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Semester in Jerusalem

A Wheaton College faculty-led fall semester program where a cohort of students study and engage with ancient biblical and modern Middle East narratives.

The program is:

  • Inter-disciplinary—students can earn thematic tags and apply elective credits to various majors and minors.
  • Experiential—the courses include on-site field studies and excursions. 
  • Cross cultural—students experience meaningful interaction with local individuals and communities.
  • Formative—the program provides foundational learning, experience, and application that can help shape a student's vision of love, service, and peace. 

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Students will reside and study at Jerusalem University College in Jerusalem, the cradle of ancient civilizations and one of the most vibrant cultural and religious communities in the world. Nestled atop Mount Zion, the original campus building (formerly the Bishop Gobat Boys’ School) was constructed in 1853 where the southeastern section of the ancient first century wall of Jerusalem once stood—some stones of which form the façade of the college’s main building today. Immediate neighbors of JUC include the Roman Catholic Dormition Abbey and Jerusalem’s Greek Orthodox seminary, as well as the traditional sites of the tomb of King David and upper room of the Last Supper and Pentecost Spirit outpouring (the Cenacle). A cemetery adjacent to the campus is the resting place of the mortal remains of a number of prominent individuals from the 19th and early 20 centuries, including the archaeologist Sir William Matthew Flinders Petrie, the architect Conrad Schick, and Horatio Spafford, writer of the hymn "It Is Well with My Soul."

After completing their studies at JUC and if there are no travel restrictions, students will debrief in Greece. There they will trace and study Paul's journeys and cross-cultural interactions, providing a template to help inform and calibrate their own cross-cultural interactions. If there are travel restrictions, the program debrief will be in an alternative location within Israel. 

Living Arrangements

With the exception of hotels and other accommodations during overnight excursions, students live in dorm rooms both at Jerusalem University College and the Hellenic Scripture Union in Kifissia, Greece.

Requirements and Prerequisites

Students must be undergraduates in good academic and judicial standing and have at least a 3.0 GPA to participate. All program participants must complete GPS 231: Orientation to Study Abroad (2 hrs.) offered during B quad of Spring semester 2021. It is recommended (but not required) that students complete either BITH 211: OT Literature and Interpretation or BITH 213: NT Literature and Interpretation prior to the program.


Students earn 16 credit hours during the program. Many courses are accepted for major or minor elective credit by the related academic department(s) and some may fulfill CATC thematic core tags, pending College approval. Courses are taught at Jerusalem University College by a wide array of noted professors from local educational institutions such as Hebrew University, Bar-Ilan University, the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies, Bethlehem Bible College, and Bethlehem University. Students also take a one credit practicum and two credit integrative course, both overseen and taught by the Wheaton College professor in residence.

Students complete the following required courses:

  • Physical Settings of the Bible (4 credit hrs.) HP
    A study of the physical features of the land of the Bible with an emphasis on the geographical elements of various regions and how geography influenced and affected aspects of biblical and extra-biblical history. Relevant archaeological, historical and biblical material is integrated into the lectures and field studies where it is correlated with the sites visited, the ancient network of roads and geographical elements of the land.
  • Introduction to the Modern Middle East (3 credit hrs.) GP
    A study of key political, cultural and social aspects of the Middle East from the 19th cent. to the present, addressing topics such as Arab nationalism, Islamic fundamentalism and Zionism. Special consideration is given to the Arab-Israeli conflict.
  • Journeys across Cultures: A Narrative and Cross-cultural Study of the Journeys of Paul (2 credit hrs.) 
    A narrative and cross-cultural study of Acts 13–28 and Paul’s engagements with Jewish, Greek, and Roman cultures. The course will provide students with a template to help inform and calibrate Christian cross-cultural engagements.
  • Practicum: Engaging Modern Middle East Narratives (1 credit hr.)
    Students are placed in approved cross-cultural settings in Israel and/or the West Bank for 3 hours per week in order to develop practical skills necessary for leadership or service in a wide variety of contexts in the Middle East.  Settings include schools, sports, churches, shelters, food banks.

Students choose two electives from the following courses:

