Middle East

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WESTMONT in CAIRO: Spring 2018


You can debate with your roommate whether Islam poses a global threat - or you can go to the heart of the Islamic world and find out. You can wonder whether people in the Middle East want to live in a democracy - or you can ask them. You can pray for peace in Israel and Palestine - or you can also find out how to work for peace.

During this semester you will live in Cairo, a developing world megalopolis, pulsating with energy, people and liCairofe. Heart of the Arab World, Cairo is, in the words of the medieval traveler Ibn Battuta, um al dunya, mother of the world.

You will be encouraged to experience another culture from the inside, studying Arabic, navigating your way around the city and interacting with Egyptians on a daily basis. You will develop relationships with your neighbors and Egyptian university students. You will for a season become an urban person, and learn to be comfortable negotiating a foreign metropolitan landscape.

You will also experience what it means to live in community in a new way. Removed from familiar social, relational and religious support systems, all the while being confronted with some of the most challenging issues facing the world today, you will need to rely on each other.



The program will be centered in Cairo, and will give you an opportunity to feel located in one place – it is not a ‘travel semester’. We will spend time at an Egyptian Coptic Orthodox retreat center (pictured) to give you some rest and recuperation and a sense of Egypt outside Cairo.

During the last five weeks of the semester you will visit Jordan for twelve days, and then the final act of the semester will be 24 days in Israel/Palestine.

During this time you will visit sites of Biblical and early Christian importance and spend Holy Week and Easter in the Old City of Jerusalem.

You will also be an eye witness to the current Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which you will hear about from at least 25 perspectives, as you meet with politicians, preachers, academics, and activists on both sides.

ITINERARY Spring 2018

January 6 --Arrival & Orientation

Weeks 1-10: Cairo

Weeks 11-12: Jordan

Weeks 13-15: Israel/Palestine

April 25, 2018 -- Program Ends


While all classes will be taught or supervised by Westmont faculty Heather Keaney and Jim Wright, a significant amount of our learning will come from Egyptian, Jordanian, Israeli, and PCairo aalestinian speakers with whom we work during our time in their respective countries.

In the process of learning about Egypt and the Middle East you will learn far more about American society than you could ever do if you had stayed at home. You will study how people in the countries that we visit are struggling to find a balance between rooted cultural authenticity and coherent national identity on the one hand and a rapidly changing and globalizing culture on the other.

You will earn 16 credits and meet five GE Requirements and several major/minor credits.


Cross and Crescent in the Middle East--4 units (Satisfies GE: Thinking Historically, major/minor credit in History or Religious Studies)

You and your fellow students will study the historical, textual, and cultural foundations of Islam and then compare these with the living reality of Egyptian, Jordanian and Palestinian societies. You will spend most of the semester in Egypt, a country that is 85% Muslim and, in many eyes, the center of Sunni Islam.. You will also visit Palestine and Jordan, two other majority Muslim countries, to give you some broader feel for Islam in practice.

You and your fellow students will also engage with the Egyptian church, both current and past. You will study the evolution of Christianity from an opposition movement to the religion of empire, and thence to protected, subordinate and marginalized minority. Attention will be given to the interaction between theological developments and cultural and political developments. You will learn more about the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Churches. Through meeting with different Christians living in the Middle East today you will be challenged to consider afresh what it means to be a part of the global body of Christ.

Modern Egypt--4 units (Satisfies GE: Understanding Society and satisfies GE Communicating Cross Culturally)


You and your fellow students will study the modern history of Egypt: its transition from a Kingdom occupied by Britain into an independent nation state. You will study what it means to be a modern nation, and how a nation may or may not make room for the “other” while forging a coherent unity.

Change and Conflict in the Modern Middle East--4 units (Satisfies GE: Thinking Globally, major/minor credit Political Science and major/minor credit History)

Cairo bCairo c

You and your fellow students will study some of the dramatic political changes in the Middle East which have taken place since 2011 and will consider if the “Arab Spring" is or is not an appropriate name foCairo dr these changes. You will study the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from the perspective of both Israelis and Palestinians. We will ask together where we can find hope for peace, what we can learn about the struggle for influence and resources in the region, and what this may mean for us as Americans and Christians.

Arabic language (Satisfies GE: Foreign language)

You will study Arabic throughout our time in Cairo, both in a formal class room setting and through daily opportunities to practice.


Applications are open for submission Friday February 10 and close Monday March 6, 2017.


The cost of the program will be standard Westmont tuition, fees, room and board. There will be no program fee but you will be responsible for the cost of round trip airfare from the USA to Egypt.


