What Makes a Tantur Program?
Why does a person choose to join a Tantur program?
Practically since the founding of Tantur Ecumenical Institute, the desire to provide an opportunity for clergy, religious and laity to join in the educational experience alongside our scholars led us develop open enrollment programs based on the principles of ecumenism, interfaith, and peace-building. For nearly fifty years, the roots of these programs have been based on providing participants with encounters, excursions, and lectures, all while enjoying their stay on our beautiful campus. Over time, “branches” that have grown from the base of this tree have come to grow and define the nature of a Tantur program experience.
The Holy Land is sometimes considered an open-air museum for archaeology; indeed, there are few places in the country where one does not find an archaeological park, site or ruins yet to be fully discovered. Since the early days of Christianity, the Church has understood the importance of connecting the Christian faith with the physical locations the Bible and the early church. Tantur programs continue in these pedagogical
Guided visits to museums and institutions where efforts to preserve and learn from the past are meant to provide visual context to the learning experience, rather than mere tours through an exhibition. Lectures in classroom settings by local experts provide further knowledge as well as ample opportunities for questions and discussion, while field visits to national parks, churches, monasteries and archaeological sites provide participants to often quite literally “get into the trench” to understand the foundation of their faith and the history of the land.
If the Holy Land can be considered an open-air museum, it must also be considered a living laboratory of human civilization. From its outset, Tantur Ecumenical Institute has been committed to addressing the real-world socio-political impact of the Middle Eastern Conflicts, particularly those found within present-day Israel, Palestine and the Golan Heights. Through lectures, speaking panels, field visits and more, Israeli/Palestinian Narratives are heard and discussed, with a special attention paid to the past and present-day circumstances of Refugees of different backgrounds.
At the heart of all our programs lies the belief that we are engaged in a pilgrimage at every step of the journey. A pilgrimage is different than a holiday or a tour in that it is first and foremost meant to strengthen the soul rather than to solely refresh the body. Bible and Spiritual Texts Study as a group and individual practice is a major component of the weekly, even daily curriculum of our programs.
Prayer – again, both private and communal – offers a rhythm to the course of daily studies and activities and reinforces the core purpose of program participation. Encountering Christ through Faith during programs can come about through a variety of means – sometimes surprising ones – but all curriculum are designed with the hope that participants will, as one Tantur scholar in residence wrote, “See Christ and be seen by him.” In almost every program, days are set aside for a structured Spiritual Retreat. Usually set at the end of the program, the retreat component allows for reflection, closure, and preparation to continue on one’s personal journey in life after leaving Tantur.
Ecumenism, both the study of and the current practice of it in the Holy Land, is a component of all Tantur programs. Special focus is put on the successes and challenges of ecumenism within the local Christian church. Encounters through lectures and field visits to the people and places of Islam and Judaism, including opportunities to witness and, when culturally appropriate, participate in services and cultural practices such as meals and celebrations. Interreligious relationships and their intricate, even complex role in the national, social and political context of the Holy Land and beyond are also paid close attention to.
At first glance, socio-cultural anthropology may seem more like a leisurely break from the study of theology and current affairs in the Holy Land, but an in-depth understanding and appreciation of the rich diversity of the peoples who live in the region is a key component in understanding the land. Artistic events such as exhibitions, folklore performances and concerts are both enjoyable and educational, as are visits to markets, handicraft shops and production centers, and samplings of regional food and cuisine, either while on program tours or during free days and open hours.
At its heart, Tantur Ecumenical Institute remains dedicated to original mission of advanced theological study. Each year, scholars and students from across many nations and academic disciplines come to study at Tantur for undergraduate, graduate, doctoral and post-doctoral degrees and research, taking full use of both our own library, the largest English-language collection of theological works in the Middle East, as well as many of the other nearly two dozen private and institutional library collections in Jerusalem.
This unique circumstance allows for our program participants to take full advantage of their time while in our programs to engage in personal study, making use of our library, PC Labs and rooms to read, research and write, as well as to visit other Institutes or make field visits to collect more information on their specific areas of interest. In addition, ad-hoc opportunities to take part in lectures such as our Tuesdays at Tantur series, discuss with resident scholars and join other outside public lectures across Jerusalem’s many theological institutes and religious communities provides a rare opportunity to make the most of their time at Tantur.
A Tantur program is truly like none other in the Holy Land. Take advantage of it, and share in the fruits of our tree!