(Editor’s note: This story is by Omar Aquije)
In a single day, two Colgate students will observe thousands of Muslims in mid-day prayers, Jews celebrating the start of Shabbat, and Franciscan monks leading processions through the streets of Jerusalem.
This happens each Friday in the streets of Old City in Jerusalem, where Christina Crowley ’14 and Rebecca Fine ’14 are living this summer to complete a project designed to promote peace in a place long embroiled in conflict.
“It is incredible to sit in a café and witness thousands of people following three important traditions of different religions on the same day and in such close proximity to each other, sharing the small and holy space of the Old City,” Crowley said.
Crowley, a history major from Bainbridge Island, Wash., and Fine, a peace and conflicts studies major from Seattle, Wash., are studying how people of different religions coexist within the Old City, which contains holy sites for Christianity, Islam, and Judaism.
The students, living in Jerusalem from June 10 to Aug. 1., hope their conclusions can aid efforts to bring peace in the Middle East. The pair spends their days collecting data by observing the different religious groups interact in public places.
The project is funded with a $10,000 grant from Projects for Peace, an initiative for undergraduate projects designed to find solutions to conflicts. Projects are conducted during the summer, and can focus on an issue anywhere in the world, including the U.S. The Projects for Peace grant is available to students in 90 colleges and universities affiliated with the Davis United World College Program, an organization that provides scholarships to its partnered institutions.
Susan Thomson, assistant professor of peace and conflict studies, taught Fine in her course, Peace and Conflict Studies 218: War in Lived Experience. Thomson said she suggested Fine apply for the grant as a result of her excellent participation in the course.
Fine applied with her friend, Crowley, who minors in geography. They were chosen from multiple Colgate applications, Thomson said.
“I think Becca and Christina make a fine team,” Thomson said. “With their combined background in peace and conflict studies (Becca) and geography (Christina), they are well placed to spend the summer abroad applying what they’ve learned in the classroom.”
Crowley and Fine are the seventh Colgate team or individual to receive a grant from Projects for Peace.
The two students say their experiences in Jerusalem have been positive, although living there required adjustments. For instance, they must dress more modestly than they do in the U.S. They also had to adapt to the constant presence of the Israeli military.
“We have felt welcomed by almost everyone we’ve met,” Fine said. “At the same time, it is very different from the culture at home and so we have to be conscious of that and willing to make adjustments and adapt.”