When, in my early 50s, I embarked on my journey for completing a dual degree program (Master of Public Administration and an MA in Integrated Global Communication) at my local college, Kennesaw State University, I was not sure where it would take me. Initially I thought, beyond being interesting, it might help me in the position in knowledge management that I then held with a large multinational corporation. After a year or so, I understood that wasn’t the case and instead decided to gear every research opportunity towards the space that I realized I wanted to move into – the Jewish/Israel non-profit world. Here it is, three years since I started, with a semester left, and I’ve decided to apply for a certificate program at the same school — in Applied Peacekeeping.
My personal connection in Israel and in a future peace is more than a passing interest. I lived in Jerusalem for over a decade, two of my three sons were born there and one of them moved back. Consider it a personal and emotionally connected investment. I’ve only been back twice since I left, the first time a few years ago when another son and his now-wife held their wedding in Tel Aviv-Jaffa. At that time, my now husband, who had never been before, and I spent a week in Tel Aviv and a week in Jerusalem; I blogged about my soul coming home after we arrived in Jerusalem. That is how I think about being in Jerusalem: my soul’s home.
This past summer, to fulfill my MPA international requirement, we traveled to Israel again, this time for a month. We stayed in Nachlaot and so it was kind of shocking to me to see all the construction going on, changing the face of the city I knew. But my heart still recognized it as home.
During that month, I took a class at Hebrew University called Conflict Resolution from Theory to Practice: Israel as a Case Study. The focus was actually more on the psychological toll of living under an intractable conflict. We also discussed the sociopsychological infrastructure of such a conflict. It helped me understand that it is not enough to work on, for example, border discussions or economic opportunity, if the psychological components are not taken care of as well. People have a real need to feel seen, heard, cared about.
For my final paper for that class, I wove together elements of what I’d learned in the dual degree program as well – that is, the paper was a modified version of a policy paper, similar to one I had produced for an MPA class on policy about antisemitism in the United States. The premise of this paper was that those in decision-making and negotiating positions ought to be made aware of the psychological requirements for getting out of a conflict, and so the paper itself was on utilizing different channels of communications to reach them and evaluating their effectiveness, communication being the tie-in to the second track. (I blogged about the writing of the paper in The Israeli-Palestinian conflict: How to move forward, and am happy to share the actual paper if anyone is interested.)
I now have one semester remaining. During the past year, I moved to a research position at the Center for Israel Education and separate from that, have joined different Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking spaces on social media. So when an opportunity presented itself to stay in school just a little bit longer, I decided I would. The reason why? A graduate certificate in Applied Peacebuilding. Given my interest, applying to the nine-credit program seemed like the next logical step in this journey I am on.
As well, while Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has said that Israel’s current government will not get back to the negotiating table (and I’ve written about how this coalition will function within this parameter), I do believe that even with their “shrinking the conflict” approach, the two sides will be in a better place – and the different publics will see that – by the time the next elections roll around. The bottom line in all of this, is that I would like to deepen my understanding of peacebuilding.
Should I be accepted, there is a required introduction class I would take this summer, three one-credit classes I would take in the fall (Peacebuilding Assessment, Strategy Development and Nonviolent Resistance)…and then I will likely have to wait to wrap up the certificate. The school only offers certain classes from their list every semester, and the only one I believe most relevant, Peacebuilding, Peacekeeping, and Reconciliation, isn’t likely to be offered again until Fall 2024.
I can wait.
Given my interest is in a conflict that will not – and I might even say given the current situation, cannot – be resolved soon, in the Fall of 2024 the class will still be relevant — and, given the course description, it will also be a really nice opportunity to dig in more deeply.
What would also be nice would be to figure out how to put everything I’ll have learned on this later-in-life educational journey to use.
Hopefully by that time, I will know.