As much as the saga of Anna Nicole Smith has graced the news for the last several months, so the conflict in Palestine has filled the news for longer than one can remember.
Continually, stories of violence stream through the news media, influencing how one interprets and reflects upon the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
However, lost in the vastness of war and violence, there is often an aspect of this conflict that is missed. These are the stories of individual people who actually experience this violence first hand, and these stories far too often do not make headline news.
During Windows on the World on March 30, Eastern professors Julie Elliot and Bret Kincaid came together to discuss these underlying stories as part of their presentation entitled Faces of the Israel/Palestinian Conflict.
Both Elliot and Kincaid led a group to the Holy Land in summer 2006. According to Kincaid, the goal of this Windows on the World was to share information and stories, and most importantly, to share “what we learned about this very controversial topic.”
As the presentation began, Kincaid started with information on the history of the conflict. Kincaid pointed out that this conflict is not an ancient conflict; it initially began in the late 1800’s when the start of Zionism began to clash with Judaism.
“After the Holocaust, the Jews wanted rights to the land of Palestine,” Kincaid said.
This caused many conflicts between Israelis and Palestinians. Israel forces began the destruction of Palestinian farm lands and roads, and also the demolition of houses. Elliot reflected on several stories pertaining to these demolitions.
“We heard a story from a man who was walking by a house and heard children calling out of this home that was about to be demolished,” Elliot said.
Sophomore Julia Ozeck said she enjoyed the “Palestinian perspective.”
“I liked that they focused on the Palestinian side of the story. Most of the news that we here is from the Israeli perspective,” Ozeck said.
The main cause of this ongoing conflict is simple: “There is a refusal of Palestinians and Arabs to recognize a Jewish State,” Kincaid concluded.
Once Kincaid finished the historical aspect of this situation, Elliot began to speak about stories which she and Kincaid had heard while on their trip. She used a pictorial slideshow to showcase many of the people that they met. These stories meant a great deal to many in attendance, and made this conflict much more of a reality to students on campus.
“Through the stories, you can hold onto more of a factual side of things,” first-year Rachel Fox said. “Having tangible photographs and first-hand stories helped it become more real to the people present.”
Kincaid said that the goal of the presentation was to share what they knew about the conflict. Elliot shared this thoroughly when discussing the feelings and needs of both Israeli and Palestinian people.
“Palestinians and Israelis are desperate for us to hear their stories,” Elliot said.
Students attended the event for many reasons. Ruth Portnoff, who is a first-year Messianic Jew, was interested in discovering how Eastern views the conflict in the Holy Land.
“It is a struggle, because I want to identify with my people because they are my people,” Potnoff said. “I also see a misuse of power.”
The individual stores shared by Kincaid and Elliott captivated and showcased the story within the story of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“The stories draw you to compassion for people on both sides,” first-year Danielle Gallaher said.
One was of a Palestinian man who had been removed from his village by Israeli forces.
“He told us that all he wanted to do was return to his home village for only 10 minutes, just to run his fingers through the sand,” Elliot said.
In response to this conflict, students feel that there are several steps that must be taken.
“Wherever there is a conflict in the world, I am called to be present there,” Fox said. “Even though I am not present physically, I can be present through prayer and support.”
First-year Martie Edelstein, also a Messianic Jew, was unable to attend the event, but did offer insight to understanding the conflict.
“Because I am Jewish, I like to know what is going on over there,” Edelstein said. “Over there you have to be strong in your beliefs, and you are always on guard.”
First-year Danielle Gallaher offered advice for others reflecting on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“Since it is so complex, you have to rely on God, which is needed in our faith,” Portnoff said.
“We should educate ourselves on all angles and look at the people and the leaders and understand what they think on both sides,” Gallaher said.