Israel May Term Explores Jesus in the Holy Land

Dr. Gerald McDermott's 2013 May Term class focused on the connections between Jesus' teachings and the land of Israel. The class, which had a secondary focus on Jesus' Jewish context, traveled around the northern half of Israel, from Caesarea on the Mediterranean in the west to Mt. Carmel and Megiddo through the Galilee and down the Jordan River Valley to Jerusalem.

Students explored the historic sites of Sepphoris (where Jesus likely worked as a stone mason), Mt. Arbel, the Mount of Beatitudes, the Sea of Galilee, Caesarea Philippi, Bethany beyond the Jordan River (where Jesus likely was baptized), Jericho, Qumran, Masada, the Temple Mount, the Western Wall Tunnels, the Garden of Gethsemane and many others.

Students swam in the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea, where several smeared its healing mud on their bodies and dipped their toes in the Jordan River and Mediterranean Sea. They have returned feeling truly changed by the experience. Read several of their stories below.

"Last year, as I was browsing the travel May Term course list on the Roanoke College website, one specific course struck me: "Jesus in the Holy Land," an academic trip to Israel with Dr. Gerald McDermott. After returning from a month abroad, I feel that I could not have made a better decision than to choose to go to Israel. The class consisted of two jam-packed weeks of visiting dozens of historical sites. Traveling through the land of Israel, I learned much more about the life of Jesus and his teachings than I ever could have imagined. Seeing the landmarks of Israel granted me the ability to experience firsthand the environment and the sites of Jesus' ministry. I was able to see Jesus' birthplace in Bethlehem, the village of Nazareth where he grew up, the town of Cana where he performed his first miracle and the magnificent and diverse city of Jerusalem where he was crucified. I was able to swim in the Sea of Galilee and see a first-century fishing boat. I walked a first-century highway as we talked about Jesus' itinerant ministry. I dipped my feet into the Jordan River as I learned about his baptism. The geographical sites we visited on this May Term helped me understand the teachings of Jesus, because they helped me understand him and his life: where he was born, lived, traveled, taught, worked, slept, died and ascended."

"Personally, this class had a profound effect on my life. The opportunity to examine Jesus in the land of Israel was a truly indescribable experience. There is something naturally magnificent about studying an historical figure's life within the context of the land where he lived. Furthermore, our class focused on the Jewish context of Jesus' life. The Holy Land represents an area of importance for all three monotheistic religions. It was incredible to experience and learn about the diversity, yet also the similarities, of the religions represented in the area. Most importantly, this class taught me a pertinent lesson in the realm of academia. While we strive to learn and discover fact within our world, we must understand the importance of faith. My favorite moment of the May Term: jumping off of a bridge at 2 a.m. into the middle of the Sea of Galilee. This was a feat I never would have imagined I would do; yet, with a little faith I took the leap and realized the exhilarating freedom of jumping into the unknown."

                                                                                       Katie Holland '14

 
"My trip to Israel was by far the best experience of my college life.  Words cannot describe the beauty of  this small country. From the lush areas surrounding the Sea of Galilee, to the sweltering hot Dead Sea, to the majesty of the desert lands surrounding Jerusalem, this place leaves no choice for the traveler; she must be changed during her time there. I was academically stimulated in a way that encompassed my love of theology, history and my own spirituality. Whether I was learning about the Jewish synagogue, or Jesus' teachings, or the courageous mass suicide of Jewish rebels at Masada, my mind was always engaged. Dr. McDermott created a classroom environment in the middle of Israel that forced us to think critically and ask questions. I will be forever grateful to anyone and everyone who made this trip a possibility. My life is forever changed, and I intend to carry the lessons I learned with me everywhere I go."

                                                                                        Taylor Robertson '14

Learn more about Intensive Learning Term courses offered by members of the Religion and Philosophy Department.