Monday, April 29, 2013

Final Paper

Thoughts on our Class
It’s harder than I thought to consider a paper on the nuts and bolts of our semester’s Living Jerusalem class, since I really enjoyed it.  So I’ll try to consider the different pieces of it that worked for me and those that weren’t so smooth.
First, I enjoyed the Karen Armstrong book.  I know it seemed a lot to read, as it seemed we had to read all at once.  And it got to be hard reading.  Maybe it could be broke up just a little more than it was, or even intermingled with other readings in between.  I feel like the information was critical to a basic understanding of Jerusalem, hence a bit of an understanding of what our class is talking about.  And, although I don’t know, probably any other book with that much information in it would be an actual history book, which would not be near as much fun to read.  So I am in favor of considering Karen Armstrong’s book an important book for this class to read in the future.  I wonder if writing a brief summation of bits of it would help drive some of the information home, not a tremendous paper or anything, but maybe an outline type paper, or summation of what we think happened.
The other readings were OK, I think.  Some of it was definitely more interesting than others, but, overall it was good, in that it really related to what we were talking about.  Obviously, it was relevant also to the speakers we heard.  I think we had a broad spectrum of speakers, and appreciated them all.  I would like to have seen more of a mixture of Israeli then Palestinian speakers, rotated rather uniformly throughout the course.  I know, as fate would have it, it seemed heavily leaning toward Palestinian speakers and I also know that wasn’t supposed to be the case, so I am not really concerned about it.  But I think it is important to evenly portray an unbiased approach to speaker selection by rotating the speakers evenly according to the topic they are speaking of and the “side” they reflect.  This is important because, among other reasons, we could (and did) easily have students who leaned heavily to one “side” or the other; this is a way for our class to maintain an even keel within.  Speaking of the selection of speakers, I was pleased with the diversity of topics on which they all spoke.  I think it was uplifting, for the most part, as well as enlightening as to the depth of complexity within the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.  I would like to have seen more speakers about the wall situation.  I think that was a very interesting and important subject.  I don’t know how, but it would be awesome to hear more from several peoples of each side of the wall.  I also think maybe just a couple of days of speakers, then a class to discuss what we really heard, saw, etc.  Then start again with a couple of speakers, then discussion for a class.  I think this would be more beneficial, capturing more of the opinions, thoughts, and conflicts within our classroom before they became back-burned due to new information of new speakers.
I know we all came from our own diverse background, with some of us willing and easily able to speak up with our thoughts, while others held back for reasons only they may know.  I wonder if there might be ways to make speaking up an easier ordeal for those who don’t.  For example, after a discussion class, maybe once in a while we could be assigned a short paper on our own personal response.  This response could be shared then in class, where it might be easier to read your own statement rather than speak out loud from scratch about it.  Then this response could be posted on our blog.
            And that brings me to the blog.  The blog…it was a really good idea, I think…it became a silent slate where we could write our opinions or feelings on, yet sometimes the responses seemed forced.  For example, personally, some of the papers we read were difficult for me to read and even more difficult for me to form an opinion on, very deep reading and worded such that it was hard to follow.  I know, big deal, this is college, suck it up and do it!  But, our class structure was so awesomely laid back; it seemed conducive for creativity.  Yet it was hard to be creative when nothing hit a note within.  I wonder if it would be possible to require a set amount of responses, such that every single reading did not require a written response, yet maintaining a specific number of responses required every few weeks.  I know there are some readings that I loved and couldn’t wait to respond to.  I sensed this variation of personal involvement and testimony within other blogs and wonder if some of the other students struggled with this.  I saw where this thread of creativity was carried from beginning to end of our Living Jerusalem class, though.  And that was the awesome part of our course. 
          From the first, the class flowed in a laid back, casual manner.  It took a few classes to actually acclimate to it, to realize that it was uniquely different from my other classes and unlike any I’d ever had.  This laid-back manner I think lent to the overall creativity within it, feeling free to let down your guard and be yourself, without worry of being wrong or inadequate.  I liked this aspect.  Now granted, it could be somewhat hectic, trying to keep track of which paper was due when and what postings were due online.  I guess this wasn’t overwhelming to me, as an older person and a mom, I am used to juggling changes and spontaneity in life: that IS life!  But it did keep me on my toes, and once in a while, on the wrong side of the ever-changing schedule!  But I still think this was a good way to work with our free-flowing class…it makes sense.  And I really enjoyed seeing the many people in our class come out of their proverbial shells over the weeks of our course.  I think our discussions lent to the ability of others to speak out, though they were out of their comfort zone.  And this brings me to the question of the size of our class this semester.
          I know that smaller classes have time for more things, and may get more from discussions as far as involvement goes.  And I know this was the first time this course has had such a large amount of students.  But I really think our class size did not hurt us at all.  Granted, there was maybe less time to balance speaking due to the quantity of students, but I think it created an even wider base of knowledge from which to glean new information, new insight, and, especially, offered more diversity within our numbers to challenge the very issues we discussed so much and put so much importance on: tolerance and acceptance.  Our wide range of interests and beliefs amongst so many students allowed a really interesting spectrum of opinions to be considered, and even challenged.  And challenged some of them were.  But the size of our class added to the learning aspect of our class, for me, and emphasized more realistically the diversity and complexity of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict: There are no easy answers and it is definitely more complicated than it seems!
          I also really enjoyed the idea of OSU joining us.  I wish the technological aspect would be much improved, but also, that’s life.  I would like to see student from Jerusalem join our class also, several to many times throughout our course.  And I would also like to hear more from them.  It would even be interesting the first time we all met, to have a brief introduction from each student.  I think it would help create a bonding and sense of involvement, kind of like the music and sports joint teams in Jerusalem and Israel did.  And I think it would be fun to hear some of the daily things going on in the city, from the students there…just a few minutes and a few words of daily life…something positive, or negative I suppose, just things that are front and center right then for them, as a group or individually.
          I think the final project idea was fantastic, and, true to our free-flowing course, our final projects flowed as easily and fluidly.  They were a good representation of our class and were great to hear.  I think it would be much better to actually schedule them a week or two earlier, so that we all could meet together as one, just to review the presentations.  I know we kind of tried to do this, but it would be great to have an entire class time to do this. 
          And, I must add, the beautiful Turkish breakfast at the end of our course was a memory maker.  I will never forget the awesome food and the wonderfully relaxed atmosphere of our class and breakfast, listening to you all chatter and laugh.  It was awesome after some very deep conversation and realization about Jerusalem and her conflict, a reprieve after some intense realization, for sure.
          But there is one area of the course that I am not sure about: the class being taught by someone other than Dr. H.  I see where a huge part of our Living Jerusalem class is the energy and enthusiasm she brings to it, and that could be a tremendous problem for IU’s next Living Jerusalem course.  I know what ever school gets her will be most fortunate.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Final thoughts: Hope for Tomorrow

