(WRIC) — It was a trip of a lifetime when students, professors and staff from Union Presbyterian Seminary traveling to Jerusalem.
“You want to see the places that you read about in the bible and have a picture in your mind of the stories you’ve heard your whole life,” said student Douglas Hippe.
The group spent their days in the city just before the U.S. embassy officially opened there. Douglas Hippe says he hadn’t prepared to encounter the uneasy atmosphere.
“Feeling the tension there was surprising to me. I didn’t expect it to be as palpable,” said Hippe.
The trip was also an opportunity to learn.
“Talk to Israelis, and Palestinians and Jordanians who are living there now about their life experience,” said student Linda Kurtz.
“You realize that there are people of good faith, whether they practice Judaism, Christianity, or Islam that would really like to live in peace with their neighbors,” said Professor Sam Adams.
The group came back to Richmond only to see violence erupt in the region. They say the images bring the conflict home because of their experience.
“These are real people and these are real communities,” said Adams.
As for the chances for peace, the answers they got were similar and bleak.
“Didn’t really necessarily have any hope for their future which was very hard to hear. Gives me big questions about what if anything a future peace process could look like,” said Kurtz.
Nearly 60 Palestinian demonstrators were killed by Israeli fire during protests on the Gaza border this week.