Today, Thursday February 26, at 5:30 pm in Bond Hall, Swarthmore Hillel will be hosting an Israel-Palestine student story panel. Five students—Leonie Cohen ’16, Damella Dotan ’15, Rachel Flaherman ’16, Amit Schwalb ’17, and Jessica Seigel ’16—will share stories about their personal relationships to Israel, Palestine, and the conflict. This is Swarthmore Hillel’s first Israel-Palestine event of the semester.
Hillel’s Israel-Palestine Programming Committee conceived of the event, hoping to create a space that, as co-organizer Abby Holtzman ’16 said, “allows Jewish students to express memories, experiences, and emotions instead of the expected rationalized arguments.” By focusing on personal narratives rather than talking points, the organizers of the panel “hope this event will help our community (both intra and interfaith) imagine each other more complexly,” said Holtzman.
The students on the panel are all Jewish, a homogeneity acknowledged by its planners. “There are a lot of different kind of conversations that need to happen around Israel-Palestine,” said Joshua Wolfsun ‘16, Swarthmore Hillel’s Israel and Palestine programming coordinator, “but one of them is the internal conversation within the Jewish community […] Swarthmore’s Jewish community has not had […] any conversations about Israel/Palestine in […] memory,” he said.
“We’re not pretending to offer any sort of an objective or all encompassing view of the conflict, or the region for that matter,” said Wolfsun. “We don’t have any Palestinians on the panel, so it’s necessarily a limited perspective.” Rather, he said, this panel will specifically address Swarthmore’s Jewish community, and will serve as a starting point for the semester’s programming. “This is the beginning of a much longer conversation.”
“There a lot of arguments that can and should be had [about Israel-Palestine],” said Wolfsun. “But one of the things we wanted to start by exploring and showcasing is the diversity of experiences and relations people within the Jewish community have to Israel and Palestine.”
While Swarthmore Hillel has stressed the fact that this event is a time for storytelling, not a debate about Israel and Palestine, Holtzman said that there will be several “small, separate debriefing sessions” directly after the event “for anybody who wants to process what they have heard in a constructive way.”
The event was designed with the Swarthmore Jewish community in mind, said Wolfsun. But Holtzman said that it is also “a great opportunity for people who don’t identify with this community to get a glimpse inside the minds of a few Jewish community members. This will not be an informationally instructive event, per se, but certainly a humanizing one. We hope students both familiar and not familiar with the conflict will come away with respect for their fellow students.”
“Everyone,” said Wolfsun, “is an expert in their own personal story.”
Note: Abby Holtzman ’16 is an editor for The Daily Gazette. She was not involved in the production of this article.