Hope for Tomorrow
People are obviously a basic component of all facets of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict we have discussed in our Living Jerusalem class.  They are also the component that touch my heart and bring tears to my eyes.  In listening to our many class discussions related to Jerusalem and her people, I have heard thoughts and opinions, pros and cons, general speculation and personal testimony.  I have witnessed well-articulated disagreements, friendly fire as intensity mounted, and have heard questions asked that beg answers, though none exist.  I have witnessed passion expressed for a land and for her people, and sadness and disillusionment as well.
Though we sat in a small classroom in southern Indiana’s Indiana University campus, it seemed our hearts and minds seldom remained there.  Bombarded with information on Jerusalem, we learned of her historic past and the many peoples that laid claim to her.  Each generation seemed to bring new issues and agendas, with her complexity becoming interwoven and tangled, one people against another and one religion against the next.  Sordid battles raged in the name of religion, wars in the name of land possession, and bias in the name of identity for her diverse myriad of people.   
Though far removed from the physical reality of the land, her people, and her continuing conflict, our class discussion became living pieces of this reality: some had lived in Jerusalem and witnessed the division.  One had lived so close to the wall that she could almost touch it from her Jerusalem window. One had to fight to keep the passport of her birth country.  Several had Israeli or Palestinian family living there.  Some had no previous understanding of the conflict while others had a part of themselves woven into the multi-faceted issues and problems.  All of us listened; all of us offered a thought, a question, or an opinion. But no one could offer a solution.    Our small class of students, though widely diverse and willing to share, were unable to see an end to conflict in Jerusalem and her land.  I felt an overwhelming sense of sadness: Jerusalem, the heartbeat of her land, has endured her bitter past and remains today as complex and as unresolved as ever.  Her battles and wars are still real, and her people still cry.  A peaceful resolution to her age-old conflict seems as far away as her distant beginning, with no solution in sight…and life goes on:

