Teaching Israeli and Palestinian students during war

During this difficult time of war, the participants of the Fall 2023 semester from Israel, Palestine, and around the world, have continued to live and learn together on our campus in Kibbutz Ketura. After coming together in shock after the events of October 7th, students and staff decided together that it would be best to offer classes in order to give everyone the chance to have a regular framework to hold on to, while taking a compassionate approach to students’ ability to actively participate and focus on academic studies.  

Academic Director Dr. Jessica Schäckermann explains: “We met with the faculty to produce a teaching and learning plan that will be good and feasible under the given circumstances. We tried to incorporate a lot of hands-on class work, and we made sure that there were no deadlines for assignments in the first weeks of the war. Some students had to leave the campus due to their home university’s requirements, or for personal reasons, and are now learning remotely. We therefore also created a remote learning plan and offer recordings of the classes, and added some additional learning materials for those who can’t partake in class.” 

This adjusted study program also requires the academic staff to be in permanent contact with lecturers and students, to ensure everyone’s wellbeing, and be aware of additional changes that might need to be made. A framework for studying in these times of uncertainty is helpful for everyone involved, even when concentration and motivation are challenging. 

Dr. Miri Lavi-Neeman, who currently teaches a course in Political Ecology, shares on Facebook: “The strangest thing now is teaching. Israelis, Palestinians, and internationals that are still gathering together to learn. And discuss. Thoughtful sensitive minds. To my incredible surprise, open minds. I can’t really plan much as I never know what tragedy our class will follow. I can’t just talk irrelevant theory, and I certainly don’t want to. We take it gently step by step catching up first with how they are feeling. How I’m feeling. We try to produce vocabularies in the theories we discuss to help capture some of what we are facing. We are careful. And sensitive. And mainly what is clear to all of us that being situated here we all hold complicated contradictory feelings and positions, which outside and faraway from here, in a world flattened by media and rigid critical theory, no one can understand. Our little microcosm teaches me so much. We hold a little fortress in which we protect our humanity.”  

“While it is incredibly challenging to teach cross-border environmental cooperation when a war is raging 200 miles north of the Institute, it is my impression that the students are thirsty for the opportunity to continue to learn and to hold on to hope for a better tomorrow,” adds Global Resource Geopolitics lecturer Dr. David Lehrer.  

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