Being There: Students Explore the Middle East Up Close
Story posted February 26, 2008
It was one thing for students to learn about the Middle East in Susan Tananbaum's history course on the "Palestinian-Israeli Conflict" or in Shelley Deane's government course on "The Politics of the Modern Middle East." It was quite another when they got to experience the everyday modern Middle East firsthand.
"From the rooftop, I saw a conflict of historical claims. Centuries of divisions have created a city so intertwined that no simple boundaries can satisfy everyone."
— Sascha Chiniara '10
For the 19 Bowdoin students who accompanied Deane and Tananbaum to Jerusalem over 2008 Winter Break, the trip proved to be a very human immersion into politics past and present. "Listening to individuals' stories and seeing the political panorama of perspectives, students sampled the particularities of politics in the region," noted Deane.
The academic study tour was designed to offer students as broad—and as personal—a perspective on the plurality of regional opinions there. In addition to guided tours of Muslim, Christian, and Jewish holy sites, students visited Palestinian and Israeli neighborhoods, and a Palestinian refugee camp, dined with Israeli families for Shabbat, and attended talks by speakers from many academic, political and religious outlooks.
"We were exposed to an incredibly wide range of perspectives," said Tananbaum. "Students met Palestinians who had never been to Jerusalem, 10 miles away. They met Israelis who lived in bunkers because they were being shelled. They walked the same routes where Jesus walked. I don't know that the trip left them with any answers ... but they definitely have a deeper appreciation of the many sides."
View a slideshow of students' experiences, in words and pictures.
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