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Students study abroad in Israel

JERUSALEM, June 19, 2019 – This year JCSU students had an opportunity to experience the sights, sounds and culture of Israel. Traveling with chaperones Dr. Cindy Kistenberg and Kendal Mobley, the group saw Caesarea, a Roman city built by King Herod the Great in honor of Augustus, enjoyed rafting on the River Jordan, and visits to Nazareth, Capernaum, and traditional sites of the Sermon on the Mount and the feeding of the 5,000. 

The trip, was a once in a lifetime experience for many of the students and an opportunity for professors to teach outside of the classroom. “As a minister of the gospel and a scholar, I’ve been studying biblical history for more than 35 years, but leading students on this study abroad opportunity reminded me that personal experience is the best teacher of all.” Cambreia Freeman, second year MSW student adds, “Experiences from this trip will most definitely help in the classroom when acknowledging ones diversity and comprehending human behavior.”

The group also experienced camel rides and a visit to the Temple Mount's Western Wall, but the most memorable part of the trip was the River Jordan, where Dr. Mobley baptized students. “This experience was meaningful for the group as a whole—even for those who were not baptized”, said Dr. Kistenberg. “I also enjoyed watching the students bond as we were challenged throughout the trip via rafting and hiking. Also, seeing the group come together to support those who did not know how to swim—helping them float in the Dead Sea--was also meaningful.”

The trip also gave students a reality check. They were able to see Israel for what it is, not what it is often portrayed as through the media. “Israel is an area where because of the constant fear of war, the people tend to not be as welcoming as some other locations.  As we learned about the years of warfare, most due to religion and land, I understood more why it is a people who are always on the defense, said senior Dawn Arvelo. “We also visited the Holocaust museum, and the tour guide who impressively researched JCSU and what an HBCU is, helped correlate the struggle for Jewish people at that time to that of black and brown people in the U.S.”

 “The only way to challenge these perceptions is for students to experience the people and the culture, which is why we try to make sure the students interact with all the people who call Israel their home. If nothing else, it is my hope that the students become more critical consumers of the stories they hear”, said Dr. Kistenberg.

Israel provided experience and education, allowed new friendships to form, and offered perspective for students and faculty. “There is so much to see in the world, and learning in a different country is a once in a lifetime opportunity. It is imperative, as an advisor and mentor, that we provide opportunities to not only enhance their experiences at JCSU, but help them to grow as individuals,” Dr. Kistenberg said.

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