On Interfaith Dialouge


Last weekend I went to the 10th annual JStreet National Conference in Washington D.C. JStreet is a pro-Israel, pro-Palestine, pro-peace organization that seeks to use America and the American Jewry’s influence to create a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. One of the most important things that JStreetU, the college level wing, does on campus is try to complicate dialogue surrounding Israel and Zionism on campus.

Growing up, my family always emphasized the Jewish value of Tikkun Olam, or repairing the world. It means speaking out on instances of injustice and fighting for all people to live in a just world. After the racial costume incidents this year and my freshman year, there was a wave of passionate voices advocating for institutional change and education on racial issues. These moments were invigorating to me; they showed me a community of students who cared deeply about social issues and who felt they had the power to change Dickinson’s campus into a more inclusive and respectful space.

Here were the students who noticed societal problems and raised their voices in protest, as I had been taught to do. What I have heard about Israel has been a resounding silence. I should say, not total silence. I hear whispers of celebration of Israel, as we will see this Thursday on Yom HaAtzma’ut. I hear whispers of anger at the Israeli government, for jailing Palestinian children. Mostly, I hear whispers of confusion and apathy. I can understand this. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is complex and there are voices on all sides saying the opposite. We do not live in Israel, many of us are not Jewish, why should we have to take the time to try to solve the conflict, let alone understand it?

What I heard at the JStreet conference were comparisons of Israel and America’s political situation. What I heard from speakers like Member of Knesset Michal Rozin, Palestinian Ambassador Husam Zomlot, and United States Senator Bernie Sanders was that are countries are politically intertwined and that our political situations are mirrored. Polarization in the Israeli government helps to shut down conversation about how to create lasting peace, just as we have seen in America. I have seen this on campus too. Students are hesitant to talk about Israel because they do not want to seem anti-Semitic or anti-Palestinian. I believe opposing the Israeli government does not mean hating Israel or hating Jews, and that advocating for Israel does not mean ignoring it’s human rights violations. For Israel to live up to the values it was founded upon it must stop demolitions in Palestinian villages, which threaten the peace process, and we must use our voices and our political power to help.

As someone who craves justice and strives for peace, I know it is my job to work to create lasting peace, I hope other student on campus, Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Arab, Zionist and progressive, will take the time to think about Israel and engage in meaningful debate.