Masada, The Gardens of Gethsemane, The Bahai Gardens, The Al Aqsa Mosque and The Western Wall
In May 2016, Carleton students will again be traveling to Israel and walking through these ancient sites, experiencing them not only as travellers but as young scholars. The Israel Travel Course poster touts 5000 years of religion and culture in 23 days. If that sounds like a marathon, it is!
The course explores religion and culture in the land of Israel from the ancient period to the present day. Practically, that means that our traveling classroom will include exploring 11 archeological sites, walk each of the stations of the Cross along the Via Dolorosa, experience the beauty of Al Aqsa, move through the cool stone interiors of a medieval fort in Akko, and hear from contemporary activists such the Women of the Wall.
Learning about the Bar Kokhba revolt in class was always interesting – it’s an exciting story about the near-successful overthrow for Roman imperial power by a small underdog community of Jews. … Learning about Bar Kokhba in the setting of modern-day Israel became interesting for other reasons on this trip. By being in the tunnels and crawling into one of the caves, we were able to participate in this history. Watching the desert landscape pass us by as we drove to the cave on the bus brought the Revolt into my own life in a way that enabled me to understand it as I never had before.
Sophie Crump – currently MA student in Religion and Public Life
This year’s course also brings together Carleton students with international scholars and students through a partnership with Hebrew University and Tel Aviv University. Fortified by much falafel and ice cream, students experience the rhythms of life in Israel as a culturally and religiously diverse modern country: from lunch with the Druze, to a traditional home Shabbat in Jerusalem, floating in the Dead Sea, camel riding in the Judean dessert, hearing the call to prayer from Mosques against the chiming of church bells and the loud beats of dance music in the streets.
We arrived at the site after four a.m. and climbed the fortress in order to be able to see the sunrise over the Dead Sea. I had already climbed the fortress before, however this time it seemed to take much longer and be much more difficult (definitely the most physically exhausting thing I had done in a very long time). I was later told that we had actually climbed up the “snake path” and not the ramp that the Romans had built to lay siege on the fortress. Trying to pace myself zig-zagging in the almost total darkness, I kept telling myself not to look up too frequently only to see how much further I had to climb, and tried to remind myself how the invading Romans must have done something very similar in heavy armour. Once I had finally made it up to the top, completely exhausted, I was excited to see the rest of the group there, waiting for the sun to rise. It was a really beautiful experience, and it was hilarious to take part in cheering on Helios/Apollo with the rest of the group as the sun steadily crept up over the horizon.
Natalie Pochtaruk – current Humanities student
FASS is home to several travel courses with good reason; former FASS Dean John Osborne fostered these courses in the conviction that students will recall these courses as highlights of their time at Carleton. For students in FASS, who have studied the texts, architecture, art, history, religion, literature, politics, and culture of what we call the “West”, the Israel Travel course experience brings their studies to life. It is one thing to study, for example, the diversity of Christianity from a textbook. It is another to see the infamous ladder that cannot be moved in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher because of strict rules about each denomination’s rights in this venerated sacred space.
Participants are characteristically diverse in their backgrounds and academic interests. The course has no prerequisities and attracts students from all programs at both the undergraduate and graduate levels as well as auditors who are interested in traveling with an academic focus and experts in the area.
Thinking about Israeli Independence Day – Appreciating Different Perspectives
The one difficult part, which the readings brought up, is the fact that for Arabs, this holiday is in fact a day of mourning, for the country, land, and independence that was lost. Despite the almost Biblical return of the Jews to the land of Israel, the Palestinian displacement is just one example (albeit a very significant one) of the various religious claims within Israel.
Simon Zeldin – 4th year student in 2014
I was happy to dance and have fun with Israeli students, but I was completely overcome by the sight of the running orthodox men. Some had their arms around each others’ shoulders and they skipped and sang even as they ran. I was overjoyed simply at their display of joy and the fact that they had an environment in which they could engage in such a euphoric celebration of the state. I saw all members of Israeli society celebrate that night. Arabic music and dancing in the streets, a secular party environment, and a riotous and orthodox run around the wall. I’d be lying if I said that I knew what to make of it, but I saw a lot of joy from various different factions in Israeli society and the joy gives me great hope. Though what I read presented the idea of rifts between members of Israeli society, I saw only happiness. The groups may not have been celebrating immediately together but they celebrated the same thing at the same time in the same place. And if you can agree on at least one thing, I would say you have at least a starting point for unity. The shared air of celebration was a sight that gave me great hope for positive relations between Israelis and Arabs and understanding between Jews in Israel who adhere to different types of Judaism.
Sarah Cook – 4th Year student in 2014, student MA in Religion and Public Life currently
Religious difference, cooperation, conflict and coexistence is entangled in the history and modern reality of this land, and is frankly part of the appeal of the course for many students –they want to understand what they see in the news. While the the focus of the course is not the conflict, student participants inevitably come away with a richer, more personal and more nuanced understanding of the history of this place and how that history drives contemporary debates.
This year’s course is again being offered by Professor Deidre Butler, Religion program, College of Humanities. In the hopes of building a long term sustainable Israel travel course bi-annual program through university partnerships, Professor Mary Hale (Religious Studies, St-Mary’s University, Halifax) will be joining the course with several of her undergraduate and MA students.
Spaces are still available for both students and auditors with online applications and a deposit due Feb 1.
- For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
- Course web site
- Course travel itinerary
- The Zelikovitz Centre for Jewish Studies Newsletter
The Zelikovitz Centre for Jewish Studies is fundraising to assist students with their travel costs. We have just closed a successful futurefunder campaign that raised over 2500$. With the Canadian dollar’s fluctuations, students need even more support and several students have had to cancel with regret as the Canadian dollar has dropped. To help our students participate, please follow the link to ZC fund and specify the donation is for the Israel Travel Course.
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