Grassroots Student Groups Calmly Tackle Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Take Less Confrontational Approach Than National Groups

Field Lessons: The Olive Tree Initiative brings students to Israel and the Palestinian areas, where they learn both sides’ narratives.
Courtesy of the Olive Tree Initiative
Field Lessons: The Olive Tree Initiative brings students to Israel and the Palestinian areas, where they learn both sides’ narratives.

By Seth Berkman

Published February 10, 2013, issue of February 08, 2013.
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“There was almost zero opportunity for dialogue between members of the various camps,” he said.

Along with a classmate involved in Penn for Palestine, in January 2011 Peltz created an informal dialogue group with eight members, split between pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian students. That group, which meets biweekly with facilitators and psychologists, evolved last April into the Penn Dialogue Forum, which engages the entire campus community.

“The mission is to serve as a safe space for students of all religions and backgrounds to discuss Israel and Palestine,” said Peltz.

PDF often hosts chats in which participants break off into different factions and then move between each group to discuss issues from the recent battles in Gaza to personal experiences living abroad.

Peltz says dialogue is more than just “Kumbaya” — it can be the strongest bridge for college students to evolve their thoughts on the issue.

“I view [dialogue] as a microcosm of the larger conflict and I personally don’t think we’ll able to resolve Israel-Palestine if both sides can’t understand and hear the other’s position. If we can’t do that on campuses, when we’re so close to the other side, I’m concerned about what can and cannot occur on a larger scale.”

Seth Berkman is the editorial fellow at the Forward. He can be reached at berkman@forward.com.


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