Monday, December 5, 2011


Before I begin my evaluation of the class, I want to first speak about my experience. I am very grateful to have been able to take this class. It taught me about the disputed territories and the conflict in a way that it had never been explained to me before. I feel as though I have a much more rounded grasp of the issues at hand than if I did had I only received this information in a political science course. This class has many benefits for students; it gives them the opportunity to develop several skills that other or similar classes do not allow for. Throughout my evaluation I will go into more detail as to how this class helped me develop skill sets. In my evaluation I will be discussing the content, the blogs, day-to-day logistics of the class, the readings, and the final projects.
            To begin with, I feel that as a whole, the class is run in a way that complements the material. It gives students the opportunity and freedom to focus in on what they think is important. For instance, I really enjoyed the way that the blogs were our own space. We could speak informally about what interested us or what caught our attention without having to try to satisfy a rubric. It gave me the chance to connect with the readings and video conferences without feeling constrained by what was the ‘right’ thing to discuss. However, that being said, there were points in the class where I could have benefitted from more direction. At the beginning of the class, I thought it was simply a class on the history of Jerusalem. I didn’t even realize we would touch on the conflict aspect of its history until maybe the end, and not even very much. I understand that the project doesn’t want to just tell everything in the first week of what the students will learn, but I was very confused as to what was the Living Jerusalem Project and what it had to do with this class I was taking. Even though the content was on the syllabus and we read the article by Dr. Horowitz, it was still unclear to me what part we playing in the Folklife Festival in Washington D.C., and how it had to do with us. I eventually understood the purpose of the class, but I would prefer that everything be clear from the beginning.
            In addition to having the purpose of the class unclear at the beginning, there were times that it would have helped to have Dr. Horowitz lead the discussion. Overall, I love the way the class is constructed. I feel that we benefit most from the small numbers and the way we got to know each of our classmates on a very personal level. A few weeks after the start of the semester, I began feel very comfortable talking with my classmates and engaging in discussion about the course material. Despite this, the beginning of semester it was hard to begin to talk. I felt like there was so much material at the beginning that it was a lot to take in, especially since I had never had an opportunity to study Jerusalem or the conflict in depth. I was lost as to what to focus on or what was important. What makes this class so great- the freedom and independence- also made it difficult at the beginning. To help this problem, I suggest that Dr. Horowitz lead the discussions at the beginning or at least gives us specific questions to focus our blog responses on. The choice of topic of the blogs is wonderful, but only when you feel comfortable. Especially when reading Armstrong, which I will discuss in more detail later, it was a lot to take in and comprehend at one point. I know that part of this class is finding out what each student values and believes is important, but if Dr. Horowitz could have specified what to pay close attention to or what to get us thinking, whether that be guided reading questions or ideas to keep in mind. Even if each discussion had a more specific theme or topic it would have given us more direction and allowed for a more focused discussion where we could benefit the most.
            Next, I will discuss course readings and more regarding the way the class is set up. Our primary reading for this class, the Karen Armstrong book, is a wonderful book, and I cannot imagine having taken this class without reading it. She is a wonderful writer who is thought provoking yet writes in a way that a 20-year-old with no background of Jerusalem can easily understand. I think it gives students the most important parts of Jerusalem’s history and people in one source. It would be more confusing if students were given pieces of what Armstrong discussed from many different sources. Although I very much enjoyed the reading, it was very difficult and heavy at some points. This is where the guided reading questions or discussions led by Dr. Horowitz would have been helpful. In addition, during the time we read Armstrong, it would be nice to split up the week. One class could be on Armstrong and a discussion of whatever chapter the class had read, and the other class of the week could be a video conference or clarifying the Armstrong reading through charts, graphs, and more visuals to help us contextualize and better comprehend what was being taught. Included in those days without a video conference it would have been interesting to get more videos and visuals or present day Jerusalem and have something to compare the reading to. There was a lot of reading and it often took me several hours to get through it because I was taking notes and researching and trying to understand what was being said. For this reason, it would be nice to split up the readings over two class meetings instead of one. Because Armstrong’s book doesn’t deal in depth with present day Jerusalem, I think it would not be an issue to begin video conferencing more towards the beginning of the semester. That way students do not get overloaded by history and Armstrong’s book and it gives a little bit of a change of pace. I do understand how important the history of Jerusalem is to understanding the present day, but if there was a video conference that did not throw us off from what we were learning it could be helpful. Also, the days that were not Armstrong readings could also cover present day topics such as music, film, pop culture, or other themes that are not often discussed.
            While I loved Armstrong’s book, I also enjoyed the other readings of the class as well. The articles that we had to read were wonderful and great ways to help us engage in discussion. There are some readings that I liked more than other, and some that moved me more than others, but as a whole they were very interesting. My only suggestion on the readings is that we get more biographies from the authors. I usually tried to look up something online, but I often could not find sufficient information on them.  If there was a chance we could have had biographies about or from the author it could have helped in better understand the texts they wrote. Along the same lines, people who wrote articles that we also video conferenced with were great- but I was often lost regarding what to ask them, and I think this had something to do with the fact I didn’t know much about their background. A biography would have been helpful in trying to understand more about them and their beliefs, and in turn this would have helped me to construct more provoking questions and a better idea of what to discuss with them. Overall, the readings were a great addition to the Armstrong text.
            Also regarding the set-up of the class, the video conferences were great. This is one of the aspects of the class that is unlike any other class I have taken and helps students grow and become more well-rounded students. As previously mentioned, the technical issues were sometimes awkward and difficult to overcome, but it helps students prepare for situations like that in the future. It teaches us that things might not always work out as planned but we have to work with our circumstances and try to make the most of any situation. We are really lucky to have some many intelligent and influential people being able to take the time to video conference with us. I feel very lucky to have been able to speak to these people and hear what they have to say. It reinforced what we were learning. Not to mention, it forces students to try to construct intelligent questions, and it gave us a lot of practice for a future job or even an interview. It is all about asking the right types of questions and how we present ourselves. The video conferences really helped us see the importance of what we are learning in order to connect with the present day issue and understand the very complex and multidimensional conflict at hand.
            Also on the topic of technology, the blogs were a great tool to utilize for this class. As I do not consider myself ‘tech-savvy’, it was a challenge at first to have to put up the blog and have this class be so technology based. I was confused at first and didn’t understand why we couldn’t just turn in essays, but then I realized how important they are to the class. It not only forced me to learn more about technology and problem solving, but it is the right setting to share ideas and see what classmates are also discussing. Commenting on other student’s blogs was the difficult part. It was difficult in the fact that we often said the same thing, and I found myself having to scramble to try to think of something intelligent to respond to their blog post. As we mentioned in class, it was easier to look at people’s blogs after the discussion in class when we talked about those particular readings. I thought of things to say after we discussed the readings in class. It would be helpful if we had picked partners or groups of people’s blogs to read at the beginning of the semester so that we could focus on one person and not feel responsible for reading everyone’s and trying to come up with something good to say about their post.
            Finally, I will briefly discuss the final projects. I agree completely with the way they are set up and the freedom they give you. My partner and I were able to focus on the aspect of Jerusalem and the conflict that most interested us instead of again having to worry about a rubric or fulfilling a list of requirements. It allowed us to grow more and learn more because it was on our own terms and had to do with the topic of our choice.
            Overall, I am extremely grateful for what the class and the members of the project have taught me. I am really glad I got the opportunity to learn from such great people. I gave my above suggestions, but it is important to point out that they are small and minute, and the majority of the class was very beneficial to learning.

