope of Israel — something many people don’t think of, MSU Jewish Studies Program Director Ken Waltzer said.
“Regardless of politics, students can probably can learn a lot,” Waltzer said. “It’s a vital country that is only 50, 60 years old. There’s skyscrapers and high tech companies — remarkable things for the future.”
Now that the students have returned, they said they hope to share their experiences with other students to help people on campus develop well-informed opinions of Israel.
Those opinions don’t necessarily need to be positive ones, international relations senior Waldman said.
“We should acknowledge the politics behind the area, but there’s a lot more to it,” Waldman said.
“(Israel is) much more than a battleground, and it’s important that people understand that.”