Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Captain Obvious* statement #1

The first few days (or weeks/months) I am in a new place, especially a new place that is totally different from anywhere else I have been, I go through a whole series of 'duh' moments when I realize something that is probably totally obvious to the rest of the world, but that I had no clue about.

One of the biggest 'duh' moments I have had since arriving here:

There are lots of Jews in Jerusalem.

I can not understate how surprised I am by this. Now, I am sure to the rest of you really smart people, this is super obvious, but to me - I am still a bit confused. Here is logic - there was a negligible Jew population in Israel/Palestine until the beginning of the 1900s, and it took until after WWII, when Israel was recognized as an official state by the UN, that large populations of Jews were able to settle in the area. Before then, the area was populated almost entirely by Arabs. Soooooo.. I just figured that there would still be super large Arab populations around. Not so much. I mean, don't get me wrong - there are many Arab neighborhoods and such in Jerusalem, it is just surprising to me how few. For example, Hebrew University, one of the largest and most well known of the Israeli public universities, only has 4,000 Arab students out of 24,000 students. This wouldn't be AS surprising, but I have been told several times that this is actually one of the HIGHEST percentages of Arab students in ANY university in Israel!

Additionally, according to Wikipedia, Jerusalem has a population of about 750,000 (its the largest city in Israel, and the poorest, too), of which 64% are Jewish and only 32% are Muslim, and a mere 2% are Christian.. so there are over twice as many Jews as there are Arabs in the city. This is also interesting considering that the Arab population has a MUCH higher birth rate than the Jews. So where did the Arabs (aka Palestinians) go? According to the directer of my program, they are mainly in refugee camps - they have been forced out of the area by wars that range back to 1948. Since land seized by Israel in the 1948 war has never been returned to the Palestinian population, and many Palestinians refuse to give up their claim on the land, most Palestinians have stayed in these refugee camps over several generations, and are the only population on earth where children born to the refugees are able to politically maintain their refugee status, and thus their claim on land that is still occupied by Israel.

Complicated stuff. And the more I understand, the more complicated it gets.

* I am totally stealing the 'captain obvious' from my friends Jeannie and Alex. ;)


Victor said...

Funny enough, I've been thinking about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict lately, not because you are there but, I think due to the war, the fact that I felt Bush didn't prioritize it but had the power to do a lot, the fact that now Rice is trying to make headway before Hillary Clinton takes her place, and perhaps because I'm reading this book "Everything Must Change" which doesn't say anything new, YET, for me at least with what I've seen, read, or experienced. So I've been thinking a lot about it. Anyway, this post is interesting. Keep it coming. In International studies, out of public health, international education, and human rights-peace and conflict resolution, do you want to do work in all of them (in life, not during this internship)?

Bailey's said...

Just was talking to Grandma Rita (had a domestic question) and she wondered how you were. So I told her I could read her your last couple of posts. And the message she has is, "All the Hamas has to do is quit sending rockets to Israel!" I told her to get one of the aunts to show her your pics!

Jennifer said...

i love when you teach me. i agree with victor, keep it coming. dont you love when it gets more complicating the more you get into it. i think that happens with anything important like social justice, poverty, politics, education, relationships...yay!