Sunday, November 13, 2011


I feel that this class has done so much to open my eyes to the situation in Israel and inform me of the history and events that have created the Israel we know today. I also feel that the class has offered a myriad of differing and important personal perspectives on the issue with all the different video conferences. The only thing I would suggest is a more rigid structure. I understand that it is difficult to work around others' schedules for video conferences, and I understand that things come up, but I have had a little bit of difficulty keeping track of what I need to do when. I'm not sure if this is even possible, but that is my only suggestion for improvement. I still firmly believe that all the readings (especially the Armstrong book) are essential to this class, and I like the project OR paper idea rather than forcing one or the other. This is a well-structured class and I have learned a lot from it, but if at all possible, I would suggest a little bit of a more rigid class structure as far as when to do what readings and when to prepare for which speakers.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011


Every good human rights activist knows that information is the key to bringing about change. After all, without information or education on an issue, no one even knows that change is needed. B'Tselem is a great organization because of this. B'Tselem has taken it upon themselves to educate the United States about the situation of human rights in Israel because of the integral role that U.S. foreign policy plays in Israeli policies; educating the West in order to bring about change in the Middle East. I also completely agree with their ideas that human rights are universal and think it is very important that they report human rights violations from the Occupied Territories and Israel itself. In the "About Us" section of B'Tselem's website, they state: "All Israelis and Palestinians have equal rights to live in dignity and safety, and Israeli and Palestinian authorities must respect these rights" even though the majority of their focus is on Israeli security forces. I also find it very important that they not only report about these human rights violations, but interact with the Israeli authorities as well, collecting statements and reports from them regarding their own reports. I am taking a journalism class right now and one of the most important points of journalism is that it is designed to be a sort of check to the government's power. B'Tselem focuses on informing the public about their government's human rights violations in order to evoke responses and prevent the government from being able to have unlimited power. Information is also a kick start to action, from the information people learn about these issues, they can be moved and decide to take their own actions to stop the policies and human rights violations that are being enacted by their government.

Question: What role do you feel like information plays in bringing about change in Israel?

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Reading Response #9

It was very enlightening to me to watch the film about Said and Barenboim's joint orchestra. It shed some light on the feelings of the different people groups in the Middle East, and showed just how little each of the different cultures knew about the other, and showed that when there is a higher goal, there can be, if not peace, a mutual sense of unity in attempting to achieve a common goal. The passion with which Said and Barenboim pursued their goal of a unified orchestra was very refreshing and their ability to bring together people from all backgrounds and use music to teach about human interaction gave me hope that there may be possibility for peace or at least understanding. Also, I thought it was very interesting during the movie when the Palestinian and Israeli violinists were being interviewed together and the Israeli mentioned "peace" and the Palestinian got really upset and walked off the set. This shows that in spite of the unity that is experienced in the orchestra, there are still many struggles outside of the auditorium that affect each of the musicians. The orchestra walks a fine line between coming together and building a peaceful community around music and completely ignoring the issues that exist outside the project. It would be very easy for the musicians to come and meet and spend all summer together and pretend to ignore the issues that are affecting the daily lives of their people back home, but Said and Barenboim do such a wonderful job of addressing the issues that each culture has to deal with head on rather than ignoring them for the perceived "greater good" of the orchestra. I feel that this project is a great start to learning to understand other cultures and develop social skills to get along with each other. There is still a long way to go before there is peace in the Middle East, but projects like this change individuals one at a time and eventually, hopefully these changes will spread all across the region and maybe peace can be found.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Reading Response #8

Graffiti is my favorite form of art, hands down. Obviously there's the occasional ignorant racial, but on the whole, graffiti is such a beautiful thing. At its very core, graffiti is a non-violent act of defiance, and the very fact that a piece of graffiti exists is a powerful statement of freedom. Unlike most other styles of art, which strive for subtlety and beauty, street art is all about making a statement and making it loud and public, the art of the Intifada is no different in this respect. In Peteet's article, she says: "each layer of paint indicating a partial and temporary victory in an ongoing battle". This statement beautifully describes the core idea of graffiti: you cannot silence our message, and the fact that the graffiti existed, regardless of it's message, spoke volumes to the social and political attitudes of the people. Graffiti has often been used as a political tool because of its capacity to illicit a visceral emotional response to anyone who sees it, and Peteet's description of the continuous graffiti-ing and painting over it as a battle is very accurate and provides a lot of insight into the situation. I also agree with her assessment of graffiti as a socio-cultural indicator of attitude and with the idea that each individual act of graffiti is itself a small act of defiance and a small claim to freedom which is indicative of the struggles of a society. The "battle" of the painting the walls with graffiti and then repainting them to attempt to erase it in many ways paralleled (and parallels) the ongoing political and physical battles between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

