Kete M. Ennis
Living Jerusalem 2011
The course material for this class was outstanding. Karen Armstrong’s book was highly informative and allowed me to create a basis in my mind for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I really enjoyed how deep it went into the history of Jerusalem; it really allows a reader to see into details of why certain problems exist. Seeing where a problem began can help us in decoding how to solve it today, and I feel Karen Armstrong does a good job of doing that.
I benefited greatly from Armstrong’s book, but the manner in which it was covered I feel wasn't highly effective. We were stuck reading dense amounts between short periods of time. I often times found myself skimming some parts just so I could finish in time. We read too much in too little of a time and that put a lot of pressure on students. In doing so, I feel I missed some important details about the conflict in general. The biggest advantage to her book though is that I gained a firm understand of the conflict and the history of Jerusalem itself. I now know so many historical dates and figures I feel as if I could write a book about Jerusalem myself.
Other course material, such as the ones about the walls throughout the city or the artist Banksy, we very thought provoking. Although less academic, I feel they were more thought provoking and aroused more emotion than Armstrong’s book. I like getting to see a political situation through pop culture or through eyes of people today, not necessarily through a historical perspective. In terms of readings, I suggest that later classes read Armstrong’s book over a longer period of time and have smaller reading such as those discussing walls littered throughout to keep things interesting and fresh.
At the start of the year, the tremendous amount of reading combined with lengthy blog assignments made the homework load for this course seem fairly substantial. Adding tot hat having to comment on three different blogs made the homework seem very forced. Often times I found myself fishing for things to say, only to reword what someone before me had already said. After discussing it though and discovering how repetitive it was, we fixed it with the buddy system, which I feel will be highly beneficial to any future classes.
I think a fun idea that would make this aspect of the course seem more natural is to have two required posts per week One, would cover material being discussed in class readings and lecture. The other would be something personal and could be about anything concerning Jerusalem or the conflict. Doing this would allow each person a slot every week to show something they have learned about the conflict in terms of their own interests and could make the class more fun and allow students learn about one another. Having the freedom to post about whatever you want allow for more expression and makes the blogging seem less forced. This way, there would be less repetition.
The videoconferences were, quite frankly, my reason for taking the course. Never have I had the opportunity to meet people so relevant and important to their fields before. We found ourselves outside of Bloomington in many classes, which I thought was really cool. Meeting people such as Mariam Said and Naomi Chazan was truly an honor and it definitely helped to broaden my perspective not only on the Jerusalem conflict, but also on the world. It revealed how similar we all are and just how ever shrinking our world is. The power to communicate transnational is something I wish all generations could have had. It’s so beneficial I can hardly put it into words.
The only downside to the video conferences was how often times we took forever to start up and there were many awkward pauses during conferences. Another downside was the introductions we did during the first few. This was somewhat awkward and took up valuable time that could have been used to ask more questions. I feel in the future we should do more conferences in the beginning so we can all get use to it before we go onto ones with prolific figures on the subject.
Overall, the final projects were really fun. We were all able to research things that hold true to our hearts and we find pleasing. I was able to learn a lot from other students. I think that the final projects should be continued for future installments of this class. One change I may suggest though is requiring the project to be done in a group. This makes the overall quality of the project better. Not only that, it makes two people overcome any differences in creating a final piece. I think this is important because for one, I feel like I didn't really get to know anyone that well in the class. And two, it could be a model for the conflict. Taking two people who are unfamiliar with each other and have them complete a project together would put our words into action. We talk about how Palestinians and Israelis need to get along, but why don’t we lead by example? Having two people work together would serve as a model that people can overcome differences, challenge each other, and learn something in the end.
General Discussion of the Class
Besides the lengthy readings, the biggest fault of this class is the lack of diversity in opinion that we receive. We never really get to see the negative sides of what a unified Israel and Palestine would bring about. Everything we read about or talked about or anyone we talked to was in favor of our project but I feel talking to someone completely against it would prove beneficial too. We never really get to see how the majority of people within the conflict feel. Getting to know the other side would help us see any faults in our mission. People are going to oppose the project for personal reasons and understanding why could be the key in reaching out to those that are in opposition. We need to be exposed to the other side that is not seeking a peaceful means to an end to the conflict. It is reality. We often seemed to focus on the fantastical and ignore the very real possibility that this issue may never be solved.
I think the biggest improvement to the class would be to have students work in the community and campus more. I still know that many of my friends have no idea what the project is really about. IU has the resources and population to support such a group; we just need someone to organize it. I feel we do a lot of work in class and via the Internet but not so much as to getting the word out into the streets about the conflict. Having group functions outside of the class or perhaps turning the class into an academic club would not only increase the size of the project, but would also add new perspectives. I feel there was a lot of talking and not a lot of doing in this class. Instead of taking to blogs and rehashing the same material to one another, we should be educating people at IU about what is going on and get more people involved. Expanding the project and getting more campus involvement would be highly beneficial because it would put our words into action.
Personal View of the Course
It may seem as if I didn't enjoy the course, but this couldn't be farther from the truth. Before the course, I knew next to nothing about the conflict. Now, I find myself wanting to learn more and take another class on the subject matter. I took a lot away from this course and feel I have a better understanding of the complexities that human interaction can bring. What I have said are mere suggestions to improve the class, not criticisms. This is by far the most fun I have had in a class at IU and I hope it can continue here. The amount I have learned this semester from this class far surpasses what I thought was possible to do in a semester. All of this new knowledge came easy though, perhaps this is do the interactive nature of the class. In short, this class is spectacular. With a few tweaks, it could become more than just a class though and a social movement within each campus that it resides.