CHRIST’S TOMB THE HILLSIDE Dug away in the fourth century to allow a church to be built around the tomb. TODAY’S CHURCH OF THE HOLY SEPULCHRE BURIAL CHAMBERS Existed here in the first centuries B.C. and A.D. GOLGOTHA/CALVARY Site of Jesus’ crucifixion.

“They have some … not conflicting, but differing ways of honoring where Jesus was buried,” she said. “We saw on the back end of the shrine a location of a stone, and that’s where it’s believed Jesus’ head was laid, so there’s a whole shrine dedicated to that spot.

“Ecumenism is one area, theology is another, but our role as an institution of learning is to engage all disciplines the University has to offer.” —Angie Appleby Purcell

“It’s fascinating. I was expecting to see the interplay of the three Abrahamic faiths, but to see divisions or at least different interpretations (among Christians) of the way that Jesus was crucified and buried helps you reflect more on your own faith.”

Which is a reminder of why the University began its presence here in the first place.

“I am encouraged and inspired by that early mandate,” said Angie Appleby Purcell, the senior director for internationalization in Notre Dame International. “We are a university engaging and advancing scholarship, research, and inquiry on all levels. Ecumenism is one area, theology is another, but our role as an institution of learning is to engage all disciplines the University has to offer.

Students back facing the camera, walk away toward an entrance.
Undergraduate students walk to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
A woman rests her hands on a wall and prays. Students tour the Holy Sepulchre, one student stands next to brightly lit candles. A small group of students observe a shrine.
Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

“Father Ted [Hesburgh] said, ‘A university is a place where the Church can do its thinking.’ And Tantur is a prime example of how that’s playing itself out, and still does.”

“Tantur is a place that has brought scholars and students and committed lay people and clergy from all over the world,” added Father Russ McDougall, C.S.C., rector of Tantur Ecumenical Institute. “And by sending its own students here, by having Notre Dame faculty come here for their own research, they have engaged with all of those people who’ve come from different parts of the world.”

The students are coming to Tantur in increasing numbers. The study abroad program is more popular than ever, with enrollment increasing by almost a third over last year. The program was initially offered only in the spring; now there is a fall semester offering as well as the summer program, which Pines and McManus completed. In each, students are afforded the opportunity to experience much of the breadth of region: from Galilee, to Tel Aviv, to Petra in Jordan, and of course Jerusalem. Moreover, the program includes classes at partner institutions in the region like Hebrew University and Bethlehem University.

“By sending its own students here, by having Notre Dame faculty come here for their own research, they have engaged with all of those people who’ve come from different parts of the world.” —Rev. Russ McDougall, C.S.C.

“The undergraduates are exposed in ways that root them more deeply in the local context than perhaps some other study abroad opportunities,” said Appleby Purcell. “Immersive experiences are a part of the curriculum and the students can’t help but be exposed to a lot of things in an area of the world that for most of them is brand-new.”

But with that exposure comes a need to strike a balance, and with that, an opportunity to impart learning that goes beyond factual recall and imbues a pilgrimage to commemorate the events of the past, with a reminder of the present.

“Our professor Hannah (Hemphill) had a great saying,” said McManus. “She said a lot of people come to the Holy Land expecting to see the sites on a pilgrimage. But while they see the old stones, they miss the living stones, the people who are living here today. That really stuck out to me, because there’s more going on here than just the religious significance.”

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