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BETHLEHEM — Josiah Cohen first came to Israel last summer through a religious study tour organized by Wheaton College, an evangelical liberal arts school in Illinois where he studies music education

An active member of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, Cohen, 20, said he “fell in love with the land,” but craved firsthand contact with the people, an element lacking in the for-credit school pilgrimage he joined.

So Cohen began saving money through extra shifts as a college writing consultant, also appealing to family and friends for financial assistance — all so he could attend Christ at the Checkpoint, a biennial conference organized by Bethlehem Bible College for evangelicals from across the world. This year, 650 participants arrived from 15 countries.

“In Wheaton in the Holy Lands I looked at dead stones, at ancient ruins. Now I’m talking to living stones, to people living in their homes and communities,” Cohen told The Times of Israel last week. “I’ve spoken to Palestinian refugees, pastors, Israelis, foreigners living in the land, messianic Jews.”

The evangelical community is typically viewed as the backbone of unmitigated Israel support in the United States. But listening to Cohen and his friends speak of their experiences here is understanding that this may be rapidly changing, especially among the younger generation. … (more)