Westmont in Jerusalem Spring 2019

Application deadline: February 21, 2018

WIJ Jerusalem

Jesus wandered here. You should, too.

Make Jerusalem home for the semester. Wander the labyrinth of the Old City. Banter in markets where shopkeepers know your name. Prep for class in your favorite café. Learn the rhythms of the Holy City, where Jews welcome Sabbath at the Western Wall, where Muslims stream to Al Aqsa for noon prayers, where Franciscans retrace Jesus’ journey to the cross. Ancient peoples jostle for space in the streets. As will you.

Toggle between worlds: some days explore the ancient world of Jesus and rediscover his stories; other days inhabit the modern world of Israel-Palestine where two peoples struggle for the same land, and where conflict breeds fear, and fear, conflict. Drink tea with Palestinians in refugee camps; mourn the Holocaust with Jews.

Journey beyond Jerusalem throughout Israel, the West Bank, Jordan, and Egypt. Live with host families in Bethlehem where Jesus was born. Hike the Galilee where Jesus spun tales and welcomed outcasts. Float on the Dead Sea, raft on the Jordan River, and snorkel among ruins in Herod the Great’s Mediterranean harbor. Climb mountains to watch the sunrise, ride camels across Jordan’s desert sands, and hear stories from Syrian refugees. After you scale Mount Sinai, descend into Egypt’s pyramids. Cruise the Nile, and wander the old markets of Amman and Cairo, practicing your Arabic.

As you travel, begin to understand the pain of two traumatized peoples. Learn from local experts, and see for yourself during field trips and site visits. Hike with local guides, pour over the documents that shaped history, feel the weight of big ideas, and find your voice.

Westmont in Jerusalem is both disciple’s journey and student’s quest. It is challenge and reward. It is adventure and exhaustion. Don’t take the Holy Land speed tour. Stay for a while.

Jesus lingered here. Maybe you should, too.


Cultural immersion is a big deal for Westmont in Jerusalem. That means we like to travel light (backpacks, no suitcases) and live simply, with local families or in family-owned hotels, or in hostels, pilgrim houses, agricultural communities, and Bedouin camps. We practice the local dialect, learn the local customs, and use public transport rather than tour buses whenever possible. So: if you prefer upscale hotels and hop-on-hop-off tours, WIJ may not be for you. But if you are passionate to learn, eager for adventure, and ready to leave your comfort zone, we hope you'll apply. If you are curious, hard-working, and flexible, we want you!

WIJ Camels



Here’s a preliminary guide to our itinerary.

Week 1 Southern Spain

Begin your semester in Madrid, Spain where we’ll spend 4 days of orientation in the beautiful Andalusian cities of Córdoba, Seville, and Granada, where medieval Jews, Muslims and Christians coexisted for centuries. Then, fly to Tel Aviv.

Weeks 2-4 Bethlehem

Live with host families, study Arabic, visit refugee camps, take field trips, volunteer, worship in the Church of the Nativity.

Weeks 5-8 Jerusalem (West and East)

Explore Old Jerusalem and the new city, as well. Ascend to the Temple Mount. Study Arabic and the Israel-Palestine conflict. Begin learning about Islam and Judaism.

Week 9 The West Bank

Continue studying Islam, the Conflict, and Jesus. Drink from Jacob’s well. Visit the Samaritans. Visit Palestinian towns and Jewish settlements.

Week 10-11 Israel: Galilee, Golan, the Mediterranean coast

Hike the “Jesus Trail” and explore Jesus’ home turf. Sail the Sea of Galilee. Raft the Jordan River. Hike Roman ruins in the Golan Heights. Expore coastal cities like medieval Akko, Haifa, Tel Aviv and Jaffa.

Week 12-13 Jerusalem

Return home to study Judaism and Jesus. Swim the Dead Sea, scale the fortress of Masada, explore the ruins of Qumran, and see Dead Sea Scrolls. Ascend the Mount of Olives to celebrate Palm Sunday.

Week 14-15 Jordan and Egypt

Traverse Israel’s desert to enter Jordan. Live with Bedouin in Wadi Rum. Hike Petra. Explore Byzantine Madaba, Roman Jerash, and modern Amman. Journey to Cairo to behold the pyramids, sail the Nile, and learn from Coptic Christians. Fly to Madrid.

WIJ Class



Earn 16 credits and satisfy 6 General Education requirements.