“Oh Jerusalem, your people cry.  Is there no way to dry tears?
Your people fight to live, fight to survive for another generation.
Where is the joy of your land?  What has become of the smiles of your people?
They are behind walls, where smiles and dancing eyes cannot grow.
Eyes of like young become eyes of like old,
Filled with uncertainty for today and without hope for tomorrow.
Circles of identities maintain separation to exist
And motions of daily living rely on checkpoints to count time.
Walls offer security that should come from peace,
Walls offer peace that should come from humanity,
And humanity offers more walls…..
How can this be?  There must be hope for tomorrow.
Hope for tears to dry, for life without fighting, for joy in the land.
Hope for smiles and dancing eyes of the old
To pass with the stories of their people to the young,
Who offer the same to their children.
Circles of time living together as one breath among many,
With humanity offering peace
And peace offering security
And security offering life without walls.
Is there not hope for a tomorrow of peace?”

Hope.   I heard the word echo within our class discussions.  I felt it wind in and out of the many speakers we heard from Jerusalem, her land, and our land as well, who cared to share their thoughts with us.  I witnessed it with those who believe in projects of coexistence enough to dedicate their lives so others might someday live in peace.  I believed it as we spoke of tolerance and eventual acceptance of others around us, so necessary for the peace tomorrow could bring and so lacking in our world today.  With the wall, without the wall, sides or no sides at all, hope seemed the remaining thread for humanity’s peace offering.  Without it, how can we survive? And with it, how can we fail?
My mind and heart return to the people of Jerusalem and her surrounding land.  If hope can be heard and felt and witnessed and believed, why has it not grown into peaceful coexistence? Why has it not taken root in the hearts of those who say they yearn for life without conflict and struggle, yet only dream of smiles and dancing eyes and a home with no wall of separation?  Perhaps hope lacks innocent soil in which to grow, feeding rather on hostilities of previous generations and lack of tolerance or acceptance of those different from themselves.  Perhaps tolerance could have been mistaken for weakness or assimilation.  Perhaps. 

“Where can hope be found?
Perhaps it rests in the children, with minds and hearts untainted by bias.
Tomorrow’s generation,
Where friends may speak a different language, wear different clothing, and
Share family stories of customs common to neither on a land common to both.
Perhaps hope will allow tears to dry,
Fighting to cease, and joy to return.
Perhaps smiles and dancing eyes will be the result of acceptance and love for one another,
The innocent soil, tomorrow’s children,
Feeding tolerance and acceptance to
Circles of identities in close proximity.
Perhaps this hope of tomorrow’s peace lies within the children of today.

And I think, perhaps it does.  Within our own small classroom at IU, I was so encouraged to witness smiles and dancing eyes that seem the result of acceptance and love for one another.  I listened with admiration as each of you presented information for us to consider, striving for fair and unbiased words in a world where both may be hard to find.  Sincerity could be felt in the words of personal testimony, and passion carried by honesty and humor.  And I watched with renewed hope as a group surveyed the large blackboard, laughing as they worked together to write ‘peace’ in Arabic, in Hebrew, and in English. 

“The innocent soil, tomorrow’s children,
Feeding tolerance and acceptance to
Circles of identities in close proximity.
The hope of tomorrow’s peace within the children of today.”

