REL-256: Israel and Palestine, J-term 2003
This course syllabus is a proposed outline only and is subject to
change based on the interests of students and the unfolding current
Why can't Arabs and Israelis reach a compromise for peace in the
Middle East? We will investigate the roots of the current conflict
through the history of the region. How do Jewish Israelis,
Palestinians, and other Arabs from Israel and neighboring nations
differ on just what happened from 1946 to present? Our focus will be
on how that history impacts the current situation. The course will
include videos, slide presentations, and student explorations and
presentations on the Middle East conflict. Grading Option: Pass/Fail.
Students who took ``Jerusalem Past and Present'' in J-term of 2002 may
Students will be actively engaged in classroom debates,
investigations, and presentations. Students will also arrange
activities for the campus community.
Reason for pass/fail grading and general course expectations
The course is more experimental in nature than a regular semester
religion course. Although the professors may require a few papers (or
tests) in order to insure that the students gain a basic level of
understanding of the history of Palestine and Israel, the focus will
be on discussing the issues. The goal is for the students to
experiment with new ideas and think creatively. The professors
encourage students to explore ideas and solutions that are difficult
to prove, and realize that this type of creative thinking often
happens best when the student is not worrying about saying the right
thing to get a certain grade.
It should be emphasized that there are high expectations for the
entire class in terms of participation and class preparation. It is
assumed that everyone will complete all of the assignments on time and
participate in class on a regular basis. The student will be in
danger of failing if she or he has more than 2 unexcused absences, 3
absences for any reason, or any tardy assignments. If a student fails
to complete an assignment, it is expected that he or she will not pass
General course outline
We will study the history of Palestine and the birth of Israel, with
primary focus on the late 19th and 20th century. In particular, we
will undertake each of the following topics through assigned readings
from the Bible, history books, and newspapers; videos; and in-class
- We will study the history of Palestine from the end of Ottoman
rule (late 19th century), through the British Occupation
(beginning in 1917), to the birth of the State of Israel (1948).
We will study the history of Israel from 1948 to the present. We will
study how Jerusalem moved from being a divided city with Jordan
controlling the holy sites to a ``unified'' city under Israeli
control. We will examine why this type of ``unity'' is
problematic, and why this question must be resolved if there is to be
a lasting peace agreement between Israel and Palestine.
We will study Judaism and how it is related to and different from
Christianity. We will study how the Zion Tradition developed and how
this tradition is vital for understanding the Messianic expectations
of Jews and Christians.
We will study the origination of Islam and the role Jerusalem
plays in Islam. How is Islam related to and different from Judaism
and Christianity, and how did Jerusalem becomes a holy city for Islam
second only to Mecca and Medina.
We will study how daily life in Israel and Palestine impacts the peace
process. Attention will be given to understanding how people live in
different parts Israel and Palestine and in nearby lands in the Middle
East. As described below, students will conduct individual research
on a ``Day in the Life'' of a typical individual.
The following textbooks are required reading. We'll list other references
in the course web page.
- Collins, Larry and La Pierre, Dominique, O Jerusalem (New
York: Simon and Schuster, 1988).
- Karen Armstrong, One City: Three Faiths (New York:
Final Project: students will be divided into groups with the goal of
coming up with a tentative proposal for how to move forward in the
peace process in present-day Israel. The project will be called the
``Minnesota River Principles for Mideast Peace.'' The rationale for
this section of the course is drawn Former President Jimmy Carter's
premise that the most promising means of developing a working peace
process is for a ``think tank'' of scholars to come up with a
proposal that is fair and equitable, and then to let the Israelis and
Palestinians work out the details from this starting point. This is
basically the method used by a team of scholars and diplomats who came
up with the Oslo Accords. The goal will be to have the students
negotiate a set of principles in order to understand the possibilities
of peace and the problems of achieving it. See below for details for
the requirements of this project.
Attendance and participation: The class will be based on discussions
and common exploration, so attendance and active participation is very
important. The class will meet 3 hours per day for 5 days per week.
In addition, the following are required:
In addition to daily assigned reading, read several on-line news
sources to stay up to date on current developments in the Middle East.
Complete 4 group projects (class presentations by students). In each of
the 4 rounds of projects, each group will make a different presentation.
The first round of projects will focus on the climate, geography and
significance of different parts of Israel:
Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Gaza, Judean and Sumarian Hill Country,
the Galilee, the Negev, and the Dead Sea region.
The second round of projects will focus different aspect of the
history of Palestine from the end of the 19th century to the present.
Topics will include the 1948 War of Independence, the 1967 Six Days
War, the 1973 Yom Kippur War, the 1987 Intifada, the 2000 Intifada, and
several UN resolutions and their impact on the region.
The third round of projects will focus on a ``Day in the Life
- a Palestinian who is an Israeli citizen and lives in East Jerusalem;
- a Palestinian living in Ramalah (not an Israeli citizen) and used to
work in Jerusalem before the closure (cover two days: one day working
in Jerusalem and one day with a closure);
- a Palestinian in a refugee camp in Jordan;
- an Israeli on a kibbutz in Megiddo (or similar site);
- an Israeli Jew who lives in Gilo;
- a hasidic Jew who lives in the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem;
- an Arab Israeli citizen in Tel Aviv who owns a business in Jaffa;
- and/or a Druze Arab enlisted in the Israeli army.
The final project will be to develop the ``Minnesota River
Principles for Mideast Peace'' as described above.
Complete an in-class test or short paper on the history of Israel from
the late 19th century to the present. (This requirement may be
dropped if there is strong class participation by all students.)
Complete an oral final exam: each student will complete an oral final
exam that will be cumulative and require him or her to synthesize
everything that we have studied during J-term. (This requirement may
be dropped if there is strong class participation by all students.)