ARIEL, Israel – Ziplining can be a blast and it's even better when that fun includes a purpose.
"This place is amazing," an Israeli named Gal told CBN News. "There is, like, so much important things here. It prepares you to be – to be able to do things that you couldn't believe that you could do."
And that's the goal of the Ariel National Center for Leadership Development. It's strategy? Use physical challenges, teamwork and the Bible to teach principles of leadership.
"So every day here, there is children all over Israel coming," Eran Glazer, director of the leadership training center told CBN News. "We speak with them about David and about Moses. We speak about their leadership and the places in life and how they can dream to be like them – and how they can put God inside their heart. We are reading verses from the Bible so this is part of the thing that we are doing here."
The idea came about after kids from Ariel visited a Christian retreat center in the U.S. called JH Ranch.
"And they understood what their purpose in life [is] for the first time, what it meant to really connect with God in a personal way," Heather Johnston explained.
Ranch directors Heather Johnston and her husband, Bruce, first suggested the idea of a similar training program for Israel's young people to the late Ron Nachman, Ariel's former mayor.
"Ron Nachman came to JH Ranch himself and while he was there, we shook hands across the table on July 7, 2007 and agreed that we would build together a national leadership site for Israel," she said. "So that's how we began."
Johnston sees this one of a kind training center in the heart of Israel as a fulfillment of biblical prophecy.
"Ezekiel foresaw that once the cities would be rebuilt…the Jews would gather on the mountains of Judea and Samaria," she continued. "He said in verse 26 of chapter 36, "I will take out the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh and put a new spirit in you." And we just foresaw that that was going to be the next step … and we believe that God has begun a movement in the country, something that is going to continue."
Endorsed by Israel's Ministry of Education, the program focuses on biblical characters to help teach lessons. One example is the obstacle named Goliath. Participants stand on an 18-inch platform at the top of a 30-foot pole. They jump seven feet out and seven feet up to grab a trapeze. I decided to give it a try.
"The pole represents Goliath, the intimidating giant that stood and ridiculed Israel and literally stopped the military in their tracks," Johnston explained. "Well, in a similar way, we have Goliaths in our life, these huge giants that circumstantially, relationally – and we have to somehow find ourselves overcoming that or not overcoming it.
"And trusting God at the same time because the person on belay if you happen to miss the trapeze, guess what? You've just done a free fall into the open space, but the wonderful thing is that the bilayer below is God. That person acts like God in your life and they're always going to catch you."
And yes, it was quite the challenge. This reporter took up the challenge and climbed to the top of Goliath.
After more than 10 years in the making, the center attracts people from all parts of Israel.
"People are telling each other over the media, of people telling their friends. This is the way that we are recruiting people to come here … It's amazing," Glazer said. "It's a place in Judea and Samaria that a lot of people find that the houses of belief here. There is people that come from the army, people that come from police, there is Arabs that are coming. We have a mutual program for youth, Arabs and Jews, which is amazing."
Johnston describes it as a remarkable partnership between Christians and Jews.
"It makes me feel like that we're a part of the unfolding of – of biblical history," she continued. "God said, I'm going to beckon to the Gentiles, Isaiah 49:22, and I'm going to lift a banner to the nations and they're going to carry you. They're going to put your daughters on your shoulders, your sons into their arms. In other words, when I want to rebuild this nation, I'm going to do it relationally."
The park has already had a positive impact across generations and worldviews.
"I see children that [are] changing. I see parents changing. I see parents and teenagers that start speaking with each other. I see Arabs and Jews speaking together. I see religious and non-religious speaking together and my heart is filled with hope that we are going to have a better Israel, that we're going to impact all the world," Glazer said.
And remember my decision to take the challenge? See for yourself. Thankfully my decision ended well!