A Roller Coaster Ride in Jerusalem
As my final semester as a college student comes to a close, I have realized that it has been quite the up and down ride that I thought it would be. However, I didn’t exactly know what the ups and downs would be. With that said, I would say that the Living in Jerusalem class can be compared to my college career. The ups and downs with not only the class, but also Jerusalem itself can be considered a good reflection of the last four years as a student.
Although the first few weeks seemed like they were starting off slowly, they were very fast paced behind the scenes due to the rapid reading pace of Armstrong’s book. I really thought that the book had a lot of ideas that could have gone for either side of the conflict, but also had a decent amount of dry history that was very hard to keep up with. I will say that one of the factors behind this is because I do not have many ties to the situation overall even though I am Jewish.
I came into the class because of my Jewish background and it looked interesting; I never knew that would turn into this wild ride that goes in so many different directions. However, the more that I continued to read and learn about the topic, the more I realized that I was getting a grasp on the topics, little by little. One of the biggest helping points to the class were the people that have experience with the conflict, whether through living in Israel, working for a group, or having family ties to either of the sides. I could really tell that when they spoke about the topics that not only did they know what they wanted to say and stood by it, but they also felt as though they were apart of it. It made me feel like I wanted to be a part of it as well, even though I did not have nearly as much background as they did.
Now, as much as I enjoyed listening and learning from my classmates about the conflict, I thoroughly enjoyed listening to the speakers that joined in from all over the world to give us their perspectives on either or both sides. I really think that the videoconferences from these inspiring people make a difference for the class. It was beneficial to see what they had done for the conflict, even if it was the smallest thing. From my perspective, it made me realize that there are so many people that do small things to attempt to make difference and those people deserve to be recognized.
Even though the second half of the semester was a lot different from the first, I did not think that videoconferencing with the OSU class was as beneficial. I know that most of the idea of conferencing with them is for the speakers, and I thought that it was supposed to be more of a combined class once I got used to the structure. However, we never did anything with them and I think that the classes should either be connected more or only conference when speakers are on so we can both share their time on our respective campuses.
Other than Armstrong’s book in the first few weeks of the semester, I would say that the most time consuming part of the class were the blog posts that were due once or twice a week. There are so many different perspectives on the blog and I feel as though there are many pros and cons to them. I really enjoyed how freely you could share your feelings about the conflict and the friendly conversations that came up in class about opposing opinions. It allows people to translate their newly found form of translating online and bring it into the classroom as they please. I know that I am not one to speak very often in class and it helped me get some opinions from others as well as demonstrate my own so others could read them.
On the other side of the blogs, there are some complications that I had, especially when I first started using it. Yes, I had never used a blog before and took awhile to get used to. I felt like a lot of people had trouble using it at times and it was also difficult to keep up with the 30 opinions that were floating around every day of the week. I know that we didn’t have to keep up with everyone’s blog each week, but reading from different sources each time sometimes created a stir for me. I found that at times, some people were pouring in a lot more than others, while opinions were so different and felt that it was difficult to keep up with.
Within the blog assignments, I believe that the weblog journal entries that we had were a great idea to counter the back and forth craziness of the conflict. By having us think outside the box and more about our normal lives that are relating to the topic of the conflict that we were talking about at the time, I think it really helped me connect better and understand what we were really diving into. At time I felt like I was being pushed so far into certain topics of the conflict, but then was relieved to see that a weblog was due in order to calm things down.
I think that is all I have to say about the overall dimensions of the class, so I am going to talk a little bit about some specific things that really caught my eye during the semester. I think that the extended class when we watched the movie about the orchestra was one of the best things we saw or talked about in the class. It was so cool to see first hand how the group of people was bringing in kids from different backgrounds to play in the orchestra around Europe. By examining all of the background interviews and obstacles that they had to go through to get this done, it really brings a different perspective on the situation. The leaders had a goal and they would not give up and that shows the future of the conflict. I do not think will give up because they have hope and they realize what they want.
When I was gathering my thoughts after we saw that movie, I really wanted to do my project on something that inspired the future of the conflict. I knew that I had wanted to focus on sports because my life is basically revolved around sports. However, I didn’t have the right approach until I watched the orchestra video; then I decided that I wanted to focus on groups that bring together both sides and hope to make peace in the near future.
My favorite sport is basketball and that was my main goal to focus on. I had worked with kids this summer working for the Atlanta Hawks and it is such a wonderful experience. I can only imagine how difficult, yet inspirational it is when working with these kids due to the emotions and behaviors that they bring with them before they start these programs. The most important thing I learned is that sports really can make a difference in these kid’s lives and the future of their respective countries. I have said all along that the future is in these children’s hands and the more people that get on board and change their opinions at a young age, the faster that the conflict can be resolved.
With all of those thoughts being brought to the table, I believe that there should be more interaction for the students in the class and the outside environment. I believe that future students should have to engage in some outside activities in order to get more outside perspective from the class. Although the speakers are very nice to hear from and answer our questions, I think that it is difficult to only rely on the people that you have talk to us for perspectives on the conflict. As students, I think it would be beneficial to talk to other students, especially those that have a large background on the subject or have family members that are in the Middle East going through it themselves.
One of the things that I really think would change the dynamic of the class is some kind of background material to get more people that have knowledge on the conflict. I know that I learned a lot while being a part of this class and not coming in with little prior knowledge, but I think about half the class felt this way and it showed in most of our classes that everyone was not fine-tuned into the discussions. I can only imagine how many more opinions added to the class would create for bigger and better things for the Living in Jerusalem project.
With that said, I am very fortunate that I was able to take the Living in Jerusalem class this semester. I met a lot of great people and learned so many new things, in history and in the present. I know that I am now more knowledgeable about the topic and will be able to carry conversations in the future when it gets brought up. Although it was very challenging at times, I think that it was definitely worth my time and I hope that the class can continue to grow at IU and around the country.