"Salamu Aleykum." Muslims share this greeting countless times a day, a greeting similar to its language cousin, "Shalom Aleychem" used by Jews for centuries. Both mean "peace be upon you." But few regions of the world seem further away from real peace than the Middle East. Nonetheless, we remember the words of our Lord, "Blessed are the peacemakers," realizing that if we are to be true peacemakers, there is much to learn about the complex causes of conflict in the reagion. Amoung other lessons learned, one of the most important is that peace only comes with sacrifice and engagement, not with mere words or cheap grace.
The Middle East Studies Program integrates the study of culture, history, religion, politics, and language. Three seminar courses and an Arabic course continue throughout the semester.
Introduction to Arabic Language (4 credits)
This course aims to help students acquire basic skills in Arabic. The course emphasizes the practical use of the language, encouraging interaction with locals through the 'street lab' assignments or during visits to service projects. Small classes three days per week offer a solid introduction to the colloquial grammar and a substantial vocabulary as students take more than 40 hours of instruction. Once completed, the course should bring students to an intermediate level of Arabic.
(Possible Credit: Language, Cross-Cultural Studies)
Related Course Activities:
In order to enhance the student's use of the Arabic colloquial, we seek to arrange weeklong home-stays with mainly Muslim and Christian Arab families. Ideally, each family has a contact person who is the same gender and is an English speaker so students have a way to communicate their needs, ideas and feelings. It is a positive as well as necessary experience in order for students to appreciate the genuine nature of life in an Arab society. While most students stay individually with a family, some MESP students may do their home-stays together.
Islamic Thought and Practice (4 credits)
This course examines many dimensions of Islamic faith - historical, legal, doctrinal, popular and behavioral - from early times to the present. While emphasis is on the early period and its influence on events and people, the course also attempts to relate these early developments to contemporary issues in the Middle East, such as colonialism, gender equality, modernization, development and democracy. Students are encouraged to begin thinking about relevant similarities and differences between themselves and Muslim peoples around the world.
This course frequently makes use of local scholars, experts, religious figures, or other locals in order to enhance students' encounters with the religion and history of the region.
(Possible Credit: History, Religion)
Conflict and Change in the Middle East (4 credits)
This course examines the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, or what many scholars now call ‘the 100 Years War.' Beginning with the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the course traces the origin of the conflict from the early encounters between Arabs and Jews in Palestine to the contemporary struggle to achieve a final status agreement between Israelis and Palestinians today. Because the conflict and its consequences - human, geographic, social, cultural, and political - are so proximate to the student experience, they learn more intimately about the complexity and difficulty of reaching peace in an otherwise tiny space shared by two peoples with competing civilizational visions.
(Possible Credit: Political Science, Peace & Conflict Resolution Studies, and History)
Peoples and Cultures of the Middle East (4 credits)
This course examines the diverse mosaic of the Middle East peoples and culture through the prism of various societies along the MESP journey. Most recently, semesters have included travel within Israel, Palestinian areas, Jordan, Tunisia and Turkey. While the selection of travel locations depends upon safety conditions prevailing at the time of travel, the course nonetheless seeks to introduce students to patterns of thought and behavior that characterize the region generally without losing sight of important national and religious differences. The Middle East is a multiethnic, multiconfessional region and student travel allows them to observe and study a great variety of social, religious and political groups. In addition, students learn about pressing issues related to gender, conflict, economic development and cultural identity that currently animate the many religious and political communities they visit.
(Possible Credit: Sociology, Anthropology)
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In addition, MESP seeks to connect its students with young people from each tradition of the local mosaic in Jerusalem-Muslim, Jewish, and Eastern Christian. This is done through ‘friendship events' or opportunities for casual conversation provided by the ‘street labs' of East and West Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and other areas covered during the MESP journey. The hope is that students will engage their local hosts in ways that enrich friendships, mutual understanding, and respect. At the same time, they will learn what it is to be a guest amidst the legendary hospitality of Middle Eastern society.