Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Final Course Evaluation

Throughout this course we spent time talking about not only the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but more broadly the cultures and people that make up each side and the state of Israel, mainly focusing on Jerusalem.  We used many different learning approaches including reading a novel by Karen Armstrong, also reading different articles from many authors and using a blog for responses and comments to each other’s reading responses.  We watched films and talked to many different people living in the conflict area or who are helping to change the situation in the conflict area.  We held whole class discussions where anyone could speak their mind on a reading or project we had studied or something they had learned on their own.  Overall I liked how the class focused on the conflict and the disputed area but in a way that gave hope to the situation and made it seem like a resolution could be found or at least that the people could learn to respect one another enough to live together in one area.  
            This semester we started off our class by reading the book One City: Three Faiths by Karen Armstrong.  In her book she discussed the history of the city and area surrounding Jerusalem.  By going into detail about all three religions I learned a lot of things about Judaism and Islam specifically, two faiths I have never studied much about.  While learning the history was incredibly important and helped me understand the main and deep seeded feelings each side has in the conflict, I felt the book was very tedious and often hard to follow.  I found myself constantly getting caught up in the small details of the book such as all of the names of people and places and their specific stories.  While these were all interesting I didn’t find them particularly helpful to the class or memorable.  For future classes I think that the time would be better spent reading specific chapters of the book that dealt with the necessary history needed for background information.  Another route could possibly be having students read the book ahead of time over summer or winter break in preparation for the course as to not have to spend so much time on the book. 
In order to keep track of reading responses and weblogs discussing more personal information about ourselves and our opinions to share with our fellow classmates we used blogs to write them out and post them online.  The blog was hard to adjust to at first but once used to the format it is a good place to put up reading responses and weblog journals.  It is definitely necessary to have reading responses to keep up and produce an individual opinion.  However I found that the blog comments were not as effective as when we held open dialogue class discussions about the readings and video conferences.  Last semester I took I-204 and I remember each class period we would meet in small groups, almost always with different people, and discuss the readings.  After that we would designate one person to tell our group opinion to the class.  This, in my opinion, was a much easier format to get everyone involved in discussion even those too intimidated to speak in larger class discussions.  It was also a good way to get to know fellow classmates on a more personal level.  A way to learn their ideas and opinions on certain topics.
This semester during our large class discussions, though I didn’t speak often, I found listening to my classmates share their knowledge and questions much more interesting than just reading it on the blog.  When in a group conversation it is easier to facilitate thought and bounce ideas off each other.  Often when someone says something it will remind someone else of something they wanted to bring up.  Other times it will create a healthy debate between two or more classmates over conflicting ideas or perhaps a hot topic in government policy.  I think in the future more class discussions about the blogs, rather than doing blog comments, would be a more effective way of getting more people involved and having more of a discussion.  Though this was hard for us to do with a larger class, I think smaller groups is always a great way to share ideas and a good chance to learn from at least a few of your classmates.
One thing I would have liked to have seen discussed more throughout the class would be the current news from the conflict going on today.  While we took a thorough look at the history of Jerusalem and of all three religions who have claimed the territory, I don’t feel enough time was spent on the history of the creation of Israel as a state and how the Palestinians originally became “displace” people.  I also would have liked to have gone over the different intifadas a little bit and discussed things that were happening today politically to end all of this.  I personally came into the class without much previous or even current knowledge on the conflict and would have really liked to have had a chance to hear more from classmates and possibly even politicians who were involved in making decisions about things like whether or not a two-state solution would be beneficial.   This could be something that could be done by possibly having someone each class or each week bring in a new news article about the conflict area or a current policy up for debate affecting the area.  Just a short discussion at the beginning of class I feel would really be a good way to keep students updated on the current issues in the area and keep the class discussion current as well.  While this would be something to maybe consider discussing in depth if time, I found the class focus of hope for the future and how to create peace a great way of going about discussion in the class as opposed to focusing on all of the hurt and conflict that has gone on.
The parts of the class we discussed what was happening today to create peace, such as Edward Said and Daniel Barenboim’s West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, were incredibly influential and in my personal opinion one of my favorite parts about the class.  To see that kind of hope for the future in a situation that seems so messy there is no way out is very moving.  It is something you keep with you and that presses you to want to get involved, even in a small way to help a bigger project.  Because of this the film Knowledge is the Beginning is something I would definitely recommend keeping for the next classes. Along with Edward Said and Daniel Barenboim’s project, I thought the overall focus on music and children as a hope for the future were really good themes for the class.  The children being something of such a large focus really surprised me but in the end it makes perfect sense.  I really enjoyed the time and the focus we put into looking into these topics.   
We had many video conferences with different speakers throughout the semester.  While technology wasn’t always on our side, the speakers really helped to give us different perspectives from many different people affected by the conflict, or affecting the conflict, in many different ways.  Being as removed from the danger of the conflict as most of us are in America the times we got to sit and talk to people in the area dealing with the armies and the disarray everyday really gave one a new perspective and outlook on the conflict area.  It was also amazing to have a chance to ask questions to and really just listen to those talk who have spent their lives and are still spending their lives making a difference in the area.  I think it was very moving to hear so many different people talk about the goal to conflict resolution being through teaching the children.  
Throughout all our different assignments and speakers during the semester the thing I found most interesting and actually most conducive to learning were the group projects.  These projects were not only fun to partake in but very interesting to watch as well.  When bouncing around different ideas for our project we stumbled upon so many random websites and topics surrounding Jerusalem today.  Learning about different things like the culture of both sides of the conflict or the politics of the conflict through our classmates and their interesting presentations were possibly one of the most influential things during the semester.  By encouraging students to use videos in their presentations there were some very neat ones people found and even created on their own.  I also think letting the student groups pick their own topics created many very different and almost random discussions about Jerusalem that normally wouldn’t be taught in the classroom.  By sparking the students creativity and allowing them to take their project in any direction we had a lot of really exciting projects going in all different directions.  Getting to hear students talk about these very different topics for a class period was a great way to end the semester, and getting to have a final day at the end to discuss them all and raise questions really helped clear certain things up as well. 
One thing I was actually surprised about with this class was the ability for it to focus on the conflict and on the Israeli culture and the Palestinian culture while remaining very unbiased.  As we talked about at the beginning and with Karen Armstrong no one is going to be naturally unbiased in a conflict.  At one point I believe we even discussed how not talking about something can create a bias.  However, I felt the way in which the class topics and discussions were structured each side was able to be represented and discussed in an equally fair light.    I think that this had to do more so than anything with the structure of the class.  Who was chosen to be a guest speaker and the different articles we read throughout the semester were all chosen to give equal opportunity to learn about and discuss each side of the conflict.

