JERUSALEM – While walking along the southern rim of Tantur Ecumenical Institute last year, BestSemester’s Middle East Studies Program Director Dr. David Holt stumbled upon a run-down building on Tantur’s property that had been abandoned since 1997. This Jerusalem diamond-in-the-rough overlooked the historically-Christian communities of Bethlehem, Beit Sahour, and Beit Jala.
In a cooperative gesture of hope and common purpose, Tantur agreed that the building should be used for MESP and that renovations costs would be shared. By late spring, local contractors had begun their work, and in July the finishing touches on the new MESP Center were added.
On September 1, 2012, the Middle East Studies Program faculty, staff, and students gathered for a humble yet symbolically significant ribbon-cutting ceremony. Attendees included Tantur rector Fr. Tim Lowe and wife Lisa as well as Nasra Dahdal of Bethlehem University and Rev. Dr. Yazid Said, acting dean, St. George’s Anglican Cathedral, Jerusalem. Dr. Suzanne Holt and Mrs. Lisa Lowe conducted the ribbon cutting while Fr. Lowe led the Litany of Dedication.
One of the most important ceremonial acts of the occasion involved the passing of the torch from MESP Program Assistant Chris Mawhorter, representing program alumni and the last MESP semester held in its old Cairo setting, to Sarah Chung, representing the current fall 2012 students and the first group to use the new center. It signaled a transition of continuity, moving MESP from one location to another without compromising its core purpose to engage students with the people and culture of the region.
“The service was simple but significant for me,” said Mawhorter. “To have the various members of MESP’s community here in Israel and our hosts and friends at Tantur present was a small but powerful testament to how MESP has continued to thrive in the region and has completed the transition that my semester embarked on. Despite the winds of change across the region, MESP has continued to be an unparalleled window for students into this fascinating and important place.”
The new center will now serve as the main hub for MESP academic and social activities, as well as a place where students can enjoy the incredible views in every direction from its patio and rooftop. More importantly, the new facility in Jerusalem will allow the program to continue fostering many opportunities for intellectual growth, spiritual maturity, and career preparation for Council for Christian Colleges & Universities’ students.
About BestSemester: The Council for Christian Colleges & Universities offers 12 off-campus study programs, collectively branded BestSemester®, which expand learning opportunities for students from CCCU campuses and are designated as culture-shaping or culture-crossing programs. Culture-shaping BestSemester programs are: American Studies Program (Washington, D.C.); Contemporary Music Center (Nashville); Los Angeles Film Studies Center (Los Angeles); and Washington Journalism Center (Washington, D.C.). Culture-crossing BestSemester programs are: Australia Studies Centre; China Studies Program; India Studies Program; Latin American Studies Program; Middle East Studies Program; Programmes in Oxford; and Uganda Studies Program. Visit www.bestsemester.com for program details.
About the CCCU: The Council for Christian Colleges & Universities is a higher education association of 172 intentionally Christ-centered institutions around the world. The 118 member campuses in North America are all fully-accredited, comprehensive colleges and universities with curricula rooted in the arts and sciences. In addition, 54 affiliate campuses from 19 countries are part of the CCCU. The Council’s mission is to advance the cause of Christ-centered higher education and to help our institutions transform lives by faithfully relating scholarship and service to biblical truth. Visit www.cccu.org.