With the winter holidays over and the new year begun, Al-Quds University is open for business again, although the second semester does not begin until the third week of January.  So I have some time to continue to work on preparing my second-semester courses, as well as other projects.  In the spring term, I will be teaching “Diversity, Justice, and Injustice” and “Leadership in American Life.”  More on these when the semester begins later in the month.

Of course the talk here for the last ten days has been about the U.S. abstention on the UN resolution on Israeli settlements, as well as on John Kerry’s long speech on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict last week.  The reaction to both in my limited circles in the Palestinian community has been positive but muted.  For some, it’s a matter of “too little too late” from their point of view: the Obama administration’s reluctance to push harder on the settlement issue over the past eight years rankles in Palestinian circles, and I have heard Kerry’s robust defense of the two-state solution derided as neither fresh or original. Still, there is appreciation that no American official has extended himself further on these issues than Secretary Kerry.

And there are plenty of rumblings about the future.  Some of my colleagues are watching Russia closely; having seen Putin manage the situation in Syria, they are expecting that he will play a more prominent role here as well, as evidenced by the reported news that the Russians will try to broker an agreement between the Fatah and Hamas parties.  Others are seeing a quieter but more influential role for China in the region.  These speculations are based, at least in part, on a calculation that the more seasoned leaders in those countries will seize on the new U.S. president’s inexperience to widen their sphere of influence generally.  They are also based on a widespread tendency here to see powerful hidden hands at work behind ostensibly mundane developments.

Meanwhile, in Israel the media attention is focused on the police investigations on charges of corruption against Bibi Netanyahu.  The news here is really just breaking – the media still has not gotten hold of the details of what is rumored to be the more serious of the charges.  It may all come to nothing, but for now this story is adding to a marked feeling of transition and instability that is settling people on both sides of the green line on edge.

Over the past few weeks, I have been posting photographs and brief bios of the American Studies students on the program’s Facebook page.  On the off-chance that not every reader of this blog is following that page, here are a few samples, which will give an idea of the range of students enrolled in the program:


W’am Hammash

Wi’am Hammash grew up in Bethlehem, Palestine, and took her B.A. in Human Rights and International Law from Al-Quds Bard College at Abu Dis. She is now working towards her Master’s degree in American Studies at Al-Quds University.She dreams to become an effective person to help Palestinian women, children and youth. She believes in her dreams, because she follows Eleanor Roosevelt’s saying: “life belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” She is interested in photography. The Facebook page of Wi’am Hammash is https://www.facebook.com/Wiam.Hammash


Mohammad Hamayel

Mohammad Hamayel is an American born Palestine-based journalist currently employed as a correspondent for PressTV. He had also worked on programs in the past including “Coffee in Palestine” and is now producing “Life Under Apartheid.” Mohammad enjoys reading up on Philosophy and History. A fan of film director Stanley Kubrick he also follows Quentin Tarantino, Jim Jarmusch, Michelle’ Gundry and others.


Helda Erekat





Helda Erekat was born and raised in Kuwait and currently lives in Jerusalem. She obtained her bachelor’s degree in Mass Communication–TV and Radio Broadcasting from the University of Cairo. She also has a higher Diploma in Media from the Institute of Arab Research and Studies in Cairo. Helda has worked as a reporter with several TV stations and news agencies, and she recently worked as a lecturer in the Faculty of Media at the PAUC University in Palestine. Helda’s family and friends have always been the first supporters of her success; she considers joining the master’s degree program in the American Studies at Al-Quds University to be an inspiration to her children, who are themselves university students. She is proving her belief that education should never be limited by age. Her favorite quotation is, “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance,” by former Harvard University president Derek Bok. Helda enjoys bowling, traveling and hiking.


Alaa Hamamra


Alaa Hamamra holds a bachelors in English language and literature from An-Najah University. Along with being a social entrepreneur,  Alaa works as a freelance translator and content writer. For fun, Alaa enjoys blogging, sci-fiction and politics.









Samer Makhlouf, 40 years old from the West Bank town of Jifna, is the CEO of Zimam, a non-profit organization that promotes the values of democracy, freedom, justice, and moderation through sustained grassroots non-violent activities in Palestine. Samer also serves as the Director of International Relations in the Palestinian Centre for Research and Strategic Studies (PCRSS).


Samer Maklouf

Mr. Makhlouf, has 15 years’ experience in a broad range of non-profit and business organizations within Palestine. Samer has extensive international training in fundraising and non-profit management, including work with the U.S. Department of State. He holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Birzeit University and a master student in regional studies at Al Quds University.  Mr. Makhlouf served as the head of Ramallah’s Al Kasaba Theater & Cinematheque Programs & Development Department, and he serves as president of his home town Jifna’s Youth Club with 350 members from all ages. Mr. Makhlouf is also the leader/organizer of the Apricot festival, one of the biggest, most popular and well known festivals in Palestine.