Brown University News Bureau

The Brown University News Bureau

1997-1998 index

Distributed September 29, 1997
Contact: Linda Mahdesian

Understanding through education

Brown and Wesleyan present Israeli-Palestinian studies program

Brown University and Wesleyan University, in cooperation with Trinity College, have joined to present a semester-long Program in Israeli and Palestinian Studies. The Program will take place at The Hebrew University in Jerusalem, from early January through June 1998.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- As violence and rhetoric escalate in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, leading scholars in Israeli and Palestinian studies are seeking peace through education. Brown University, in partnership with Wesleyan University and in cooperation with Trinity College, is launching a full-credit program of study affiliated with The Hebrew University in Jerusalem. The Program in Israeli and Palestinian Studies is a semester-long experience that begins the first week of January and concludes June 30, 1998. The program received approval by Brown's College Curriculum Council (CCC) Sept. 23.

The instructional staff includes faculty members from the four universities involved and draws additional faculty from other Israeli and Palestinian universities. The program will allow students to undertake comparative studies of Israeli and Palestinian culture, politics, religion and society. In addition to classroom sessions, the program will provide contextual learning, field studies and direct contact with leading Israeli and Palestinian figures.

The program builds on Wesleyan University's Israeli studies program in Jerusalem, established in 1973. "The group of Americans, Israeli and Palestinians who met together for over three weeks last June to create this program worked in a manner that was most emphatically one of trust and cooperation," said Jeremy Zwelling, coordinator of the program and professor of religion at Wesleyan. "Though Palestinian institutions and the official agencies have been increasingly uncomfortable with the very term cooperation, and so many Israelis are feeling increasing distrust, this group was able to work in a spirit of mutual respect that produced a real sense of solidarity. ...We left Jerusalem toward the end of June satisfied that we had put together the human resources and the academic instruments to study both Palestinian and Israeli societies and cultures in ways that would be fresh and illumining."

The collaboration with Brown and the major curricular revisions were initiated by two Brown professors, David C. Jacobson, associate professor of Judaic studies; and Kamal Abdel-Malek, assistant professor of comparative literature. Jacobson and Abdel-Malek team teach a popular course on Israeli and Palestinian literature, which attracts many interested students, including Jewish, Arab, Christian, and Muslim students.

The program is supervised by faculty members from Brown, Trinity and Wesleyan who regularly visit the program and join resident faculty members in providing instruction. Professor Rachel Back of the English department at The Hebrew University is the director-in-residence of the program, and Professor Jeremy Zwelling from Wesleyan's religion department is its overall coordinator.

The program is intended for all liberal arts undergraduates and will be especially attractive to students majoring in anthropology, religion, political science, and Middle Eastern studies as well as students of Hebrew and Arabic language and literature. Courses are taught in English and no prior training in Hebrew or Arabic is required.