Members of Israel/Palestine J-Term start discussion

On Feb. 10, in the East Gallery of Founders, The Israel/Palestine January Term discussed their critical analysis of Israeli/Palestinian conflict and enticing stories from the journey abroad.

Leaders Max Carter and Jonathan sat in the audience as members of the trip each spoke about what impacted them most on the trip and following their presentation answered questions from the audience.

“It’s really important to have these conversations (about Israeli/Palestinian conflict)… in my mind it’s almost as important as the trip we were on,” said trip member and CCE first-year Michelle Harris. “I don’t see this big type of conversation happening; I’ve only been having one-on-one conversations.”

Presentations about Israel and Palestine are usually crowded and filled will members of the community. According to attendees, this presentation was an exception.

“I was expecting more (people) to show up,” said trip member and sophomore Ellie Bradford. “I feel like we washed it down a bit. We saw some stuff on this trip that is really hard to talk about, and we didn’t address that fully,”

Each of the speakers spoke about vastly different stories of triumph, tribulation and knowledge taken away from the trip. None of the speakers dismissed Israeli or Palestinian narratives.

“It seemed like people in the audience wanted to know more facts than just (trip goers) feelings,” said sophomore Brenna Walsh. “Because it’s so diluted here in America. Of course, they didn’t see it as two-sided, but here in America we see it as two-sided rather than finding that middle ground. You should find another way to discuss those two sides and figure out what’s going on.”

The panel was a first of its kind of any of the Israel/Palestine trips, and Guilford has had many more speakers about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict this school year than any other.

“Wouldn’t it be really great if we had no speaker, but if we got those polarized groups together and come together and talk,” said Harris. “That benefits us more as a group … all of us on the trip are capable of being the third side.”

Another third side, the Conflict Resource Center, will be holding a nonviolent communications workshop March 1 between Guilford’s Jewish Hillel organization and Students for Justice in Palestine.

Some, however, are skeptical about the idea of collaboration between opposing sides.

“Everyone that has an opinion on it has a specific reason for taking a position in the conflict,” said Bradford. “You can’t just blurt facts at people to change their minds…. A lot of  (conversations) is forced sympathy.”

Sometimes conversations and communication are so discouraging between these opposing sides at Guilford.

Harris feels that hopes in this conversation are alive but believes there is a way to synthesize the information for true progress.

“What benefits you benefits me,” says Harris. “They key to everything is recognizing (that), but the problem with that is you have to convince people to buy into it.”

While few attended, those who did were impacted.

“I thought they were going to have a presentation and just show us pictures like, hey we went here and did this,“ said Walsh. “But I liked hearing all the personal experiences … it was all very empowering.”