Friday, May 15, 2009

Life in the Holy Land, Near East 347, and Near East 349.

After talking to a few people, the impression I get of education here is that citizens of the state of Israel are educated in state run schools and members of the Palestinian communities go to their own schools. (Note that some Palestinians are citizens of Israel, and a great many are also under 'permanent resident' status in and around East Jerusalem; I do not know how schooling works for them.) Interestingly, many people believe that Palestinians may actually get a better education than Israelis because theirs is more linguistically and thus internationally comprehensive; Palestinian schools teach math and other subjects only in English, so English is learned from a very young age, a great help for many Palestinians (and perhaps a cruel irony for the great many who are denied passports--their good English is not as useful if they never see the outside of the West Bank or Gaza). Three foreign languages are mandatory in many schools, from Kindergarten or the equivalent grade and up. Israeli schools teach mainly in Hebrew because that is the national language, and that is, perhaps, to their detriment in the world community. English is no doubt taught in some capacity at Israeli schools, but the nationalism and pride that accompanies Hebrew is certainly a factor in what is taught.

There is a Palestinian school just at the foot of the hill on which the Jerusalem Center sits, and we often here the kids at play during recess. They're cute.

I took my first two midterms yesterday and today. It has been an intense first two weeks, let me tell you. The Judaism (Modern Near East 347) test went well, I got a 92% on it. I love that class-- we just finished the antiquities and basics unit, so we know about basic Jewish customs and history, from the destruction of the temple of Solomon in 586 BCE until soon after the destruction of the second temple in 70 CE. We covered a lot of ground in good detail in that time period, ask me anything you want to know about Judaism during that period :D . . . And I might know the answer. We sped up through the first few centuries CE and then spent 25 minutes in the medieval period, because the course is actually about Judaism in modernity, from 1917ish to today. So the first two weeks were an overview of basics we need to understand about Judaism to understand Zionism, the State of Israel, and modern Jewish beliefs and customs. Good show.

The complementary course, about Islam (Modern Near East 349) in modernity, is equally incredible, and a great deal more riveting on a personal level. While we haven't yet reached modernity in Judaism, we have already in Islam. I shouldn't call the course 'Islam,' it really is a course about Palestine and Palestinians from WWI to today, and Islam is an integral part of that history. Anyway, today is the 15th of May, and that marks (on the Gregorian Calendar) the date that Israel declared independence (in 1948), a date called "Al Naqba" by Palestinians and Arabs. That means "The Tragedy." 750,000 Palestinians were uprooted soon after that date, in the War for Israeli Independence. A tragedy indeed, of epic proportions. And Israel was born admist a war that killed many and uprooted many more--perhaps not so tragic for a great many people who were just on the wrong end of a genocide of six million of their fellow Jews in Europe, a number not matched, not even close, in the holy land.

Professor Musallam (the Islam teacher) has a unique perspective on current events in the holy land, because he lives in Bethlehem, inside of the West Bank. He grew up in the US and served in the US Navy for many, many years before moving to the West Bank to take over the Humanities Department of the University of Bethlehem. He understands life and the world outside of the West Bank, and he understands life and the small, small world in the West Bank, and speaks his mind freely about the oppresive conditions and lack of autonomy therein. But he is not belligerent or hostile towards Israel, he is an active peace seeker. An amazing man with a uniquely educated and suprisingly unbiased approach to the current situation in the holy land. That is most certainly not to say that Professor Yardin (of Judaism class) is biased, he is so far from it. But it remains to be seen in both men, as the semester goes on and the topics become more and more devisive. I am excited to learn.

Becca, Eric, Kristi, Savanah and I went to the pools of Bethesda today, and it was really, really cool. Just outside the walls to the Old city lies a set of fairly well kept ruins that you can walk through and feel and crawl into the underground places of. The foundations are from the third century BC, and the pools were around in Jesus Christ's time, and fed the temple with water. Perhaps He walked those same steps when He visited the pools. Perhaps not. In any case, I think it is a far greater glory to Him to live His teachings than to walk in the physical place where He did. But it is still cool.

Have a great day :D

1 comment:

  1. So does the water still flow? Is it from a natural spring or does it work like irrigation? The pools I mean. The history of this country is so sobering. Did you study the European Jews in school?