  • Biblical Archaeology I (3 credit hrs.
    A survey of the results of archaeological investigations in the land of the Bible from proto-historical periods to the end of the Judean Monarchy. Emphasis is placed on relating archaeological finds to historical records, including the Old Testament.
  • History of Ancient Israel (3 credit hrs.) 
    An overview of the historical background of the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament. The focus is on the history of the land and the people of ancient Israel from their origin through the end of the Iron Age as seen within their Near Eastern environment. The course will use a combination of biblical, archaeological and historical data, emphasizing the distinct methodologies used in the study of each. 
  • History of the Church in the East (3 credit hrs.) 
    An introduction to the history of the Christian Churches in the Middle East from the first to the seventh centuries A.D. Major Christian authors from the Second Temple to Constantine will show the common Christian basis of the churches in the Middle East, while representative Church writers from the three developing ecclesial families (Assyrian, Oriental, Chalcedonian) will reflect each Church’s significant role in the Christian mosaic in the Middle East.
  • History of the Jews during the Medieval and Modern Periods (3 credit hrs.) 
    An examination of Jewish history from the rise of Christian Europe in the fifth century AD to the present, by addressing such topics as medieval Jewish communities in Babylonia, Spain, Germany and Poland; Jewish relations with the church and crown; Jewish communal structure; modern changes such as enlightenment and emancipation; new Jewish movements and ideologies; modern anti-Semitism and the Holocaust; and Zionism and the rise of the modern state of Israel.
  • Iconographic Art in Judaism and Early Christianity* (3 credit hrs.) VPAV 
    A study of the art of Judaism and early Christianity in the centuries following the Second Temple period that expresses biblical and theological themes.
  • Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls (3 credit hrs. - course includes field studies)
    A study of the texts and major critical issues concerning the Qumran community and the Dead Sea Scrolls, including their origin, interpretation of the Old Testament and place within the Jewish world and early Christianity.
  • Palestinian Society and Politics (3 credit hrs.) SI
    A study of the socio-economic, organizational and political components of Palestinian society, with a focus on pertinent current developments.
  • Readings in Biblical Hebrew: Historical and Geographical Texts** (3 credit hrs.) 
    A literary, textual and exegetical study of biblical Hebrew narrative texts that are significant for the study of historical geography. This course seeks to integrate the physical reality of the land of the Bible with the Hebrew text of the Old Testament.

 *  Course offering is subject to sufficient student enrollment 
** HEBR 102 is a pre-requisite for this course.

Major/Minor Elective Credits for Courses 

  • Physical Settings of the Bible: ANTH, ARCH, BITH, GEOL
  • Introduction to the Modern Middle East: IR/PACS
  • Journeys Across Cultures: BITH
  • Biblical Archaeology I: ARCH 
  • History of Ancient Israel: ARCH, BITH 
  • History of the Church in the East: BITH, HIST* 
  • History of the Jews during the Medieval and Modern Periods: IR/PACS, HIST* 
  • Iconographic Art in Judaism and Early Christianity: ART 
  • Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls: BITH 
  • Palestinian Society and Politics: ANTH, IR/PACS 
  • Readings in Biblical Hebrew - Historical and Geographical Texts: BITH, CL

Physical Settings fulfills the archaeology requirement for the Anthropology major.

Physical Settings, Biblical Archaeology I, and History of Ancient Israel taken together can count toward fulfilling the 6 hour elective block in the Archaeology major plus either ARCH 345, 365, or 366. Journeys across Cultures, History of the Church in the East, Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls, or Biblical Hebrew: Historical and Geographical Texts can count toward the 6-hour advanced interdisciplinary concentration in Biblical Studies option in the Archaeology major.

BITH majors/minors may earn 8 elective credits, 10 with department permission

IR majors/minors and those completing the PACS Certificate Program may earn 6 elective credits by taking Intro to the Modern Middle East and Palestinian Society and Politics. In addition, History of the Jews during the Medieval and Modern Periods can fulfill the history elective requirement for the IR major.

The Biblical Hebrew course can count toward the 14 hours of supporting coursework for the CL major.

with department permission

Anticipated Fall Semester Dates*  

August 27 – December 17, 2021 (*Contingent on sufficient program enrollment)


Program costs are equivalent to a full-time on-campus semester at Wheaton (full tuition; double/triple dorm room; full board-18 AYCE meal plan) and cover program tuition, room and board, academic excursions, and transportation within the program (surface and air). This does not cover passport or visa fees, airfare to Tel Aviv and return from the program, vaccinations, textbooks, and other personal expenses. Financial aid is available for the program on the same basis as that of an on-campus semester.

Program Director

Dr. Chris Vlachos, Visiting Associate Lecturer in Biblical and Theological Studies

Dr. Chris VlachosI am delighted to be serving as the Program Director for the Semester in Israel program, having served five years as director of Wheaton in the Holy Lands and trip leader of the program in 2012, 2015, 2017, 2018, and 2019.

I became a Christian in 1973 while a student at the University of Idaho. After a time of work and study at L’Abri Fellowship in Huemoz, Switzerland, I returned to school to earn a B.A. in biblical studies at Trinity College (Deerfield) and an M.A. in New Testament from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.

I went on to serve on the mission field in Utah for twenty five years, most of that time pastoring a church and serving as an instructor at Salt Lake Theological Seminary. After retiring from the pastorate and seminary, I earned a Ph.D. in Biblical Theology in 2006 (Pauline studies) from Wheaton College where I have since taught New Testament courses. Many of these courses are pertinent to study abroad in the biblical lands, including New Testament Literature and Interpretation, Acts and the Journeys of Paul, Prison Epistles of Paul, and Paul’s letters to the Thessalonians. 

I am thrilled to accompany a cohort of Wheaton students to Jerusalem as they learn to read the Land, study the text, live the Book, and engage ancient and modern cultures.

Learn More

If you have questions or would like to know more about the Semester in Jerusalem program, contact us at Semester.in.Jerusalem@wheaton.edu

How to Apply

To apply, visit GoGlobal, Wheaton College's registration system for off-campus study and international travel, research, and internships.

The rolling admission application deadline for Fall 2021 is now January 25, 2021; the early admission deadline has passed. Contact Dr. Chris Vlachos, Program Director, if you are interested in applying.