Monday, April 1, 2013

My Position

Coming into this class I really didn't know much at all about the conflict, nor was it something I usually thought about. After learning about the history, what each side wants or feels they deserve and why, I'm not sure the Palestinians will ever be able to be treated fairly under a governing body made up of Israeli citizens who feel so strongly against them. As for my position, I believe that each side deserves equal rights and to be self-governing. I feel that the best way to be fair to each side would be to use a two state solution.  Though for the two states to live side by side together might be just as difficult for them and their governments, but I still feel it would be a better solution than keeping the Palestinians in the same country isolated by fences without citizenship or passports.  After things the Israeli government has put the Palestinian people I support them wanting a place of their own.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Response March 20: LGBTQ

These sites informing us on the LGBTQ organization in Jerusalem were neat to read about because it is easier to relate to something when the same thing is currently going on in our own country, and many other places globally.  Mostly when I think about Jerusalem I think about the Israeli Palestinian conflict.  I've never really put much thought into the other issues like the discrimination people face for being gay.  It's an issue many people face in many countries and can actually help link people across boarders.  It is also something that can help link some Palestinians and Israeli's, being that it's not based on religion or ethnicity.

Some people on the sites were talking about how this was a religious issue in Jerusalem, but it is actually a religious issue here as well.  Those opposed to things like gay marriage or gay rights will use things like the Bible to justify their opposition just as some in Jerusalem are doing with the Torah.  I found it interesting in the City of Borders documentary clip how he compared hiding their gay identity to Jews hiding their identity in Europe.  When he puts it this way I would expect that people who have been forced to hide their own identity would be more open to others sharing their true identities, but it is actually something most people around the world have trouble accepting. I also found it interesting that some thought Palestinians were more accepting of Israeli's than gays, while the opposite is true of Israelis.  I wondered why this was and couldn't seem to really find any definite answer, if there even is one. 

