The Middle East was the cradle of civilization in ancient times, and has re-emerged as an influential and powerful region that engages the attention of the world. This 9-part mini-course surveys the geography, history, and culture of this fascinating region.
The course can be modified for upper elementary, middle school, high school, and adult learners.
Note: This is a nine part series. Individual sessions can be ordered individually apart from the entire series.
Session 1: A Look at the Neighborhood: Then and Now
Through a geo-political survey of the Middle East in ancient times and today, we will address the following questions:
• What nations constituted the Middle East in ancient times, and which nations are found there today?
• Why was the Middle East so important in ancient times, and why is it important today?
• What was the unique significance of the Land of Israel in ancient times, and why is it a focus of world attention today?
Session 2: Uncovering Layers of History
In this session, students will examine how we learn about the past from texts, archaeological findings, and from ancient practices that remain in use even today. They will learn about the layers of history in the Middle East by examining two archaeological “tel”s (hills with multiple destruction levels) – Tel Megiddo (Armageddon) and Tel Bet Shean.
Sessions 3-4: The Cradle of Religions
The Middle East is the birthplace of the three major western religions – Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Students will learn about the cities associated with the birth of these religions (e.g. Beer Sheva, Hebron, Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Nazareth, Mecca, and Medina), with a focus on Jerusalem. They will learn about how Jerusalem became the capital of Israel during the time of King David, the role that it played in the lives of the Jewish community throughout antiquity, its significance in the life of Jesus, and its subsequent connection to Islam, as well as the growth of the city in modern times and some of the issues surrounding it.. They will also learn about the struggles over control of the region in the Middle Ages that were religiously motivated. In addition, students will learn about a more modern religion that is centered in Israel – the Druse – that is centered in Haifa and Acre.
Session 5: Conflict and Warfare
The Middle East has always been a contentious area. Students will learn about how war was waged in ancient times, and about some of the significant battles waged in the Middle East over the ages. They will then learn about some of the modern military methods that have emerged from the Middle East, and the issue of nuclear weaponry in the Middle East that has captured world attention.
Session 6: Water Then and Now
The Biblical text points out the differences between Egypt and Israel vis-à-vis water sources. Students will learn about the water sources of Israel, Egypt, and Mesopotamia in ancient times, and some of the ancient methods of capturing and conserving water. They will also learn about water issues in the contemporary Middle East, as well as modern methods of conservation and desalination that have impacted the region.
Session 7: Economics
Students will examine the economic life of the ancient Middle East, including products, means of production, and commerce. They will then examine how oil and gas exploration have transformed the modern Middle East, and its impact on the world economy. In conclusion, the students will learn about new technologies emanating from the Middle East including hi-tech initiatives and the development of alternative energy sources.
Session 8: Leadership – Combining Pragmatism and Vision
Because of its periodically stormy political and military history, a number of great leaders have emerged from the Middle East. In addition to leaders encountered in previous sessions, this session will examine leadership style by focusing on three specific leaders from the region, one ancient and two modern. The prophet Isaiah serves as the paradigm Biblical prophet, who was able to guide the People of Israel through the assaults and ultimate destruction of the kingdom at the hands of the Assyrians and Babylonians, simultaneously foster a sense of comfort and hope for the future of the nation, and still maintain a vision of universal peace: “Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.” In modern times, two leaders, Anwar Sadat of Egypt and Menachem Begin of Israel, personified these qualities as they were able to maintain and actualize a vision of peace, even while serving as resolute military and political leaders on opposing sides of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Session 9: Contemporary Issues
Through the lens of the information and perspectives learned in the previous sessions, the students will analyze the most current issues in the dynamic and ever-changing Middle East.