1. Civilization and Society: Homelands in Exile

  2. Land, People, Ideas: The Challenge of the Middle East

  3. Hebrew

  4. Arabic

  5. Visual Learning - The Art of Seeing


Civilization and Society: Homelands in Exile

We understand the Jewish experience in each land of the Jewish people’s Diaspora as one of integration, positive assimilation, and creative tension with the native culture. We want our students to appreciate the rich texture of life that has come from our dispersion. We have lived as Jews in over 50 countries of the world, in many places for over 1000 years and in some since the time of the First Temple. We have worn every costume, built in every architecture, decorated in every art form, prayed and sung in every musical mode – we have no cuisine, only a kosher version of whatever our neighbors ate. Even philosophically – our greatest philosopher was Maimonides, who was an Aristotelian.

To understand the Jewish people we must explore the environments in which they were born and nurtured.  “Civilization and Society: Homelands in Exile” is our setting for this exploration. Each unit begins in the Israel Museum, (ranked as one of the 15 greatest national museums in the world) and every KIVUNIM student receives a year-long membership for entry to the Museum whenever they wish. We have secured the services of one of the finest Museum Educators in the world and designed with him unique and powerful periodic full-day programs to introduce each new international segment of the course. Our students not only read and hear lectures about their travels, they develop a cultural awareness and literacy only dreamed about in most college humanities courses.

The academic program has required readings, fascinating lectures (courses are taught by top university professors from both Israeli and international campuses including those we bring to Jerusalem just for KIVUNIM), projects and papers - but it is brought to life when we travel. It is in some of the greatest museums of the world in country after country, at historical and archaeological sites, as well as sitting in cafes and restaurants talking with local people - hearing their struggles and appreciating the common humanity that we share - that our classroom study really comes alive!

Land, People, Ideas: The Challenge of the Middle East

Our Middle East Studies course “Land, People, Ideas: The Challenge of the Middle East” does the same in the very loaded and complex arena of emotions and contending ideologies. Here we seek to make the history of the Zionist movement come alive and allow KIVUNIM students to truly appreciate the capacity of the human being to become an historical actor: to make things happen.  The course explores the growth of Pan-Arab nationalism and the specific development of Palestinian identity and nationalism.  We resist the temptation to turn academic study into wishful thinking and fantasy, presenting our students with the harsh reality of contending forces of destiny and desire.  We make extensive us of documentary film, archival materials and personal testimony to allow students to understand more deeply and with greater empathy.  We encourage our students to imagine solutions while studying problems and to develop their sense of empowerment in glimpsing a future more positive then the past or today.

Hebrew + Arabic

Our language program enables all students to advance their knowledge of Hebrew and begin their study of Arabic, with many alumni becoming Arabic students when they return to college.  Some ask "why teach Arabic to Jewish students?" We answer: Israel lives in a neighborhood of Arabic language and culture.  Those looking to a more peaceful future must be able to understand and to speak to their neighbors.  As simple and profound as that!

Visual Learning - The Art of Seeing

Our Art Minor (taught by our Artist-in-Residence, world renowned Tobi Kahn) teaches our students, through the medium of photography, how to use sight to "learn" and not just to see.  We visit artists in their studios, study the great photographers to understand more of their perspective and insight and examine settings for clues to composition, structure, and expression in the photograph itself.

In addition to the formal academic program there are support sessions in music, dance, cuisine, literature and film related to the countries of our travels and to Israel, our home for the year.