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Peace Month Teach-In

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by Erin Hannon

This week the Israel-Palestine Peace Month held a teach-in event in the Colket Atrium. The purpose of this event was to help educate the community about the many controversies and conflicts that surround this complex issue.

Dr. Willingham of the history department was the first to speak. He provided some of the historical context that is necessary to understand the conflict that really dates back to biblical times.

However, many of the most pressing issues began around World War II. In the time leading up to World War II anti-Semitism was at an all time high, and so Theodor Herzl began to promote the idea of Zionism. Zionism was a political movement that called for the establishment of a Jewish nation or homeland. This movement gained significant support following World War II, which had devastated many Jewish communities and displaced many Jewish people.

After the war, land in Palestine was split in half. Palestinians kept half of their original land and Jewish refugees got the other half. However this did not resolve all of the problems. Since then, conflicts have continued to break out throughout the region.

Dr. Snow represented the Public Affairs Department and was responsible for explaining a few of the political issues that surround the topic. One of the most pressing issues is the displacement of refugees. There are refugees on both sides of the conflict. There are Jewish refugees, forced out of their own countries by anti-Semitism, but there are also Palestinian refugees who were forced out of their homes with the rise of Israel.

The problems facing refugees also extends outside of just Israel and Palestine. Dr. Snow explained that many refugees from places like Syria were originally Palestinian refugees. With the ongoing issues in Syria these Palestinians have become refugees once again.

Religion has played a major role throughout this conflict, and so Professor Jordan from the theology department spoke about that aspect.  Professor Jordan stressed the importance of religion to someone’s identity. Specifically, she gave an example featuring Ethiopian refugees who practice an ancient version of Judaism that is different from Judaism today. These refugees were persecuted in their own country and so they attempted to travel from Ethiopia to Israel, where they hoped to be free from persecution. However, once they arrived they still struggled because their version of Judaism was different from the norm. The point of this example was to explain that religion’s involvement in the Israel-Palestine conflict, like many of the issues, is not just black and white, it is a complex enigma that can be understood in different ways.

After the professors shared their insight, members of the audience were encouraged to ask questions. The discussion that followed covered topics from a range of issues including questions about US involvement, Palestinian identity, and refugees. Members of the audience walked away from the talk with a better understanding of the issues making up the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Israel-Palestine Peace Month will continue into April with two more events. On April 4 the band Heartbeat will come perform in the Atrium Chapel. This group is comprised of both Israelis and Palestinians who promote peace. The final event is the keynote speaker who will talk in Olin Theater about the importance of interfaith dialogue in the Israel-Palestine conflict.