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

2nd Round of Ammo's class presentation

Thank you guys so much for your awesome presentation.  I had not thought in detail about social media and the impact it obviously has on the world!  And it obviously does!!!  You did a great job of explaining and presenting it in a progressive way that helped me understand the various aspects of media in regards to their desired effects.  If it's people who are voiced together to become powerful opinions and influences in our world, then it must really be big business to work on the minds of people; influence would be so important.  I liked how you put your own personal interests and stories into your presentation; you guys made it real!  You gave a great opening to our LJ class. I am thinking that each group's presentation will be able to fit together as a collective representation of the heart and soul of our 2013 IULJ family!  Way to go!!!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

My Position: Changed or Strengthened

What a way to end my LJ blogging...late!  I misread/misunderstood and thought I had until Wednesday at fault.  I sure hope this one is better late than never. position...changed?  Strengthened?  Oh yeah!

Changed, in that I think deeper about my position now...before, it was there...did I have a position?  I did.  Pro-Israel.  I didn't think much more than that.  It was far removed from my life; there was laundry needing done, dishes always, life going on...the world was still turning, and I was sure life hung in a suspended state of continuation...everything the same, and Jerusalem and her (yes, her!) surroundings were also there...somewhere...doing what she always has...what was that?  I don't know...but life was going on....yes, I cared, but I didn't know very, yes, I changed.  Changed, in that I feel my eyes have been painfully opened to a very tiny piece of reality...Jerusalem is there doing what she always has...but the reality is: people are suffering...both I see two sides.  I base this on the fact that a wall was built, and it has two sides...sounds simple, but that's what I think....

Strengthened, in that I have been able to draw on all you awesome LJ fellow classmates and learn to listen and believe just a little bit more than I did...learned that there is a history deeper and more painful than I ever could have imagined, with people alive today that seem to live and relive the persecution and suffering that has been a horrid part of life's cycle in Jerusalem and Israel...and continue to face daily questions about livelihood and their future...both sides....both sides with fathers and mothers praying that their children can live to grow up, have a home, a family, and a livelihood of their own, praying for land to support the ideals instilled as part of their identity.  Yes, strengthened to further believe that the pain is real, strengthened to know that all deserve to live and to let live...strengthened to believe that hope is real and lives in the hearts of men and women, and strengthened to know that...there is no solution on the horizon...not that there can't be, not that there won't be, but simply that the road is long and treacherous, and uncertain...but I am mostly strengthened to know that there are young men and women such as you all to help make a difference in this world, one opinion, one hand, and one heart at a time...I am proud of our next generation and I so look forward to seeing what you all do.....

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Response: Difficult Issue For Me

I think I have been on a mental roller-coaster this class, kind of like labor pains that build, rising and falling, yet more concentrated than the previous ones and never really falling back to the original starting point....Probably the most difficult issue for me was the discussion of the 'wall' in regards to Palestinian and Israeli opinions and boundaries, and the results of these differences.  I could actually feel a turmoil of question building inside myself, to the point that I even drifted into my midnight slumber with these thoughts still running through my mind.  In fact, one night well past midnight I shared with my husband a little bit of what was on my huge this wall is, the fact that it's not a straight wall, rather one that zigzags in and around communities, dividing people from their land, and how sad I felt for the different people affected.  I especially was troubled about the Palestinians and the fact they were isolated from their farms and livelihood, and I tried to explain my feelings to my husband.  We are a pro-Israel family and my opinions surprised him.  There were some quiet moments, and some difficult answers.  We both accept Torah and the Biblical boundaries given to the Israelites, but somewhere in my heart, I shared how one surely cannot look into the sad eyes of the Palestinian women and children, and the old folks, and think they cannot live there and work their land.  My husband offered that I had allowed my faith to be questioned and that the more one learns, the more information one has to sort and sift through, allowing potential to stray from beliefs.    I definitely agree with that last bit, and there has been so much information coming in from so many different directions that I have felt a bit of earth shaking inside of myself.  But I never offered to go there.....only that I know that when Messiah comes, He will bring Peace.  Until then, can we not try to get along? Surely we can work towards peace, try to accept others, even without understanding them, just try to accept...can this be so bad? In the still of the night, our opinions seeming at unusual odds with one another, he was quiet, offering finally that I needed to talk with my Uncle Isaac.....end of conversation.  But I could still see those sad eyes, I still felt torn, I still wished for acceptance that could lead to earthly peace...and sleep was elusive.....

