Professor Shares Experience Teaching in Israel While Street Violence Takes Place

Camelia Suleiman, Associate Professor in the Department of Linguistics and Germanic, Slavic, Asian, and African Languages, is currently staying in Nazareth, Israel, while co-teaching a course at Hebrew University of Jerusalem through Zoom. Many of her students, both Jewish and Palestinian, are participating despite the clashes that have taken place outside their homes in the Old City of Jerusalem. She wrote the following article while reflecting on her students and the street violence that has taken place in Israel and the Gaza Strip this past month. 

headshot of a woman with long brown hair wearing glasses a black blazer and a red scarf
Dr. Camelia Suleiman

Many of us in the MSU community have been following the news from Israel/Palestine with much concern. I had just arrived in Nazareth at my parents’ house when everything started. I was scheduled to co-teach a course at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem with Dr. Chiara Caradonna, a faculty member from there. The course, “Women Novelists (Re)Writing the Nation Across the Mediterranean,” had been in the making for more than a year. 

Young Palestinian students from East Jerusalem have been joining Hebrew University for the past 2-3 years. My presence, as a Palestinian from Nazareth, was to reassure these students, help support them, and give them a sense of relevance. While they have to adjust to the Hebrew language, they are allowed to write their papers for the class in Arabic if they wish. 

Screenshot of a Zoom classroom with 15 different people
Dr. Camelia Suleiman (far left second row from top) with the class she is teaching via Zoom in Israel.

Our course asks students to read women’s literature from France, Italy, Morocco, Algeria, Egypt, Palestine, and Israel. Half the students who enrolled are Jewish and the other half Palestinian. As all students and faculty have been vaccinated, we were supposed to meet on campus. But, all of this got disrupted due to recent developments. 

We decided (like many other faculty) to switch the course to Zoom. Students show up to Zoom, both prepared and eager for the class, despite the fighting all around them. Their resilience is admirable, considering that some of them live in ‘hot’ areas where clashes are happening literally outside their doors. 

a photo of a woman with brown hair wearing glasses, a navy blue blazer, with a city behind her
Dr. Camelia Suleiman overlooking the Old City of Jerusalem during a trip in 2019 to the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

I am filled with positive emotions — unspeakable, when I connect with the students through Zoom. I see humans, and I feel confident and strong when I see them in class, while everything around them is burning. They are the future.

These young people teach us a lesson in resilience, focus, and hope. I hope politicians give them a chance to live and live with dignity, and without fears. They are a reminder to all of us of many things, including a reminder that the right to access education is a human right. We at MSU, while already embodying that, can still be humbled by their courage and resilience. It is also a gentle reminder to us, as faculty, that the humanities can play a crucial role in society and in bringing people together.

While this post is not political, I am full of hope and confidence for an alternative future for both people. A future that allows them the joy of life.