Muslim and Jewish students have begun new
relationships at the University of California, Santa Cruz, thanks to creative
students with courage and a desire to transcend old boundaries and stereotypes.
Sarah Davidson (UrbanMermaid@hotmail.com) wrote today about their initial success. Sarah thinks this model could work on other campuses and would like to hear from others.
On January 29th, 2001, at the University of California, Santa Cruz, the Muslim Student Association (MSA) and Hillel, with Jewish Students for Social Justice and the Santa Cruz Israel Action Committee, cosponsored an evening of dialogue and viewing of the documentary film, "Peace of Mind."
We successfully created a safe place on campus where Jews, Arabs, Israelis, Palestinians, Muslims, and anyone else interested could express their reactions, opinions, and experiences regarding Israel, Palestine, and coexistence in the Middle East.
We began the evening with an introduction from Mai, representing MSA, and Lisa, representing Hillel. Next, we formed one large circle where each person shared his or her name and personal connection to Israel and/or Palestine. Next, I said a few words about why I find dialogue to be so important and a little about the video we were about to see.
I also invited everyone to stay after the video ended to bring up questions, comments, or reactions they may have still wanted to share.
From there, we showed "Peace of Mind." At its conclusion, there was a short dialogue that consisted mainly of positive reactions to the screening, and questions about Seeds of Peace, the sponsoring group whose Palestinian and Israeli youth collaborated to create the historic production.
At the close of the dialogue, Rosa, another organizer of the event and student at UCSC, thanked everyone for coming and again introduced Mai and me. Mai read the poem, "Song of Songs," written by a 20th century Jewish mystic, and I read the poem, "Love is my Creed" written by a 12th century Islamic mystic.
With that, the event ended and the 30-35 people who attended began to leave. On their way out, many attendees approached us organizers to thank us for putting on the event. They expressed their appreciation and interest in future events.
I found this particularly inspiring and satisfying. I feel that the event was very successful in bringing people together in an uncharged environment, and I'm hoping that it will serve as a starting point for a continuing student dialogue on campus.
I hope there are many student groups currently planning future events around coexistence in the Middle East. I am looking forward to working with them and other individuals to both begin a student dialogue group and organize other non-partisan events regarding this issue.