Tuesday, October 8, 2002, students
at Georgetown University in Washington, DC experienced a dramatic change in
It was a model for how other university campuses can move beyond their "signs wars."!
Listening finally began between Muslims, Jews and Christians, especially including Palestinians and other Arabs.
Dialogue in Georgetown's beautiful Copley Formal Lounge contrasted to the self-assertive rallies, with their finger-pointing and shouting, that add up to nothing at all on campuses.
The eighty students responded to the event's flyer: "Palestinian-Jewish Living Room Dialogues."
This evening opportunity had arisen out of the nearby First National Conference on Dialogue and Deliberation, and the ensuing Jewish-Palestinian Dialogue All-Day workshop in Alexandria, VA that brought to the area from 14 states participants that included the three who came to Georgetown from the Texas and California Jewish-Palestinian Dialogue groups. More about those earlier meetings is at:
Two people who seized the opportunity for Georgetown were Rabbi Harold White (WhiteHS@georgetown.edu), and Program Coordinator Ruth Golmant (RCG9@georgetown.edu, 202-687-3480) at the Jewish Student Association. And the Muslim Chaplain, Imam Yahya Hendi (Peace.firstname.lastname@example.org, 202-687-4272) was very supportive.
This was Georgetown's first unifying moment like this, co-sponsored by all the key student organizations:
Jewish Student Association (JSA)
Muslim Students Association (MSA)
Young Arab Leadership Alliance (YALA)
Georgetown Israel Alliance (GIA)
Students for Middle East Peace (SMEP)
The evening began -- naturally -- with a generous spread of desserts, fruit, and drinks for a half-hour. Already, conversation was noisy, and people were glad to be together.
The presentation began with an understanding of the "public peace process" and of Dialogue -- what it is and is not -- by Libby Traubman, co-founder of the 10-year-old Jewish-Palestinian Living Room Dialogue Group of San Mateo, Calif.
Then a Palestinian and a Jew -- Mohammed Alatar (MA1962@yahoo.com) and Len Traubman (LTraubman@igc.org) -- told their "stories" about their ancestors, early lives, what they were taught about the "other," how they came into Dialogue, and how they have changed.
Then the room was then open for students' comments and questions, and their own stories, with Libby facilitating.
And reporters from the Associated Press and from the Washington Jewish Week were attentive the whole evening.
Photos are on the Web at:
It was an amazing, breakthrough experience, with a bearded Palestinian student standing up and reaching his hand out to a Jewish student from whom he had been totally alienated since an altercation.
The Jewish student responded totally with his own public apology for his earlier insensitive language and poor spirit.
Maher, a young man newly here from Deheishe Refugee Camp, stood to describe his five years in an Israeli prison, yet coming to the conclusion that Dialogue and building unbreakable human bonds was the only way into the future.
Then a Jewish student stood to tell his story about wanting to demonstrate proudly in rallies for Israel, yet seeing Arab students for whom he felt such affection, partly because of his own family's Arabic cultural and language roots in Damascus, Syria. He broke into tears, and Mohammed walked across the room to embrace him sympathetically.
And that's what the evening was like, with many more narratives. And that is what caused about all the student participants to sign up to begin their new Dialogue on campus.
And the visiting students from George Washington University said they were going home to do the same on their campus!
One of the Muslim students, Nafeesa Syeed, stood up to remind us to read the next morning's edition of USAToday nationwide. And there it was when we woke up Wednesday, October 9, 2002 -- Nafeesa's well-researched, clearly-written, illustrated 3/4 page article headlined: "MAKING PEACE PERSONAL: Jews, Muslims and Christians reach out and discover 'the enemy has a face.'"
It's on the Web at:
We have asked ourselves: "Where are the adults?"
We found many on the Georgetown University campus that hopeful night.