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Reading Response: Open-mindedness

In reading 'The Blog of Jerusalem Open House' article on openness, I couldn't help but wonder about the attributes mentioned there as important to resolving differences.  The author mentioned understanding, conversation, and acceptance of one another as prerequisites for creating better lives for the people of their community.  But what jumped off the page for me was how much we all need to consider understanding, conversation, and acceptance of one another.  Whatever we are promoting - our religion, our personal identity, our community, our political stance, or our part in conflict of any nature - how much further could we move toward common ground with these attributes?  How do we get there?  How do we find the open-mindedness to begin this journey?  Is it there waiting to be cultivated?  Waiting to be enlightened?  Waiting for open-mindedness to allow understanding, conversation, and acceptance of one another?.....

The 'City of Borders' further opens the mind to the need for acceptance.  While understanding is not necessary perhaps, acceptance of one another is.  Understanding would make life easier many times, but I think it is not to be expected; It is so core to an individual's identity.  Rather, acceptance that is challenged daily throughout conflict - nationality, religion, political orientation, individual orientation - is basic to achieving conflict resolution and a peaceful community.  Acceptance is not an easy attribute to achieve, but vital.  Is it a left-over "I'm OK, you're OK?" ... I don't know..... Does it mean agreeing with the point in question?  I don't think so.....But I do think that acceptance is a prerequisite for conflict resolution with respect as a foundation block, and that neither seem to have happened.

It is interesting how the sometimes subtle...sometimes unspoken witness...the wall, the music, the people and their choices... cry for freedom, for understanding, for acceptance...I had not considered that gender differences also could or need cry as well.

With the many conflicts within conflicts within THE conflict, where ever to start....where is the beginning of the raveled thread of resolution that needs acceptance?.....It is no simple task and there is no simple answer.....

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Reading Response: Suad Amiry's writings

I really enjoyed the two chapters from Suad Amiry's book Sharon and My Mother-In-Law.  Her humor was a pleasant reprieve from the discussions of the past few weeks.  Not only does Suad incorporate a light-hearted approach to life, it seems, but is able to convey this quality during not-so-light-hearted times...during conflict.  I really enjoyed her ability to share the main thread of the story, such as the humor in trying to obtain a gas mask, or a rabies vaccination for a 'Jerusalemite' dog, while using the  background information to paint the rest of the story.  While she creatively weaves a really interesting tale, she shares enough other information to make me wonder what was going on in her surroundings.  That's where her writing fascinates me...bringing smiles with wisps of daily living, kind of like Erma Bombeck's style of writing, yet raising apprehension at what might happen due to her surroundings.

Her ability to "take one step to the side of life" is really interesting...."stepping out of the frame and observing the senselessness of the moment"...I wonder if that might be a useful ability for more than surviving the Israeli occupation she described...maybe it would allow more time to think a situation through...kind of like Tevyah in The Fiddler on the Roof...didn't he do that?  Suspended everyone in time for a moment while he sang and tried to sort out his reactions?...come to think of it, I don't think it helped him at all.  Although he "stepped out of the frame and observed the senselessness of the moment," I don't see where the outcomes were affected by this moment of reflection.....but maybe this stepping to the side allows one's humor to sort through the atrocities... not making sense of them, but possibly surviving in spite of Tevyah's conflict of tradition versus reality in the face of persecution...Suad Amiry also tries to maintain the logic of life during the Israeli occupation of her home.  

After all, isn't it attention to the details of life that keep us going?  I think so...I really wanted to know if she got her gas mask, or her puppies got their rabies vaccination...and I wonder if she was able to be relieved of the infamous mother-in-law problem in a win/win way?  Were the mother-in-law and Suad both happy?  Why would this even matter in the face of the age-old conflict taking place in their lives, forced as a way of life upon thousands?  It matters... it allows us to take that step to the side, to bring life down to that micro-level that we all can relate to...that aspect that goes beyond tradition or daily routine...presented as something to laugh about...through humor...yes, I really liked her stories in our reading!