Wheaton College’s Semester in Jerusalem study abroad program, which was set to begin its third year in January 2024, is postponed to 2025 due to the outbreak of war in Israel. Timothy Taylor, professor of international relations, announced the change at the cohort’s first meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 24.
Taylor made the announcement during a night class for students in the program, which was the group’s first meeting. He said the war between Hamas and Israel, which has already killed thousands on both side since it began on Oct. 7, made the program untenable at this point.
Taylor said that security concerns led school officials to postpone the trip. While he was disappointed at the cancellation, he said student safety comes first.
“We tried really hard to find an alternative,” said Deb Kim, executive director of Global Programs and Studies. She spoke to students on Tuesday night to explain the logistics of the postponement.
Twenty-four students were set to take part in the program, including several seniors. They had planned to meet in Cairo in January to start their study. Because the details of the trip had not yet been finalized, students had paid a $500 deposit but had not purchased plane tickets.
Students have the opportunity to recommit to the spring 2025 cohort by the December 1 deadline. The $500 deposit will be refunded for students who decide not to recommit to the program.
Among the students scheduled to go to Jerusalem in January, three are seniors planning to graduate in May. Others are now weighing their options. Hallie Davis, a junior who studies music and Christian formation and ministry, said she was sobered by Taylor’s message to the group about the realities of the conflict for those on the ground.
“It’s so much greater than our own personal stake in it,” she said. “Yet he still validated our emotions.”
This would have been the third year of the Semester in Jerusalem program, which is offered every year in either the fall or spring. The program is hosted by Jerusalem University College, where Wheaton students live during the semester. Students take classes including biblical archaeology, Old Testament texts, Judaism and Islam, and Middle East culture and geography. It costs the equivalent of a full-time on-campus semester at Wheaton College, with financial aid included.
Wheaton sponsors two other annual programs in the Middle East: Tel Shimron excavations, an archaeological dig in Shimron, Israel led by Professor Daniel Master, and Wheaton in the Holy Lands, a six-week summer trip to Israel, Turkey, Greece and Rome. Kim said that applications for those programs remain open, and that the college will continue to evaluate the safety situation before those programs depart.
Davis said she’s glad Taylor and Kim informed the class now that the semester would be postponed, but that she’s grateful for the personal connection she now feels to the people of Israel and Palestine because of her preparations to go.
“It’s good not to have false hope,” she said. “But we’ve been given a heart for these people and this place that we wouldn’t have had if we hadn’t been planning on going.”