Final Presentations 12/5

Michael- How did you come up with how you wanted to present Jerusalem? What readings from class inspired you to represent the city in that way? What were the challenging parts?

Addy- After your research, did you find that you participated in anything that constitutes 'normalization'? Do you believe that people would be critical of groups on campus such as 'Hoosiers for Peace in the Middle East'?

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Final Presentations 11/30

Megan- your presentation on the media was very interesting and I think it a great compliment to mine and Lila's presentation. I was wondering if your researched news sources that teenagers might listen to or see- such as MTV or E! or Comedy Central (shows like John Stewart). I wonder how they portray the conflict? Do they seek to get young people involved?

Jenna- It was very interesting to hear about this new group on campus. I hope they are able to continue with their group and get more people involved and hopefully be more active on campus. Do you know of anyone who is/would be offended or upset by this group? Does either side have people who disagree with the group? If they did, would they speak up? I am looking forward to seeing the videos you made.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Final Presentations 11/28

Alex- Your presentation was so interesting! You covered so much information and it was something that I wouldn't have normally looked into because I focus more on the arts than sports. I thought it was really interesting when you discussed how different cultural values can be seen in different soccer styles- for instance how the Brazilian team has a "samba"  style and the Germans are more rigid while the Barcelona team represents more than just football, it represents the cry for independence of Catalonia. I was also left speechless by the controversy of Aviram Baruchyan saying he would like to have an Arab play for his team at some point. I couldn't believe he had to make a public apology for trying to not be racist. I was wondering if you researched any other sports and found the same concepts? Even if you didn't research, would you say this idea can translate to all sports or is soccer/football so unique that it is only found there?  

Chris- I really enjoyed seeing your presentation as well. I loved all the visuals and the way you put your presi together. I really like seeing the concept of the "underground". Thank you for showing us that video of the Israeli Soldiers, it was fun to see. I was wondering, however, what is the mainstream Palestinian culture? How does it conflict with the underground? Is there a conflict?

Monday, November 21, 2011

Questions about final presentations 11/21

Ben- your presentation was really well done and I can't believe the amount of information you were able to retain! It was really interesting to see the way you tied in the history all the way from the beginning of the Jebusites into modern day Jerusalem and how this affected the Israeli relations with the Palestinians. It would be interesting to see some videos or interview Israelis and Palestinians to ask on whether or not they believed that this history influenced behavior of exclusion or inclusion. I do understand, however, that you said it was difficult to have information directly from both sides relating to this topic.

Amber- I really enjoyed your Prezi presentation and it looked great. I think that would be a great tool to use for future classes. I think it would be really cool to give presentations on campus and encourage more people to be involved outside of our class. It would also be really cool to see a service project aspect of this class. Is that something that you would be in charge of? Are you interested in making a Living Jerusalem club or involving the community in the Israeli-Palestinian/Arab conflict?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Questions from today's (11/16) final projects

Question for Kete:

What is the most interesting thing you found from you food research?

Which food is the 'most disputed'?

What foods do you identify with the most to explain your identity?

What other examples of food in Jerusalem show the conflict? 

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Evaluation Ideas

Here are some of the ideas I have for what should be discussed in the final evaluation:
- Readings: Difficulty, did they help understand the idea, varieties of genres
- Video Conferences: how much were we able to learn from each person? How well did he/she fit into the curriculum 
- Discussions: how well was the class able to discuss the different themes? What hindered/aided the discussions?
- Blogs: Do they help or thwart discussion in class? Do people only read blogs or not read blogs because ideas will be discussed in class?
- Documentaries- more documentaries to give a visual to Jerusalem? More during class or outside of class events?
- Living Jerusalem workshop- Student's involvement- should be more involved? Being able to connect ideas from the conference to the ideas discussed at the conference