CCI Faculty and Students Travel to Israel With Comparative Religous Thought II Class

By: Emily Horne

The Jewish Studies group in a Druze village. © Photo by Megann Galehouse

In May, David LaBelle, who is directing the Photojournalism program, and two of his students traveled to Israel. On this trip, they joined Chaya Kessler, Director of the Jewish Studies program, David Odell Scott, Chair of the Department of Philosophy, and other students participating in a short study-abroad trip through Comparative Religious Thought II, which fulfills both the Humanities Core and Global Diversity requirement.

A market area from the streets of Old City Jerusalem. © Photo by David LaBelle

Kessler said after speaking to LaBelle at a new hire orientation three years ago, they discovered many similar interests that could potentially lead to collaboration. “In both our programs we strive to expand beyond our own small niche. Collaborations allow this to naturally develop,” Kessler said. LaBelle also spoke highly of the collaboration saying, “this is what we need to be doing more of, quite frankly.”

LaBelle worked with students Megann Galehouse and Chloe Makarick to create an independent study project that involved the trip to Israel. The initial goal of the project was to do more than simply travel photography because “to shoot any kind of intimate or meaningful pictures on tour is a challenge,” LaBelle said.

The group chose to explore the idea of the “Jerusalem Syndrome,” a condition in which people think they are, in fact, one of the Bible figures and become very emotionally involved at those religious sites. This project proved to be more time consuming and in depth than expected so the group revised their focus.

The Stone of Unction inside the Church of the Holy Sephulchre in Jerusalem. © Photo by Chloe Makarick

While traveling, LaBelle, Galehouse, and Makarick shifted gears and looked more at prayer and how different people are praying. They tried to focus on how individuals choose to express their faith. Since Israel is the center of different religions, it provides for a variety of religious experiences. This project will continue throughout the semester.

Galehouse, a junior in the photojournalism program, said this trip allowed her to learn how to be more patient with others as well as the importance of allowing oneself to get to know people based on their interests and thoughts. “It will open your eyes to new things and teach you to be a better person,” she said.

Makarick, a senior information design major and photojournalism minor, said her own personal goal with this trip was try to connect with as many people as she could. Not only did she connect with the people in Israel but with the others on the trip as well. “It was awesome how great the group meshed together. We were all intermingling, learning from each other and exchanging ideas,” she said.

Prayer candles in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. © Photo by Megann Galehouse

Galehouse indicated her biggest takeaway from this trip as having the opportunity to shadow LaBelle. She said that experience was truly beneficial and something she will treasure. Makarick’s biggest takeaway was the realization that you have to experience unfamiliar cultures with an open mind and accept everyone despite the differences you may have.

Photographs from this trip and project will be on display near the Wick Poetry Center in the Library beginning September 12.

“I assure of you this: I came back not thinking I was Jesus or John the Baptist. Some people were a little surprised that I didn’t suffer from the Jerusalem Complex,” LaBelle joked.


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