Jesus in the Gospels and the Land (RS104, 4 units): A study of Jesus in the Gospels and in historical, cultural and physical contexts, both Jewish and Roman. What was distinctive about Jesus? What did he share with the Judaism of his day? How did his life and message embrace the marginal and provoke the establishment? Satisfies GE Thinking Historically requirement.

Culture and Society: Israel and Palestine (IS 129, 4 units): History and politics (2 units); field work, tours, site visits, briefings (2 units): A study of relations between Israelis and Palestinians, including a review of recent history, an assessment of current events, an introduction to Christian Zionism, and a consideration of prospects for a just and peaceful resolution to the conflict. Approved for Political Science elective credit. Satisfies GE Understanding Society requirement. 

Religions in Context: Judaism and Islam (RS 165, 4 units): Focused study of two major world religions--Judaism and Islam--on location, exploring theology, traditions and contextual expression. Students encounter living expressions of these two religious traditions, and learn to show respect, fairness, and humility as they approach the subject matter and engage in discussion. Satisfies GE Thinking Globally requirement.

Introductory Colloquial Arabic (IS 003, 3 units): Basic skills in speaking and understanding colloquial Levantine Arabic, the dialect used throughout Palestine, Israel, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. Focus on pronunciation, vocabulary, llanguage structure, idioms, and grammar, as well as basic reading and writing in Arabic script. Satisfies GE Foreign Language requirement.

Outdoor Education (PEA 034, 1 unit): Designed to foster a healthy lifestyle while abroad. Includes various outdoor activities (hiking, rafting, snorkeling, climbing), engagements with Palestinian and Israeli culture (e.g., traditional dance, trail conversations, basketball, soccer), and guidelines for healthy eating. Satisfies GE Physical Education Activity requirement.

Service Learning (AP 191, 0 Units): Various opportunities for 12 hours of supervised service learning during the semester. Satisfies GE Serving Society requirement.

Farming on the West Bank

Bruce Fisk, Ph.D.: Program Director and Professor of Religious Studies. Professor Fisk has led 9 Westmont study-abroad programs (6 in the Middle East). Author of A Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jesus, Bruce loves to study Jesus in the Land, and is currently researching Christian Zionism. He enjoys hikes, long motorcycle treks, blues harmonica, and sweet Arab tea especially on a cool desert morning.

Alessandra Abusada: Assistant Director. After a business career in Peru, Alessandra moved to Bethlehem, her grandparents’ hometown, where she learned Hebrew and Arabic, studied the history of the Israel-Palestine conflict, earned a graduate degree from Hebrew University, and met her husband, Bruce. She is a gifted polyglot (7 languages so far) who loves Palestinian cuisine, long walks, and even longer documentaries.

Nasra Dahdal -- Arabic. A veteran language teacher, recently from both Bethlehem University and the CCCU program based in Jerusalem. Nasra has taught Palestinian Arabic to many internationals and will guide a 4-week intensive Arabic class early in the semester.

Charles Farhadian, Ph.D. (Boston U.) -- Islam. Dr. Farhadian, beloved World Religions professor at Westmont, will teach the module on Islam. Charlie studies how religion relates to culture and globalization. His books include Introducing World Religions and Christianity, Islam, and Nationalism in Indonesia.

David Holt, Ph.D. (Chicago U.) -- Israel-Palestine. Dr. Holt directed the Middle East Studies Program for the CCCU in Cairo and Jerusalem for 12 years, where his students studied Islam, Arabic, and regional conflicts. David now designs and teaches courses in international politics, national security, and US foreign policy. He will teach the module on Israel-Palestine.

Ophir Yarden, M.A. (Chicago U.) -- Judaism. Mr. Yarden, an observant Jew from Jerusalem, serves on the Interreligious Coordinating Council in Israel and is Senior Lecturer at Brigham Young University, Jerusalem campus. A brilliant and gifted lecturer, Ophir will teach the module on Judaism. Jesus Road


The cost of the program matches the cost of a semester on Westmont’s campus (tuition, fees, room and board). This includes all program expenses (flights, transportation, accommodation, courses, admissions, tours, supplemental insurance), with one exception: students are separately responsible for travel costs from the U.S. to Madrid, and home from Madrid after the program is over.


Applications are available here and from the Off-campus Programs Office in Kerrwood Hall.

Applications are due in the Off-campus Programs Office by Wednesday, February 21, 2018, at 5pm.

You will learn of your acceptance before spring break, by Friday, March 9.

You will need to submit a confirmation form by Tuesday, April 2.

WIJ Dead Sea