Yerushalayim built up, a city knit together (Psalm 122:3)
The Coronavirus lockdown is not just about Netflix or catching up on piles of magazines.
Ambitious people (whether aged 15 or 85!) around the world are taking advantage of this unexpected, extraordinary at-home time to expand their horizons to learn something new. Coding. Cooking. Or maybe…a new language. Some try software, others video-based instruction, and some connect with a tutor via video conference.
But for believers with a special bond to the Holy City of Jerusalem – especially those who planned a pilgrimage this year, or wished they could – there’s a new, more engaging opportunity around the corner: Hebrew University’s Online Jerusalem Ulpan.
An ulpan is a uniquely Israeli invention. Some say it’s oddly similar to your typical Israeli: Intense, no-holds-barred, but ultimately gets the job done, and with a warm smile. We’re talking about an immersive, classroom-based, deep-dive into the language. Ulpan is usually offered to new immigrants who wish to quickly and simultaneously master both the language and culture of their new home.
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, recognized as one of the top universities in the world, is taking the dramatic leap of offering their world-renowned, annual ulpan experience to an expanded, Christian global audience, explains Shelley Shloush, Academic Director. “COVID-19 restrictions meant that this summer’s Jerusalem Ulpan would have to be virtual,” she explains. “But as we began to restructure and optimize our proven methodology, it dawned on us: Since we‘re migrating from classroom to laptop, there is no reason to limit this experience only to locals who had moved here. We knew that lovers of Israel around the world – Evangelical Christians in particular – have been eager to connect to Jerusalem and the ancient Hebrew language that was born here. We’re excited, finally, to offer them that opportunity.”
Unlike most language courses – even those offered throughout Israel – the Hebrew University’s approach leverages its own millennia-old neighborhood of Jerusalem as a focal point, a “springboard” for its ulpan curriculum. The city, and specific locations in which tradition tells us Jesus walked offers almost endless material to discuss: History, culture, faith, and current events that shape its future.
“This isn’t about learning by rote, or endless repetition of basic words and phrases,” Shloush is quick to explain. “There’s a deep, integrated ‘texture’ here. With celebrity guest lecturers, unique virtual tours of the city with tour guides also trained to teach Hebrew, introduction to Israeli music, and even the viewing together of an Israel film as a tool for learning, this innovative – and yes, intense – approach brings language attainment to a new level. Of course, our instructors are veterans of Ulpan teaching methods and have received phenomenal accolades, year after year. But the Jerusalem-centric curriculum is enriching, informative, simply captivating. I can’t imagine a way to be more ‘in Jerusalem,’ the epicenter of Biblical prophecy, when you can’t actually be here.”
Does all this extra content dilute the learning experience? “Quite the opposite,” explains Shloush. “We’re talking about a month-long, intensive academic course that requires dedication and focus. But the results? You’ll speak and read Hebrew, ready to connect to the Land of the Bible and its people on your next visit– whenever circumstances allow.”
Virtual Ulpan classes meet for four academic hours, Sunday through Thursday, throughout July. Those who complete the course receive academic credit from Hebrew University; additional hours are required to take the university’s Level Exam.