March 15, 2021
The Druze

What does it take to become a leading force in the quest to bring ancient insight to the modern day? Kenneth Hanson, associate professor and director of UCF’s Judaic Studies program, is taking on the challenge through innovative teaching methods and through his celebrated documentary The Druze: An Ethnic Minority in the Holy Land.

The Druze highlights a small ethnic and religious sect in Israel’s culture and contributions to society by interviewing prominent Druze figures, including the mayor of the largest Druze village in Israel and a Druze general in the Israeli army. With the help of Hanson’s editor, Milos Ajdinovic, and undergraduate history student Shmuel Kilstein, the documentary has achieved international acclaim. It won Best Documentary Short at the Oniros Film Awards, New York, Best Documentary Film at the Calcutta International Cult Film Festival and it is a finalist for the Florence Film Awards.

Hanson will screen his film The Druze and answer audience questions in a discussion and Q&A session as part of UCF Celebrates the Arts 2021. This online event, taking place April 8 at 6 p.m., immerses audiences in the culture of the Druze. Registration is now open on a pay-what-you-want basis.

Through collaboration, clever storytelling and modern technology, Hanson has become an internationally recognized leader in his field.

Hanson continues to make ancient texts and civilizations accessible to people of all backgrounds through his books, videos and presentations. His “Jerusalem Jones” video and podcast series has taken thousands of people on adventures through the archeological mysteries of Jerusalem. He has been featured on major networks such as the History Channel and the Travel Channel, in addition to being a frequent guest on Coast to Coast AM His talent for connecting audiences with the past has also made him a highly-demanded lecturer at many events, including the Global Center for Religious Research’s 2020 International Conference on Religion and the Holocaust.

Once wary of what virtual learning meant for student engagement, Hanson is now at the forefront of revolutionizing how instructors engage their students virtually. Working with UCF’s Center for Distributed Learning’s TV Studio, he transformed online Judaic Studies courses into creative television experiences. “I was intrigued, to say the least, when I looked at that television studio,” says Hanson. “I thought to myself, maybe I could do something that is really unique, that is really special, perhaps it hasn’t been fully done before.” This innovative and collaborative approach has led to greater student engagement, understanding and demand within the program.

Recently, he collaborated with Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy to build a dynamic video game to discover and properly identify artifacts. This gamification module engages students with history in a novel way. “This video game challenges students to correctly identify by approximate age and period of pottery by examining specific characteristics,” says Hanson. “It also takes students on a tour of the ancient tunnels beneath old Jerusalem.”

Learn more about Ken Hanson and his views on virtual learning here.

To learn more about Hanson and view his work, visit