Welcome to Bethlehem Blog

Thank you for visiting my blog, which is designed to inform readers about Bethlehem University and to share my experiences there and elsewhere in the Middle East with my colleagues, students, friends, and family--and with anyone who's interested.

The blog will feature not only written postings but also plenty of photographs and videos. I plan to update it as often as possible--at least a few times a week, and perhaps as often as once a day. I encourage you to subscribe in order to receive notifications of updates. If you would like to comment on the postings or suggest a title for the Books and Films list, please contact me at mustafja@lewisu.edu.

From late August until late December, I'll be teaching and learning in the English Department at Bethlehem University. The first question I'm most commonly asked about this journey is "Why do you want to go there?" The answers are simple: because I want very much to become acquainted with the region where my father, uncles, and aunts grew up; because I hope to strengthen the bond between Lewis University and Bethlehem University; because, now more than ever, it's important that the people--especially the young people--of the United States and the Arab world get to know one another, and I'd like to contribute in some small way to that mutual understanding.

The second question I'm often asked is "Will you be safe there?" To be frank, I believe this question reveals a tendency Americans have to conflate the various countries of what we call the "Middle East" (itself a problematic term for various reasons) and to view them all as potentially dangerous. In reality, the "Middle East" is as diverse a region as Europe or the Americas; and (Iraq currently excepted) it's neither more nor less perilous. Furthermore, "dangerous" is a relative term. When I moved from Portland (Oregon) to Philadelphia after graduating from college, Portlanders warned me that Philly was a very violent city controlled by mobsters. Later, Philadelphians wanted to know whether it was safe to visit Portland, since they had heard that gangs from Los Angeles had started to take over some of its neighborhoods. I didn't recognize either city in these descriptions, which were drawn mostly from a few news reports.

I do believe I will be physically safe in Bethlehem--and in Amman and Istanbul and Cairo, all of which I plan to explore. But no doubt my preconceptions about the region, together with my established ideas about teaching and learning and living, will be in considerable danger. It's going to be a very risky experience, and I hope you'll share it with me.

Before I conclude this first posting, let me emphasize that I am by no means an expert on the Middle East, and that I've got a good deal of homework to do before I gain even a basic understanding of its history, politics, and culture. (I'm currently working my way through some of the titles on the Books and Films list.) For this reason, and because I want to focus mostly on life and learning at Bethlehem University, this blog will seldom touch upon those seemingly intractable challenges (such as Islamist radicalism, terrorism, and the Arab-Israeli conflict) that we in the United States tend to associate with the region. That said, getting to know the people of Bethlehem University does mean coming to appreciate the often very difficult conditions under which they live, and certainly I won't shy away from discussing them.

On Monday night I leave Chicago for Amman, Tel Aviv, and finally Bethlehem. In my next posting I'll describe my father's emigration from Palestine to the United States in the 1950s, and my first impressions of Bethlehem.

Thank you again for your interest in the blog. I hope you'll keep me company during the next few months.


Copyright 2007 Jamil Mustafa | Blogger Templates by GeckoandFly modified and converted to Blogger Beta by Blogcrowds.