On May 13th, 2016, Dr. Gordon Middleton, the Director of the Strategic Intelligence Program, along with two Patrick Henry College students left the United States for the Middle East. The trip is not aimed for pleasure, but it is the first college course offered by Patrick Henry that incorporates a foreign, multi-week trip.
The course addresses the need for increased understanding of the Middle East, focusing on the historical interplay of geography and culture as they pertain to current tensions. By physically travelling to Israel, Jordan, and other Middle East regions, the students, Hailey and Chase, will be able to better understand the geography and culture instead of only studying maps, photos and satellite images in a classroom.
While the group is travelling, they will meet with agencies and organizations that will provide on-site lectures and field work. Hailey and Chase will meet academic and regional experts from institutions such as Hebrew University, the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, and the Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East. They will also meet current and former officials from the local Israeli governments.
Both students are excited to travel and to learn more about complexities of the Middle East. Chase is “looking forward to meeting a number of experts who can share their knowledge and experience with the group.” When asked about the trip, Hailey stated that she “hopes to learn lots through our study at the University of the Holy Land and through our walking trips around the nation of Israel.”
The threesome is not the first group from Patrick Henry to travel to Israel. Dean Thornhill and his wife, Vicki, once lived in the Middle East for seven years. Before Dr. Middleton, Hailey, and Chase headed out, the Thornhills were able to impart their insights into the Israeli life and culture. Dean Thornhill shared some basic Hebrew travel and language tips, particularly in explaining the faith in a way a Jewish person would understand avoiding religiously charged words and images. The Thornhills also provided a brief overview of the 2,000 years of Jewish history from a Jewish perspective, focusing on the wanderings and persecutions.
By sharing their experiences with the group, the Thornhills were able to help the group understand cultural faux pas and the Israeli culture from a unique perspective. The Thornhills’ prayer is that the students will take full advantage of the experience. They hope the students will absorb the information, not just from their classes, but from opportunities to walk the land where Jesus walked and lived in incarnate.
Dean Thornhill and Vicki Thornhill sharing with Chase and Hailey