MORE than 30 students have returned from three weeks in Israel feeling “blown away” by what they experienced during an inaugural biblical archaeology course offered by Macquarie University and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
The course – part of a recently signed Memorandum of Understanding between the two universities with the assistance of the Australian Friends of the Hebrew University (AFHU) – was such a success that it is set to expand, and possibly branch out to include archaeological digs in 2018.
From 2019, courses in entrepreneurship and innovation could also begin as part of the relationship.
Dr Gil Davis, who directs Macquarie University’s Program for Ancient Mediterranean Studies, described the course as being “inspirational to a degree that’s hard to imagine”.
The students stayed on campus at the Hebrew University, attended lectures and went on daytrips to ancient sites in Megiddo, Lachish, Hazor and Ashkelon.
They also visited the City of David, and the Israel Museum, and attended a traditional Shabbat dinner sponsored by AFHU and Mishpatim.
“Bearing in mind that most of the students were not Jewish, they didn’t really have a very good -understanding about Israel before,” Davis said.
“So being able to criss-cross the country to see and learn more about the artefacts and objects they were studying, and the relationship between them and the land – it really blew them away.
“And to have tutorials and lectures from experts who have actually excavated these ancient sites – that was an experience that you couldn’t get anywhere else.”
The course came about when AFHU introduced Davis to Professor Wayne Horowitz from the Hebrew University’s Institute of Archaeology, and the pair brainstormed about what sort of things could be done together to increase ancient history students’ understanding of Israel.
“I’d been taking students for a number of years to Israel to attend digs but it was always in the middle of the year, which is awkward because of the short break between semesters,” Davis said.
“So this course, based during the Australian summer, enables the students to spend more quality time there, and get the most out of it.
“We had some students participate from other Sydney and Melbourne universities too, and even a few from Hong Kong and the USA.
“The potential is huge, and I’m thrilled beyond measure that it has had such support from Macquarie University, including the -vice-chancellor.”