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Semester in Jerusalem

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

The program is:

  • Inter-disciplinary—students can apply course credits to various majors and minors and earn thematic tags.
  • 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 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. Jerusalem has played a major role in world events for centuries—it is a city of religious and political significance. The JUC campus is nestled atop Mount Zion next to the Old City. In addition to classroom work at JUC, the program includes field studies to historical, cultural, religious, and political sites throughout Israel and (travel permitting) the West Bank territories and into Jordan.

After completing studies at JUC and if there are no travel restrictions, students may debrief in an alternate international location. 

Living Arrangements

With the exception of hotels and other accommodations during overnight excursions, students live in dorm rooms at Jerusalem University College.

Requirements and Prerequisites

Students must be undergraduates in good academic and judicial standing and have at least a 2.5 GPA to participate. All program participants must complete GPS 231: Orientation to Study Abroad (2 hrs.) offered during B quad of the spring semester prior to the program. 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.

Note: As of January 27, 2022, Wheaton College requires all individuals who participate in international programs to be up-to-date with their COVID-19 vaccination(s). To be up-to-date, a person must receive a booster shot when and if eligible prior to departure and/or if required by the host country.


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 fulfill CATC thematic core tags. Courses at Jerusalem University College are taught by noted Palestinian and Israeli professors who are experts in their fields. Students also take a one-credit service practicum and a two-credit integrative course, both overseen and taught by the Wheaton College professor in residence.

Students complete the following required courses:

  • GPS 306: 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.
  • GPS 319: Society and Politics in the Holy Land: Palestinian and Israeli Perspectives (3 credit hrs.) GP
    The course will examine central historical, social and political issues as these relate to Israeli and Palestinian societies. Course topics will be covered alternately by both an Israeli and a Palestinian professor, long associated with Jerusalem University College. The final class, taught jointly, will examine each side's positions and expectations regarding present realities and future prospects for peace and reconciliation.
  • GPS 305: Journeys across Cultures: TBD (2 credit hrs.) 
    A narrative and cross-cultural study to help inform and calibrate Christian cross-cultural engagements.
  • GPS 315: 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:

  • GPS 318: 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.
  • GPS 311: 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. 
  • GPS 308: 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.
  • GPS 313: 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.
  • GPS 403: 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.
  • GPS 312: Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls (3 credit hrs.)
    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.
  • GPS 316: 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. 
  • GPS 317: 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.
  • GPS 401: 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 (beginning with the 2021-22 catalog*)

  • GPS 306: Physical Settings of the Bible: ANTH, ARCH, BITH, GEOL
  • GPS 319: Society and Politics in the Holy Land: ANTH, IR/PACS
  • GPS 305: Journeys Across Cultures
  • GPS 318: Biblical Archaeology I: ARCH 
  • GPS 311: History of Ancient Israel: ARCH, BITH 
  • GPS 308: History of the Church in the East: BITH, HIST 
  • GPS 313: History of the Jews during the Medieval and Modern Periods: IR/PACS, HIST 
  • GPS 403: Iconographic Art in Judaism and Early Christianity: ART 
  • GPS 312: Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls: BITH
  • GPS 316: Introduction to the Modern Middle East: IR/PACS
  • GPS 317: Palestinian Society and Politics: ANTH, IR/PACS 
  • GPS 401: Readings in Biblical Hebrew - Historical and Geographical Texts: BITH

Physical Settings fulfills the archaeology requirement for the Anthropology major. Society and Politics in the Holy Land can be applied towards the Anthropology major with department permission. 

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. History of the Church in the East, Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls, or Readings in Biblical Hebrew can count toward the 6-hour advanced interdisciplinary concentration in Biblical Studies option in the Archaeology major.

BITH majors/minors may earn up to 9 elective credits. Biblical Archaeology I counts toward the archaeology requirement and History of the Church in the East counts toward the theology requirement.

IR/PSCI majors/minors and those completing the PACS Certificate Program may earn 6 elective credits by taking Intro to the Modern Middle East, Palestinian Society and Politics, or Society and Politics in the Holy Land (which may be applied towards the IR/PSCI major/minor with department permission). In addition, History of the Jews during the Medieval and Modern Periods can fulfill the history elective requirement for the IR major.

History of the Church in the East and History of the Jews may be applied towards the History major/minor with department permission. 

*Students under a catalog year prior to the 2021-22 undergraduate catalog should use the above chart as a guide; for those students, these courses do not automatically count toward a major or minor. Students may seek approval through the departmental recommendation process (documentation should be on file prior to the start of the program).

Anticipated Fall Semester Dates*  

August 25 – December 16, 2023 (*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 (if more than the standard fee), airfare to Tel Aviv and return from the program, vaccinations or pre-program medical tests, textbooks, and other personal expenses.

A $500 non-refundable deposit is collected after acceptance to the program and applied toward the program tuition fee. 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 and trip leader of the program in 2012, 2015, 2017, 2018, and 2019. I was thankful to lead the inaugural Semester in Jerusalem cohort in the fall 2021 semester and look forward to being in Israel again with Wheaton students in fall 2022!

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. 

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 application for the fall 2023 cohort will open in fall 2022; completed applications are reviewed on a rolling basis and until the fall cohort is full.