Walking From Sea to Sea: Building the Spiritual Stamina of Israeli Messianic Youth

Participants in the From Sea to Sea - National Hike and Camping Trip 2016

Netivah Youth Ministry has been providing activities among Messianic youth for about a decade now. Netivah, which originally began its activities among young people in Netanya, has since expanded and currently holds national conferences and conventions that bring together the largest and most diverse collection of youth from all congregations around the country. Including specific conferences for Soldiers, Youth, Girls, and Boys; Netivah typically facilitates summer events alternating annually with the “Sea to Sea” hike and the “Walk on Water” camp.

From Sea to Sea – National Hike and Camping Trip 2016

Towards the end of August 2016, about 70 youth embarked on a four-day march from sea to sea. They walked for 108 kilometers (67 miles) following a route that began at the Atlit beach on the Mediterranean coast and ended at the Hokuk beach at the Sea of Galilee. This is the fifth time that the Netivah Center has facilitated this specific activity. Included are teenagers who come from Germany to participate in the hike, most of them experiencing the Land of Israel for the first time, on foot.

Yagur Reserve overlooking the gorge
Yagur Reserve overlooking the gorge

During this year’s hike, the group passed through the Carmel Mountains, continued through the Yagur River Gorge, followed Zippori stream, walked through Alon HaGalil and the towns and communities of Cana and Ilaniya. They hiked through Karnei Hittin National Park before concluding the trek by descending the Arbel cliffs to the Hokuk Beach. The group was blessed to sleep in the Kehilat HaCarmel house and on the property of a Messianic family in Ilaniya. The rest of the time they slept out in the open under the trees.

Abigail (18) from Ramat Gan, shares her experience:

“During the Passover holiday of 2015 I attended the LTC conference in Germany, which works in cooperation with the Netivah Center and German believing teens. I stayed with a local family and participated in all joint activities together with them. I was exposed to the culture and the generosity and all they did for us and I was glad for the opportunity this year to experience and participate with them in a conference in our country. For some of them it was the first time experiencing Israel and for me, it was the first time experiencing the From Sea to Sea hike. There were moments during the hike where I felt like I could not go on any longer because I was so thirsty and tired. But pushing through the difficulty is what actually taught me the most. Walking long distances as a large group created opportunities for extended conversations and for bonds to form between individuals; starting the day reading the Bible and having personal prayer time out in the wild was especially uplifting for me and gave me a lot of motivation and strength for the hike; as well as fellowship and strengthening my faith.”

Elroy (18) from Jerusalem is about to enlist in the army and tells of the physical experience of the hike:

“Although I am fit and ready for my upcoming conscription, I was surprised at how challenging this experience has been for us. 108 Kilometres of ups and downs is not easy, but without a doubt the message imparted to us through this trek together, has taught me a physical and spiritual life-lesson.

Throughout the convention we heard messages from Randy and Joel who were our leaders. The comparison between our daily spiritual walk and the walking we were doing materialized before my eyes. Even in my personal life I go through periods of ups and downs and sometimes reach a spiritual plateau. I realized that if you go through those periods in life together with family, friends and a community who walk with you and strengthen you, that is the key to facing anything that comes against you, especially for me as I’m about to enter into military service. The satisfaction of reaching the end of the hike’s course and arriving at the Sea of Galilee at the end of these four days was very empowering and strengthening.”

Joel, the leading guide of the From Sea to Sea hiking trip and Head of Netivah Center, summed up the experience and said, “This year the weather was great and the temperatures were below 40 degrees each day. When we were passing through the village of Cana we were even blessed with a few raindrops. In spite of some raised eyebrows from people who were surprised that we would challenge youth and put them at risk from such an intense walking experience, I am thrilled, just as I am time and again, at the stamina of the youth and proud of them each time for completing this mission. We are living in an era where less is required from teenagers out of a desire to protect them which causes their endurance level to decrease. I believe that challenging them and encouraging them to keep moving forward together also impacts on their spiritual life – the difficulties of which are gradually becoming more difficult in this world in which we live, especially for teenagers.”

“Walking on Water” Conference

The Walking on Water Conference is held on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. The purpose of the conference is to bring together as many teenagers as possible, without being limited by lack of space, in order for them to experience a time of Praise and Worship, to hear messages and to participate in activities together.

The conference has been held twice in recent years and is expected to take place again in the summer of 2017.

Last year there were guest appearances by artists such as Joshua Aaron and Todd Agnew and the Youth got to experience extreme water sports alongside other sporting activities on the shore.

The number of youth who participated last time was about 450. The massive number does not scare Joel and the organizers and actually even encourages them. We wanted to hear from the organizers what they think of the number of responses and the fact that the interest of people who want to participate in this conference is growing.

Joel says, “There are moments that doubt creeps in and I ask myself what am I doing and how will I cope with what I have taken on especially at conferences of the size of Walk on Water.  We are pleased that teenagers from all over the country and from different congregations, regardless of Jew or Arab find their place in our conferences. The summery nature of the conference which includes water and extreme sports attracts teenagers that we don’t often see in our congregations but they do choose to attend the conference. This is a golden opportunity for them to hear messages that have a deeper content and go beyond participating in enjoyable activities; as well as connecting them with youth their age.

There are so many important topics to teach and learn together with the youth. We are cautious and steer clear of issues that are contentious among the different congregations and instead highlight the foundation we all have which is faith in Yeshua. We believe and pray that young people among us will grow to impact the present and future connections between the congregations in the country so that we will work in mutual love and accountability in The Body of Messiah”.

“Walking on Water” conference from Summer 2015