From Germany to Mount Zion: Christian Students' Sojourn in Jerusalem


My paper is rabout my ethnographic research on the transformational experience of German Catholic and Protestant Theology students who studied for eight months at the Benedictine Dormition Abbey on Mount Zion in Jerusalem. I spent the first five and the last two weeks with the students in their residence and shared their meals and some social activities and accompanied them on trips e.g. to Bethlehem. My interest was not so much in the curriculum but in how their environment shaped them. My findings are based on fieldnotes, student and alumni interviews and written accounts of students. The students’ journey away from the comfort of studying theology within their own denominations in Germany to the uncertainty of a bewildering liminal space in the Holy Land which is contested among the three Abrahamic religions led to an experience that was both fascinating and uncomfortable. Living in Jerusalem was also an embodied learning experience that they felt with all their senses and that was more transformational than the curriculum. Another emerging theme was the importance of living and studying together as an ecumenical community. The students were not immersed in either the Jewish or the Muslim societies but felt that they lived in a bubble. The discussions within this close-knit community had a big impact on shaping their own denominational identities. I apply several educational theories to make sense of the complexities of my findings. These include the Threshold Concept Framework, the spatial and corporeal turns and the Communities of Practice framework.


Christine Bohlander
Student, PhD Candidate, Durham University, Durham, United Kingdom


Presentation Type

Paper Presentation in a Themed Session


2024 Special Focus—Spaces, Movement, Time: Religions at Rest and in Movement


Liminality, Space, Sojourn, Embodiment, Community

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