The Jerusalem Project
Throughout this class, there have been many things I have learned about myself and the world. Not only was I able to gain a lot through engaging in the class material, but most of what I learned about came from engaging with other students in the classroom. This class effectively used a critical pedagogical approach to rethinking our education. While normally, classes follow a regimented syllabus with regular paper assignments and exams at the end of a section; this class was able to defy the norm effectively. Through the use of our blogs, I particularly was able to engage in class material more in-depth without worrying about the formalities of a written paper. Looking for peace in a conflict deeply rooted with many issues at times can be difficult, but this class made each of us want to look for solutions. Instead of being inactive members of our society, we were able to critically engage personal experience and knowledge with that of the conflict. Unlike any other class I have taken before, videoconferencing influential figures in the conflict was not only totally awesome but extremely beneficial to our learning experience.
On a more formal note this class was able to defy the norms of regular assignments and readings. We, of course, still has readings that were to be done before every class. The readings at time were extremely long, and reading 60 pages between classes is a little unfathomable for someone taking 19 credit hours. The book that we read by Karen Armstrong, to me, was not only extremely bland, but very tedious. It required much attention when reading the text and it felt like we had too much information to indulge in. However, because our assignments were in a blog post and not a formal writing prompt, it gave us more room to only look at some of the massive amount of information in one night, and pick out what was most appealing to us. The coolest part was that after reading all of the blogs after one of these assignments was that everyone picked different notches from the reading. This way I was able to understand what I could through the text and then read my classmates blogs to unpack more of the reading. Therefore, I was unable to comprehend it more fully. Another benefit of being able to write in a public forum is the fact that it is public. Anyone can get online and find my blog, and if they think it sound interesting they can learn and read it. This way my particular message of peace has more chance of moving around to others. Not only are our personal blogs important as a public forum where other students and people can engage, even though some people made their blog private, but our blog homepage as a whole was particularly useful. Sometimes I would spend hours just browsing throughout our home blog and listening to the music on the side. It was during this time, I started to use more critical thought.
Because there were so many people in our class that had a much deeper connection with the conflict, I felt like our class was able to confront issues that most other classes, even like this, are unable to do. To be in a class in Bloomington, Indiana and be studying a conflict surrounding mostly Israelis and Palestinians, and actually having Israelis and a Palestinian girl in the class made it particularly intriguing. It’s not every day you get to sit by a girl that actually knows what it’s like to be a part of the occupied West Bank… Or a boy that has wandered the streets of Jerusalem since he was a kid. It’s especially not every day that you get to work and be in a small group with both of these people. Here in our Living Jerusalem class, I can say that I did that. I learned so much from these people and the others with extremely prominent Jewish/ Israeli backgrounds. However, hearing a personal account of what it was like to be Palestinian from someone I would now identify as a friend is beyond cool to me.
Before taking this class I had a pretty good idea about what I thought about the conflict and that was that the Israelis were clearly oppressing the Palestinians and the United States was only helping innocent lives be taken. I still agree for the most part with my personal theories, but I have also been able to open up and see more of the Israeli point of view. It has nothing to do with the fact that I don’t like Jewish people or believe they do not have right to any land, because I know their religion has been through much tribulation. But, it is my thought that because of things like the Holocaust, Israelis and Jewish people would be more caring for people and religions that are being oppressed. I’m not saying that what they are doing to Palestinians is the same as the Holocaust. I just wish that they would remember the pain of oppression and find ways to not force their own oppression on other people. Now that I know more about the history of the conflict and the constant back and forth game between the three religions, it makes more sense to why Israel has taken so much control over the “sacred land”. However, I am still extremely confused about humans believing they are inherently right to all land. Land should be a place where we live healthily together through our ecosystems, not somewhere where we kill it and all the people living on it. Although, if people do feel an inherent right to land, it should be open to different types of people and not exclude one type. Because of groups of people like Hamas, the American and other foreign visions of Palestine are particularly narrow. Most ignorant Americans hear Arab and think “terrorist”, let alone hearing that Hamas is a political party in Palestine. Through this class I think we were able to remove most of the ignorance and set forth to try really listening and finding a solution to the conflict.
Videoconferencing Miriam Said was most definitely one of the coolest opportunities that I have had this far in college. While Edward Said is not only a huge benefactor to finding peace in the conflict, he is a scholar I have read about in many classes with much insight to share about the world. After the conference I got to tweet (on Twitter) about my chance to ask her questions and had many envious friends. How many classes get the opportunity to videoconference Miriam Said and other extremely influential Arabs and Israelis?
Not only was the videoconferencing a strong addition to the class, but the types of people we got to videoconference were definitely not what I had been expecting. I expected to talk to more formal groups or individuals. Instead we got to talk to artists, members of the LGBT community, and individuals that have shown that peace is not only made through government power, but through the power of people and the bond we each have with each other. I think one extremely important idea to take away from this class is the importance that music and art have in finding similarities among very different groups of people. Today in school we are taught to become consuming subjects that don’t appreciate the value of the arts, but even in an issue where bombs are being sent of almost every day, arts have an importance. If more teachers could envelop the critical pedagogy we have learned in this class, I think people would be more intellectual in general. Instead of learning and educating one particular way, we can find the strength of changing techniques and trying different approaches to learning. This is the type of learning that I benefit most from, learning where I am not only consuming the information from a textbook, but engaging with my classmates and scholars on the topic. Also not being taught at by a teacher, but having the experience of turning around the teacher-educator roles so that I can express my own knowledge on the topic to my peers.
There are very few things that I would change about this class. The first is just technical, and that would be to eliminate the importance of commenting on other people’s blogs. I think it is more important to engage in this discussion personally then through a measly comment on a post. The other thing I would maybe change is for the final project and it would be having smaller groups to work in. While I loved everyone in my group, working with six others on one individual topic is challenging. I feel like working with groups of three or four on more specific ideas would be more beneficial.
Overall, this is one of my favorite classes that I have the opportunity to take at IU. It should be a model for how all classes are taught here in the university due to its innovative and critical learning. It would be a shame not to see the Jerusalem project carry on because by the end of class you could most definitely tell that people cared more about the conflict in general, and most people were able to open to up to side they previously were unaware or weary of. It was more than a pleasure getting to be a part of such a fantastic class.