JUDC3100/HIST3100/RELG3100: Studying the Past, Saving the Present

New Paradigms for Peace in Israel-Palestine

Instructor: Ari Finkelstein

Required study tour to Israel


This interdisciplinary seminar examines ancient sites in Israel-Palestine where people of different ethnic and religious persuasion lived side by side often in peace and sometimes in conflict. The course examines what conditions led to peaceful relations and why conflict sometimes erupted. It particularly focuses on how people of various groups in a community chose to interpret symbols in art and literature in ways that promoted  amity as well as how changes in these interpretations caused the breakdown of society. Students will also learn about grassroots efforts to ameliorate the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by meeting with involved Arabs and Jews in Palestine and then come up with their own proposals for advancing grassroots peace drawing on what they have learned about successes and failures in the past and the present to promote inter-communal peace in antiquity. The course includes a week-long study tour of relevant sites in Israel-Palestine.

Why take this course?

If ever there was a course where students can take lessons they learned from the past to solve current issues this is it. Students will learn new ways of parsing multi-faceted texts and that their ethical choices of interpretation can sow discord or foster positive mutual relations between groups. These are lessons that can be applied in other global contexts and even in their own lives. As global citizens, we have an ethical obligation to choose meanings and engage each other productively and with respect to solve the most difficult of political problems today: the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The course concludes with a final assignment which asks students, based on what they have learned from parsing ancient sites, to write a detailed proposal that either adds value to current local efforts to create peace at the grassroots level in Israel-Palestine or, creates a new effort at fostering peaceful relations between Israeli Jews and Palestinians. Students will have a number of different experiential learning opportunities including interviewing relevant archaeologists, art historians as well as Israeli Jews and Palestinians engaged in efforts that promote peace, training in skills that promote peace, cooking with a person who uses her art to promote peace, and visual tours by Palestinians and Jews who experience the same space differently.