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Chalutzim sponsors peace week

Next week, from Monday, Feb. 24 through Friday, Feb. 28, Grinnell will hold an “Israel and Palestine Peace Week” sponsored by Chalutzim, Grinnell’s Jewish student organization. The events will include tabling and posters, a movie screening at Harris on Wednesday and an open discussion session in JRC 101 on Friday.

Sapir Blau ’14, a Hasbara Fellow who organized similar events last year, came up with the idea of the peace week, along with a group of students who were interested in the topic.

The event was partly inspired by a national Israel peace week, which was started by a group of Hasbara Fellows in 2010 as a response to Israel Apartheid Week, which also runs during the final week of February. The Israel peace week aims to convey a positive message in over 150 universities and colleges across North America.

Blau wanted something of the same nature at Grinnell yet with a local flavor.

“We wanted to make it what it is, but also Grinnellian,” Blau said. “And we wanted to turn it into something that is ours and something that we are proud of.”

The purpose of the week is to “demystify the conflict without simplifying it,” said Lucy Marcus ’14, an active member of Chalutzim and another organizer of the peace week.

“We chose to come up with a rational, humanistic and rigorous response [to the issue],” said Associate Chaplain and Rabbi, Rob Cabelli, who has been involved in organizing the peace week events. “Both the Israelis and Palestinians want peace, and it’s up to us to essentially try to step in on this campus and replace the vacuum in which people only hear one narrative. And to replace that vacuum with a plethora of perspectives.”

Next week’s events will start with posters in both JRC and ARH, including general information about topics such as the evolution of the Israel-Palestine border, demographics of Palestinian and Israeli populations and some basics about the religious and ethnic composition of both entities. Participating students will be tabling outside the Dining Hall throughout the week, engaging in conversation with anyone who is interested.

“It’s not conversation to persuade anyone of anything; it’s more of the possibility of sharing perspectives,” Cabelli said.

There will be a movie shown at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 26 called “The Attack,” in which an Arab surgeon who lives in Israel realizes that his wife has been involved in a suicide bombing. The movie will be shown at the Harris Cinema and refreshments will be served.

The last event is on Friday, Feb. 28 at noon in JRC 101. It will be an open discussion about the questions that people have, as well as their thoughts on the movie.

“We don’t want to present one perspective, because we really want to encourage people to question their own understanding of the conflict and to widen it,” Marcus said.

Blau has a specific audience in mind for all the events that are going to happen next week.

“I want students who are not Israeli, Palestinian or from the Middle East to feel comfortable talking about the topic,” Blau said. “It can be very intimidating, as it has a lot of religious, historical, militaristic aspects. And so I wanted to start with the basics. That’s why we start with the poster series. The idea is to make it accessible—to start at some point of a background.”

The organizers certainly recognize the complexity and magnitude of the topic, but are very hopeful about the potential for learning and conversation presented by next week’s events. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is “one of the most perplexing, problematic and frustrating conflicts in the world,” according to Cabelli, who emphasized the significance of the issue and the objective of the week. “Whether you are Israeli or Palestinian or not, the issue is important because it’s a challenge to the entire world, and we have to become more rational, compassionate and rigorous in how we approach this. So we hope to not only elevate the conversation, but simply to increase the awareness.”

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