First of all, I am typing this on my phone cuz my Internet is down so I apologize in advance for any autocorrect fails. The Jerusalem project has done a wonderful job educating myself and my peers about the situation in Jerusalem. Coming from a place where most of the news surrounding Jerusalem is dire and conflict related, the Jerusalem project is a refreshing new point of view that takes neither side and provides a wealth of knowledge about the situation. The Jerusalem project has challenges me to think in new ways and shown new light on aspects of the situation that I had never before considered. That being said, there are many challenges that the Jerusalem project faces. First and foremost, bringing two groups of people who have been in conflict for so long to peace is never easy, and educating third parties on the issue is good, but i feel like as an outsider, there is very little that I can do to change the situation, and even with all the Jerusalem project has taught me, because I didnt grow up there, I can never fully understand the issues faced by both aides. Secondly, in addition to the fact that I didn't grow up there, I have never even been to Israel or Jerusalem, so my knowledge is limited to what I have read or heard in class. I dont know if the Jerusalem project offers supplementary summer programs or not, but if they do not, they should look onto taking students from the class to the city to see for themselves the issues we have discussed in class. Perhaps even personally introducing them to the speakers and have them show the students in person. Also, some activities in association with local groups of Palestinians and israelis may provide more insight into the two cultures and their views on the situation.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Weblog Journal #3

There are many possible solutions to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. Probably the best solution that I have heard is to split the country into two separate sovereign states. From what I have seen from news in the region, there is very little evidence that peace among the two peoples under governance of one or the other is simply not plausible, and neither is a joint government. The idea of "parallel states" was mentioned in class, and, while I think it's a good idea on paper, I do not believe that the idea of two separate heirarchies operating under the same government is a possible solution. Who would have the final say if the two parties were at odds with each other? And if one side of the parallel state decided to impose one law, would members of the opposite state still be held to that law? It is an interesting concept, but I don't believe it would work in this situation. The only plausible and effective solution would be to divide the states and allow them each to create their own governments and laws.

As for the city of Jerusalem, the city will have to remain neutral in order to keep both states happy. The best possible solution for this would potentially be to separate it from both the Israeli state and the Palestinian state, and make it a separate municipality such as Vatican city where parties from both states may come and share equal rights and equal access to the city.

It was also mentioned in class that the areas occupied by the Palestinians are separated by a portion of Israeli controlled land. This problem would have to be fixed in order to create an easily governed state; both states need to be contiguous in order to self-govern effectively. In order to succeed, both states need to have a strong national identity and sense of national unity as well as geographic unity.

The main problem with the proposal of separate states is the possibility of war after the states have been created and militarized. As for this issue, I believe it may be necessary for the U.N. to intervene as peace keepers until the situation has stabilized. The U.N. would be a neutral party stationed at the border of the two states whose only job would be to maintain peace. Initially, the U.N. would be responsible for policing the city of Jerusalem as well, and also would be responsible for training a local force of Israeli and Palestinian law enforcement agents to eventually police the city themselves. There are many holes in this plan which would need to be addressed and filled, but at this point in time, it is the only remotely feasible solution to the conflict that I can think of.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Semester Project

For my semester project, I will be researching the underground scene in Jerusalem and it's political implications. I will be looking in depth into the political and social messages of graffiti, hip hop, parkour, and other "underground" activities from both sides of the conflict and how each side uses these activities to express their feelings and views on the situation they live in. The underground subculture in almost every culture represents the most realistic and politically charged ideas of the culture. Therefore, exploring the underground subculture of Jerusalem will give me the most realistic representation (if slightly exaggerated) of the ideas and worldviews of the people living in Jerusalem.

I will research the graffiti of the Wall in particular, taking into account both international artists (i.e. Banksy) and the local artists in addition to the music of both Palestinian and Israeli hip-hop artists, exploring what they have to say about their cultures and how they interact. I was also thinking about trying to incorporate parkour as a philosophical and political activity within the walls of Jerusalem, but I'm not sure yet if I will be able to find enough scholarly resources to incorporate that. I'm also not exactly sure which medium I will be using to present this project. I am thinking a compilation of music, video, and graphics in either Powerpoin or Prezi. I am open to suggestions though.