1/24/2014 Peter Durantine

F&M Looks at the Cultures Behind A Middle East Conflict

  • "The Cultures Behind the Conflict: Israeli and Palestinian Narratives in Film" starts with "Ajami," at 7:30 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 30, in Franklin & Marshall College's Stahr Auditorium at Stager Hall. 

Simmering at times, raging at others, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has gone on so long that even its central issues, let alone the reality of the daily lives of the people living in the Middle East, are lost to most, Franklin & Marshall College faculty say.

Many F&M students have expressed to those faculty their interest in the subject -- and in the people who have warred for more than 60 years over an area of land about the size of New Jersey.

In response, a faculty coalition led by the Middle East/Islamic Studies Faculty Caucus and the Judaic Studies Program is sponsoring a film series this semester to address their interest and encourage discussion about the conflict.

"It's often difficult to see beyond the lens of the conflict," said Assistant Professor of Music Sylvia Alajaji, who organized the Middle East/Islamic Studies Faculty Caucus.  "We hope these films shed light on the incredible and complex narratives of the people living in the region." 

"The Cultures Behind the Conflict: Israeli and Palestinian Narratives in Film" starts with "Ajami," at 7:30 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 30, in Stahr Auditorium at Stager Hall. The film is a thriller, revolving around five stories of everyday life in a religiously mixed neighborhood of Muslims and Christians in Tel Aviv, Israel.

While the films indirectly address the political and historical issues of the conflict, Alajaji and Professor of History Maria Mitchell said they focus on how those issues affect the wide range of social interactions between Israelis and Palestinians.

"We wanted to get at the ongoing phenomenon of everyday life," said Mitchell, chair of Judaic Studies at F&M. "There's far more interaction between Palestinians and Israelis than many people think."

Each of the series' three films will show at 7:30 p.m. in Stahr Auditorium at Stager Hall. Two faculty members will briefly introduce each film, and then following the showing they will lead a discussion about the film. 

Assistant Professor of Religious Studies SherAli Tareen and Arthur and Katherine Shadek Professor of Humanities and French and Italian and Chair of Comparative Literary Studies Scott Lerner will lead the discussion on the first film, "Ajami."

The two other films to show in the series are "Paradise Now," at 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 17, and  "Channels of Rage," at 7:30 p.m. on March 27.

"Paradise Now" tells a fictional tale of two prospective suicide bombers from the West Bank city of Nablus. Assistant Professor of History Hoda Yousef and Associate Professor of Government and Chair of Government Department Jennifer Kibbe will lead the discussion.

"Channels of Rage," a documentary, profiles the music, friendship, and politicization of two young rap artists, an Israeli Jew and an Israeli Arab. It's set in 2000, during the onset of the Second Intifada, a Palestinian uprising. Sylvia Alajaji and Associate Professor of Judaic Studies and History Matt Hoffman, also chair of the History Department, will lead the discussion.

The film series is co-sponsored by the Government Department, the International Studies Program, the Klehr Center for Jewish Life, and the Theatre, Dance and Film Department.

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