McALISTERVILLE - The scriptures of the Bible seem more real to a local college graduate after his visit to the nation of Israel.
Michael Carlino, of McAlisterville, graduated in May from Lancaster Bible College with a degree in Bible and emphasis in pre-seminary.
Carlino's academic program required him to make the two-week trip to the nation from May 11-26.
Michael Carlino, right, is pictured in Israel with travel companions Faith Dunkle, Kyle Ierely and Paul Miller.
Some of the sites he experienced included Caesarea Philippi, where Peter confessed Christ as Son of the living God in Mathew 16, and the Sea of Galilee, where Jesus walked on the water and calmed the storm.
"We went to both tour and study," Carlino said. "It counted for six credits, so I had to keep journals of what I was learning, and I am writing a research paper and making a presentation that will be graded on the trip."
Carlino's heart was heavy for the nation as he became immersed in its culture.
"My heart breaks for the Christians who are trapped between a rock and a hard place, with the Jews and the Muslims surrounding them," he said.
He explained the issue of claiming land between the Jews and the Muslims and that the Palestinian Christians are caught in the middle.
"The Christians desire peace so that they can worship in peace, but are often persecuted by both sides," Carlino said, adding he feels a burden on his heart to pray.
Carlino said he wants to be more involved after this trip, at least in prayer and support of peace efforts.
He said the truth of scripture came alive in the location described in Matthew 16.
"In visiting the site, we were taught that Jesus took his disciples to a place where Jews avoided in Caesarea Phillipi. This was an area of extreme pagan worship," he explained. "There is a large cave there where the Greeks thought the entrance to the underworld or hell was located. Jesus makes the statement that he will build his church and the gates of hell would not prevail against it."
He added, "We know from the story that people in the area would become Christians later, and Christians today are a testimony to the truth of Jesus's words."
After visiting Israel, Carlino also wonders if Christ was more of a stone mason than a carpenter.
"In that day, carpenters didn't do much with wood, because stone is the main resource ... which makes sense, considering how many stone or rock references Jesus makes, such as "build my church on this rock" in Matthew 16 and the famous parable of the house on the sand getting knocked over while the house on the rock stood firm," he said.
Carlino also learned that crosses in Israel used for crucifixion are only five feet high "due to those being executed had to be looked at directly in the eyes by all those viewing the crucifixion.
"I have no clue why we don't portray this in art or movies," he said. "It is actually more intense and gruesome than we usually depict it."
Carlino said he now reads his Bible with a more vivid image of certain scriptures.
"This trip helped make scripture come to life for me," he said. "It's easy to read the Bible as just words on a page, but after visiting so many sites that are found in the Bible, I have mental pics of the passages which help enliven my reading from now on."