Reading Response for March 18

While these readings were pretty different from anything we've had in the past I think there were important lessons to be taken from each story, true or not.  The story about the gas masks seemed sort of unimportant to me at first until someone makes the comment about fear. It brought to mind that a lot of things groups of people do to those they hold power over are simply to incite fear into the masses so they won't know whats coming next and they will be afraid to rise up against.

The story about the dog and her passport definitely seemed ridiculous but brought around the point of just how hard it is for people to get passports.  Through a false story it shows how much of a hassle the boarder checks and stops all along the ways are for people just trying to do something as simple as take their dog to a decent vet.  The feminism aspect of this story also fit in with the last one about Jerusalem in general being a female.  I wasn't really sure what to make of this one and the main point I took out that was trying to be made was that Jerusalem is not owned by anyone.  She should welcome all and all visiting or living within her gates should respect all of her traditions.  They should respect those who have come and lived and ruled before them because they are a part of her past as well.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Weblog 4

For me personally I wouldn't say that music plays a significant role in my everyday life, it is more something I use as background noise when studying, driving, showering, etc.  I mostly listen to country music, old and new, and I suppose that genre carries a specific aspect of defining those who like that kind of music.  Whether its true for all fans or not country music mostly has a stigma of being particularly pro-American, small town U.S.A., and often right-winged.  For me it reminds me of home, it's what all my friends and family listen to and what I grew up around especially during summers at the lake. 

 I see music mostly used for communication through song lyrics.  Songs can help unit people behind a cause or help give them a strengthened voice to speak out against some type of injustice.  When people are in a bad situation its sometimes hard to find the right words to communicate how you feel you're being wronged, in that case its usually easy to find a song that will say it for you.  Often people will use some sort of a song as a rallying cry like "We Shall Overcome" was used during the civil rights movement.  During that time there was a whole group of "protest singers" like Bob Dylan and Joan Baez, who performed at Civil Right marches.  Their songs gave people inspiration and showed in a non-violent way how people could rise up and tell their government and oppressors what they were doing was unjust.  I think that music also is used by many people as an outlet.  When feeling angry about something it can be used as a way of escape and I think this is one possible way people in conflict areas might use music as well as for protest. 

Monday, February 25, 2013

Reading Response 10

In her senior thesis, Noura Dabdoub talks about this emotional attachment Palestianians and Israelis have with their homeland and how it has created this sense of nationalism.  She talks a lot about how both sides use history to connect themselves to the land and both actually have legitimate claims to the land, but both see the others claim as threatening to their own.  After reading her sections on both sides I think the best solution would be the two-state solution.  She makes the claim, and I feel it is a very solid one, that both sides need a homeland and it should be one that both feel a historical connection with.  Everyone needs place where they can live freely and continue their familial history in connection with that of the past.  Each side here need a place to feel an emotional link to, something that will give them a sense of permanence.  Something especially important for the Jewish community after the threat of complete annihilation during and even after the holocaust.

Going along with this theme of needing a homeland Julie Peteet's article on Palestinian graffiti showed Palestinian resisitance to their homeland being occupied and controlled by Israelis.  In the same way that land binds people together in a community, the Palestinians used graffitti as a way of communication that could bind the people together and encourage them to stand up to occupying forces.  I thought the Palestinian persistance in this form of a non-violent protest was incredible.  She talks about how the drawings and murals would be blacked out everyday, how the Israeli forces would often make the very boys who did the drawings cover them up, but they always continued to redraw them at night and suffer the consequences if caught. I like how she said this gave them an "uncensored voice" because they could write anything, any type of political message or anti-Israeli drawings and once this got the attention of the international media, they suddenly had a voice on the international level through journalists and such.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Identity: Project Outline

So far our Identity group has decided we want to look at cultural identity in Jerusalem through sports, music, and children as the future generation.  As of right now I am going to be working with the topic of children as the future generation.  We mainly wanted to look at children who have been involved with group like the west-eastern divan and other projects and where they are at and what they are doing now in their lives.  We also wanted to take a look at the mixed schools we have seen in class so far and find other places that are bringing children of different cultural identities together early on in life and see how it changes the childrens outlook on the world, their culture, and the conflict.