Cairo e

PROFESSOR HEATHER KEANEY is an alum of Westmont who spent twelve years between 1999 and 2011 living and teaching in Cairo at the American University in Cairo and at the CCCU’s Middle East Studies Program (MESP). Professor Keaney is enthusiastic about helping students place the events that make headlines in the Middle East within their historical and cultural context in order to reveal their human dimension. She hopes students will come to share some of her love and passion for the place and its people.

JIM WRIGHT was born in Devon, England, which no doubt explains his difficulties with the American language. After studying law at Cambridge University he worked for a multi-national corporate law firm in London and Dubai. He left this to study cross-cultural and Biblical theology in the UK before arriving in Egypt in 1993. He spent 18 years in Egypt, initially studying Arabic and then working as a corporate lawyer. His life in the region convinced Jim of the strategic importance of the Middle East. His interaction with students from the Middle East Studies Program of the CCCU over the years convinced him of the strategic importance of American Christian College students for everything from regime change to climate change. Jim left the law and joined Westmont in 2011 in order to align these two convictions.

Heather and Jim lead the Westmont in Istanbul program on all three of its previous iterations.


MCairo fCairo gaya (2017) is currently pursuing a BA in Religious Studies with a special interest in Biblical history. She is passionate about bridging the gap between theological academia and every-day faith. Outside her studies she loves good art, bad films, and Bible jokes. Maya is also a devoted fan of the Anaheim Ducks hockey team and she has a dependent relationship with her coffee maker.

Jordan (2018) is currently pursuing a BA in History with an International Studies emphasis in the Middle East. He has served on Student Government and has been involved with Westmont extracurriculars as widely ranging as the Horizon (school newspaper) and Spring Sing. Outside of his studies, Jordan is a music enthusiast and an avid sports fan, using both passions to better understand cultural bridges and divides.

Maya and Jordan are both alumni of the last Istanbul program and will be working with Heather and Jim to co-lead in 2018.



Why not make Jerusalem your home for spring semester, 2017? Why not become so familiar with the Holy City that you have your own hangouts and favorite foods, know shopkeepers by name, and anticipate the city’s rhythms—on Friday (Muslims), Saturday(Jews) and Sunday (Christians)? Why not experience the city’s many cultures, study its tangled history and marvel at its rich traditions? Why not let “Israel” and “Palestine” become for you real places full of real people? Why not let your eyes be opened to see, and to understand, the painful struggle between Jews and Palestinians?

Westmont in Jerusalem 2017 willl use Jerusalem as home base, but we will explore the rest of Israel and the West Bank as well, and journey to nearby Jordan and Egypt. We will make discoveries in the classroom but also during field trips and site visits. We will learn from local guides and official briefings; we will dive into small-group discussion, conduct fieldwork, and pour over books; and we will delight in rich conversation—with host families, professors, and locals in the street, the café, the marketplace. Whether we are in class, traveling, worshiping, playing, eating, serving local agencies—we will always be learning.Westmont in Jerusalem 2017 will be rich in challenges and rewards. Travel will be exciting but sometimes exhausting. Our close community will be supportive but may test your patience. Readings and lectures will enrich our travels but they will also limit personal freedoms. The very things that challenge us also cause the greatest growth—personally, intellectually, and spiritually. So. . . why not?

Answers to Common Questions

1. What countries will we visit?

The program will focus on Israel/Palestine, with a substantial excursion to Jordan and Egypt.

2. Will the program include cultural immersion?

Yes! As much as possible during our travels, we will find ways to get to know people from various cultures. We will stay in small, family-run hotels, hostels, family homes, agricultural communities, and even Bedouin tents. We will meet people in churches, mosques, synagogues, shops, universities, a theater, the marketplace. Our study of conversational Arabic will help us listen and speak wherever we travel.

farmer in Israel

3. How many credits will I earn?

16 units, divided between Religious Studies,Interdisciplinary Studies, Foreign Language and PE.

4. What courses will I take?

  • RS104: Jesus in the Gospels and the Land (4 units) (This can count as an elective for RS majors/minors.)
  • IS129: Culture and Society: Israel and Palestine (4 units)
  • RS 165: Religions in Context: Judaism & Islam (4 units) (This can count as an elective for RS majors/minors.)
  • IS003: Introductory Arabic (3 units)
  • PEA034: Outdoor Education (1 unit)
  • AP191: Service Learning (0 units)

5. What General Education requirements does the program fulfill?
The program will satisfy five GE requirements: Thinking Historically; Thinking Globally (pending); Foreign Language; Physical Education Activity; and Serving Society.

