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Master's College students study in Israel

Program offers 15-week semester on Jerusalem campus

Posted: August 30, 2008 9:32 p.m.
Updated: November 1, 2008 5:00 a.m.

Molly Wilson, left, Chelsea Young, center, and Noel Saunders stand outside the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

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The Master's College students can study the Bible in the land of the Bible.

The school's Israel Bible Extension program - know as IBEX - allows students to spend a 15-week semester in Jerusalem, earning credits and enjoying a life-changing experience.

"We are the only Christian liberal arts college in America that has our own campus in Israel," said William Varner, known at The Master's College as "Dr. IBEX" since he oversees the program from the Newhall campus. "Other colleges study in Israel, but we have our own campus and our own program."

About 40 students attend classes taught by three American faculty members in residence at the college's satellite campus.

Meghan Walter, a Newhall resident who graduated from Santa Clarita Christian School and studies at The Master's College, is excited about leaving for Israel.

"The biggest reason I wanted to do it is because I go to school so close to home and my parents are always around, so it's an opportunity for me to go off and see the world," Walter said. "Plus, I'm a believer and I have a relationship with the Lord and when He was here on earth, Israel is where He lived and performed His works, so I've always wanted to go there."

The students spend 25 days of the 15 weeks they are in Israel going on field trips to supplement their studies in the classroom.

"Basically, we just have class and then we go on field trips where we actually go to a place we are studying about in the Bible," Walter said.

According to Varner, who has visited Israel 43 times himself, students who participate in the IBEX program transform their reading of the Bible and understand the Middle East situation better.

"Before they go, they read the Bible in black and white, but when they get back, they read the Bible in living color," Varner said.

Noel Saunders, a junior from Washington who attends The Master's College, went to Israel with the program last spring. She said the experience definitely made the Bible come alive for her.

"Just going to the different places that we were reading about in the Bible really made the Bible come alive for me," Saunders said. "I really enjoyed our four-day field study in Negev, a wilderness area. Just to experience a little taste of what the ancient Israelites went through as they wandered through the desert helped me better understand what the Bible is talking about."

The program also gives students a new perspective on the Middle East conflict.

"They live among Israelis and Arabs, so they learn about these relationships first hand, and not from media reports," Varner said.

Most students who return from the program in Israel say it was one of the best semesters of their college experience, Varner said.

"It's a wonderful experience. It really opens your eyes to the world around you," Saunders said. "You meet all types of new people and experience different cultures - you really understand the world better by traveling."

The program is designed to enhance the students' knowledge of the geographical, historical, archaeological and cultural understanding of the land of Israel, both ancient and modern. Students even participate in an archaeological excavation at an area associated with a Biblical event while they are there.

Walter is looking forward to seeing the land where her religion had its beginning.

"I'm really excited about going to the place where my faith has its foundation," Walter said. "I want to see the place where Jesus died on the cross because that is the basis of everything I believe."

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