6. Who are the faculty leaders?

Professor Bruce Fisk, Religious Studies. As a veteran of two Europe Semesters (2002, 2005), three Middle East Mayterms (2004, 2007, 2009), Mediterranean Semester 2011, Westmont in Jerusalem 2013 and many trips to the region, Professor Fisk is eager to introduce students to Jesus in the Gospels and in the world of 1st century Roman Judea. Author of A Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jesus: Reading the Gospels on the Ground (Baker, 2011), he thinks the Land works like a Fifth Gospel that sheds valuable light on the other Four. He also thinks Western Christians won’t understand the modern Middle East until they meet Israelis and Palestinians, Jews and Arabs, for themselves, listen to their stories and share their lives. He loves hiking, late night conversations, lively debate, music and sweet Arab mint tea.

2nd faculty member (yet to be confirmed)

Arabic willl be taught by Nasra Dahdal, an experienced local Arabic instructor. Religions in Context will be team-taught by two local professors--one Jewish and one Muslim.

bridge at Wadi rum

7. Will the program be physically demanding?

We are excited about cultural and geographical immersion, not mere surface exposure. This will mean not only home stays but also other close-to-the-ground experiences: lots of outdoor learning, walking tours, short hikes, a multi-day hike in the Galilee, camel-riding in the Jordanian desert, and a day of rafting on the Jordan River. We will use public transportation whenever possible ( more authentic but less comfortable than tourist buses) and encourage you to travel light. (Backpacks only.) We will build in rest days, of course, but it will probably be more physically demanding than most off-campus programs.

8. Who should apply?

You, if you are passionate about learning, eager for adventure, and ready to move outside your comfort zone. The program won't privilege a particular major.Juniors and seniors rank above sophomores BUT this is not the only consideration. (We’d prefer a hard-working sophomore to a lazy senior!) The ideal student for this program is curious (eager to learn, adventurous, full of questions, open to other perspectives), hard-working (willing to join a learning community, share your experiences, pull your weight), and flexible (willing to adapt and flex for the group, and to the cultures where we are living). If all this gets you excited, Westmont in Jerusalem may be fore you. But please read the following warming from the Surgeon General.

WARNING: This Semester Includes Experiences Known To Cause Deep Thought, Meaningful Debate, And Substantial Damage to Unfounded Assumptions and Pat Answers.

8. When should I apply?

Applications are available here, from the Off-campus Programs Office, and from Fisk's office in Porter Center. They are due back to the Off-campus Programs Office by Wednesday, February 19, 2016, at 5pm. You will hear word of your acceptance by spring break, on Friday, March 18. You will need to confirm by submitting a form with a $500.00 deposit by Thursday, March 31..

9. How much will it cost?

Westmont Fall 2017 Tuition, Room and Board, plus a program fee (not to exceed $1000--hopefully less). You will also be responsible for a roundtrip transatlantic airfare to and from a gateway city in Europe still to be determined, where the group will meet and depart together to the Middle East



Middle East

WESTMONT in ISTANBUL: Spring Semester 2016


You can debate with your roommate whether Islam poses a global threat - or you can go to the heart of the Islamic world and find out.  You can wonder whether people in the Middle East want to live in a democracy - or you can ask them.  You can pray for peace in Israel and Palestine - or you can find out how to work for peace.  You can walk to chapel - or you can walk the Via Dolorosa. 

Hagia sophiaDuring this semester you will live in Istanbul, aka Constantinople, a city that is of the past and of the future, of grace and grit, of culture and politics, of faith and skepticism.  It is Eastern and Western, a modern megalopolis of 15 million people and one of the most beautiful cities in the world.  It is both cultural capital of a developing Asian country and Europe’s “city of culture” in 2010.  Istanbul’s skyline is punctuated by medieval mosques and minarets while swish modern cafes and bars dominate its street life. 

You will be encouraged to experience another culture from the inside, learning enough Turkish to navigate your way around the city and interact with Turks on a daily basis.  You will develop relationships with your neighbors and Turkish university students.   You will for a season become an urban person, and learn to be comfortable negotiating a foreign metropolitan landscape. 

You will also experience what it means to live in community in a new way.  Removed from familiar social, relational and religious support systems, all the while being confronted with some of the most challenging issues facing the world today, you will need to rely on each other.

You will travel extensively inside Turkey and take trips to Israel/Palestine and Cairo, Egypt. Westmont in Istanbul Homepage